Categorised | Columns

Siapa Melayu?

IF it is true that Malay-rights group Perkasa was able to sabotage the government’s New Economic Model, hence obstructing much-needed reforms for the nation, what is this telling us?

Perkasa logo

Perkasa logo

It tells us that if the Barisan Nasional (BN) government is so easily held ransom by right-wing race-based groups, it is not fit to govern multiracial Malaysia. It also tells us something else about the BN government that further proves just how unqualified it is to run this country. If the BN is so easily swayed by the clamouring of “Malay rights”, often projected writ large as “ketuanan Melayu”, it is telling the rakyat this: that despite our independence from the British after more than 50 years, the current government still subscribes to and upholds the colonial construct of race and racial superiority.

Indeed, this fixation with race, especially the Malay race and its attending “rights”, as groups like Perkasa and parties like Umno would have it, is not just colonial. It’s also completely arbitrary and bewildering. Worse, it is this fixation that makes it so easy to deny equal opportunities for all citizens. And in worst-case scenarios, it makes it easy for racism to take root.

Now you’re Malay, now you’re not

Here is evidence of how arbitrary race is. Did you know that, depending on whether one is in Perlis or Pahang, one can either qualify or not for Malay reserve land because of the states’ different definitions of what constitutes a Malay?

Constitutional law expert Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi explains this in an e-mail interview. He says while all state constitutions have adopted the Federal Constitution’s definition of “Malay”, for purposes of Malay reserve land, all West Malaysian states have their own definitions as to the origins of a Malay.

So, apart from being a Muslim in all these states, in Kedah and Perlis, persons of “Malayan race or Arab descent may qualify as Malays”. In Johor, it is sufficient to be of a “Malaysian race” to be Malay. In the Federal Territories, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Selangor, Kelantan and Terrengganu, a Malay must belong to a “Malayan race”.

There are also other differences according to state with regard to language, custom and birth, and descent. Shad, who is also Mara University of Technology legal adviser, observes: “As one moves through the states in West Malaysia, one is Malay, then not Malay, then Malay again under these state enactments.”

And what exactly is a Malaysian or Malayan race? Do they include all the races in Malaysia, and/or previously in Malaya?

Shad notes that only the state constitutions of Malacca and Penang define “Malay” in line with the Federal Constitution’s definition. In these states, there are no requirements related to “ethnic origin” before one can qualify for Malay reserve land.

Constructing a Malay

Shad Saleem

Shad Saleem

However, even the Federal Constitution’s definition of “Malay” is “quite eclectic in that it allows someone to move in and out of being ‘Malay’,” Shad says. How so?

According to Article 160(2) of the Federal Constitution, a person is “Malay” if she or he satisfies the following four requirements:

must be Muslim;

speaks the Malay language habitually;

follows Malay adat; and,

was born in Malaya or in Singapore before Merdeka Day, or is descended from at least one parent who was born in Malaya or in Singapore before Merdeka Day.

“In the Federal definition, there is no requirement that one must be of Malay stock. Non-Malays who satisfy the four requirements will be deemed to be Malays. A convert to Islam may qualify as a Malay.

“Conversely, ethnic Malays who fail any one of the four requirements, for example, Malays from South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia – may not qualify as Malays under the Federal definition,” Shad explains.

By this definition, even a Malay Malaysian who leaves the faith, or who stops speaking Malay or no longer practises Malay adat, will cease to be “Malay”.

This then begs the question: Who exactly is “Malay” in the context of Malaysian political life? And if privileges and “special rights” are going to be assigned to the “Malay” and denied the other races, shouldn’t “Malay” or “non-Malay” be something that is less arbitrary?

“My son is now Chinese”

Christopher De Shield, a Creole from Belize, tells a story that underscores how subjective the notion of race is, and the confusion it causes even within the National Registration Department (NRD).

De Shield is married to a Chinese Malaysian, and when he tried to register their son’s birth in December 2010, the NRD officer wanted to categorise their son as “Dan Lain-Lain: Belizean”. De Shield then pointed out that “Belizean” was a nationality, not a race. He himself is of mixed ancestry, as are other Creoles from the Caribbean. Because the officer was stumped, De Shield then suggested that his son be categorised as “Chinese” since his wife was Chinese. “My son is now Chinese,” De Shield chuckles, adding that he can’t wait to tell his family and friends about this amusing turn of events.

There are other anecdotes. My family is Eurasian, and yet my sister’s MyKad erroneously states that she is Punjabi even though we are from Penang, not Punjab. Another Eurasian friend from Penang tells us through Facebook that her sister was mysteriously classified as Kadazan.

The truth is, race as we know it is arbitrary and constructed. Just look at this table which shows how the British kept changing the definition for Malays, Chinese and Indians:

The Meaning and Measurement of Ethnicity in Malaysia, by Charles Hirshman. Graphic courtesy of Matahari Books (Click for bigger view)

A false science

It bears remembering that race was a white and western concept that emerged through the development of European imperialism and social Darwinism, and which was used to justify plantation slavery. Race was about how non-whites had different physical attributes from whites, which were then deemed to make them inferior to their colonisers.

It should come as no surprise then that this was exactly the kind of social-political structure that the British imposed on us. Indeed, it was the British who defined Malays as Muslims, and who made “Malay” an exclusive term with strictly defined boundaries.

