Anas Zubedy (all pictures below courtesy of Anas Zubedy)
ANAS Zubedy, 46, sent out an appeal in September 2008, pleading for politicians from both the Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to stop politicking and focus on the economy instead. In addition to uploading it on his company website, Anas also published the appeal as an ad in The Star. According to Anas, the response, especially from the business community, was very encouraging.
In fact, his company, Zubedy, takes out advertisements annually to commemorate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Christmas, Wesak, Vasakhi and of course, Malaysia Day. On 20 Jan 2010, Yayasan 1Malaysia announced that it had appointed Anas one of its honorary members, among others.
A self-professed “centrist”, Anas met The Nut Graph in Petaling Jaya on 21 Dec 2009 to tell us about the Malaysia he grew up in, and the Malaysia he wants to see.
TNG: Where were you born?
Anas Zubedy: Georgetown, Penang, on 4 Feb 1964. I think I was born at home. You know how in those days the mak bidan would come and deliver babies? I was the fourth and youngest child.
Where did you grow up?
In Fettes Park, Tanjung Bungah, in Penang. We were the only Malay [Malaysian] family in the area. Behind our house was a Chinese [Malaysian] new village. Our neighbourhood was mostly Chinese [Malaysian], with two or three Indian [Malaysian] families and some Eurasian [Malaysians].
Anas’s parents, Omar Isa Zubedy and Zahrah Zain Zubedy, on Bukit Dumbar after their wedding
That’s how I learnt to speak Hokkien. Hokkien is my second language. The first is Malay. Then I learnt to speak English as I was growing up. The neighbours opposite our house were Eurasian [Malaysians], and they took a liking to my elder sister. So they would give her books and so on, and that’s how she picked up English and passed it on to the younger siblings.
Can you trace your ancestry?
My grandparents on both sides came from Hadramawt, [which is now known as] Aden, Yemen. My grandpa on my dad’s side came to Penang, and my maternal grandfather went to Medan. We still have family in the Middle East and Indonesia.
My paternal grandfather was a migrant worker just like these guys (gestures towards migrant South Asian service staff at the stall), and that’s why I have always said we need to treat them with respect. My grandpa became the richest person in Penang, but then he died young.
Anas, a day before his circumcision, seated with his uncles
and maternal grandfather
My dad and his brothers partied and then we became poor again. You know the (Tan Sri) P Ramlee film Tiga Abdul? Well, we used to joke that among my uncles and my father we have no Abdul Wahub, the intelligent brother. So when my father got married to my mother, they were practically in poverty. The New Economic Policy (NEP) saved us.
On my mother’s side, my grandfather lived to a very old age. Mum would send me to Medan for holidays and so on. My grandfather would constantly be giving me advice like, “You cannot take bribes; every cent you earn must be halal.”
He taught his grandkids how to read the Quran, and would assume those who learnt it fast were smarter. He believed that to make me smarter, I had to eat an entire otak kambing. So he slaughtered a goat in Medan and made me eat the brain.
I adored my grandfather. He was my first role model Muslim. He would say things like, “The person sweeping the roadside is a good man because he keeps the place clean, so you must respect him.” He took me to the pedalaman in Medan to houses of people poorer then us, and he would brief me before we entered, “They will serve you food and it might taste bad, but you must eat it, because they are happy for you to be visiting them.”
Anas sporting an afro in Form 4, Penang Free SchoolWhat is your strongest memory of the place in which you grew up?
When I go back to Penang, what is nice is that I can understand people; it doesn’t matter if they are speaking Malay, English or Hokkien. Maybe I’m biased, but Penang Hokkien is very nice. I like to bargain, tawar-menawar, in Hokkien. You can tease the salesgirls, tell them, “Lu siaow”, and it’s all part and parcel of the process. It’s a very manja kind of Hokkien. I also love the mamak-ness of Penang. I love how Indian-Muslim [Malaysians] speak Malay there.
How do you connect with all of this as a Malaysian?
Look, I think it is not technically wrong to say that the Chinese and Indians were pendatang in the past. But that was before 1957. We cannot call the current batch of non-Malay [Malaysians] pendatang. This is their home. How can you call them pendatang? Gila? It’s spiteful.
Anas (left) on an Interact Club outing in Teluk Bahang, Penang
On the other hand, I think non-Malay [Malaysians] should not do similar idiotic things like calling Malay [Malaysians] pendatang, too. It’s childish. It’s like, “Oh you say my father like this, so I say your father like that.”
Personally, I know why my family is considered Malay or Bumiputera. It’s in the Federal Constitution, and I think this is practical. The problem now is that we have forgotten the spirit of 1957, when a contract was made by our [founding leaders]. You can call it whatever you want, the social contract, perjanjian keramat, whatever.
Family photo in Cameron Highlands during Raya in 2009
But in this perjanjian, the Malay inhabitants decided to share this country with those who were then considered pendatang. The contract also clearly upheld hak keistimewaan orang Melayu. But at the same time, there was compromise. They allowed what no other country allowed, for example [vernacular] schools. They wanted to create a nation by integration, not assimilation. What do we want now?
Ketuanan Melayu has always existed, but at different times in history it carried different meanings. Today, ketuanan Melayu should mean that Malaysian culture must have budaya Melayu at its core.
It doesn’t mean a Malay [Malaysian] is more superior than a non-Malay [Malaysian]. It doesn’t mean other cultures are not Malaysian, but that they play a supporting role to Malay culture. It’s a question of whether or not all Malaysians can speak Bahasa Melayu fluently. If you can’t, then there’s a problem somewhere.
Describe the kind of Malaysia you would like for yourself and future generations.
We achieve Wawasan 2020, especially the first goal which is unity.
Celebrating Hari Malaysia 2009 in the Zubedy training suite
But in terms of politics, I would like to see us moving beyond a two-party system. I think we need a two-plus-one system. In this system, we’d have BN and PR, and also 30 to 40 Members of Parliament who are totally independent and who can vote entirely according to their conscience. I think this will make us a stronger country.
This can happen if all the Malaysians who can afford it, and want to give something back to society, decide to run for politics as [this independent force]. We need 30 of them. That’s all.
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