I met my friend Robin in PJ recently while on a stopover from somewhere far to Kota Bharu.
Robin seemed more animated this time, more agitated by events unfolding before his bespectacled gaze. He’s more edgy, more amenable to contentious debate, and seemed to have a loadful of grievances in his mind. He mumbled about the one-year anniversary of the “Anwar 916 Scam” -- the stillborn political revolution that was supposed to sweep the self-proclaimed non-Bahasa Malaysia literate Anak Bangsa Malaysia crowd to the corridors of power in Putrajaya. Then he bitched about the Perak political imbroglio, including the state assembly mayhem, blaming everything under the sun on UMNO/BN while oblivious to the root cause and sequence of events that led to the comical scenes, topped by the unforgettable spectacle of A. Sivakumar being dragged kicking and screaming from the Speaker’s chair. He next turned into a pseudo-CSI expert by blaming MACC officers for Teoh Beng Hock’s death, seemingly in denial of the slimy web of deceit and treachery permeating the incestuous relationship between elements of the Selangor Pakatan government and their organized crime siblings. The series of by-election victories for Pakatan didn’t seem to uplift Robin’s spirit. In fact, they just whet Robin’s appetite for more of everything. More power, more rights, more privileges, more concessions, more of everything.
I had three hours to burn at the PJ kopitiam, so I bought him a cuppa thick black local coffee, some kaya-spattered roti bakar and a couple of soft boiled eggs. I had the same thick black coffee and some subpar undercooked Nasi Lemak garnished with oily sambal, limp timun and burnt ikan bilis.
But fine cuisine was not on our minds.
Between voracious mouthfuls of roti bakar with kaya drooling on his thin office worker fingers concurrent with loud slurps of kicap-soaked soft boiled eggs, Robin mumbled a series of grievances befuddling his social universe. Perhaps he longed for my retort, a sort of self-inflicted spiritual masochism to exorcist the ghost of failed expectations haunting his inner being.
I was intently inspecting the Kopitiam’s grotesque rendition of the Nasi Lemak, a Riau Malay staple, when Robin abruptly blurted the first of his gripes. He protested, “You think it’s easy to speak Malay as a non-native speaker?” I took Robin’s outburst almost as a reprieve, an excuse to at least delay the partaking of the Nasi Lemak. Half distracted and switching focus from food to friend, I asked, “What do you mean?” Robin clarified, “You see, the Chinese here spent their childhoods immersed in their ancestral dialects and, in many families, English as well. Then they go into the Mandarin-centric world of the vernacular schools.” He added, “The rich kids proceed to private schools and an overseas education, bypassing the Malaysian educational system altogether. As for the rest of us …” I interrupted, “Yeah my friend, what happened to these people?” Robin incredulously said, “Haiya, they all must go to government schools lah. They must cakap, tulis, kira and baca in Melayu maah!” I said, “Yeah, so? What seem to be the problem for these fellow Rakyat and Warganegara Malaysia?” A flustered Robin interjected, “You think these poor kids can easily adjust their mind to think and learn and converse in Malay after a Mandarin and English-centric existence all their young lives?”
Before I could reply, Robin unleashed another burst, “What kind of country is this? You repress us from all angles; even our kids’ education you purposely impose learning impairments via language to ensure they are only as smart as the dumb kampung …...” I assertively stopped him in mid-tirade and said, “Robin, why don’t we both shut-up and eat first. Then we’ll talk. I’m hungry, this Nasi Lemak is a disaster and I better order something else before my hunger-induced urge to hunt for edible wildlife gets the better of me right here in PJ.” Robin ignored my pleadings and repeated his point. My primal instinct was to grab his scrawny neck and let go an uppercut to solve his problem, and then hunt for edible wildlife while I’m at it. But he’s a dear friend, albeit woefully damaged by four decades of societal conditioning. Hence, I will bear with him and collectively unravel the issues contributing to his inner grief.
I pushed his hand aside, quickly grabbed and made short work of the last piece of his roti bakar, gulped down a glassful of air suam and looked at him straight in the eye. I said, “Robin, why are you crying to me and blaming the government about the fallout of your own community’s stupidity?” His attempt to rebut was met with an even more forceful brush-off from a jet-lagged, hungry KijangMas and he wisely stuffed it and quiveringly slurped his kopi-o while half-staring at the inquisitive gaze of some noisy Hokkien cussword-obsessed dyed-haired Leng Chais at the adjacent table.
