12:56PM Oct 21, 2014
By Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi
I refer to the recent controversy pertaining to the comment made by Tan Lai Soon, a Gerakan delegate, that the Malays too were “pendatang” (immigrants). What may shock the Gerakan leadership, which decided to suspend him in haste due to reasons best known to them, is that there is some historical truth to his assertion. What may also shock many others is the fact that in 1941, there were more Chinese (43 percent) than Malays (41 percent) in Malaya.
Let me state at the outset that, as Malaysians, we should all work together hand in hand with the superordinate goal of creating a truly united and progressive Malaysia to ensure its long-term survival in a highly competitive world for the benefit of our future generations. We must put a stop to attempts made by extremists to sow racial discord and to tear our nation apart.
In this regard, I strongly believe that Tan Lai Soon’s intentions were sincere and that he spoke about the issue at the right forum. He must have been offended by numerous instances in the past of non-Malays being referred to as ‘pendatang’ and asking them to return to China or India if they are unhappy with Malaysia.
Allow me to quote an internationally renowned historian (name withheld for obvious reasons) who wrote the following in his or her PhD thesis with a leading American university in 1957 which is most relevant to Tan Lai Soon’s comment:
“The Malays, to whatever political party they may belong, regard themselves as the ‘sons of the soil’, whose legitimate claims to economic advancement were virtually nullified by the immigrant, enterprising communities. Their answer to the Indian and Chinese immigration is uniform, viz., it must be drastically curtailed before the Malays are submerged.
"Indians and Chinese do not dispute the Malay claim as ‘sons of the soil’ in a general sense. They admit that whereas, theoretically, they have a mother country to fall back upon, the Malays have only one country. They, moreover, concede that prior to British penetration, Malays were the natives of the peninsula and since the Malay Sultans made treaties with the British it is logical that the sovereignty should be returned to them.
"They, however, hasten to add that the Malays, too, are an immigrant race, by and large, for an appreciable element of the Javanese-Sumatrans has flowed into the present Malay population. In 1911, during a boom in the rubber industry, thousands of Sumatrans poured in. Many Javanese were actually imported by estate owners. According to the 1947 census, about 26 percent of the Malays in the Federation were immigrants from Sumatra...
"The census also furnishes the following data. In Selangor, Malay population grew from 26,000 in 1891 to 185,000 in 1947, evidently as a result of extensive immigration. Less than 40 percent of the population had lived in Johor for 36 years, whereas the immigrants were 35 percent of the Malay population. These figures, the non-Malays claim, modify the validity of the Malay people’s claim as ‘sons of the soil’.
"Moreover, instead of the Chinese and the Indians having robbed the Malays of their wealth, many of the Javanese Malays have entered Malaya ‘attracted by the Anglo-Chinese-created riches of modern Malaya.’ In the extreme heat of impassioned reasoning, many Indians and Chinese are apt to retort, “If there are any true sons of the soil, they are the [Orang Asli].”
To conclude, Tan Lai Soon’s comment about the Malays, too, being “pendatang” has some historical justification. A significant number of those who are considered ‘Malays’ today migrated to Malaya in the early decades of the twentieth century. May the Great Architect of the Universe continue to bless Malaysia and guide its citizens to work together instead of tearing the nation apart.
3 years ago