Thursday, 4 February 2010

A Reply To Datuk Nasir's Comments

Datuk Nasir, the special aide to the Prime Minister who tendered his resignation is not far from the truth when he remarked that "the Chinese, especially the women came to sell their bodies". But I am perplexed by the word "especially" as it seems to suggest that the men too on a smaller scale came to sell their bodies. Perhaps the English translation is vague. However, I will base it on its face value.

It is true that during the early 20th century, the incidence of venereal disease was the highest among the Chinese followed by the Indians:

These were cases which sought treatment. What about those who did not seek treatment and relied on home remedies or quacks? The incidence of VD was in all probability under-reported.

The Malays on the other hand mercifully suffered less from the scourge although they were not totally spared from it.

Were the immigrants, particularly the Chinese so loose in their morals that they succumbed to the temptation of the flesh? The answer to the question is of course rhetoric.

If Datuk Nasir is unable to answer the question, then perhaps the table below will enlighten him:

Not only did the Chinese immigrants suffer from emotional and sexual deprivation, they had also to contend with the various tropical diseases as well as hard physical labour which were often only alleviated temporarily by infusion of opium. It was reported in a colonial account that opium apparently gave these workers not only the energy to work but also the protection they needed to ward off diseases.

His labelling the Indians as 'beggars' revealed a deep-seated contempt for their contributions to the nation. The Indians were recruited, with the promise of a better life, as indentured labourers by the British through agents to work in the plantations, roads and railways. They came here not to beg or steal but with hope for a better life. The obvious beneficiaries were the British and the Malay elites of this country. They suffered abuse under the Kangany system of recruitment. Yet there were others who came as doctors, teachers and clerks, and the Indian contribution to the development of the nation cannot be underrated or dismissed.

Many of the immigrants, Indians and Chinese working in jungles, estates and mines and farms never lived to see their homeland. Others, mostly the Chinese succumbed to the addiction of opium.

They knew what it was like in the motherland: the debilitating poverty and the exploitation they faced if they were to remain. Taking a leap into an unknown future in a foreign land was the only recourse open to them.

Source of tables: Some Aspects of Venereal Disease In The Federated Malay States By Ian D Gebbie, Late Malayan Medical Service.

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