So, if race is so arbitrary and was used to subjugate those who look different from whites, why are we still using race as a way to categorise Malaysian citizens? Why is the BN still using race-based policies to govern us? And why is it allowing “Malay rights” and “ketuanan Melayu” to prevent it from embarking on reforms and offering equal opportunities to all citizens?

Because race was the white coloniser’s subjective construct, one can perhaps understand why there is confusion even among NRD officers about the racial identity of Malaysians. And according to Shad, in Johor, Kwong Yik Bank, Maybank and Oriental Bank, as corporate bodies, qualify for Malay reserve land because they fall under the state’s definition of Malay. Go figure.

Who benefits?

Any of the Found in Malaysia interviews with Malay Malaysian personalities demonstrate how there is no such thing as a pure or exclusive “Malay” race.



And so, when former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad declares that non-Malay Malaysians must accept that Malaysia belongs to the Malays, one wonders who is the “Malay” he is referring to. Or when Perkasa and Umno leaders holler about “ketuanan Melayu”, aren’t they really propping up a colonial construct that was used to ensure systemic discrimination?

De Shield says he’s not concerned that his son is now officially registered as Chinese. De Shield, after all, is married to a Chinese Malaysian who bore their child. “But if I were a Malaysian citizen, I’d be worried about how the state uses these racial categorisations,” he says. Indeed, as Malaysians, we should. One wonders, though, if the BN is.

Jacqueline Ann Surin believes that it was the notion of race that allowed Adolf Hitler to propagate a superior Aryan race which paved the way for six million Jews to be eliminated.

Related post:
What’s that about Malay rights?

Post to Twitter Post to Google Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to StumbleUpon

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

76 Responses to “Siapa Melayu?”

  1. Paul Lau says:

    Hello Jacqueline,

    Thank you for everything you do and all your efforts to make Malaysia a better place for everyone. Thank you for clearing the view of many things that have been made hazy by politics. Thank you for your insightful and excellent writing.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    Peace, Joy, Love, Health and Happiness be with you and you family always,

  2. Kong Kek Kuat says:


    I distinctly recall that during the years gone by when I was active in socialising, I used to refer to what you would call “race” as “species”.

    Upon hearing my preferred terminology, some would joke about aliens, some about how weird I am, and some (not particularly, but especially, those who are Protestants) would give me a good lecture about God and blaa blaa blaa.

    I still stand by my preferred terminology, and I would urge everyone to focus on the ‘species’ as a point of reference, rather than the inaccurate term of ‘race’.

  3. Adam says:

    I think that the real Malays of Malaya have been taken for a long and unending ride. The race has been hijacked by recently arrived Muslims from around the world, mainly from Indonesia, India and the Arab countries. These outside people are very smart and shrewd because of their hundreds of years of exposure to trade around the region, while the real Malays are quite laidback and easily satisfied being fisher[folk] and farmers.

    I personally think that the real Malays have been had. If a need-based policy is implemented, these real Malays would definitely benefit from it, otherwise, they would lose out to the newer “Malays” who are also very scheming as well, blaming the other races for the failure of the NEP and other schemes.

    Sad to see the real Malays being cheated of their birthright just as the Orang Asli. Other countries like USA and Australia are trying to redress the wrong and harm they have done to their native peoples. Hopefully Malaysia will do the same.

    Only when we treat all humans with equality, dignity and justice will we be able to realise our full potential as human beings. Otherwise, we remain as animals fighting for our own self survival and preservation.

  4. soyona says:

    I think that the author has to realise that race and ethnicity are difficult things to define. It largely depends on the individual on what he/she wants to be defined as.

    Malaysians can’t assume that Malaysia is or will ever be ‘race blind’. It is also unreasonable to assume that any person, regardless of nationality, can be considered ‘without race.’ People, especially Malaysians, will always see through racial lens, either consciously or unconsciously. Although race can’t be defined through science, it is a social construct and has to be considered. It can’t be ignored.

    In the US, residents are asked to define their race. In their census they allow respondents to tick the closest race they identify with. There is a category for those who identify themselves as ‘undefined’ or ‘other’. These people opt not to be defined by race, and hence won’t benefit from federal subsidy.

    For many years, Arab Americans had to classify themselves as “Caucasian”, even though they don’t identify with the white races. Only recently, they have added the Arab-American category. This is because the US government saw a need to track and identify the requirements of the Arab American community. In many cases, federal budgets would be given to subsidise Arab communities based on the findings of the census. This happens for other racial groups as well.

    Even Obama had to define himself. He ticked the ‘black’ or African-American category, even though he is half white. There are those who are mixed race who identify strongly with one part of their ancestry, but not the other part(s).

    Malaysia should adopt a similar system. However, I think that Malays should allow leniency on the religion issue. By adding religion to be lumped together with race, they are adding another dimension to this complicated and intractable problem.

    The Malay people are now caught in a dilemma. They sometimes identify themselves in terms of race and sometimes in terms of religion. I believe that the current rhetoric behind this issue is being exacerbated to further divide the Malay community using religion as the major tool. This is actually an intelligent and rational tactic adopted by the Chinese, Indian and other Malaysian communities to defeat the racial-based affirmative action policies by the Malays. They also use the tactic of telling Malays who benefited from the quota system that they will never be respected if they receive aid from the government. This is disingenuous on the part of the non-Malays.