I asked Robin wasn’t it the decision of the ethnic-Chinese in Malaysia to insist on a separate education stream based on Mandarin, the national language of the People’s Republic of China? Why complain when many of these shortchanged Chinese kids later couldn’t adapt to the mainstream Sekolah Kebangsaan? Didn’t the government since the era of TDM attempted to gradually integrate these SJKC and SJKT kids with their Sekolah Kebangsaan counterparts, with the first step being the Sekolah Wawasan concept of shared canteen and recreational facilities? I said, “So Robin, who resisted this measure and rendered it an utter failure?” See, you people not only demand a separate educational silo, you also fight to maintain complete social segregation from the rest of Malaysian society at the crucial formative years of your young people. Of course, by the time these kids become adolescent First Formers at the integrated Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan, its already too late. They would find it hard to adapt with the mainstream, where every facet of life – language, culture, identity and self-image – seemed so different, so alien.
Robin seemed stumped at the very obvious answer, perhaps reflective of his social group's abject irrationality on matters of education and social integration, where even the simplest, obvious answers are smothered by their collective prejudices and eluded their consciousness. With Robin in a state of logical incoherence, I inquired why it is o.k. for his two nephews in Perth to go to the Aussie equivalent of our Sekolah Kebangsaan and his wife’s kid brother likewise in Vancouver? Why no insistence on SJKCs in Western Australia or British Columbia? Forget these faraway places, what about Johor’s old Pulau Singapura? Any more “Chinese School” in Kiasu Country? Nope. No "Chinese School" in Singapore. Sure, they have Mandarin "Mother Tongue" classes, but that's it.
I asked Robin, “Waah, if your peoples’ past in your medieval ancestral domain was so great and worthy of worshipping and emulation to the traumatic extreme by fifth generation Malaysians, why did your ancestors jettisoned themselves from this glorious land of culture and heritage and underwent unimaginable risks and hardships to start a new life with nothing more than a cangkul in a hot tropical neverland claimed as their own by "racist Malays”? Robin protested, “Haiyah, I don't know what happened in the past, but now that we are here, we must defend our language and culture and identity maah!” I asked how come only descendants of immigrants in Malaysia worry soooo very much about “Cultural Preservation”? In California, the first thing foreign students and economic migrants from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Indian subcontinent would do is to throw away their Cultural Baggage (clothing, mannerism and language) and metamorphose into a California Beach Bum celup faster than I can say Gong Xi Fa Cai! And these people crave acceptance even as they are ridiculed on American national television.
Yeah, just last week I met and barely recognized “Bruce Liow,” a 20-something Perakian who is making a small Ringgit fortune as an illegal kitchen hand at Benihana in nearby Torrance using his cousin’s Green Card and Social Security number. Well, the old kuaci-junkie Liow Siew Meng is gone just six weeks after he absconded from his Tour Group at Disneyland. I’m sure even old madam Liow in Bidor wouldn’t recognize her son, with his dark glasses, baggy bermudas, oversized sweatshirt, hush puppies, chewing gum and all. I don’t see a dire need to maintain any Chinese cultural roots and ethnic identity and linguistic heritage in this Bruce Liow @ Liow Siew Meng. Why only in Malaysia? Why is this “need” to uphold some obscure Kwangtung heritage and Fukien pride, this pathological need for ancestral language and identity prevalent only in Malaysia, but not in America, Britain, Europe, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and elsewhere? I don’t see cries for cultural preservation and vernacular schools in these places? Why?
I told Robin, “Come on buddy, just look at Kylie Kwong. She talks and acts more Australian than the typical Aussie from the outback!” I added, “And you yourself adapted well to your old Australian college and job and lifestyle, with no demands for Chinese anything? Then how come you morphed into a grotesque ethnocentric monster when you returned to Malaysia, demanding Chinese rights over everything? Is it because the Malaysian government is a pushover, soft and clueless and blinded by a misguided adherence to some twisted socio-diversity fairytale parroted by anti-unity racists out there, exacerbated by abject ignorance of the history of nationbuilding in the world through the ages?" Robin kept quiet as he digested my inquisition. Really, out of the 200 plus nations on the face of this Bumi, how come this “must have Chinese school or else” compulsive obsessive disorder afflicts only Persekutuan Malaysia? Yeah, nowhere else on earth. So Malaysia proudly joins China and Taiwan to form an exclusive Mandarin-centric SinoSuperSpecial Educational League. Now you tell me how can this make sense?
