Footprint of Poverty

Paul Chong                                                                          Saturday 16 September 2017

Hailing a life journey of almost four score years, I have come a long way from home Matang, an insignificant one-street village town, which many of you would never have known 6 miles from Taiping in Malaysia. There I was born in a dingy little room of a wooden single storey shop house, my grandfather’s place. He was an indentured coolie from Fujian, China. I had lived from one small town like Kg Temerloh to Bruas where my parents lost their small fortune running away back to Matang because of the atrocious Japanese invasion.

Cutting short the story, we were later living in Port Weld (11 miles from Taiping), where I wasted two boyhood years studying in a Chinese primary school.

I had my education in St George’s Institution, Taiping, from where I received the Malayan government scholarship to be trained as a teacher in Kirkby, Liverpool, UK (1959/60). Through self-study, I attained my Higher School Certificate in 1962. In 1966, I graduated from the then University of Malaya, Pantai Valley, Kuala Lumpur. Completed my service/scholarship bond in 1970 when I resigned as Anderson School (Ipoh) Sr Geography Master. Business careers in life insurance & real estate followed till 1982 when we decided to migrate to Perth, Australia.

All men & women, irrespective of race, colour or creed the world over , have the same hope, dream & aspiration. There is no difference between you & I in respect of our needs & wants . . . a life that is free & just, safe & secure with every possibility & opportunity to better ourselves. A good government will not marginalise or impoverish one group to benefit another. The Malaysian New Economic Policy (NEP), a social re-engineering and affirmative action program formulated by the National Operations Council (NOC) of the UMNO ruling party in the aftermath of 13 May 1969 Racial Riot in Malaysia. It was like robbing Peter to pay Paul when 30% was/is demanded to be allocated to the local Malays (Bumiputra), irrespective whether it’s public or private commercial enterprise without any input of capital or talent. Unfair & unjustified policies were & still are implemented with no end in sight. Originally, the NEP is supposed to last for 30 years. It’s been too good to be abolished or even scaled down for over half a century now. The list of unfairness is long & only brings on grief to your poor heart.

Ironically, the truth is that NEP does not really benefit the entire Malay population, but more glaringly the elite Malays with the right UMNO (the ruling Party) connection. Beneath the surface of the gleaming twin towers of Pernas & other high rise buildings lies the quagmire that will eventually bring about the collapse & sinking of the economy & its privileged people.

Unknowingly, the ruling party & the general Malay population are nailing & sealing their own coffins. News of 1MDB scandal, extreme corruption etc are rampant globally.

You can’t go on spoon-feeding or just taking without giving to expect growth & progress. You can’t impoverish one to enrich the other. You can’t pull down the top to support & push up the bottom. Are you going for EXTINCTION?

In Singapore, Malaysia’s friendly neighbour, when separated from Malaysia in 1965, was deemed to doom. Singapore has no natural resources with only the will to survive & strive for DISTINCTION. With good governance under the late Lee Kuan Yew, the former British colony not only prosper but earn a high reputable world standing from a third world economy to the status of wealth & highly developed economy.

With a population of no more than two million then, everyone is treated fairly & justly & all striving for excellence. Meritocracy is practised. No one is excluded or privileged to achieve his or her dreams. Halimah Yacob, the former Speaker of Singapore’s Parliament, has won to become the country’s first female president. She is a Malay minority in a city state largely made up of Chinese. She personifies well a meaningful poem by Dean Alfange:

It’s not easy for the westerners to understand the mentality of the Chinese with a civilisation of over 5,000 years . . . continuous & undimished.

The Chinese known to be most pragmatic, resourceful, resilient, assiduous in their economic pursuit, intelligent, and who had suffered humiliation for over 200 years, learn early in life to stand tall & erect, unafraid to brave the storms in life . . . “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.” It’s said that giving the man a fish for the day, he’ll only live for the day . . . but teach him how to fish he’ll have a better chance of living a good & better life.

Government handouts will only sink & restrict full potential growth & progress. In China with a teeming population of more than 1.3 billion, the Chinese government has already lifted up about 700 million from poverty. Now this figure represents twice the total US population. It is targeted that by 2020 every Chinese will live above the poverty line.

In their formidable task, China builds road & good speedy transport system to make inroads into the poor rural areas, provide free fundamental education, health care, opportunities for occupation, training etc. Chinese experts in mushroom cultivation are showing & teaching the rural poor farmers how to grow Black Mushroom. The government provides initially the seeds & the sawdust medium for growing. It’s possible to earn the much needed Yuan to better their economic situation all in a period of months. This is just one of the means towards ending rural poverty. While preserving the poor farmers’ pride & dignity, they gain flavor & fortune. Everyone is better off in the process of caring & sharing. It’s a win-win concept that China is extending its arms to the world at large. The vehicle of “One Belt One Road” will traverse all types of terrain, high or low, dry or wet, far and wide. You will agree that what’s good is worth sharing.

Now living blissfully, comfortably & contentedly in our own little humble home on the escarpment of Perth Hills overlooking Perth City, where the air is fresh & clean, clear blue sky with a scenic seasonal change of beautiful environment. Our daughter is a PhD holder, son is a medical doctor (anaesthetist) & last but not least a younger son with a double top-honours degree in civil engineering & computer science. Hopefully, we look forward to adding to our present five grandchildren to ride on the road to posterity.

Though born & bred in Malaysia, legitimately & legally to be classed as a Malaysian citizen, I prefer to be known as “A Chinese by Descent . . . An Australian by Consent.” It is not always true that yonder pasture is greener, but circumstances can make it so.

In colonial times under the British, Malaysia suffered a drainage of trade & wealth to the British colonial master. Today the drainage & exodus of talent are unstoppable. What’s lost by Malaysia is gained by Singapore, Canada & Australia. Oil is still flowing in Malaysia, but how long will that be before it runs out!



One thought on “Footprint of Poverty

  1. LIM Kok Sin

    Paul, LIM KOKSIN here from KL.

    I was in UpperSixArts 2 1968. Raja Noora and Thye Loy’s year. But I was more involved in things like Talentime Contest, fashion show for the 6th FORM girls, and EddyChin’s “Grand Nite For Singing”.

    I was also the school Cadet Corp band leader, under Tan Eng Hock. Perhaps, if you go here, you will remember my face.

    I was one year after SekYee and How Kiang, with whom you have spent time during several of your trips back to KL/Ipoh. I have been following their blog site.

    When you were in Kirby, were you part of Lai Ngai Seng’s group ?


    I’m now in Kyoto.
    Will be back in KL in mid October.

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