    Affirmative action has been adopted in many countries. In the 1960s, the Canadian government allowed the Quebec province to provide special privileges to the French-speaking majority over the English-speaking minority who were economically dominant at the time. This helped achieve balance in that province.

    Unfortunately, it can argued that balance in Malaysian society has been largely attributable to the biased affirmative-action policies. The minorities should realise that this has helped maintain peaceful co-existence for years. If they don’t want the government to adopt racial policies, the minorities who run the corporations should adopt HR policies that officially set quotas to hire Malays who meet minimum qualification requirements. They should not use ambiguous or divisive language – such as “Malay candidates are lazy or don’t want to interface/interact” – in their hiring practices. If the corporations don’t want to adopt such policies, they will not be trusted by the Malay majority. Qualified Malays still eschew Chinese-majority companies for fear that they will be discriminated.

    • JW Tan says:

      Most of your examples are spurious. Affirmative action for the majority has only been adopted in two countries – Malaysia and South Africa. In both countries it has not resulted in a net transfer of wealth from the minority to the majority. It has instead resulted in a net transfer of wealth from a minority to another minority – an elite from the majority ethnic group. So it doesn’t work, and despite the fact that you think it is responsible for the peace Malaysia has enjoyed so far, it is killing the country’s future.

      I hate quotas, mainly because the very existence of quotas breeds a culture of entitlement, and therefore entrenches the very characteristics (e.g. laziness and inefficiency) that they seek to redress. The quotas in Malaysia are also a source of frustration to Chinese and Indian [Malaysians] who find it easier to succeed in other countries, because the obstacles are easier to [overcome]. Singapore, of course, is very happy that Malaysia continually rejects some of its finest human resources simply because they are not of the right race. I’m amazed the government doesn’t see anything wrong with this.

      • Eric says:

        The ‘examples’ by soyona are easily verifiable on the net. And the Quebec example was from Amy Chua’s book World on Fire. I have read it too. It’s quite an eye-opener. She’s also famous for her Tiger Mom book in the US.

        I think the NEP was never for the ‘net transfer of wealth’ from the minority to majority. That would be blatantly unfair. It is well known that the goal of most affirmative action policies is to open the door for disadvantaged groups or groups that are still lagging.

        The Zimbabwe case of ‘affirmative action’ is extreme and is not based on any ethical merit. It is just theft of the minority by the majority. Malaysia is not like the Zimbabwe case. Read up on it, if you don’t believe me.

        An example of good affirmative action for good intent is in India. The Indian Institute of Technology has a lower entrance requirement for peoples of lower castes. However, once admitted, there shall be no discrimination.

        For you to contend that quotas breed laziness confirms your bias. This is not ‘a priori’ truth. The perception can’t be extended to those lower-caste untouchables in India who work hard to seek a better life. This invalidates your generalisation.

        The successful minorities who harp on the quota issue as if they are made lesser because of it will cause the less successful majority to feel more resentment and contempt. I have met and talked to many Malay professionals who admit that affirmative action helped open doors and opportunities for them. Even Obama admitted that it may have helped him gain entry into Harvard. And yes, HARVARD SUPPORTS AFFIRMATIVE ACTION.

        As for why Malays are lazy? That’s your observation. Racist though it may seem, can you verify that? Maybe you should design a test to show it. Don’t argue about ‘hours worked’ at the office, because I have seen many in my office regardless of race who stay back only to surf the internet. It has to be a fair test. I think it is possible because i have tested the hypothesis among Malays who work for me, and I can say they do fail more often than not. Scientific evidence and testing methodology is required for me to confirm my hypothesis.

        • JW Tan says:

          I’ve read World on Fire – the thesis was about how successful minorities need to continually concede their hard-earned wealth and privilege in a democratic society. It wasn’t about how successful affirmative action is in redressing imbalances. I said soyona’s examples were spurious, not that they were factually incorrect.

          Affirmative action is generally applied to the minorities, which is why your Obama and India examples, though factually correct, are irrelevant. There’s no real reason why affirmative action should be applied to the majority – they are, after all, the majority.

          Do I think Malay Malaysians are lazy? Not as an ethnic group, no. I do think that people who expect to be successful as a result of quotas tend have an eroded work ethic. It’s a perfectly rational response, after all.

          I think you’re naive if you believe that affirmative action (“opening the door”) does not mean subsidies, quotas, handouts, or discrimination. However you want to dress it up, the financial support for the people helped under affirmative action comes from taxes paid by the people discriminated against under affirmative action. It’s a net transfer of wealth. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with this, if it is done correctly. In the case of Malaysia and South Africa, it isn’t.

    • neptunian says:

      Are you referring to corporations listed on the KLSE? Please do an analysis. Most of the large corps are GLCs or Malay [Malaysian] controlled. Over 90% of employees are Malays. In GLCs, over 95%. In the government, Malaysia’s largest employer, over 90%

      Please, are there that many talented Malays to go around? Some sense of proportion is needed here.

      • Eric says:

        I agree that the capable Malay [Malaysians] are ‘not available’. However, I still feel that this is a perception that is tainted by bias, which is usually misinterpreted by Malays as racism.

