Sunday, February 6, 2011

Malaysia isn't JUST Tanah Melayu

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir admitted at a recent conference that Malaysia belongs to the Malays. As a citizen of this country, I would like to correct Mahathir on this. Malaysia isn't exclusive to a race. It belongs to us, Malaysians.

But firstly, let me digress. The organisers of the February 1 conference, in which, Mahathir made the statement, was apparently "ordered" to bar non-Malay journalists from attending and covering the event [link]. Whether that was racist or not, I shall leave that to your educated minds.

Now, back to the topic of this post.

“This country belongs to the Malay race. Peninsular Malaysia was known as Tanah Melayu but this cannot be said because it will be considered racist. We must be sincere and accept that the country is Tanah Melayu," he told an audience at the “Malay race and the future” talk at the Tun Hussein Onn Memorial here.[link]
In case ignorance has befallen on our former premier, Malaysia is defined by Article 1(2) of our Federal Constitution as a federation of states comprising Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Pulau Pinang, Perak, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor and Terengganu.

So, how is it that Malaysia equals Tanah Melayu? Has Mahathir forgotten that the formation of Malaysia came with the inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak?

The decision by our forefathers to unite as a federation meant that no state or region has the right to claim that the newly formed nation belongs to them or that it should be identified by their name. I would like to take the United States as an example. The proud nation of the United States, which spans fifty states today, was originally founded by thirteen British colonies. Do these original states today say they are the "true" America? No and so, my point exactly.

The former prime minister also said that country’s forefathers gave the Chinese and Indians immigrants citizenship because they expected the communities to respect Malay sovereignty. So, where does Malaysian sovereignty fit in? Mind you, the descendants of these immigrants are born Malaysians and therefore, are no longer "immigrants".

Correct me if I am wrong but I was taught in school that the British were not willing to grant us independence unless every community, immigrant or not, can show that we are able to accept one another as fellow citizens despite our cultural differences and to run this country as one, united people?

In my version of Malaysia, being Malaysian doesn't mean you are Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban or Kadazan (apologies if I've missed out on the others). It means you see yourself as Malaysian, belonging to a nation which isn't identified by an ethnic group. Now, being proud with one's cultural heritage is one thing and it isn't criminal for one to practise his or her culture. I believe diversity is our identity and it has been so. We, the minorities, do not need to conform to the cultures and customs of the majority in order to be identified as Malaysian.

Otherwise, why do we brag about how multicultural Malaysia is to the world through countless tourism videos and campaigns?

I am not saying we abandon our national language. The Malay language is the binding language which unites us all. It is true that there are many Malaysians who are not as fluent in the national language as we want them to be, but it doesn't mean that people can use that to say they are not patriotic. Again, being proficient in the national language and adopting a culture are two very different things.

The following quote from Mahathir probably sums up the oxymoron which is the point he is trying to make:
“It is different in Malaysia, we still introduce ourselves according to our race. This is why the question of race will continue to haunt us."
And here I am wondering what was he doing there speaking at a racially-themed conference in the first place.


  1. O C said...

    I agree with you.

  2. Steve said...

    This is illegal. The problem is that the 'others' are too afraid to speak up.