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Kingdom of Purplaya By: Cecil Rajendra

The Kingdom of Purplaya
is located somewhere in Asia
slightly north of the Equator.

Its people are of mixed origins:
some Indonesians, some Chinese
some Indians, some Portuguese ...

Most Purplayans were immigrants
from the neighbouring countries;
only a handful are pure indigenes

who live up in the mountains
and are hunters & fruit gatherers
but not land-owners - just tenants.

These natives - true sons of the soil -
have been made marginal
by usurpers who stole their mantle

claiming that they are the original
god-chosen people of Purplaya and all
others, including indigenes, are mere aliens.

To ensure their privileges in perpetuity
this 'purple' bunch of pretenders
(With aid of their colonial masters)

drew up a farcical Constitution
which ensured that King & President
would always be of their persuasion.

They implemented a quota system
to reserve places for their children
in school, college & university;

stuffed ranks of Police & Army
with officers of their nomination
to protect their pockets & property;

and legislated that any question
of their special powers & position
would invite a charge of treason.

These self-anointed 'purple people'
now enjoy licences unlimited
for they are the only ones free

to libel enemies in their papers
burn effigies on street-corners
while other citizens of the country

face torture & imprisonment
if they criticise the government
or organise any kind of rally

Still, this apartheid autocracy
- the world's last bastion
of institutionalised racism -

harbours pretensions extraordinary
and lays claim to be
the only true surviving democracy!

Purple or not-racism is everywhere
Amri Rahayat

7:33pm, Sat: Admittedly, I have never been a fan of Cecil
Rajendra's work. As the saying goes, one man's poetry is another's
fish wrap. Such is the nature of this high-falutin' art thingy.

In the case of the (by now) infamous purple poem, I have only had
occasion to read the original in full recently. Now, I have always
found Malaysian English 'poems' sorely wanting in form anyway -
internationally-renowned or not - so I am not going to bother with
literary critique. What I did take offence to was the writer's implied

Let me tell you that I've had it up to my nose with this portrayal of
my race as lazy natives who can do no better than wait tables, run
warungs (stalls) or join the civil service.

I cannot recall the many times when even my ability to speak English
properly have raised the plucked eyebrows of non-'purple' people.
"You studied overseas, is it?" "Yes, I was in the UK for six years."
"Oh, no wonder-lah your English so good."

Sorry, don't mean to be rude, but it was good enough before I went,

To me, the incredulity smells of something deeper, something more
decrepit hovering just under the skin. It is something I have smelt
occasionally as a student in a foreign land. It smells of racism.

Oh, believe you me, it doesn't take much to uncover it. In casual
conversations the stereotypes sometimes pop out - not at me, of
course, unless they feel like walking on the wild side, but at those
good-for-nothing Indonesian maids. Or funny Malay customs. Or
those savage Malay snatch thieves.

The undertow is always that the Malays are a hopeless lot. That's
why they have to resort to such silly things as rigging the
Constitution in their favour. Otherwise they wouldn't be able to
survive in the presence of more predatory cultures. Why, just look at
how far the New Economic Policy has not brought us!

Sure, I can understand the unhappiness (to put it mildly) of people
who feel they have been unfairly denied of opportunities just by the
colour of their skin. I apologise for this unIslamic state of being. But,
forgive my idle native brain, wasn't that the point of all this
movement that's going on - to balance things out?

I would be one to admit the NEP is racist in nature, and I wouldn't
want to see it run the way it has forever. In fact, I am in favour of
loosening it up to force the Malays to stand and fall on their merit.
Which is why I support the move towards education loans rather
than scholarships. (In case you're wondering, I got a scholarship but
have been paying it back like a loan since I opted not to work with
the government).

But if anything, I'm afraid Cecil Rajendra's poem seems to have
revealed the hidden agenda of the non-'purple' people. It would
appear that to most of them, it may not be about achieving parity
after all, so much as wanting what the other person has for himself.

Because isn't this what is meant by the thrust of the poem, when it
ridicules the action by the 'sons of the soil' (if that's not a blatant
jab at bumiputra, I don't know what is!) in claiming the land for
themselves, in lieu of the original natives?

It's not 'give me the chance to prove that I am as good as you', but
more of 'give me what you have and then go sit in that corner'. It
reminds me of ultra-feminists, really.

If it's universal inequality that Cecil Rajendra really seeks, then why not also rail against the behaviour of non-'purple' folks who protect their own interests through unofficial forms of discrimination?

How about the practice of giving 25 percent discount to non-'purple' retailers and at most 15 percent to 'purple' ones, and then telling them to compete in an open market? Or, when faced with two job candidates - one non-'purple' and the other 'purple' - both with equal qualifications, giving the job to the former even when the other has more experience? Or not giving 'purple' executives the opportunity to rise beyond, say, assistant manager?

Ring a bell, anyone?

So prove me wrong - please! - when I say that we are all racist and there can never be true equality, anytime, anywhere. Unless Cecil Rajendra has been to the blessed Utopian Atlantis that us mere mortals have no knowledge of.

Yes, we can spend all day playing tit for tat. You say this and I counter with that. But, ultimately, what's the point? We might as well direct the energy towards creating an environment that is sufficiently acceptable to most of us, and then try to live as happily as we can along each other.