        I have hired under me a very capable Malay technician. Though his English is poor, he works hard. He has only a diploma. I am sure if i had increased the academic requirements I would have gotten a Chinese [Malaysian] technician to work for me. I have tried to get Chinese technician before, but I was unfortunate to get one who was recalcitrant and was always trying to do things his way. The Malay technician, who came from a poor family who didn’t emphasise education, is a harder worker and shows greater loyalty. That was my effort in trying to level the playing field. But this came from my own initiative, not the government’s.

        • Andrew I says:

          Good on you, Eric. Merit can be found in all races. When we walk the talk, we tear down the walls that politicians build to rule us.

    • Andre Das says:

      One flaw of the so-called affirmative action is that it discredits good, intelligent and capable Malay [Malaysians] as it is unavoidable for ordinary people like me to develop a bias, to stereotype people according to their “race” and form bad first impressions. You write well and your arguments are sound, but the first impression I get is that you write too well to be a Malay. Forgive me for being like this, but I have been too entrenched in the Malaysian system.

  5. KJ John says:

    I have five children, and their birth certificates have classified all of them as Malayalees as the ethnic origin of their father because my wife is a Caucasian and of American citizenship. We are a totally confused nationality, and race is only used to negatively classify and has no basis in genetic science.

  6. orang lama says:

    A Malay comes from a country called ???. There was/is no country called Tanah Melayu. Before Dr M and his Perkasa friends came to this country, it was known as “Malacca” and this was printed on all the maps of that era. There were nine sultans, each occupying the river mouths or estuaries of rivers. The British took it upon themselves to survey and draw the boundaries of all the states. For this the sultans must be very, very grateful. (This is why the Malays still look to the UK as their cultural/political/religious mecca).

    The Brits took every opportunity to deport the Chinese and actively encouraged migration of Indonesians from Sumatra/Java. There was NO Malay head of state, no anthem, no laws, no government, no administration etc. So how can you have a “Tanah Melayu”? There was even no culture. That’s why the Malays look to “Islamic culture”, which is nonsense. You get culture from a civilisation, not from a religion – because religion goes everywhere. This is also the reason Dr M could con the Malay race. They have no cultural ballast to counter him. Now he is still trying the same trick. Lucky in this country, we have the Chinese and the Indian [Malaysians] who are propping up the economy. The Malays are stealing from the country and hoarding their money overseas.

  7. yin says:

    Brilliant piece. Was just discussing over this topic during CNY. The next follow up topic is, siapa bumiputera? And again it is so arbitrary. That a seventh-generation Chinese [Malaysian] is considered non-bumiputera, but the second-generation Indian Muslim can be considered bumiputera. The joke is, even descendants from Pakistan with non-Malaysian parents could be bumiputera, depending on the NRD.

  8. Siva T says:

    Jacq, brilliant as usual. Kudos for pointing out the colonial constructs of race which Malaysian politicians seem to hang on to. It would be an equally interesting exercise to look at what constitutes a ‘bumiputera’ in our context. Often these terms are used interchangeably when they are not.

    • “Bumiputera”, as Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi explained at a 29 Jan 2011 Bar Council public forum titled Race Relations and Religion: Toward Equality and Non-Discrimination, is not a legal concept. It’s a political definition that makes it convenient to exclude those who are not eligible for privileges, and include those who are.

  9. dagenli says:

    In the table (produced above) it is worthy to note that the English categorised Malays in inverted commas i.e. “Malay”. And they did so consistently from 1871 onwards. I am of the view that they were correct to have done so. “Malay” then as well as now is not a race.

    Look at the table again for Chinese. It was quite clearly (and properly) recognised as a race even in 1871. However, after that the English must have realised that the Chinese race actually comprises several “dialect” groups. Hence for accuracy’s sake the Chinese people were broken down and collectively described as Chinese “races”. The inverted commas were used i.e. “races” because the English knew that those dialect groupings do not constitute a race on their own.

    Subsequently, this term was dropped in favour of a more general term (like that in 1871) i.e. Chinese; the distinction being whether one is straits-born or not. And thereafter, a more acceptable (to my mind) term was used: Chinese “tribes”. Of course, today we recognise ourselves as dialect groups and not tribes.

    So it does not seem that race as categorised by the English is arbitrary. There is logic behind it, and the English were actually quite consistent in the application of that logic!

  10. San Lorenzo says:

    We can define Chinese Babas and Nyonyas as keturunan anak Tanah Melayu since Cheng Ho, the grand admiral, brought 500 couples of Chinese boys and girls and intermarried them with local tribes from Malacca. Their descendants were qualified with the full status of bumiputera! This period was circa 1480s to the 1500s. The Selangor sultanage started with Raja Lukut from Bugis circa 1770 arriving in Klang. Henceforth if we believe in 1Malaysia, the division of bumiputera and lain-lain must be abolished.

    If recalcitrant and racist politicians insist the status quo remains, then they are going to suffer the same fate as Mubarrak! Being voted out totally and rejected by the younger generation of true united Malaysians who would consider the true issues affecting all the rakyat and not outdated race issues! Let the politicians be warned!

