So you can imagine the degree of mind-warping that tourists experience when they arrive in KLIA. All they know of Malaysia is what they see in promotional videos and circulars. They are then confused further when they learn of our racially-based component parties, and something called a "Bumiputra discount."
I recently encountered this with a friend, fresh off the plane from the UK, who initially asked why we haven't done anything about PERKASA, which he described as "the beginnings of an extremist-terrorist cell." He went on to say he understood that "Malaysians don't live on trees and drive old Land Rovers," (which is a common thing), but thought "you guys had the multi-racial concept down pat."
"With the way things are now," he said, "it seems like KL's setting the stage to outdo the Rwandan genocide."
I laughed at the notion, despite knowing full-well that it was true.
For as long as we can collectively remember, we have been trying to drive a wedge between the races. Rwanda had the Hutus and Tutsis. Here, we have Bumis and non-Bumis. I have spent my entire life trying to find a difference between a Bumi and a non-Bumi. I haven't yet found an answer.
Let's sit back and think about this. When religion is removed from the equation, with all of its rules and regulations as well, you're left with Bumi-Malays and non-Bumi-everyone-elses. Define ONE difference.
Now let's see what's attached to 'Bumiputra' status. Bumi's get UiTM, MARA, housing and job quotas, ease of acceptance into tertiary-educational institutions, and the 7% discount, to name a few.
Even when religion is added to the fray, a difference is still not found. What makes a Malay-Muslim better than a Christian-Chinese, or a Sikh-Punjab, or even an Indian-Muslim? What is so special about Protos-Malay that the federal government has to design the country to fit Bumiputras? If anything, it shows that the field must first be slanted in our (Bumi) favour before we even consider crawling (and groaning) into action.
The Rwandans had their genocide. We had our May 13th. They've written texts, produced movies, built monuments, and created a museum. We have swept all evidence and documentation of the horror under the rug, and make as if it never happened.
When a mistake is made, its acknowledgement is the signal of progress. When the mistake is ignored, denied even, it is the signal of regress.
We're just asking for it, really.