JUNE 1 — Since I have written a guide for West Malaysians about Sarawak, perhaps it is only fair I write about Sabah. But writing “Sabah 101” seemed boring so I flipped it around and now here’s a handy reference for Sabahans dealing with the influx of West Malaysians thanks to AirAsia.
1. Most West Malaysians really don’t remember September 16, 1963, and when asked, will only remember that “Malaysia gained its independence in 1957.” Don’t blame them; blame our badly-written history textbooks. Incidentally, they were written by West Malaysians.
2. West Malaysian Muslims are a lot more uptight than the ones in Sabah. If you take them to a soto stall that is situated outside a Chinese coffee shop, don’t be offended if they refuse to eat in fear of the food not being halal (kosher). If they are Malay and Muslim, make sure the eatery has a halal signboard.
3. Expect them to be very nosy about what race or religion you are. If you happen to look Chinese but greet them with the Muslim salam or you look Malay and are eating pork in front of them, prepare for either looks of shock or ones of taking offence. West Malaysians seem to get offended easily, for some reason. (Proof can be found in the comments of my columns, funnily enough written by people in West Malaysia)
4. Some of them will ask really stupid questions. Just smile and blame, again, our education system. What else are they supposed to think when the only references to Sabah and Sarawak in textbooks are usually illustrated by pictures of natives in traditional costumes?
5. Even if they have landed in Kota Kinabalu, they might still forget that Kuching is not in Sabah. Resist urge to make fun of their poor grasp of geography. Besides, that’s my job.
6. They can’t even get tapai and tuak straight either. So if they ask you for the latter, smile and suggest they look for the heady beverage in Sarawak. Say it gently, remember point three and five.
7. Also, a lot of West Malaysians regard tapai as a sour-smelling delicacy made out of either rice or tapioca. So if the nice Malay makcik enquires about tapai, she probably means that and not the locally beloved alcoholic beverage. Drunken Malay makciks are not pretty sights.
8. Put up with their griping about the need for immigration controls. And their whining about not being allowed to come and go in Sabah as they please. Remind them of the 20-point agreement. Make a joke about us being afraid they’ll come in and take all our timber. Then add, “Haha, but you already did!” Enjoy the peaceful silence.
9. They will also express shock at how rustic Kota Kinabalu is compared to Sabah. Just shrug and say that whatever money Sabah makes from oil and its natural resources all go to the federal revenue. Also that more than half of the people living below the poverty line come from Sabah.
10. If they ask why East Malaysians like to drink a lot and even make it part of our culture, remind them of point nine.
11. West Malaysians cannot quite work their head around the many tribes in Sabah as the local propaganda and tourism paraphernalia in West Malaysia make it seem like most Malaysians are generally Malay, Chinese or Indian. Again, our education system sucks. As does our information ministry.
12. West Malaysians from rural areas are really sheltered, and thanks to that, are prone to saying stupid things. One example: “The Greg Typhoon in Sabah was caused by sinful Sabahans having wild parties and the storm was God’s punishment.” I was told this by a pious Malay girl from Kedah. Refrain from punching said people in the mouth. They really don’t know any better and also read too much Mastika.
13. For some reason, people from West Malaysia think Harian Metro, Mastika and Utusan print truth and not fiction.
So be gentle with our fellow Malaysians from the peninsula. Sabah and Sarawak have long been a distant mystery, the cash cows and fixed deposit of the federal government. Now that West Malaysians are beginning to realise that we are just as civilised as they are, they might not take us quite as much for granted.
But it’s still fun making fun of them.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.