  11. Ismail says:

    ‘Chinese’ and ‘Indian’. Are these constructs, too? Or nationalities? Or both…

    I call myself Chinese as often as not, but most Chinese Malaysians refuse to acknowledge me as such.

  12. mike says:

    Excellent post by Jacqueline. And if readers go a step deeper, it is also the basis of the apartheid regime, amongst many others.

    Almost all of such methods – using race-based arguments as a political tool – comes from Western societies, and yet we parrot their values without question.

    Malaysia can certainly do better than them, and in several areas, we are better than their endless race-baiting talk shows.

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @ mike

      Did not God say, “You are the chosen race”?

      • mike says:

        Hi Kek Kuat,

        Funny you should say that – the politics of religion is not a place to be.

        I don’t subscribe to politics of race or religion. Why? Because they are exclusive, not inclusive. Such forms of identity politics have too much entrenched ideology that undermines reasonable discussion or thought. Hence we should look at politics in its most basic form, otherwise collective decision-making amongst the citizenry cannot happen.

        Historically many forms of colonialism are based on politics of religion or identity, such as apartheid. Abhorrent apartheid may be, it is a form of civil religion.


        • Kong Kek Kuat says:

          @ mike

          I appreciate what you are saying, but we are on different frequencies.

          Maybe you should consider something that you may not have considered — that monotheistic Gods are racist.

          • mike says:

            Hi Kek Kuat,

            Hope I’m not dealing with a troll here. The short answer is I’m not qualified to discuss theology, much less label any particular God a racist.


            P.S. I think political philosophy should not involve religious issues.

          • Kong Kek Kuat says:

            @ mike

            “The short answer is I’m not qualified to discuss theology, much less label any particular God a racist.”

            This talk… where have I heard that before… oh right, from those who try to show themselves as diplomatic.

            Anyway, are you qualified to discuss politics and philosophy?

            If not, don´t “think political philosophy should not involve religious issues,” because you don´t have a right to think so.

            Your only right, because you are not qualified, is to follow the herder, mike.

  13. Umm Sulaym says:

    You are a Malay if you want to be a Malay; you’re not a Malay if you think you are too “superior” to be a Malay. At the end of the day, that’s all it is. In UK, they ask for your ethnicity and I’m always ‘other’ because I do not want to be ‘white’ or ‘black’ or ‘Asian’ or ‘mixed’. As far as Malaysia is concerned, we have Kings and they are Malays. Do you think that the British Monarch would ever allow for any Black, Pakistani, Chinese to become King/Queen? This is called NATIONALISM. If we want to find another system, then we need to find a different ideology that goes beyond race and treats all people as equal. Sadly today we won’t find that anywhere in the world. Maybe we could do some research on a system implemented 1,400 years ago. Then, many would be surprised.

    • Elias Hakimi says:

      I am a Malaysian and I live in the UK. Umm, when exactly do people in the UK ask for our ethnicity? The government/state doesn’t care what your ethnicity is. I have never filled a form that asks for my ethnicity. Even my friends have never asked me that. They ask for my nationality, yes, but that’s a non-arbitrary and legal concept. Like the author has said, race is arbitrary and socially constructed.

      Secondly, if the next royal prince decided to marry a black, Chinese or someone of another ethnicity, why not? There’s no law that would stop that, and I doubt very much that people here would stop the marriage because of the person’s “race”. Discriminating a person because of their race is NOT nationalism. That’s just plain racist. Having people of different ethnicity calling themselves British, now that’s NATIONALISM!

      Thirdly, which system was better 1,400 years ago? Are you saying that we should be divided into different tribes again? Or are you saying that we should be divided into Muslims and non-Muslims? How is this better than what we have today?

      Oh, we already have a different ideology that goes beyond race. It’s the ideology of treating everyone on the planet equally as human beings. Not by race and not by religion. And yes, this ideology already exists in the western world.

    • JW Tan says:

      Let’s see… a different ideology that goes beyond race and treats everyone as equal. How about democracy? You know, that thing that was invented in Athens more than 2,000 years ago? Let’s do some research…

      OK, I am done, took 10 seconds with Wikipedia. We need to beware of fake versions in Singapore and China, and the racism-tinged versions in Malaysia and Zimbabwe, but there are some very nice choices available – mock-Athenian democracy as practised in Switzerland, parliamentary democracy, or even presidential democracy.

  14. Roger says:

    Racism is a complex issue and not unique to any race. Malays, Indians, Chinese, Dayaks and Kadazans can be behave in a racist manner towards one another.

    The Japanese Imperislists however, take the first prize parsecs ahead of the German Nazis. During the invasion of China (officially 1937, though it started with the annexation of Taiwan 1985) and World War II, the Japanese army annihilated over 30 million Chinese people in China (and also other parts of Asia) with the “kill loot and burn” policy. This disregard for human lives was justified by their feeling of racial superiority over the Chinese. The Japanese never apologised for their genocidal crimes and never made war reparations.

    Their war crime was much bigger in proportion than Hitler’s genocide of six million European Jews. (Who or what is a Jew? That gives rise to a similar debate like “Siapa Melayu”!).

    This article is about racism in Japan from Wikipedia which also has topics on racism in China:

    The Mongols who conquered China practised the “divide and rule” policy by dividing its colonial subjects into for major racial groups.

