Tuesday, January 31, 2012


By Mansor Puteh

There is another ‘social contract’ that the Melayu had formed in order to support the Chinese in the country so they would not feel anguished by their plight of not owing much in the country, when the Melayu were dominant in all fields, especially in politics and also economy.

And during the early years, the Chinese had to make do with whatever they could lay their hands on with many of them working as ‘night-soil’ carriers – who carried human waste in buckets, and often using their bare hands to do it, after they had got used to the material.

This activity was still prevalent in Malaysia until the late 1960s. But no one seems to care for this aspect of the social history of the country concerning the Chinese.

It is not a good way to bring them back to the times when the Chinese were the dispossessed people, who were all rejected by their Motherland China.

And they had to flee China to come in droves in the junks to any country in Southeast Asia where they could land at.

They were the ‘boat people’ of their times.

But today, such ‘boat people’ would not be welcome so easily; they are mostly given refugee status by UNHCR, failing which they would have to hide themselves by living in the jungles in Malaysia to eke a living, if they could not prove that they were suppressed and that they had not come to Malaya to seek a better future for themselves.

Most of the Chinese who had come to Malaya then, would not meet with the stringent requirements of the UNHCR today, so chances are they might not be able to get the refugee status, and had to live in Malaya illegally and deported back to China, if they were caught by the authorities.

It is because of the charity of the Melayu then, who gave a new life to the Chinese. And the Indians who were brought to Malaya by the British to work in the rubber estates as laborers, too, ought to be grateful for being able to leave their remote villages in Tamil Nadu, India.

There were many other Indians like them who had tried to come to Malaya then, but failed, so they had to stay back and suffer. Many was said to have also died of starvation.

So despite the hardship the Indians who are mostly Tamils had to face working and living in the rubber estates owned by the English rubber planters, they can be said or described to be luckier than their relatives or close friend in their villages in Tamil Nadu.

But this is another story altogether. For this essay I am sticking with the Chinese who had come to Malaya then, and how they had been allowed to become successful.

The Melayu wanted them to be successful so that they would not feel embarrassed with themselves for failing to make it here, so that they did not have to leave the country to return to China, as what most of them had wanted to do, which is to seek wealth and take it back to China later.

But many did not do so after they had become successful.

The Melayu could have forced the Chinese out of the country by coercion, subtly by not looking after their personal well-being and allowing them to return to China. Many did for other personal reasons.

One of the ways was not to allow the Chinese to have their own schools so they are forced to send their children to the national schools, since the Melayu then could do whatever they like to their own country, when the Chinese as well as Indians were seen to be illegal aliens who had not yet got citizenship status.

The kind Melayu didn’t do that; they offered the Chinese the opportunity to have their own so-called ‘independent Chinese schools’, so they could learn in Mandarin mostly.

But many historians now believe that there was a time limit given to the Chinese then to operate such schools which were outside of the national schooling system, to a time when they were able to be assimilated into the mainstream society and their ‘independent schools’ could be closed down.

Tunku Abdul Rahman, had said it again and again that it was the responsibility for the Melayu to look after the Chinese and other dispossessed people who had come to Malaya without them being invited to do so.

The Melayu could be the masters of the land by being the only dominant political force so they can look after the country, which is a Melayu and Islamic one, considering how it is a Kingdom; while the Chinese are allowed to prosper in business.

No wonder, the Melayu followed suit and supported the Chinese businesses, especially the petty trading that they were able to do at that time.

The Melayu could have ignored their stores which sit in the middle of Melayu villages or ‘kampung’ so flush them out of their villages. If this was done, then the Chinese who were in dire straits would feel compelled to serve the Melayu more by working not only as the ‘night-soil’ carriers but also ‘amah’ or house-keepers, etc.

Many Melayu then had Chinese servants or coolies serving them. In fact, even Tunku had many Chinese workers and servants working at his official residence called The Residency.

By the majority remained because they knew they would be better off living in Malaya than in China.

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