I said “Malaysia Boleh!” Robin said, “please lah Bosz, I hate that phrase.” Huh? Now you add another item in your ever growing bucket of Malaysian symbolisms and instruments of nationhood that you took it upon yourselves to become allergic to? I told Robin half-jokingly, “I have a cure for your PatrioPhobia affliction; I’m gonna make you put on a Songkok and hold a Keris up in the air and shout ‘Malaysia Boleh!’ on the chair of this kopitiam. Then you sing Negaraku out loud with tears of patriotic joy streaming down your cheeks.” Robin smirked and let out a pained laugh and said, “Haiya, Negara Lu lah Bosz, not Negara Ku. Bukan aku punya.” Before I could digest this profound statement, Robin sprang to life and blurted, “You know what, even our 31st August Merdeka Day is not for all, non inclusive, and meaningless to the Sabah and Sarawak people.” I’ve heard this subversive spin before but feign ignorance to further harvest the contorted nuggets from the dark recesses of this Alienised Malaysian’s psyche. I asked: “Huh, where did you get this anomalous logic, the Pakatan gang?” Robin affirmed it energetically, and with new found vigour and conviction said that his DAP and PKR friends are now unraveling the many fallacies created by UMNO over the past half-century. With pride and fervour, Robin proclaimed: “I will never accept 31st August 1957 as Malaysia’s National Day” and gurgled and gulped down the last of his kopi-o with gusto.
My amazement at Robin’s near malignant political impairment was smothered by hunger pangs exacerbated by my refusal to consume the Nasi Lemak. Upon my repeated hyper-gesticulation – with deft use of the global sign language to depict “mana gua punya order?” and “lu mau kena hantam ka?” – the sour-faced overworked Rohingya illegal worker let go of his filthy mop and brought much needed sustenance, this time Teh Tarik Kurang Manis, and he made sure his filthy paw got imprinted on the spilled condensed milk near the rim of the glass, yup, the spot meant for your lips. Likewise for our Roti Canai Banjir where his thumb was half-immersed in the parapu. I gesticulated my disgust at his unhygienic ways and this pendatang (who would probably carry a Sabah-issued MyCard by next year) hurriedly disappeared into the crowd and came back with two small bowls of soft-boiled eggs and a tall glass of Iced Coffee which we did not order. Visibly irritated by this distraction, Robin said at least the Iced Coffee came with a straw and he didn’t see any thumb sticking into the soft-boiled eggs when it was dumped on our table. I agreed. So its soft-boiled eggs as the main course for me then, washed down by the Iced Coffee.
Energised by the dose of protein (… and cholesterol), I asked Robin if he’s a regular at this joint? He said, “Of course; good food maa. Cheap somemore. And can feast the eyes for free at the clubbing Ah Mois, sniggering with a typical HamSapLo twinkle in his eyes.” I wondered where are these Ah Mois? All I saw that evening were pathetic, lonely Ah Sohs lamenting the loss of their Ah Peks to the leggy China Mali wallet busting "tourists." And I began to sense a correlation between Robin’s degenerative political logic with the frequency of his consumption of detergent-, dirt- and bleach-laced food and drinks at that busy kopitiam. So I told a bemused Robin, “Hey you can be a good subject for a simple linear regression model here, where I can correlate the frequency of your visit to this kopitiam to the deterioration of your political mindset.” My attempt to inscribe the elegant equation of the Robin-Kopitiam PoliRetard Coefficient on the serviette was interrupted by our Rohingya floor cleaner cum dirty-hands food preparer who dumped another two plates of the infamous Nasi Lemak on our messy table. I asked this shifty-eyed PATI, which I Christened “Tyrone,” who the heck ordered two more plates of this insult to my culinary senses? Tyrone’s hand gestures and garbled talk implicated a surprised Robin. I asked Robin to start gesticulating wildly that he did not order the food, and sniggered in schadenfreude anticipation of Robin’s impending communication calamity in sorting out this mess. Well, Robin nonchalantly uttered to Tyrone in Hokkien – you know the Boh Liao stuff – and this filthy-pawed brute kinda curtseyed and merrily hop scotched and skipped away to deliver the two plates to a couple of busily gossiping Ah Sohs! Well, I’ll be darned. I asked: “Hoi Robin, these new pendatangs also go to the SJKC kah?” Robin replied, “No lah Bosz, it's straight from rickety tongkang to kopitiam two months ago for this guy” in a rare show of wit and humour that got me laughing.
