Monday, October 18, 2010

Of 1Malaysia, Pendatang, Suckling Pigs, Belacan and Toddy


A Kadir Jasin has a clip entitled “PM: Malaysian Chinese are not Pendatang.”

Who are saying Malaysian Chinese are pendatang (immigrants) that forces Mohd Najib Abdul Razak to make the denial?

Even those whose tongues are loose and have the penchant for saying hurtful things know that today’s Malaysian Chinese are not pendatang.

Not the majority for sure although there could be a tiny minority who came from somewhere in the world, including China, and were recently granted citizenship. These new citizens are pendatang.

But the majority is not. Their grandfathers or great grandfathers came here as early as the 15th century although most arrived in mid-20th century. They are keturunan pendatang.

Some were brought here by the East India Company or its agents, but most came on their own as poor people escaping poverty and oppression in China. There night not be snakehead human smugglers then, but the immigrants came as indentured labourers to work in Chinese-owned tin mines and sundy businesses.

The British were more interested in the Indian laborers who toiled in their rubber plantations and tea estates. The immigrant Chinese were franchised to the Kapitan Cina and, in the Kinta Valley, Perak under the “protection” of the Ghee Hin and Hai San secret societies.

What the British unquestionably brought from China was the opium to satiate and at the same time enslaved the opium-addicted Chinese immigrants.

Until the 1960s there were still licensed opium dens in the country. Even in my kampung there was one such establishment although not all the addicts were Chinese laborers and boatmen. There were also Malay and Thai addicts.

For the Indians, there were licensed toddy shops that sold genuine coconut sap toddy. Toddy shops were usually located near the railway stations or the PWD (now JKR) workshops, where Indians were widely employed.

These were the legacies of the British era. Even when we became independent, the various communities continue to cling to their “colonial rights”.

Take education for instance. According to Wikipedia, (quoting Chow Kum Hor), “Malaysia is the only country outside mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau to have a complete Chinese-medium education system. The secondary Chinese-medium school in Malaysia is not funded by the government of Malaysia, existing in the form of privately owned Chinese independent high schools. However they represent only 5% of all Malaysia Chinese schools.”

[Chow Kum Hor (2008-01-31), “Battle to save Malaysia’s Chinese dropouts” – The Straits Times (AsiaOne News).]

Wikipedia further notes: “Today most schools in Malaysia are national-type schools fully or partially funded by the government, however during early 1960s roughly 60 Chinese schools rejected the Razak Report[33], they continue and insist on the use of Mandarin Chinese as teaching medium, these type of schools were to be later known as Chinese independent high school.”

Why are we so suddenly caught up in this pendatang issue to the point that one aristocratic Melayu from the Bugis land in Sulawesi even told his Chinese audience recently that he too was a pendatang? This poor soul clearly does not understand the Malay history and the geography of the Kepulauan Melayu – the Malay Archipelago.

Why the rush to become pendatang or to be associated with one? Shouldn’t we be thinking of ourselves as 1Malaysian?

As far as I am concerned, I have been 1Malaysian (1Malayan) long before Mohd Najib made 1Malaysia his political agenda and, in the process, sparked off the ongoing race-based debates.

I grew up in a riverside Malay village where our Chinese neighbours reared free-ranging pigs that trespassed our homesteads as they pleased.

Our Chinese neighbours they gave us kuih bulan (mooncake) and we gave them tapioca and yam for them to feed their pigs.

We had no qualm about partaking the soothing lemonade in their houses during the many festivals that they had. We were not bothered by the suckling pigs they ate – not even the poor creatures’ heads that they displayed on the dinner tables.

We called each other names. The Melayu were the belacan eaters, the Chinese the pork-eaters and the Indians the toddy-drinkers. Today you try that you may end up in a hospital or a police station.

Ah, those were the days my friend when we were truly colour blind and truly Malayans and Malaysians. I was lucky. I spent five years in a Sekolah Melayu, two years transiting from Malay to English in the Special Malay Class and the following seven in English medium schools.

Today, some Malaysians are either so racist or lacking self confidence that they even reject the Sekolah Wawasan concept where national and national-type schools are located in the same compound with the pupils of various races sharing common facilities.

Sadly, we become even more divisive when we debate what the Prime Minister means by 1Malaysia and what we want out of it. Has the PM awoken the monster in us by invoking 1Malaysia? Wallahualam. Only God knows.

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