Opinion

We are all ‘pendatang,’ Dr M

Erna Mahyuni

Native Sabahan Erna is (not) Malay but loves Malay literature. Her hobbies: cats/gaming/blogging at ernamerin.com/Tweeting at @ernamh.

JAN 23 ― Sometimes, I think the nation would be better served if Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s vocal chords took a trip to Siberia.

After all, few things have been as powerful and as destructive as his voice.

With that voice, he suggested Operasi Lalang. With his words, he brought low two institutions: the royalty and the judiciary.

But to silence him forever is to play by the rules he set. Kill dissent, smother criticism, strangle freedom of expression.

We may not like to listen to Dr Mahathir, but we have to give him the same rights we long for and deserve.

As he enters his twilight years he continues digging his own grave, this time by insisting we scrutinise the citizenships granted to the non-Malays during Malaya’s independence.

That he equates Sabah’s illegal immigrants with the Chinese and Indians is insulting. But hardly surprising.

Dr Mahathir believes that to elevate the Malays, it is necessary to trample on the other races. In his heart, Malaysia has always been “Malay-sia.” Land of the Malays, for the Malays, by the Malays.

What a lie.

And it is a lie perpetuated by the fools in Perkasa and the more right-wing elements in Umno.

This country would be nothing without the “pendatang.” Dr Mahathir also forgets that many so-called Malays have ancestors who were also in their days “pendatang.” The Bugis. The Minang. The Javanese.

Go to Kelantan and you will see Malays who have Thai ancestry. Go to Johor and you will find Malays who can name Chinese among their forebears.

USM professor Zilfalil Alwi, wrote a paper “Asal Usul Melayu Berdasarkan Fakta Genetik” (Tracing the Origins of the Malays by Analysing Genetic Data) where he theorised that early Malays could also have been Indian priests who had arrived at the Malay peninsula to propagate the Hindu faith.

That would make sense, seeing the predominantly Hindu Malay population in Bali. Who eat pork unreservedly, to the horror of our Malays when they visit the island.

Dr Mahathir says “Melayu mudah lupa” but himself forgets that non-Malays have worked for the country, fought for the country, died for the country. If tomorrow, should all the non-Malays leave en masse, the country would be crippled.

Non-Malays have served in government, in the armed forces, as well as in the police. Can Sabah’s illegal immigrants say the same? Can we say that Sabah’s “instant citizens” fought off the communists or, in the Confrontation, say they fought off Indonesia’s armed push to put an end to Malaysia?

Unlike Sabah’s illegal immigrants, the Chinese and Indians did not come from countries who still privately believe that Sabah and Sarawak should belong to them.

If one day Sabah’s illegal immigrant population dwarfs the natives, would it be surprising if either Indonesia or the Philippines attempts to again “claim” the Borneo states as many of its citizens are there anyway?

While Sabah’s illegal immigrants have contributed to the economy, the natives do not embrace them as kin. They cannot claim a shared history, they cannot pretend to have become part of the process that led to Malaysia’s birth.

They did not win the right to citizenship. They do not deserve to be citizens merely because they are willing to vote for Barisan Nasional.

Dr Mahathir also forgets the Orang Asli, who, among all the peoples of Malaysia, most deserve to be called “sons of the soil”. But they have benefited the least and suffered the most from Malaysia’s creation. We take their land, send missionaries to “save their souls” when we can’t even save them from poverty.

To the Orang Asli, we are perhaps the real pendatang who have taken everything and given them little in return.

They are barely even recognised in our history books or schools. How many Malaysians, for instance, can name the many Orang Asli tribes? Instead of recognising the Sakai and Jakun as the “real” bumiputera, “sakai” and “jakun” are now Malay derogatory terms.

If you insist on semantics, Dr Mahathir, then technically we are all pendatang.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist

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