The sideshow now behind us, Robin spiritedly repeated the glorious platinum-class DAP-concocted rallying point that 31st August is not the National Day for all Malaysians, this time convinced that I would not be able to rebut him. While gazing at the sight of his lips touching Tyrone’s sticky pawprint on the slimy Teh Tarik glass (further reaffirming the empirical evidence of the stillborn Robin-Kopitiam PoliRetard Coefficient), I asked: “O.k., based on your logic, 37 American states should not accept July 4, 1776 as their independence day then.” As Robin continued slurping the bleached-enhanced Teh Tarik, I told him that since only Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia signed the declaration of independence, the Americans would need to celebrate the 4th of July PLUS 37 other dates for the other states of the union. Does this make sense? The 49th state Alaska joined the American union only on January 3, 1959 and 50th state Hawaii joined as recently as August 21, 1959, almost two centuries after American independence. I asked Robin whether Alaskans and Hawaiians celebrate these dates? Before Robin could muster a spin to his answer, I told him, “Heck, they don't even know about these dates.” So I asked whether these late entries make them less American than a jock from Connecticut? Obviously not. Then why the opportunists of the Pakatan gang want to poison the minds of our Borneo brothers by creating an issue out of nothing, by isolating 31st August as if it symbolised some Tuhan-forsaken UMNO-designed non-event, and not a symbolic beginning date for the emancipation of the various Kesultanan Melayus and Negeri-Negeri Selat and later the Wilayah-Wilayah Borneo that coalesce to ultimately form the Federation of Malaysia? My point suddenly snapped Robin from his mental block induced by the political subversives infesting his ethno-cultural community. I cynically asked Robin perhaps the American’s singular Fourth of July date was the work of the UMNO people as well? I said: “Hey buddy, you better open DAP cawangans in the 37 other states and instigate their populace against this “unfair” date. Who knows, maybe UMNO had a hand in the selection of the Fourth of July date over 230 years ago?”
Our animated exchange was suddenly interrupted by the deafening sound of broken pottery, overturned chairs and tables, and a dull thud akin to a fallen sack of potatoes. Wau-lau-eh, Tyrone had slipped on the slimy floor and laid waste to three fresh, piping-hot bowls of Curry Mee he was ferrying to a bunch of rowdy men with walkie-talkies, probably car repossessors ubiquitous in the current economic malaise. The Leng Chais on the next table burst out laughing as a dazed, blushing Tyrone rearranged his splayed butt and picked up pieces of crockery amidst the splattered noodles, kerang, tauhu goreng, fishballs and taugeh oozing in the pool of curried slime. I couldn’t help sniggering myself at the ridiculousness of the scene, and commented to Robin on the subpar quality of recent pendatangs. Robin surprisingly roared back amidst the din, “Come on lah Bosz, you Melayus are also pendatangs what?” He added, “I read somewhere that you come from Sumatra and Java and all those little pulaus and curi this land from the Orang Aslis.”
This guy has some kind of a deathwish or what? I’m still hungry, may miss my flight, and this old friend has just opened a Tong of Ulats that may trigger quite a few more broken bowls of Curry Mee plus tables, chairs and some faces.
But my anger turned to pity as I stare into Robin’s glazed eyes, and contemplated how far my old friend has been manipulated by the relentless DAP and PKR propagandists.
Time for more food.
I summoned a limping Tyrone and ordered additional refreshments. Bolstered by a fresh bowl of Curry Mee to complement Robin’s Char Kuay Tiau, I throttled a series of what I call logic modules into Robin’s mangled mind. I asked Robin, “If you perceive the Malays as fellow pendatangs, then why demand rights and concessions and giveaways from a group who are in the same 'boat' as you? Why should a fellow, albeit senior, 'pendatang' – who had fought hard to stake his claim on this land amidst a millenium of competing claims by regional rivals and global colonisers, and administer it via age old customs, laws, and social norms – give you anything?" Yeah why? What do you as a junior pendatang give in return?
