Rafidah Aziz : I Get Very Upset When People Start Talking About Chinese Or Indian In The Context of “Pendatang” - “Why You Want To Emphasise Your Malay-Ness, Your Chinese-Ness, Your Indian-Ness?” - The Coverage
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Rafidah Aziz : I Get Very Upset When People Start Talking About Chinese Or Indian In The Context of “Pendatang” – “Why You Want To Emphasise Your Malay-Ness, Your Chinese-Ness, Your Indian-Ness?”

My mother’s grandfather was from Sumatera. He was of royal lineage from Rawa, Sumatera. He came and opened up Selama, and our family history is in the Taiping museum. [He] did away with all his titles when he came over to Semenanjung Tanah Melayu.

Both my mother’s and father’s sides came from Sumatera. That’s why I said I get very upset when people start talking about, for example, Chinese or Indian [Malaysians] in the context of “pendatang”. I say, “I am a pendatang myself if you look at it that way.”

“I am proud to be a Malaysian of the Malay stock. Some of your great grandparents came from China, my great grandparents came from Sumatra, but I don’t care from where, because I am a Malaysian.”

“Why you want to emphasise your Malay-ness, your Chinese-ness, your Indian-ness?”

“I know politically some people don’t want it, but when they say I’m a Malay first, where is their country, the entitiy known as Tanah Melayu is no more, we are in Malaysia now.

All citizens regardless of race should identify themselves as Malaysians first to show that their top loyalty is to the country, said former Cabinet Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz

Billionaire, playboy and philanthropist, Tony Stark may come to the rescue of the masses in comic books and movies. As Iron Man, he is capable of many great things in the realm of fantasy. In the real world though there is no Iron Man. But in Malaysia, we have an “Iron Lady” by the name of Rafidah Aziz.

Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz is one of South East Asia’s most dynamic and respected people. She is Malaysia’s longest serving Minister of International Trade and Industry, having been in the position for 21 years from 1987-2008. Much admired by her peers and colleague, she is regarded as an authority on global trade.

Rafidah was the country’s youngest senator at 31 and the first female parliamentary secretary before rising up the ranks to become Deputy Finance Minister at the age of 34, then Public Enterprise Minister when she was only 37 – a real feat for women in those days – before landing on the plum job of Inter-national Trade and Industry Minister, a post which she held for 21 years and where she made her name.

During her tenure as the Minister of International Trade and Industry, she contributed significantly to the development of Malaysia’s economy. With her sound knowledge of economic matters, she worked tirelessly to position and to promote Malaysia as the most favoured destination for foreign direct investment.

Under her leadership, many multi-national corporations such as Intel, Western Digital, Panasonic, Samsung set up manufacturing, research and development facilities in Malaysia. Malaysia is now the 20th largest trading nation in the world and the largest exporter of semi-conductors. On the domestic front, she strived to create opportunities for local enterprises to excel in their markets. Trade agencies such as SMIDEC, now known as SME Corp and Matrade were set up. The establishment of SMIDEC was in recognition of the need for a specialised agency to further promote the development of small and medium industries (SMIs) in the manufacturing sector through the provision of advisory services, financial assistance, infrastructural facilities, market access and other support programmes.

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Through her concerted efforts and passion in promoting Malaysia’s trade, many businesses have emerged from small medium enterprises to become large corporations with offices around the world. The local media dubbed her as ‘Rapid Fire Rafidah’ and loved her forthright opinion and wit. Her expertise, visionary outlook and confidence have been a source of inspiration to many entrepreneurs and Malaysians. Known as the ‘Iron Lady’ from Kuala Kangsar, she is in her element when it comes to tackling trade negotiations or promoting the attributes of Brand Malaysia.

In 1974,then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, appointed Tan Sri Rafidah as a Senator. At that time, she was only 31 years old and worked as an economics lecturer at the prestigious Universiti Malaya. As a young and budding public servant, Tan Sri Rafidah drove transformation across the trade industry in Malaysia and beyond.

After serving as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Enterprises in 1976 and subsequently promoted to Deputy Minister of Finance in 1977, Tan Sri Rafidah was made Minister of Public Enterprises in 1980.

In 1987, Tan Sri Rafidah was appointed as the Minister for Trade and Industry (later re-designated as Minister of International Trade and Industry), a position she held until 2008.

Admired by her peers and colleagues as a confident, dynamic, and passionate individual, Tan Sri Rafidah is also known for her no-nonsense approach when it comes to international trade negotiations.

Coupled with her sound understanding of the public and private sector and over 20 years of experience in the Ministry, Tan Sri Rafidah brought significant changes to the economic landscape in the country. Her efforts to open the country to foreign investments, reduce trade barriers, tackle tough trade negotiations and free trade agreements (FTAs), have led the country to greater heights. One of the visible outcomes of her efforts is the setting up of manufacturing and research and development facilities by multinational brands such as Intel, Western Digital, Panasonic, Samsung, and many others

Aside from implementing strategic trade policies that benefited businesses, Tan Sri Rafidah is a staunch believer in creating a conducive and opportune platform for companies to thrive and prosper. She played an instrumental role in the development of SMEs in Malaysia through the establishment of SMIDEC (now known as SME Corp). SMIDEC was formed as a specialised agency to promote the development of Small and Medium Industries (SMIs) in the manufacturing sector through the provision of advisory services, fiscal and financial help, infrastructural facilities, market access and other supporting programmes.
Additionally, Tan Sri Rafidah was instrumental in establishing MATRADE (Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation), a trade agency aimed at raising the profile of Malaysian exporters in foreign markets.

