Today, I have come to understand that the national archives of Singapore and Malaysia, have rather different outlooks on the world. Each has a different view of what is worth preserving for posterity. The sadness of this, is that their priorities are not what might be expected.
Long-term readers may recall that the National Library Board of Singapore (NLB), started to archive blogs originating in Singapore, a couple of years back, to preserve them for posterity. I remarked at the time that their priorities seemed strange, choosing to archive airheaded, but popular commentators (who talked of little but shopping, sex and plastic surgery, for instance), whilst ignoring more substantial writers. I wasn't archived, for instance, even though my blog constitutes a record of a prominent young Singaporean (my son). My blog is one of the more serious ones that originated in Singapore - and certainly one of the most reflective and, though I observe it myself, substantial. However, it was shunned in favour of politically correct and insubstantial candy floss. As a result, Singapore's history will thereby be distorted, since, in the distant future, the only blogs to survive may be the ones that the PAP decided, in the present, should survive, thus altering the future view of what the blogosphere was like in these times. My voice will not be among the record, for instance, even though I raised many issues that others did not - and so those perspectives should be preserved, in a nation that values plurality. Clearly, Singapore doesn't.
Today, I found myself much surprised to see a new search listing, at the top of the search on Google for my name, under Malaysian search items. It is a listing in the Malaysian national news archive, News Image Bank found at www.nib.my
This national archive gathers together news items, be they cover pages, interior news pieces or photos, from three leading dailies: The New Straits Times, Harian Metro and Berita Harian. I found myself rather surprised to note stories listed from these newspapers that I had never heard of, living, as I had been at the time, in Singapore. Ainan, too, had his own set of listings, including quite a few front pages.
I found this revelation rather sobering. You see, Ainan was born a Singaporean Malay, in a Singaporean hospital. Yet, Singapore has not, to my knowledge, chosen to archive anything relating to him, or his family. Indeed, we were explicitly not included in a national blog archive. However, Malaysia has chosen to archive material relating to our family. Indeed, they have listings for Syahidah Osman Cawley, too. Now, it is true that Ainan has Malay blood running through his veins...half-Malay, anyway - but is it not telling that the nation in which he was BORN and has citizenship, does not accord him the same status?
What a nation chooses to archive of the present, shows what a nation would like the future to know of its world. Malaysia wants its future descendants to know of Ainan and his achievements. Singapore doesn't. Singapore wants Ainan to vanish into the pages of unrecorded history. Malaysia, on the other hand, would seem to want him to remain in cultural memory as, perhaps, an example to others, an inspiration even, to the achievement and aspirations of others.
Malaysia wishes to learn from its present and its past. Singapore wishes to rewrite it. By not archiving matters relating to Ainan, in publicly available archives (as Singapore appears not to be doing, since there is no such presence online), Singapore is editing its past, such that certain matters, will, in time, be forgotten and lost.
Thankfully, however, other nations, like Malaysia, will hold onto the memories, so, ultimately, Singapore will fail in its objectives, no matter how hard it tries. Ainan's memory may fade in Singapore, as the decades and centuries pass, with no publicly archived records to remind people...but other nations will not be so forgetful.
How sad it is, however, that the nation of his birth, should be so set on repressing his memory, when it should be upheld, along with all other exemplars, of all races. Perhaps, of course, that is the reason for this seeming neglect. Perhaps Ainan, not being a member of the dominant race in Singapore (the Chinese, for those unfamiliar with the city state) is not thought worthy of long-term record. Perhaps, to be thought worthy of archiving, one would have to be a Chinese Singaporean...being a Singaporean Malay is just not good enough, not important enough from the perspective of those-who-decide.
Singapore will always be part of Ainan's personal history and the story that his life tells...but the question is: will Ainan always be part of Singapore's national history...or will his memory be edited out and eventually silenced and forgotten, as already seems to have begun?
One thing is sure, however: this young boy, of Malay descent, will never be forgotten, by our present home: Malaysia.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 6 and Tiarnan, 4, this month, please go to:
I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.
My Internet Movie Database listing is at: http://imdb.com/name/nm3438598/
Ainan's IMDB listing is at http://imdb.com/name/nm3305973/
Syahidah's IMDB listing is at http://imdb.com/name/nm3463926/
Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at http://www.genghiscan.com/
This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)
Labels: Malaysia, national archives, National Library Board, national memory, national priorities, News Image Bank, NIB, NLB, racial discrimination, rewriting history, the nation that forgets its own