Folks, understand this point clearly. Your act of demanding all kinds of goodies from the Malays shows that you implicitly recognise the Malays as the owners of this territorial domain, this Negara, and its corresponding laws, rights, privileges, land and resources.
Betul ka? You can only minta from a tuanpunya. So your act of demanding a whole bunch of stuff from the Malays (freehold land titles, cultural freedom, linguistic rights) demonstrated your recognition, pengiktirafan, of the Melayus as the owners, the Tuan, of this land. Hanya tuanpunya boleh memberi kepada si peminta. How can one give something that one doesn’t own?
I told Robin that he cannot have it BOTH ways. If he wants the Malays to agree they are pendatangs as well, than he has no right or reason to demand anything from a fellow pendatang. So every pendatang for himself and herself now in the land of the pendatangs. BUT if Robin wants the Malays to give him stuff, then by implication he ackowledges Malay OWNERSHIP of whatever he is demanding, be it land, scholarships, cultural freedom, language rights, and so on. Betul ka?
Robin nodded in apparent agreement and dejectedly stared at his half-eaten Kuay Tiau. See folks, the single biggest strategic blunder the non-Malays can commit in their overall quest for relevancy in this land is to convince the Malays that they are fellow pendatangs, on the same tongkang as the various Chinese suku kaums, Tamils, Keralans, Punjabis and Bengalis. You see, the minds of pendatangs anywhere on earth are calibrated differently, guided by strong survivalist imperatives spawned by the ancestral displacement that permeates their soul for many generations. Pendatangs grab and hoard and grab and hoard whatever opportunities they could find. Their lives revolve around the search for jalans and lubangs and short-cuts that they can kao tim their way into to get at the largesse at the other end of the “transaction.” They don’t share with other pendatangs, even with members of the same tribe. And this trait is readily demonstrated time and again by our fellow countrymen still trapped in this pendatang mindset. Often, the only thing they’ll share with their neighbours is the unsolicited 3am loud barkings of dogs guarding their hoard or the spillover chaos and mayhem caused by their quest to grab and hoard more than their fair share of the economic and now political pie.
Look at the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide tragedy of December 2008. I was there on many occasions to assist loved ones. And you know what? Practically all of the hundreds of volunteers were Malay Muslims – with heroic efforts by groups such as Jamaah Islah Malaysia. Yes, this is the same JIM vilified by the debilitatingly ignorant Ooi Chuan Aun @ “Jeff Ooi.” You see, the bigotry of this fledgling politician blinded his ability to differentiate between Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM) and Jemaah Islamiah (JI), the purported regional militant group. This is the problem with chauvinists like Jeff Ooi. While spewing empty rhetoric on cultural diversity in a multi-religious, multi-linguistic and multi-everything neverland in their sporadic delusions of self-grandiosity, they themselves show little tolerance for anything different from their pathetic China-centric little beings.
The impressive display of Malay Muslim volunteerism was matched by the thousands of policemen, bomba, SMART team, tentera, MPAJ personnel and JKR workers who were also almost all Melayus and Borneo Bumiputras. Yeah, I saw PKR, PAS and UMNO members near ground zero, with PAS cadres the hardest working of the lot, often digging and removing debris with their bare hands. Tapi mana DAP? Mana MCA, MIC, Gerakan, PPP, IPF? Mana itu candlelight vigil junkies? Too rough and messy for you people? You "fight" for freedom and democracy only in clean, tiled squares with cute water fountains and blinking neon lights and within walking distance of your favourite boutique café where you dump your obese torsos and pig-out and gossip for four hours after demo-ing for one hour? And what the heck is this all about? Hey, I thought I've warned you MT Junkies about the hazards of Dewa-nisation? Weird bunch lah, people. And mana itu Hindraf "underdogs" in their bright orange t-shirts? In fact, the very week of the tragedy, Makkal Sakthi-shouting whackos of the Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas or Jerit caused an untimely distraction when their bicycle riding stunt ran smack into the police near Rawang. Precious law enforcement resources, including the Selangor police chief, had to be redeployed north to handle these rabble rousers who were further instigated by the usual provocateurs of course. Why can’t these people use their excess energy to good use? Why cause pandemonium and anarchy on the streets to the great inconvenience of law-abiding citizens when they could be helping out the victims of the landslide tragedy and then promote their cause at the same time? Ayoyo aney, go fight for the rights of your “Rakyat Tertindas” at ground zero lah, where the rakyat were not only tertindas, yang tertimbus pun ada.