    This article discusses “Ethnic issues in the People’s Republic of China”:

    This one on racism in India:

  15. Sue Yian says:

    There is a need for the Malay race to be constructed because its not a natural ethnicity. It can perhaps be argued now that it is a distinct ethnicity due to culture coloured by religious practices, but it is not a race in true definition of race, i.e. physical differences. Quoting Benedict Anderson talking about census-making during colonialism: “who, in constructing their ‘Malays’, keep their eyes modestly lowered to their own colonial borders. (Needless to say, across the waters, Dutch census-makers were constructing a different imagining of ‘Malays,’ as a minor ethnicity alongside, not above, ‘Achinese,’ ‘Javanese,’ and the like.)”

    Anderson talks about the intolerance of multiple, politically “transvestite”, blurred or changing identifications. The fiction of the census is that everyone has only one place in it.

  16. Merah Silu says:

    I am a Malay. My father and mother are also Malay. I could trace my ancestry from the fall of Malacca sultanate. They moved from Malacca to Muar then Riau, then Siak and returned to Semenanjung Tanah Melayu. Yes, they, the men, married local girls in Johor, Riau, Siak, Perak as well as Malacca. And yes, I have mixed blood of people from different parts of currently Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand (Pattani). But we are all Malay as these countries are Malay countries. I know for sure that we do not have Chinese, Indian or European blood. I am very proud of my Malay heritage. We still have relatives in Riau and Siak. But we are now recognised as Malaysian, Indonesian as well as Thai. But even though my ancestors moved from one country to another, those countries are located in the beautiful Malay nusantara.

    I do not understand the motive and doubt the sincerity of this article about ‘Siapa Melayu’. Malaysia is a Malay country, as is Indonesia. Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat are also Malay areas which are now part of Thailand. These countries and provinces are within Malay archipelago and share similar culture, language and identity. I can not say the same for Hainan, Canton, etc as these countries/provinces are located in a very far region called China. Similarly for Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Andra Pradesh, as these countries are located in India.

    So stop questioning ‘Siapa Melayu’ as these people are from this Malay nusantara. We should focus on ‘siapa Chinese’ and ‘siapa Indian’. They are alien to this country. If someone here prefers to use the term ‘species’, then we should question the origin of this ‘invasive species’ who are alien to the local species in this country. We should learn about this ‘invasive species’ so that we could formulate measures to stop them from destroying the ecological system of this country.

    • JW Tan says:

      Rubbish. How far back do you want to go? Ultimately, according to your logic, we are all from Africa.

      To put it another way, I am from Kuala Lumpur – right in the heart of the Nusantara. But I am not Melayu – not Muslim, don’t follow adat Melayu, speak Chinese, find Ketuanan Melayu offensive and anachronistic.

      The point of the article, to beat you over the head with it, is that siapa Melayu? is a fairly meaningless question. Siapa orang Malaysia? is much more meaningful.

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @ Merah Silu

      So, which species are you from?

      You talked so much about your this and that. But which species are you from?

    • wcp says:

      Hi Merah Silu,

      I suggest you take a look at this. It will surely complicate things.

    • Andre Das says:

      You are missing the point of the article which just highlights facts about “Malay” being a political definition!
      I have come across many people from Indonesia and South Thailand who refuse to be identified as Malays and the recent demonstrations in Indonesia against Malaysia should tell us something.

      • jOHAN says:

        It seems like the sole political goal of all minorites in MALAYsia – including the writer – is to redefine the word “Malay”. This is a form of fallacious equivocation applied by the writer, who intends to add ambiguity where is there distinct and demonstrable meaning to the word. Simply put, what the individual wishes to define him [or her]self is what he [or she] is. So if I wish to define myself as “Malay”, I am “Malay”. That is why so many Chinese-looking and Indian-looking people currently profess to be “Malay”.

        Unfortunately, we don’t commonly see people of different appearances be labeled under a common banner. This is most evident in the Chinese or Indian communities, where facial features and skin colour define who they are. Any darker-skinned Chinese-looking lady with a bindi on her forehead is generally not called Chinese. Fair-skinned indians are not generally called Indian Malaysians or Tamils because in Malaysia, most people have not seen fair-skinned Tamilians (they do exist).

        The author goes out of her way to describe the historical context of the word ‘Malay’. This is inconsequential in the modern and current political context.

        The article is disingenuous (and can be labelled racist) in that it singles out the Malay term as if other race labels are less politically charged.

        The author also demonstrates her racist tendency when she writes: “It bears remembering that race was a white concept”. The use of the word ‘white’ is obviously racist. It also singles out the ‘white’ people for this ‘invention of race’. I guess the Han Chinese people didn’t exist before the ‘white’ people came to ‘define’ the Han dynasty. Race is a form of identification, imperfect as it is. It is up to the individual to define himself/herself.

        • JW Tan says:

          It’s understandable when being “Malay” results in so much more goodies being handed to you on a plate, compared to being “Chinese” or “Indian”.

          And it is not up to the individual to define his or herself. The Malaysian government does it for you, and there’s no questioning it.

  17. fansuri says:

    Sedih sangat bila dengan mudahnya orang memperlekeh dan persoalkan bangsa Melayu.