Under her watch and efforts, Malaysia emerged as the 20th largest trading nation globally, the world’s largest exporter of semiconductors, and remains one of the world’s most open economies. Tan Sri Rafidah has also been at the forefront of pushing the ASEAN and wider region agenda forward. Being one of the pioneers in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), she championed Asia-Pacific trade as a driver of economic growth. Today, Malaysia and fellow APEC members account for about half of the global trade, 60 percent of total GDP, and much of the world’s growth.

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After ending her career in public service in 2008, Tan Sri Rafidah is now putting her years of experience in domestic and international trade to good use by assisting several companies across ASEAN to excel. In 2011, she was appointed as the Chairman of AirAsia X. Her mandate is to strengthen the company’s governance and open up future routes for the airline to create a multitude of economic spin-off in the region.
Tan Sri Rafidah is also serving as the Adjunct Professor at College of Business, University Utara Malaysia and Chairman for Megasteel Corporation, Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studio, and Supermax Corporation. Furthermore, she serves as the patron for the National Cancer Society of Malaysia, National Association of Women Entrepreneurs (PENIAGAWATI), The Pan-Pacific and South East Asia Women Associations of Malaysia (PPSEAWA) and as advisor to the Sarawak Renewable Energy Corridor (RECODA).

As ASEAN Business Awards (ABA) continues its journey to recognise luminaries who played an instrumental role in the growth and prosperity of the region, we are proud to confer the 2015 ASEAN-BAC ASEAN Lifetime Achievement Award to Tan Sri Rafidah. Her astute skills and vision have benefited Malaysia and the region. It is through the efforts of towering figures such as Tan Sri Rafidah that ASEAN progresses and propels to greater heights. – ASEAN

In this exclusive interview, held on 9 March 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Rafidah shares her memories, experiences and hopes for Malaysia.

TNG: Can you trace your ancestry?

Rafidah Aziz: I can, actually. My mother’s grandfather was from Sumatera. He was of royal lineage from Rawa, Sumatera. He came and opened up Selama, and our family history is in the Taiping museum. [He] did away with all his titles when he came over to Semenanjung Tanah Melayu.

Both my mother’s and father’s sides came from Sumatera. That’s why I said I get very upset when people start talking about, for example, Chinese or Indian [Malaysians] in the context of “pendatang”. I say, “I am a pendatang myself if you look at it that way.”

According to a report by The Star Online, the former minister of International Trade and Industry said in a Facebook post, that government departments setting the do’s and don’ts on personal attire was totally out of line

She said that the focus of government departments should be on serving the public and not on their attire.

“There are things you cannot dictate upon others. Your personal religious beliefs and interpretations, your perception of what is ‘good’ or ‘correct’ or ‘proper’. Your personal ideas of heaven or hell,” said Rafidah.

Rafidah said the people should have a broader world perspective and consider the consequences of their actions, warning against “very personal and often narrow perspective”.

She said in Malaysia’s multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural society, those in authority should never impose their personal preferences and norms on others.

She also stressed on the pressing need to learn to “accept the diversities among us” and warned against causing unnecessary dissent by imposing “what is really none of our business to do” upon others.

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She said she did not believe the focus on personal attire was government policy but the narrow-minded action of some people at an official level.

When my daughter was still in Convent Bukit Nanas, one day, nearing the end of the year, they already had singing, carols, and the usual. Then one uztazah announced on stage, “All the Muslim girls can go back to class. This do is only for the non-Muslims.” All the Malay girls cried, because they had been practicing their carols. My daughter is like me: no crying business. She stomped on stage and said, “I am singing!”

Every teary eyed friend of hers went up on stage and did the same. I reported this to Cabinet and Tun Mahathir, that very Saturday, was quoted in The Star asking what was happening. It wasn’t a school policy. It was the thinking of a lone individual who was given that position, and the headmistress didn’t want to mess with religion.

Rafidah pointed out that even though the general election was around the corner, it did not give the licence to anyone to practise filthy politics, raising issues that would divide multi-racial Malaysia, and demean and character assassinate individuals.

“Please, in the spirit of Malaysia, our entrepreneurs have been investing to add value to our economy and nation,” she said.

All citizens regardless of race should identify themselves as Malaysians first to show that their top loyalty is to the country, said former Cabinet Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz (pic).

She said no one would lose their racial identities by declaring themselves as Malaysians first.

“Be Malaysian first, and while we are also proud to be a successful Malay, Chinese or Iban as it’s our heritage, we are more proud being citizens of our country, right?” Rafidah asked her audience when delivering a public lecture at Universiti Malaya on Saturday.

In her lecture, titled “The Role of Education in the Development of Youth Towards Nation-Building,” the long serving International Trade and Industry Minister spoke on a number of topics including cultivating loyalty to the country.

“Let’s be frank about this, loyalty to country comes first.

“Many of you here are Malays and proud of your racial identity and so am I, but I am a Malaysian first,” she said.

Rafidah said there was nothing wrong in proclaiming our national identity.

“I am proud to be a Malaysian of the Malay stock. Some of your great grandparents came from China, my great grandparents came from Sumatra, but I don’t care from where, because I am a Malaysian.”

“Why you want to emphasise your Malay-ness, your Chinese-ness, your Indian-ness?”

“I know politically some people don’t want it, but when they say I’m a Malay first, where is their country, the entitiy known as Tanah Melayu is no more, we are in Malaysia now.

“And the reason we have Malaysia is because we recognise that this land belongs to a whole nation of diverse people, Sabah and Sarawak together.”

 

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