Now, imagine if the Malays now believed they are pendatangs just like you, which typically comes with the package of greed, avarice and an inconsiderate disposition as manifested by the food-grabbing troupe above. Would the Malays be as charitable to you in such circumstances? Nope. It will be a case of every pendatang on his own. What do you think? You want that? You like that? Can or not?
Yup, these Malay pendatangs went on to built ancient empires and forged regional alliances and spawned what became today’s Sultanates dotting the Nusantara that signed agreements in their capacity as undisputed owners of the lands with European Superpowers and regional empires for hundreds of years and engaged in regional military alliances and military campaigns throughout the vast domain, from Aceh to Ligor to Champa to Makasar to Maluku. Yup, these Malay pendatangs were so dominant that even the British colonisers were compelled to recognise them as the “natives,” the sons-of-the-soil, as the original inhabitants of this “Malay Peninsular,” as the Bumiputras.
You see, the very rational Malay pendatangs (although I chuckle at the thought of my Kelantanese-Patani countrymen with a 1,500-year history of documented nationhood on this tanah reduced to tongkang arrivals from Java or Madura or Lombok) have no reason, being the victorious “owners” of the land to go work as labourers for another band of pendatangs, the British.
As eloquently expounded by William A. Graham, the Thai-appointed Adviser to the Sultan of Kelantan in his seminal 1907 book, “Kelantan: A State of the Malay Peninsula”:-
True, the Malay will often decline to work in the particular manner in which the European desires him to do so, that is as a mining cooly or plantation hand in the service of the said European, but the Malay is by no means an idle person. In Kelantan he grows the seventy thousand odd tons of rice which feed the population, he catches and dries fish enough for home consumption and for considerable export, he makes some forty thousand pikuls of kopra every year, he works boats on the river, and, in fact, he makes a very comfortable living, supplies all his wants, and is contented. It is not probable that any European who condemns him would himself continue to work at a tin mine or rubber estate after he had made enough to satisfy all his wants and to be able to realise all his ideals in order merely to satisfy the demand of some stranger for labour.
Like spaniels, the natives of the whole sea-board of the Indian [subcontinent] lick the hand that chastises them; not so the Orang Melayu, and we Englishmen should be the first to honour a race who will not basely submit to abuse or tyranny.
See people, Tuan Tanahs are naturally not amenable to become submissive labourers, the coolies, for some strange peachfuzz-faced pendatang bent on pillaging his Tanah Tumpah Darah. Tuan Tanahs just don’t do that. Yes, the British couldn’t get the “cooperation” (or shall we say, couldn’t enslave) the Orang Melayu. Hence, they had to import more malleable groups to do the grunt work of their wholesale looting of Tanah Melayu, yes the very ancestors of the Zuriat Pendatang politicians today who shout that the Malays are as much a pendatang as them.
Thus arrived the Pendatang Mark II, new and improved, hungrier, more rugged, versatile, compliant and amenable to abuse and oppression of the White Capitalist. For the ethnic-Chinese pendatangs, they escaped from the centuries of ruthless oppression by a foreign coloniser, the Manchus. By the end of the 19th century, the immigration door was rapidly closing worldwide for these impoverished Sin Khehs, including the U.S. with its draconian Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which imposed a blanket ban on Chinese immigration and made life difficult for ethnic-Chinese already in that country; Canada, with the Chinese Immigration Acts of 1885 and 1923, which banned Chinese immigration entirely; and Australia's Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, which formed the basis of the White Australia Policy that ended only in 1973. Of course, old Siam and the Dutch East Indies were not much better as the fierce pribumi mobs in those lands devoured, repressed and assimilate the incoming immigrants almost with impunity. Hence, Malaya, the land of the hospitable Malay Tuan Tanahs (except the gedébé parang wielding Oghé Kelaté, of course) became a safe haven, a veritable last chance sanctuary for these wretched masses, the grand depository for all the wandering returned-to-sender coolie-laden tongkangs out of Kwangtung and Fukien. The same story for the Tamils and Keralans. They were nothing more than economic migrants squeezed out of their homeland by abject poverty and crippling caste-based prejudices who found a niche in Malaya's labour-hungry plantations.