    Perkasa dan Umno atau mana-mana persatuan dan organisasi tidak secara langsung mencerminkan ‘Siapa Melayu’. Jadi bila penulis nak longgokkan fahaman sesetengah orang tentang Melayu ke atas keseluruhan orang Melayu, memang salahlah.

    Saya lahir dalam kalangan Melayu, salahkan saya nak berbangga dengan budaya saya, keturunanan saya, bahasa saya? Artikel sebegini mempersoal jati diri orang Melayu, seolah-olah menghina Melayu, sebagai bangsa yang kabur sejarahnya, kelam asal usulnya.

    Saya berharap sangat, sekalipun penulis jahil dengan sejarah Melayu, tak perlulah berkongsi kejahilan saudara/saudari di sini. Saya rasa rakyat bukan Malaysia lebih memahami Melayu dari penulis.

    Tak perlulah bermain dengan teknik halus dan jijik ini. Maaf kerana saya gagal sama sekali untuk memahami tujuan sebenar artikel ini selain dari merendah-rendahkan bangsa Melayu.

    Ini bukan sekali cara bijak untuk berbicara tentang ekonomi dan politik.

    Saya faham niat murni laman ini, untuk mewujudkan komuniti yang meletakkan kerakyatan Malaysia sebagai tali perpaduan dan meraikan perbezaan budaya yang wujud di Malaysia.

    Namun, akhir-akhir ini, penulis di sini makin tersasar malah menggunakan medium baik ini sebagai tempat melahirkan ketidak puasan ke atas bangsa tertentu dengan berselindung di sebalik diskusi intelektual.

    Jika penulis seorang yang bertanggungjawab, sila nyatakan bagaimana artikel yang menyinggungkan ini dapat membawa kepada kesedaran dan memperbaiki hubungan antara bangsa?

    • Adam says:


      Your comments require a response to clarify the situation. The writer did not run down the Malay race. She was in fact trying to inform and educate the readers that the Malay race has been hijacked by BN politicians to the detriment of the real Malays in particular and Malaysians in general.

      Today you have been hearing from people like Perkasa promoting ketuanan Melayu to continue dividing the people in order to stay in power. You must ask yourself why a majority is promoting this divisive policy. You have the numbers and the political power to control everything and should be confident enough to push for a Malaysian agenda.

      Maybe because of PAS and PKR, BN is worried to lose out politically. That is why they play up this issue of race and religion. The other races cannot just sit back and let these unpatriotic actions destroy the country and they have to speak up or forever hold their peace.

      Malaysia should not be concentrating on race and religion if we are to grow as a nation and there are numerous reasons as follows:-

      1. When Malaya gained independence, everyone agreed on a secular democracy based on a constitutional monarchy, with Islam being the official religion and the Malays being given certain quotas to help them economically for a certain period of time. And it should be the poor Malays who should have been provided with assistance, not the rich ones.

      2. The situation changed somewhat when Malaysia was formed with Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore then. Although the official religion was still Islam, Sabah and Sarawak were separate entities with no state religion and their native peoples were also considered bumiputera.

      3. So how could you promote Ketuanan Melayu when you also have other races in East Malaysia having the same status? You cannot even have Ketuanan Islam too as the majority of native peoples in East Malaysia are also not Muslims.

      It therefore makes good sense to go for Ketuanan Rakyat with the emphasis on helping the poor bumiputera and also the others. Malaysia must go for a need-based policy to progress, as a race-based one would bankrupt the nation because giving handouts to the majority would not be sustainable.

      Would those in power please wake up before Malaysia goes down the slippery slope into oblivion? Will good sense prevail? Maybe not. There are too many selfish politicians around. Sad, so sad.

    • Jimmy Ng says:


      Rasanya tujuan artikel ini adalah untuk menunjukkan bahawa ahli-ahli politik di negara kita terlalu memegang pada perkauman untuk manfaat mereka sendiri. Semua orang Malaysia tahu bahawa dengan wujudnya polisi-polisi NEP yang mementingkan kuota dalam semua sektor, cuma ‘kaum’ di atas sahaja yang menikmati hasilnya. Ini, secara prinsip dan kemanusiaan, adalah salah dan memalukan.

    • JW Tan says:

      I tried to comment in Malay, but the spam filter doesn’t like the language for some reason.

      I’m sorry, but this article did not cause the dissatisfaction you refer to. It already exists – non-Malay Malaysians have felt dissatisfied for years. In some cases – mine, for instance – dissatisfaction has become anger.

      I never understood why it was so important for Malay Malaysians to be proud of being Malay, much more important than being proud of being Malaysian.

      • Idris says:

        I too have wondered why it is so important for Chinese Malaysians to be proud of being Chinese, much more so than being Malaysian.

        Maybe there is a common answer to both questions.

        • Kong Kek Kuat says:

          @ Idris

          You need to wonder? […] The answer has been lying around since the day the government started treating non-Malays as second-class citizens. You can´t love a country which does not love you […]

        • JW Tan says:

          Given the deteriorating state of Chinese vernacular education in Malaysia, and the fact that many Chinese Malaysians are not Chinese speaking, I suggest that a lot of Chinese Malaysians can no longer be proud of being Chinese.