The colour purple
S Sivanesan

2:24pm, Thu: When I read Mazeni Alwi's letter reacting to Cecil Rajendra's poem entitled The Kingdom of Purplaya, I was saddened that many misunderstood the meaning or the implications of the creative piece ('It hurts, Mr Rajendra', May 1). The writer claims of injustice towards Malays. And harsh though the statements by Teras and Pemenang, they still don't picture the real meaning of the poem. Out of curiosity, if the Kingdom of Purplaya really mirrors Malaysia, how far can any of these parties deny the truth in it?

While we can claim that our racial harmony and tolerance level is very high, the reality is this can only be attributed to the older
generation. The younger generation has lost hope and trust in the government due to the latter's consistent efforts in undermining the minority races. Our understanding of how this system works is deeper and we interpret our society today based on what occurs every day.

The present government continues to create an unstable future for us. Policies are made not for the long run, but to correct current problems. The ruling party frequently quashes minority rights. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself in his speech in Dubai recently said that fighting for democracy might create countries where the minorities will voice out for their rights. If a Malay leader speaks in this manner, how can anyone suppose that there will be racial harmony under his leadership?

The truth about the people of Malaysia and their living conditions are never revealed in the open. I will try to relate my experience and feelings. Just a month ago when the racial clashes were hot news and KL was a dangerous place for Indians, we did not see any clashes in other parts of the country. Indians and Chinese still ate at Malays stalls and Malays and Chinese still shopped at Indian stores around the country. So the situation in KL is pictured as an isolated incident. But how many people out there especially Malays saw or understood what the Indians felt? Every single day, reading the reports of the
incident made me angrier than ever. For a while, I developed a hatred for the Malays, just like my friends, family and my society did. For a while I forgot about my best friends in the university and at home who are Malays. Since my schooling years in a national school in Kedah, I have always had Malay friends. Most of my friends had Malay friends.

But every time news of injustice to my people appears in the newspapers, I burn in anger and resentment towards the Malay
government and people. When a pregnant Indian mother was shot dead in a notorious kidnap case a few years ago, my community felt insecure. Life has never been the same after that. A spate of killings of Indians by the police (as revealed in a report by Parti Reformasi Insan Malaysia which was sent to Suhakam and the police) just made the situation worse.

The government never understood the Indian community, unlike the ruling governments before Mahathir, who were much kinder to us. The Indians in Malaysia today are very marginalised. We have 40 percent of the hardcore poor in Malaysia. So how can we claim that the people of Malaysia are taken care of equally?

The so-called representative of the Indians, the Malaysian Indian Congress doesn't even try to help the people. One just wonders where the money and funding that the government approves go to. As far as the Indian community is concerned, the money is safe in MIC president S Samy Vellu's pocket.

A few months ago the government approved millions of ringgit for the Tamil schools in the country. Where did the money go now? How can a community have a large percentage of hardcore poor but its leader under the dictatorship of the PM lives lavishly? What some people see as championing the cause for the Indian community is hidden from the real ugly truth. The Indian national leaders never care about the community. Just like the many parties under the ruling coalition, MIC is just another tool to amass money and material wealth. The dream of serving the people under the banner of MIC is just another reason to go after the unseen advantages the party offers.

If anyone takes a trip to the estates, they can see for themselves the deplorable conditions the Indians live in. My family came from a rubber estate just like any other Indians but now we are leading a much better life in the town. When we fight for monthly wages and basic amenities, the government took its time to look into the matter. MIC seems to take forever completing its reports and when other groups take the initiative to produce reports regarding the community the party leaders are fast to shoot it down.

The education situation is not much better. Indian students are subjected to biased marks and evaluation. In the Eighth Malaysia Plan recently presented to Parliament, the PM wants more non-Malays to join the public sector. The reality is there are more Indians in the public sector than the private sector and the government is not doing any better to improve their condition. My generation will surely jump into the private sector where they are more liberal towards the Indians.

The Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional loan for students is more like a life-long bonding to the government. But where else can Indian students look for education loans? MIC provides loans under its education loan initiative but the truth is only Samy's staunch supporters and cronies' children get it.

So, I ask again, can any of the critics of Rajendra's poem deny if the content really implies the Malaysian situation, even remotely? My community is suppressed and denied its rights by the government. The PM's move to put the community under MIC is another example of how casually the government treats Indian rights. We never march on the streets asking for equal rights. We don't even get the basic rights that the Malays get. With all this, how can a racially tolerant nation be formed?

Maybe this country will survive for a few more years. But there will come a time when we, too, will fight openly for our rights. Maybe the current generation has forgotten the history of our Independence. All the races agreed for the rights underlined by the constitution because we dreamt of an Independent country. The clearly discriminated race then were the Malays. Under the goodwill of all the races, we came out of colonial rule only to be plunged into something worse.

Malaysia is fast marching into a new age of globalisation and the people are still blinded by racial issues that are brought up in the government-controlled media. The people should learn the truth themselves. They should go out and see for themselves what's really happening out there.

When many Malay development projects are vying for bumiputra-only communities, how can any unity be achieved. If the economy, education and society continue to be divided between bumiputra and non-bumiputra categories how can anyone be expected to practise racial acceptance?

Even when the country is going through a great deal of change, and even when tough discrimination against my community or any other minority community is evident, I am still very proud to be Malaysian. This is the country where I was born, the country that has been my home for the past 20 years and the country where many of my unforgettable memories lie.

What I really hope is for a better future, where my community will not be subjected to ignorance and where other races will respect my community as any other community in Malaysia. Only then will I support or fight for racial unity, when the minority races are given their due rights and when every race is ready for equal rights.

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