I told Robin that we should not be misled by manmade political boundaries and obsessed with coloured maps in schoolbooks. The Malay Stock, in their various ethnic-groups and suku kaums, have been traversing all points of the Malay Archipelago since the beginning of recorded history and are a fungible populace seamlessly linked by shared histories, cultural essence and a common, pervasive lingua franca, Bahasa Melayu. A Patani Malay and a Bugis from Makassar and an Acehnese as well as a Sulu native would have little trouble conversing and sharing complex ideas in their common Malay lingua franca. I told Robin that in the holistic context, the natives of the Nusantara nations are pribumis throughout the archipelago, in their own nation as well as in the adjacent polities, where present-day political boundaries are nothing more than the invention of European colonisers. Hence, to dismiss a son of Javanese settlers such as Khir Toyo as just another pendatang is to show an abject ignorance of Nusantaran socio-cultural history, where the pribumis of these lands have moved back and forth in this vast seamless common domain in concert with the rise and ebb of dynamic political and economic tides since time immemorial. Indeed, a variant of this phenomenon can be seen in contemporary Germany. Under the German Right of Return law as codified in Article 116 of German Basic Law, ethnic-Germans living in Eastern Europe (the so-called Aussiedler) can move to Germany and acquire German citizenship even if their families have not been in any German historical territory for generations. They are perceived as rightfully belonging to the German nation even as third-generation German born and bred “pendatang” Turks and transient gypsies and other non-Germanic peoples struggle for acceptance by the German populace. Same with the Jews and their Western-concocted "homeland." Under Article 1 of the Israeli Law of Return, every Jew on earth has the right to go to that country as an “oleh” or Jewish Immigrant and automatically be given Israeli citizenship. Of course, I'm not proposing automatic citizenship to every Buluh Runcing-carrying Indonesian pribumi who set foot on this land but the Malay-hating politicians in our midst must appreciate the region's socio-cultural history before making fools of themselves on the pulpit.
I told Robin that the Japanese are pendatangs from the Asian mainland and crowded out the indigenous Ainu. The Han Chinese themselves are pendatangs in much of China, having terrorised and supplanted the hundreds of indigenous groups beyond their ancestral Yellow River basin, including the Miao, Bai, Dai, Dong, Uygur, Kazkh, Kirghiz, Lahu, Lisu, Naxi and Zhuang. The persistent violent social upheavals in Tibet and East Turkestan (Xinjiang) are livid examples of this pendatang-isation process, where the Han Chinese pendatangs methodically usurped the power and influence and socio-cultural and demographic essence of these vast once proud conquered nations. Even today, the Han Chinese predominate in hardly half of China's land area, although they make up 92% of China's population. Of course, in Taiwan, these Han Chinese pendatangs decimated the indigenous Formosan people, the progenitors of the Austronesian language group, of which Malay is but one of hundreds of related tongues from Madagascar to Rapa Nui (Easter Island), spanning 60% of the earth’s circumference. And the Tamils and other Dravidians were pendatangs to Southern India, having swarmed the aboriginal Veddoid peoples there.
And don’t let me get started with the English.
Of course, if we go back far enough in human anthropology, we are ALL pendatangs one way or another in most places of this earth. The Orang Asli themselves were the residual biological vestige of successive migratory peoples – the many waves of pendatangs – who journeyed from Eastern Africa to Southern India on their way to populate Papua and Australia and adjacent islands beginning 70,000 years ago. The Amerindians and other “natives” of the Americas did likewise via the exposed Bering Land Bridge towards the end of the last Ice Age, and there exist the possibility that Polynesians and other Orang Lauts of the eastern extreme of the Nusantara may have landed in the Pacific Coast of South America via Rapa Nui (already 90% of the journey), just as they had landed and formed civilisations in Madagascar off Eastern Africa almost two millenia ago, where till this day, the Malay Stock lighter-skinned Merina people form the ruling elite of Malagasy society, as exemplified by the competing presidential claimants.
Robin asked an excellent question, “Bosz, what’s the cut-off point? When does a pendatang become a pribumi?”
Yeah, when this metamorphosis take place?
