To begin with, I was quite reluctant to comment on the mess created by the statement made by Ahmad bin Ismail, the head of the Bukit Bendera, Pulau Pinang UMNO Division.
Whether he made the statement in reference to Chinese Malaysians is no longer the question, as the issue has spread and has been hotly debated.
If it is not handled carefully and smartly, this issue could make clear water murky, giving opportunity to parties who are keen on seeing this country crash, not to mention falling into the hands of foreigners.
In today’s borderless world, international electronic media coverage makes it difficult for any country to hide or deny any given event.
The main issue brought up by Ahmad Ismail revolves around the question of “squatters”, that is, that Chinese Malaysians are squatters in this country. He explained that he was referring to pre-independence days.
However, it had hurt the sensitivity of the Chinese Malaysian community.
I don’t know Ahmad Ismail personally, but I was quite close to his late elder brother, Abdul Rahim Ismail, the owner of Rahim Construction Company that was once famous as an “Earth-Prince” (Bumiputra) construction firm in
Pulau Pinang. I don’t know what has happened to the company after Abdul Rahim passed away.
Personally, I don’t agree with what Ahmad Ismail said for the following reasons. To me, nearly 90 percent of Malaysians, especially those in the Peninsula, are immigrants, and all of us are actually squatters in the land of Allah
anyways. We are anything but permanent owners, we are merely squatters..
For example, I come from a family that squatted in this blessed land. My paternal grandfather and grandmother migrated from Mecca and Brunei, while my maternal grandmother came from Hadramut, Yaman.
We are immigrants and squatters, as are almost everyone else in this country.
As for Ahmad Ismail, he is also an immigrant having descended from an immigrant’s family who squatted in this country. Ahmad Ismail cannot deny the fact that his grandfather and grandmother moved from India to this country in search of a better life in this blessed land..
It is also the case with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi whose maternal grandfather hailed from Guangdong in southern China. In short, Pak Lah’s grandfather, Allahyarhamah Kailan, whose name was Hasson Salleh or Hah Su
Chiang, was an immigrant. He moved to Tanah Melayu from Guangdong in the mid-19th century.
He stayed in Bayan Lepas as a rubber estate worker, a padi farmer and later became a diamond trader.
Najib Tun Razak, Deputy Prime Minister, is also a descendant of an immigrant Bugis family that came from Sulawesi, Indonesia. Hishammudin Hussein cannot escape the fact that there is Turkish blood running through his veins.
The Malacca Malay Sultanate was founded by an immigrant coming from Sumatra — Parameswara, a prince who practised Hinduism.
A reading of the history of Malay Sultanates would reveal that some of them were founded by Bugis immigrants, while others were of Hadramut and Minangkabau parentage.
Almost all Malays living in this country are from outside Tanah Melayu, but are defined as “Malay Race” by the Federal
Constitution. We are “Malay” in definition by the Constitution, that is, we are Muslims; we practise Malay customs and speak the Malay language.
Unfortunately, the Malay language itself seems to have been killed by the Malays in UMNO when they named it the Malaysian language (Bahasa Malaysia)..
Therefore, Arabs like Syed Hamid Albar and myself, Achehs like Sanusi Junid, Indians like Kader Sheikh Fadzir and Nor Mohamed Yakcop, Bugises like Najib, Minangs like Rais Yatim, Jawas like Mohamad Rahmat, and others from Madura, Pulau Buyan, Siam, Myanmar, Yunnan (China) and the Philippines are conveniently categorized as Malays.
They are accepted as Malays regardless of whether they speak Malay or otherwise at home like those of us who speak Arabic, the Jawas that speak Jawa, the Minangs that speak Minang, or the Mamak that speak Tamil. These languages are anything but Malay if we look at it from the perspective of the Federal Constitution, so they should never have been declared Malays. But for the sake of political correctness, all of them are accepted as Malays and “Earth Princes” (bumiputra).
It is grossly unfair to point to the Chinese as immigrants when the Arabs, Indians, Achehs, Minangs, Bataks, Mandailings, Jawas, Maduras, and Bugises are immigrants no less in this country. We cannot deny the fact that most of the Chinese’s grandfathers and grandmothers migrated to this country in the days of the Malacca Malay Sultanate, some of whom did so during the period of Kedah Sultanate, Terengganu Sultanate and Kelantan Sultanate respectively.
After Francis Light wrested Penang from the hands of the sultan of Kedah in 1786, more Chinese had arrived here.
We are all immigrants squatting in this country. Only the Negrito, Jekun, Semang, Jahut, Orang Laut, Orang Darat, Senoi, and other indigenous people groups (like the kadazans, dusuns, ibans and bidayuhs) can be correctly
considered the original inhabitants of this country.
We must never forget the contributions and sacrifices made by all the races in building our nation in all its aspects, including the economy, social structure, national defense and, most importantly, national unity. We are all taxpayers whether or not we are descended from immigrants or squatters.
Syed Imran, an Arab-Malaysian born in Penang, Malaysia, an ex-Bernama journalist (1971-1998) and former press secretary to the Minister in PM’s Department, posted a great blog days ago, which was translated into English.