This is a ‘what if’ piece. Because the subject in question is a myth: Malay supremacy.
So what if Malay supremacy is true. Is it then divisible?
The theoretical basis of this claim, is ethnicity. That a sizable number of Malaysians have been residing in Malaya long time before the mass migration started by steady British rule in the 19th century.
There were many movements before that, including those of transferring rulers from one kingdom to another. But you have the odd non-Muslim bits. The Eurasian descendants of Portuguese and Dutch rulers. The Arab lads got to assimilate quicker in the eyes of the locals by virtue of common faith, even though the Arabs were often guilty of discriminating the locals.
So these are members of the base group. Those who hung around longer.
I am of course discounting the orang asli, as has every Umno leader. The logic is, they may have lived in Malaya for centuries before the present ‘malay supremacists’ showed up, but since they are not Malay then they is a rare reverse – and quite perverse – calculation which abdicates their ‘first-in’ status.
The white settlers in Australia kept aborigines in their census as part of flora and fauna, so in many senses, here in Malaysia when it comes to rights based on stay, the orang asli are flora and fauna to the Umno politician.
I was here first
It is less a travesty and more of a joke that there are grown men – who claim an intellect at times – have built reasoning for them to get things without persevering or perspiring. The fact most of them belong to one political party is a sad statistical oddity.
Like some playground for pre-pubescent kids, people are claiming more right to it based on residence. Today in a boundary-less world, that thinking is being challenged more and more.
But I like to look at divisible rights.
If the original guys (excluding the orang asli – which is really funny, because orang asli means original people) deny the migrants post British rule on the basis of ethnicity, and since ethnicity is not by choice but by genetics, would millions of Malaysian constitutional Malays have less Malay supremacy in them?
I mean surely a child who is half Chinese must have less supremacy about him. Some parts of his origin is from the Ming Dynasty.
I’m told that one parliamentarian for Umno has 3/4 Chinese blood, so when they scream like lunatics outside the Chinese Assembly Hall trying to burn it, does he only get to scream a fourth of what the others are allowed? ( And should the remaining 3/4 squirm in shame and unease?)
This is important. A right that is not constant is an arbitrary right.
So if the mythical claim of supremacy is based on centuries of stay – as the odd eloquent member ruminates about the grandeur of the past and the vestige of culture at Umno assemblies- then those who have not stayed as long, or have enough original blood, have to have diminished Malay supremacy.
We need categorise and weigh the ‘supremacy’ in each person who is constitutionally Malay. Time and residence is important. This could be a means to decide who gets into the Umno supreme council or not. I mean, for years in Umno circles people jest about some members being ‘Melayu Baru’, suggesting they might not have the right to equal standing.
Let’s cut the clutter. Using genealogical charts to map every member. Some members are more supreme or more tuan-like, so they have to be recognised for it, if not you risk hurting their feelings and raising sensitive issues. And in Malaysia I am told we don’t do that.
In America in the old segregationist days in the south there was always the concern about people of mixed parentage. Hundreds of years of slavery resulted in children of slaves and slave owners. And after abolition there were some who were such light shade of black, they were white to the undiscerning eye.
In a place – even after slavery – white meant ruling class and black the ones ruled, people were always concerned about their white black ratio.
No difference here in Malaysia if you listen to the ethos of Malay supremacists. If Malay supremacy is non-negotiable, then membership in it should be non-negotiable or the whole thing is a sham.
And if the membership is built on length of stay, those who have lived longer in Malaysia than those who are new migrants must have more supremacy.
Sixth generation Straits settlers like the family of Tan Cheng Lock should have more supremacy about them than say Khir Toyo, right?
It is about duration, and I’d put all the coins in my pocket as a wager; that daddy Toyo and those before him in Java cared very little about Malayan Union, Pangkor Treaty or the role of Malay rulers in the lives of the many.
They were into Javanese politics like whether this young engineer from Blitar was going to be the next Imam Mahdi and save them from the Dutch.
Or are my calculations are wrong? That Malay supremacy is not built on ethnicity nor duration, but on mystical insight only those in Umno know?
Because irrationality was one of the hallmarks of Abdul Rahman, our first PM. There was neither consistency nor a concern for the logical contradiction in how things are done. He was a purveyor of the theory of nice.
For him non-Malays did not need not worry about illogical Malay supremacy since he was PM and he would not shortchange them.
When someone actually shortchanged them 12 years later in the 69 riots, he just looked aghast and was easily removed.
People like Razak took what was symbolic to being the raison d’etre of the party, to strive for Malay domination in everything by first co-opting as many Malays as possible through mixed marriages, dubious origins ( Arabs/Indian Muslims), Borneon integration (Muslim Borneons) and migration ( Southern Filipinos, Achehnese etc), then pushing for maximum through exertion of numbers and a liberal interpretation of Malay position in the constitution to mean Malay supremacy.
So, how many percentage Malays are there in Malaysia? I would be interested to know from the census board, but they dare not ask.