Proof of length of residency, even if the tribe did nothing for 40,000 yrs? Proof of “civilisation”? Proof of “statehood”? Proof of socio-political organisation beyond concentric tree houses and tribal councils huddled around campfires?
“Yeah Bosz, what?” Robin asked as he slurped the last of his Kuay Tiau in typical … errr … mad-rush pendatang style.
Well, how about recognition by third parties? By other regional polities? By foreign powers?
I asked Robin if he had seen any record of an Orang Asli delegation to the Ming Dynasty court in the 15th century? Perhaps the anti-Malay historio-revisionists should start work on that project. And to find evidence of a Senoi-China trade pact or a Semang Tok Batin letter of friendship with Alfonso d'Albuquerque. Or perhaps this time to re-spin Hang Tuah as a Negrito and Jebat a Jakun? Couldn’t be that hard, certainly more plausible than the Chinese Hang Tuah fairytale. Yeah, any Orang Asli polity that was part of the Srivijayan thalassocracy? Or “claimed” by either Langkasuka or Sukhothai? By Majapahit or Ayutthaya? Any political, military or economic treaties between the Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, French or British with an Orang Asli nation on the peninsula or anywhere in the Nusantara? To anti-Malay opportunists out there, want to spin some more?
Robin asked, “O.k., how then do you define a pribumi, a native, if you’re neither an “Orang Asal” nor a pendatang just off the tongkang?”
I told Robin that my definition of a Bumiputra is the group that first set up a recognisable polity on the land and historically ruled other peoples of that land, including the aboriginals, the Orang Asli. Since the dawn of Malay history, the Aslian groups are an integral subset, the ruled, under the Malay ruling class. Hence, the KEY determinant of ownership is not so much who arrived first, but who did what first, i.e., who formed the embryonic entities that were recognised by regional historiographies of that era. Same logic applies between the Japanese "Bumiputras" and their Ainu Orang Aslis. In their universe, ethnic-Korean immigrants are the pendatangs, and aren't fully embraced by the mainstream even after many generations of assimilation.
Based on this premise, to call the Orang Melayu a fellow pandatang on par with more recent tongkang arrivals from China and India is not only an indication of utter ignorance borne of a subpar education but is also a mischievious attempt to bring this country’s historical facts into disrepute.
Bludgeoned by my tutorial, Robin naughtily asked, “So Bosz, between myself and this Tyrone here, what’s the difference? When can we become you?”
I told Robin that he himself, and for that matter the likes of Tyrone as well, hold the key to the issue. And collectively his society will determine their ultimate place under the Malaysian sun. The key lies in their own self-image, what they ultimately want to be on this land. To steadfastly cling to and perpetuate their mimicry of the lingua-cultural essence of a distant, faraway ancestral land OR to play their role in the forging of a true, sustainable Anak Bangsa Malaysia as exhaustively expounded in my post here?
Don’t blame the Malays, the majority, the founder of the original polities dotting this land -- just as migrants to Japan, Germany, Britain or France do not blame the respective “Bumiputras” there -- if the Malays do not accept you as a fellow full-fledged citizen of this land called Malaysia UNTIL and UNLESS you assume certain fundamental affinities to the dominant group, namely language competency and awareness and respect of the prevailing Malay-Bumiputra socio-cultural norms beyond your little enclaves. You can be here for ten or more generations, but if you and your descendants insist on exhibiting foreign lingua-cultural traits on this land, you will still be deemed as an “Orang Asing” in perpetuity, and would probably be “overtaken” by Tyrone’s progenies in the Malaysian socio-constitutional pecking order by the next generation.
After much prompting, Tyrone got us the bill and handed it to ……. yup, Robin. I asked this neo-pendatang, “Apasal engkau kasi itu bil sama ini Ah Pek?” Tyrone gave the look that said: ”Isn’t that the way, you pompous ignoramous?” Now, that’s a snapshot of Malaysiana right there, courtesy of this unwashed pendatang. I told Robin, “See my friend, even Tyrone knows YOU are the bodek-ful seeking-something Pendatang, and I’m the can-give-something Tuan Tanah, where YOU must belanja me almost as a matter of social norm.” Robin let out a hearty laugh, agreeing to one of the peculiarities of Malaysian society: that the Ah Pek always gets the bill, be it in slimy kopitiams or the Mandarin Oriental, KLCC.