On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

An arrogant stand

There are Malaysians, unfortunately, who cannot draw the difference between loyalty to the country and loyalty to the government.

THE Member of Parliament for Kuching, Chong Chieng Jen, may have apologised for his Facebook posting about the playing of Negaraku in the cinemas, but it would not be wrong to say many Malaysians are still furious with him for his utterly stupid remarks.

The tone of his remarks before he took down his post also reflected his arrogance on the issue. The impression he has given is that he only removed the posting and apologised after the barrage of criticisms, rather than a sincere acknowledgment of his own folly.

His remarks certainly border on pure contempt. The Sarawak DAP chief asked in his post, before it was taken down, “Is Malaysia heading towards the communist Mao era where everywhere you go you must shout out loud and show you are a patriot?”

And what made us disgusted were his further remarks that if the playing of the national anthem continued, it might even continue “before dinner, before bedtime and before S..” We are sure “sleeping time” and “supper” are not what he meant.

And we do not think that you deserve to be addressed as the Right Honourable or Yang Berhormat. You have just joined the ranks of some of those MPs in our Dewan Rakyat who love to grab the headlines with their outrageous remarks and circus antics.

Let us remind him that the playing of the national anthem at cinemas (during the current Merdeka and Malaysia Day season), like what is done at stadiums and concert halls before the game or show begins, is normal and not a “disgrace and ridiculous” – to use his exact quote.

In fact, if he were to go to the famous Chatuchak market in Bangkok, he would see how the Thais and foreign tourists would stand still in respect when the Thai national anthem is played before the weekend market closes.

In the United States, before any game begins, The Star Spangled Banner is sung. At the Super Bowl, which marks the final of the National Football League, a different celebrity is invited to sing the national anthem each year.

So there’s no need for Chong to feel this is something that he will find difficult to explain to his “friends overseas”. In fact, we believe they would be embarrassed with him over his ignorance as an MP.

To refresh his memory, the playing of the national anthem during the month of the National Day and Malaysia Day celebrations at the cinemas is not a recent phenomenon. Perhaps Chong has not been watching movies like many ordinary Malaysians do.

At the Istana Budaya in Kuala Lumpur, it is customary, and most Malaysians sing aloud when the Negaraku is played. I wonder if the MP has watched any of the local productions there.

In fact, I joined many parents and friends to attend a fantastic children’s kindergarten concert of the Peter and Jane school at the Petaling Jaya Municipal Council auditorium recently and the national anthem was played before the show began.

It was such a delight and certainly emotionally moving for me to see the multi-racial crowd, and some foreigners too, standing at attention to sing the Negaraku. And the kids, being kids, they weren’t singing but “shouting” to sing. What a delight! Chong needs to learn from these preschool children.

No doubt there is a debate among Malay­sians over whether the playing of the national anthem in cinemas would serve its purpose to unite the people or if this is nothing more than a symbolic gesture. The same arguments are in fact being discussed in India.

There is nothing wrong with discussing this issue and most of the Malaysian media have given space to such debates. But what irks most Malaysians is the tone, or more accurately the harshness, of Chong’s language. He has failed to articulate his views rationally, preferring to sound like he is speaking at a ceramah, or perhaps feeling that he needs to maintain his rebel opposition image.

His language and timing have certainly been bad, at a time when race relations are being put to the test. We do not know whether he is aware, but his comments have put many Malaysian Chinese in a spot because of the strong support from the community for the DAP in the last general election.

In fact, this is a good opportunity also for me to put on record that extremists, ­racists and bigots come from all communities and religions. They may not get the same amount of space in the mainstream media but their presence is very real in the social media. Our campaign to encourage ­moderate views is to drown out the extreme views from all sides.

Such views, even if Chong merely wanted to question the effectiveness of the playing of the national anthem in cinemas, can give rise to the perception that the Chinese community is not supportive of such display of patriotism at all.

There are Malaysians, unfortunately, who cannot draw the difference between loyalty to the country and loyalty to the government. Politicians come and go, political parties can win and lose, governments can change, but the country remains. We remain loyal to the country but we may not have the same sense of conviction towards the ­leader or political party that forms the government of the day. Therein lies the difference.

Standing at attention for the Negaraku is not the same as standing up for the Umno, MCA, PKR or DAP party anthems.