Malay civilisation researcher Mohd Arof Ishak opened more than one can of worms when he said in response to deputy minister Tan Lian Hoe of Gerakan that all peoples of the Malay Islands are indigenous to Malaya and Malaysian Borneo.
He kinda opened the 17000 odd cans in Indonesia and 6000 plus in the Philippines – a Pandora’s box of more than 23000 islands.
If all the people are not pendatangs, then the police, immigration, navy and Rela’s collective action in keeping these people out of Malaysia in their anti-illegal immigrant operations is in actual fact barring legitimate people from home.
For the Bugis, Sulawesi and Shah Alam are about the same, if this researcher is correct, and since Utusan Malaysia carried it, it must be true (at least to the Home Minister). So go out, beat each other down and get this man’s book The Malay Civilisation, it is a real page turner.
Don’t worry about your prime minister for all Abdullah Badawi not knowing about it, since he officiated the book launch.
I’m not arguing that there were not massive movements of people throughout the spice islands, I agree to that. But so where the movements of Indians, Arabs and Chinese to these parts. That is why we pride about more than 80 languages being spoken in Melaka in its height.
His argument is culture, and if you have been in Malaysia for last ten years, you’d think the Malay culture is limited, but travel across these Malay islands Arof talks about and you will see the differences. So a fixed line of influence is dubious at best. Just like if I claimed Malay culture as mine because most of a Malay wedding ceremony is Indian in origin.
It is foolhardy and academically flawed to think that the culture Khir Toyo practices here as a constitutional Malay would be the same as his grandfather’s other progeny still remaining in Java.
In all probability the discordant bits would have been censored out, in typical Malaysian ‘re-writing’ history, culture and religion reputation. Like the various Umno meetings held in Javanese before.
The reasoned method
I’ll have to admit that Utusan’s columnist Ridhuan Tee Abdullah’s commentary was far more reasonable (so let it not be said that I only vilify Utusan).
There were some fine lines being juggled. However there were bits not.
The royal families in Malaya were somewhat stabilised in the 19th Century, and I won’t go into their legitimacy, but the British did affect upon who was legitimate and wasn’t.
The populace however were not stabilised in large parts. People moved about despite the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 spelling out the modern Indonesian – Malaysian borders.
There are constitutional Malays who can present lineage to Dutch ruled Melaka, and there will be many more won’t speak about where they were about the time World War Two started.
The problems emerges when you speak about everyone – the vast number of island people – in the abstract and absolute in the same measure and move the goal-posts as it fits.
Like my mate who is an aspiring Umno politician and nationalist, and in the same breadth talks about his Achehnese roots and family over there and their sense of independence. It does not wash.
The truth is, my views are as open to criticism as the next guy’s. That is why the nation state is built on the identity of citizenship, and a sense of connection to the state and not ethnicity, religion and language as a basis of parity.
But that again, I don’t think they’ll print me in Utusan, would they? They’d rather see Jews dance to the theme song of Do-Re-Mi before that, you know the song written by a certain migrant’s son from Penang, Teuke Zakaria bin Teuke Nyak Puteh (P Ramlee).