The Star, Tuesday September 28, 2010
HOW many Malaysians have been to Sabah?
I have been to several cities like Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau and several other small towns several times and I always get the same feeling: people there are seriously united.They communicate with each other in Bahasa Malaysia, with a heavy accent ending with a “bah”.
Even though they are Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans or others, they speak similarly.
To those who have never set foot there, I suggest you plan a holiday there instead of to other countries and I can assure you it will be worthwhile.Born in Penang, later educated in Kuala Lumpur and working in Johor Baru, I got used to the fact that if I wanted food, I will go to a “Mamak” restaurant, Malay restaurant or any fast food outlet.
Chinese or Indian restaurants won’t cross my mind as the food there is not “halal”.
I could remember the very first time I went to Sabah, it was time for breakfast and my friend, a Sabahan and also a Muslim, brought me to this typical Chinese looking restaurant which we normally see in the peninsula.Over here, it is obvious that I, as a Muslim, won’t be able to eat the food there because of the “halal” factor.
But to my surprise, the patrons there in that restaurant were mostly Muslims. The food served was normal “nasi lemak”.I was quite skeptical at first and when I tried to get an assurance from the owner himself, he proudly said: “We Sabahans understand each other well.”Thinking that the morning scene in the Chinese restaurant was a coincidence, I suggested to have lunch in another Chinese restaurant.
True enough, the scenario was the same: most of the patrons were Muslims.
At night, it was time for a “feel” of the night life in Tawau and we went to a popular “dangdut” outlet.Again, I was surprised to see many Chinese there.In Peninsular Malaysia, “dangdut” outlets are normally filled with Malays.When it comes to food, Sabahans have shown us the true meaning of unity in terms of a simple meal.
Whether it is breakfast, lunch, dinner or even supper, they are united as a people and they eat at a same table.We sometimes just forget the basics of being a truly united nation.It is so easy to slur another person, another religion or another race on various websites these days, but is this what we want to do as a responsible citizen?
I feel the way to understand 1Malaysia is by starting to look at how Sabahans live.