Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim: Don’t Throw Away the Keris, instead Rediscover and Redeem Hang Tuah


Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim: Don’t Throw Away the Keris, Instead Rediscover and Redeem Hang Tuah

Second term DAP MP Steven Sim calls for a deeper understanding of the inner Legend of Hang Tuah for a new all-inclusive Malaysian cultural, political and social mindset.

“Those who observed our General Election had said that it was miracle, but it’s only a miracle if we expect Malaysians not do the right thing.”

“But the results on May 9 shows that we can count on Malaysians to do the right thing especially when needed.”

“Malaysia is unique, not like any other country in the world. I think that is our strength - our strength lies in the diversity that we have,” says Steven.

This diversity can cause racial strain at times but Sim is one who looks at the multi-ethnic issue as a challenge that could be tackled and harnessed positively. For this, he points to his own personal effort to integrate and interact more closely with the Malay community as well as his literary contribution in this direction.

Sim on his latest book Being Malaysia which pays a tribute to Hang Tuah.

I touched upon the ideology, imagination and politics of Hang Tuah. I’m a fan of Malay culture and literature.

We know that for the past 60 years UMNO has portrayed Hang Tuah as (the embodiment of the notion that); ‘tiada melayu hilang di dunia’ (translated to mean the Malay race will endure till eternity). In my analysis, the portrayal by UMNO has hurt the nation. In early 1946, we have another Malay nationalist party Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (PKMM), rejected the participation in UMNO because the insistence of UMNO leaders to include the ‘keris’ (dagger).

So, there’s a segment of community that says do away the ‘keris’. Do away with Melayu Hang Tuah. But in this book I say don’t throw away the ‘keris’; redeem and rediscover Hang Tuah.

Hang Tuah is a cosmopolitan, he embraces diversity, he learnt 12 languages, including Chinese and Tamil.

An interesting thing about Hang Tuah, is he had a Chinese foster father. He became the ideal Malay persona with the ambition for Malay civilisation. He didn’t become less Malay because he had a Chinese foster father. He didn’t become less Malay because he learnt Chinese or Tamil.

Sim’s close affinity with constituents and his common touch helped propel him to victory for a second time as Member of Parliament (MP) for Bukit Mertajam.

“I think people were angry at the previous regime. I think there’s a sense of hope that we’ve presented to the people.”

“It wasn’t just a campaign, or rather, a battle of throwing away the old. But it was also a battle of embracing the new Malaysia.”

I don’t become less Chinese because I participate in a Malay and Muslim ritual, so we can celebrate our identities, we can celebrate our differences and not be divided.

The 36-year-old former computer engineer shares in an interview with Astro AWANI on how he won Bukit Mertajam with a 52,877 majority.

“I was first voted in as MP in 2013. I was already in politics for six years. I joined the party before the 2008 political tsunami which saw BN lose its two thirds parliamentary majority. I was also serving both in the state government and the local government as a councillor just slightly before I was announced as a candidate,” Steven adds.

The Pakatan Harapan victory still reverberates with daily headlines about the latest revelations of corrupt financial dealings and maladministration on the part of the previous BN-led government.

A cool and collected confidence radiates from his personality, making him relatable for the people of Malaysia. The book Being Malaysia is not his maiden attempt at penmanship on this experience on the political battlefield. His maiden effort was Audacity to Think: An Invitation to Rethink Politics published in 2012.

“My first book was written in 2011. At the time I was a local councillor it was my amateurish thoughts on politics especially frontline active politics.”

“My recent book, five years later after going through different sets of experiences, I’m glad to say that although there’s subtle differences in my recent book my principles and philosophy remains the same,” states Sim.

Sim’s thoughts on the public criticism on his first term as Bukit Mertajam MP

I’m a local boy, but I guess Malaysia’s leadership wanted the best person to represent that particular constituency. Being a local boy and having five years of service, I guess that was the merit of it.

Although I do admit I’ve got to brush up my Bahasa Melayu; people say that I don’t immerse myself in Malay culture. That is sadly the downfall of this country where politicians belittle one another to corrupt people’s mind. This will only divide them.

Sim on promoting cultural exchanges

Sharing the joys of the mooncake festival - something very special and close to the Chinese’s hearts. It’s not only a delicacy but it manifests all sorts of symbolism, cultures and ideas. Two or three decades ago, when halal mooncakes were introduced, something changed. Before that there was no halal mooncakes so Malays couldn’t take part in the Chinese essence. It’s unique to see my Malay friends get excited when mooncake season comes around.   

Now that it’s Ramadan, every year I have a buka puasa (Iftar) event with the Malay community in my area. You know the sense of sitting crossed-legged amongst my Muslim brothers and sisters in front of the food as we wait for Maghrib. I don’t become less Chinese because I participate in a Malay and Muslim ritual. We can celebrate our identities, we can celebrate our differences and not be divided.