I write to you as a Malaysian citizen who is appalled at the latest Jalur Gemilang burning ceremony in Jakarta. I sincerely hope that this open letter reaches you wherever you may be, and translated into languages that you can read and understand.
Over the last few years, Malaysians have watched in horror at how you treated our Jalur Gemilang and our embassy staff. We have witnessed the throwing of faeces, bricks, rocks and other objects at our embassy and endured the continuous threat, insults and jeers hurled at us, our officials, and yes even our athletes during the last SEA Games.
Remember one Chris Ardi Toruan who once pointed to Malaysian pressmen during the SEA Games in November 2011 saying: “Ini semua orang Malaysia, mereka tiada otak”?
Well, this “tiada otak” Malaysian certainly does.
Perhaps you have forgotten that there are not less
than two million registered Indonesians in Malaysia, eking out a living in our plantations, construction and domestic sectors to feed their families back home.
We have so far played the role of a gracious host wherethey are accepted and treated with dignity and free to move around this country without fear of repercussion from Malaysians, regardless of the demonstrations in Jakarta. Come to KL during Hari Raya and other festive seasons to see for yourself our metropolis becoming a “little Indonesia.
I cannot think of a time when we were not accommodating. Why, I remembered seeing your countrymen break into a celebratory dance at Dataran Merdeka after winning the Thomas Cup against us some 20 years ago without worrying about retaliation from the host country
Can you imagine if the results were reversed, and what would happen to Malaysians cheering in Indonesia?
Where else would you find such a tolerant host? The Americans? The Europeans? The hate crimes reported against Muslims have yet to have an end in sight after so many years of the war on terror!
No doubt there are cases where Indonesians are abused, but this is the exception and not the norm. Those responsible for the abuse were not protected, and in fact they were severely prosecuted in the court of law. Nirmala Bonat, the Indonesian maid who was abused by her employer, gained sympathy from Malaysians from all walks of life.
Her employer Yim Pek Ha was initially sentenced to 18 years in prison before the Court of Appeal reduced it to 12, for causing grievous hurt to her maid.
It is the same with the Indonesian maids who caused grief to their employers. We have seen maids abusing toddlers, stepping on them, hitting them and even starving them over the years. Some employers were even found murdered by their maids. But like I said earlier, these are exceptions and do not affect our impression towards your country.
Otherwise there would be a rally outside your embassy in KL.
Emotions should never interfere with diplomacy which is the reflection of rationale and logic. We should let our leaders discuss and sort out our differences, implementing measures that will prevent further abuse of both the employers and the employees. We must give way to diplomacy for the sake of our two great nations.
Believe it or not it is in our best interest to see you grow. From Tun Dr Mahathir’s era of prospering-thy-neighbour policy, we now have numerous Malaysian companies operating in Indonesia.
Among the notable ones are Sime Darby Bhd, IOI Corp Bhd, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK) and Genting Plantations Bhd which have invested in about 602,000 hectares of oil palm plantations in Indonesia as of 2010, not to mention the CIMB Group, Axiata Bhd, AirAsia, Petronas who have also poured billions and billions of US dollars into your country.
For reasons only known to the Malaysian government, we also have students in your universities. To appreciate the enormity of it, the total Malaysian investment in Indonesia between 2004 and 2009 stood at US$2.1 billion (RM6.7 billion) against the total foreign direct investment flow into Indonesia for the same period of US$36.6 billion.
Putting at risk the years of co-operation and camaraderie between our countries for a dance that most Malaysians have not heard of is not only foolish but also premature.
Maybe this is just my “tiada otak” talking, but I would be proud if another country adopts my culture and nationalises it as their own. Instead of burning and desecrating their flags, I would do everything I can to support their endeavour to ensure the continued survival and propagation of the said culture. After all in this borderless world, we are all citizens of one big nation — Earth.
Be that as it may, all you had to do was ask and we will definitely discuss and debate it like any mature, independent democracy in the spirit of co-operation between two ASEAN nations.
But look at what have you done now and what have you achieved?
We are neighbours and nothing is too big or complicated for diplomacy. We can never have too many friends, but cannot afford a single enemy less we desire interference from world powers who are ever ready to meddle in our policies.
Learn to be more diplomatic, dear Indonesians, and use the newly found freedom to demonstrate wisely while we Malaysians are still forgiving and tolerant. Learn that there is a limit to any patience, and I am sure you’d understand why ours is growing thin.
We can look away once or twice, but do not take our hospitality for granted as it is not infinite.
Dr Kamal Amzan
This article first appeared in The Malaysian Insider on the 26 June 2012, under the heading Good Neighbours.