Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Singapore and Malaysia
Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh
Winner of the 2012 Asian Publishing Award
What happens when a country splits apart? Forty-five years ago, Singapore separated from Malaysia. Since then, the two countries have developed along their own paths. Malaysia has given preference to the Malay Muslim majority - the bumiputera, or sons of the soil. Singapore, meanwhile, has tried to build a meritocracy - ostensibly colour-blind, yet more encouraging perhaps to some Singaporeans than to others. How have these policies affected ordinary people? How do these two divergent nations and their peoples now see each other and the world around them?
Seeking answers to these questions, two Singaporeans set off to cycle around Peninsular Malaysia, armed with a tent, two sets of clothes and a daily budget of three US dollars each. They spent 30 days on the road, cycling through every Malaysian state, and chatting with hundreds of Malaysians. Not satisfied, they then went on to interview many more people in Malaysia and Singapore. What they found was two countries that have developed economically but are still struggling to find their souls. Despite the historical and cultural links, the invisible political line has increasingly become a powerful force for mistrust and misunderstanding.