Friday, September 2, 2011


By Mansor Puteh

(Note: I am also writing about the experiences of some of my ancestors who came from south china. So I can claim immunity when discussing such ‘sensitive’ issues.

In fact, by my estimation at least thirty percent of the Melayu today have Chinese ancestry, if not more.

Just look at any Melayu person and see how Chinese he or she is. And almost every other Melayu I asked said he or she has Chinese ancestry. But all of us have become 200% Melayu.)

In America, they are not allowed to mention the word ‘negro’ to describe the African-Americans there.

But the African Americans are allowed to do so and some still refer themselves as such and not as afro-Americans. They feel proud to be called Negros as it is a strong political statement.

Worse when some Negro leaders in America had tried to get compensation from the American government, the others immediately shut them down citing how they are now better off living in America than it would be if their ancestors had not been brought to the country from Africa in the Nineteenth Century as slaves working in the cotton farms.

So the issue died there.

In Nanyang or Southeast, will there be some Chinese who dare to say similar things and admit that they are better off living in the countries in this region had their ancestors not bothered to sail in junks to come here in the Nineteenth Century?

And in Malaysia it is also not proper to call a non-Melayu immigrant, since the passage of time has caused this term to be obsolete. It only can be used in the historical context, in discussions which are serious and not in a disparaging manner.

After all, many Melayu, too, are descendants of immigrants or other Melayu from the region.

But no one can charge any Melayu in Malaysia as descendants of immigrants by virtue of that, to be insensitive since his ancestors had only come from within the same region and not from the others which are faraway.

His crime is even worse than for anyone to describe the Chinese and Indians as being descendants of immigrants, when it is a well-known historical fact.

Yet, those who say Khir is a descendant of an immigrant from Jawa and Mahathir has Indian blood are not seen to have been committing a racial slur or crime at all.

That’s because they and the other Melayu are kind-hearted people who are sure of their backgrounds and identities to worry about such inconsequential exhortations which are not described by those who are better educated anyway. 

In fact, the charges of being descendants of immigrants by anyone is often done by those who are not fully aware of the history of the country; they are not done deliberately to confuse or to create uneasiness and confusion by those who are well-educated and who are respected historians, but by petty pseudo-politicians and other activists social and cultural activist.

The only problem is that they are immigrants from the same region called the ‘Nusantara Melayu’ region. So historically they are not descendants of immigrants, as much as the Chinese from the various parts of china are to transmigrate to the other regions with many of them forgetting to speak in their native dialects and now do so only in mandarin as what many Chinese in Malaysia have done.

Singapura tells it’s citizens on their national day in august how the Chinese came to the island in junks.

You can see the many floats which resemble Chinese junks they parade during that day.

I saw them when I was in a hotel in Johor Baru in august, 2008 for an arts conference, when I was able to watch the national day parade on television.

It is quite obvious that they are not scared or ashamed of telling their own citizens of this fact.

The only reason why such things are deemed to be sensitive is because there are people who seem to be ashamed of the history of the arrival of the Chinese and Indians to Malaya and Nusantara Melayu.

The Australians are not worried if they are described as convicts who were sent to the island when it was turned into a penal colony.

Former Australian prime minister, John Howard said it was their ‘badge of honor’ when a recent Arab sheikh who had come to Australia and obtained citizenship had described how he had come to the country by flight and not in a boat from England with the other convicts.

There was no outcry from the other Australians on this charge. It didn’t even cause any politician or member of the public to feel upset. So there was no unnecessary controversy.

If there was one Melayu man who had described the Chinese and Indians in the way it was reported in some blogs, then what many smarter persons in the country want to know is in what context he had said that, if he had meant to describe a historical fact or if he had wanted to make fun of it.

No one knows.

But either way, there are bound to be some Chinese or Indians who want to make it into a big issue.

But what if a Chinese and Indian also say the same thing?

There was a Eurasian or Portuguese from Melaka who had described in public how many of the early Portuguese had married prostitutes because there was no woman in Melaka then who had wanted to marry them.

And I don’t suppose there were Melayu men and women who would want their daughters to marry the Portuguese men unless if they reverted to Islam, which many of them might have done, leaving those who did not get the chance to do it, to marry the prostitutes.

In any case, this is definitely an interesting part of the early history of Malaysia and Nusantara Melayu that has to be told again and again in many ways…in films, the theater and television drama serials.

A local Chinese Malaysian film called ‘Kinta 1881’ which was shown in the local cinemas failed to attract the attention of the Chinese, because the audiences did not want to be told of how their ancestors had come to this land called ‘Tanah Melayu’.

Such a study on this aspect of the early history of Malaysia and Chinese immigration to ‘Nanyang’ or Nusantara Melayu had been neglected, and this could be the cause for the continued social, cultural, economic, religious and political discontent between some people of the different races in Malaysia.

Not surprisingly, such an issue has never cropped up by the Chinese and Indians whose ancestors had also come to the same region but to live in different countries.

The reason being they are so small in numbers, so they cannot demand to be heard too much, unless if they wanted to be hurt themselves as some of them had experienced in the not to recent past.

However, in Malaysia it’s an entirely different case with the Chinese and Indians forming a formidable minority, and with the Melayu behaving cordially and kindly to their fault by bending backwards too much to accommodate their every whim and fancy. 

Many of the Chinese and Indian descendants of immigrants have forgotten about how their ancestors had been forced to leave china and India to come to Malaysia and Nusantara Melayu to get protection from the Melayu, or else they would have died.

So for a long time the Chinese were referred to as overseas Chinese.

Some of them were also my close relatives and friends. I might also not have been created if they had not survived.

One story which is worth mentioning early on in this article is on two Chinese brothers who had to sell off their family sundry store in south china to buy a ‘sampan’ (literally means boat with four-planks).

They then got to Alor Gajah in Melaka where they decided to become Melayu and convert to Islam. They refused to be called
‘Orang Cina’ or Chinese.

And few decades later and after having families with their own with their local Melayu wives, the elder of the two men, wanted to ask his younger brother to come back to their ancestral village in south china, but he refused.

The younger man said he had no interest to return to china for he is now Melayu and a Muslim; and china is a distant and alien land.

Many of my ancestors and close relatives, too, had done that, although they did not say so in such words.

1 comment:

bik said...

have you seen Kinta 1881? poyo je lebey.