          I too, can’t understand why a Chinese Malaysian would be proud of being Chinese. Chinese citizens certainly don’t consider Chinese Malaysians to be Chinese.

        • gua says:

          Idris, what is wrong [with] being Chinese and also Malaysian? […]

          • Idris says:

            I haven’t the slightest idea why you are asking me. Did my question give you the impression that I am against being both Chinese and Malaysian at the same time? If this is the case, then I wonder why you did not ask JWTan, for example, what is wrong with being both Malay and Malaysian.

            Anyway, to answer your question (and the other question) – I don’t know. Is it wrong? I suppose it depends on how you define Chinese/Malay.

            I should say this, though. I have met many who think themselves superior (and by this I am NOT referring to “ketuanan” whatever or Bu-whatever – I am referring to some sense of genetic superiority), and who tend to think of practically every other race (the whites were worthy adversaries though) as inferior in every sense.

            As I said in a previous post, a lot of Chinese I have met refuse to acknowledge me as Chinese even though I am as much a Chinese as I am anything else. I have been led to believe that this is because I have some Malay (‘Malay’) blood.

            If this is what being proud of being Chinese is all about, then…

  18. Dr Syed Alwi says:

    Dear TNG,

    Once again TNG is at the forefront of trying to destroy the racial harmony in Malaysia.

    Historically there is no doubt that the Rumpun Melayu of the Nusantara has been the leading political masters of the Malay Peninsula since Parameswara converted to Islam and founded the Malacca Sultanate. Then the Johore-Riau Sultanate took over etc.

    It is only with the arrival of xolonialism and its aftermath in the post-colonial situation that the other races have questioned Malay-Muslim political dominance – with a view to de-legitimise Malay-Muslim dominance in Malaysian politics.

    TNG is well advised to stay clear of any dubious political agenda that questions the legitimacy of Malay-Muslim political dominance in Malaysia.

    • JW Tan says:

      I really enjoy the commentary here, and feel that TNG fills an important niche – that of challenging the status quo, and highlighting the injustices inherent in Malaysian society. Questioning anything in a measured, well-argued manner is a legitimate part of a mature civil society. TNG is helping to move Malaysia further along this road. Well done, and thank you.

    • Adam says:

      Dr Syed,

      I beg to differ on your view-point that TNG is trying to destroy the racial harmony in Malaysia. On the contrary, the writers are all trying their best to promote racial understanding and to counter all the racial and religious prejudice that we, as Malaysians, are subjected to by our power-crazy politicians.

      I believe most of these writers are from East Malaysia. When Sabah and Sarawak agreed to join Malaya to form Malaysia, they agreed for Malaya to take the leading role in ruling the newly formed country with justice and fairness for all. And what do you see after almost 50 years? Is it fair to East Malaysians in particular when the Federal government has been proclaiming Malay race and Islam religion all this while?

      The only sensible way forward for Malaysia and any country for that matter is to promote equality for all, with assistance to the poor especially the real bumiputras be they Orang Asli, Malays, East Malaysian natives or others. Race and religion should not have come into the picture.

      • Dr Syed Alwi says:

        Dear Adam,

        Malaysia is a Muslim country. Race and religion IS the issue!

        • Adam says:

          Then Dr Syed, we can expect a long, winding, slippery and bumpy road in nation building. And when Malaysia becomes a 90% Muslim majority country in perhaps 50 to 100 years, we would then be like Pakistan or some of the Middle Eastern countries. And race would not be an issue as most would become Malays but you know what? Religion would still be THE issue, right?

          Que Sera Sera.

          • Dr Syed Alwi says:

            Dear Adam,

            Sorry but being a Muslim country does NOT equate to being like Pakistan. The aim is to make Malaysia a successful, developed and industrialised Muslim country. Islam does NOT equate to backwardness.

          • Adam says:

            Yes, I would also like to see a Muslim country which is progressive and successful but I really cannot think of any fitting this description now. Can you think of any? Turkey perhaps?

            Hopefully, Malaysia could be the exception, one day.

    • C Lloyd says:

      “Once again TNG is at the forefront of trying to destroy the racial harmony in Malaysia.”

      Seems to me that the difference between TNG and you, Dr. Syed Alwi, is that TNG assumes racial harmony so that all can participate in freely sharing ideas and criticism, while you presuppose racial discord so everyone must shut up and accept status quo.

      How convenient to advocate the existing hierarchisation of cultures. Try to step in someone else’s shoes for just a minute — it should prove enlightening.

      “…[being a] Muslim country does NOT equate to being like Pakistan….Islam does NOT equate to backwardness.”

      It is revealing how, despite your strong sentiments regarding cultural sensitivity, you so freely imply Pakistan a “backward” country.

  19. MalayinMideast says:

    JWTan and all who criticise Malaysia’s affirmative action tries to paint the policies as racist. The term ‘racist’ is highly charged and is used in a disingenuous manner by JWTan et al (maybe even the writer) to make it seem like they are made ‘second-class citizens’ in Malaysia. This can’t be further from the truth. They still enjoy favorable economic benefits and status.

    From the nick alone, it can be assumed that JWTan is Chinese [Malaysian]. It is very obvious throughout Malaysia and the South East Asian region that the Chinese are dominant economically. Amy Chua’s book clearly shows that, and she also exposes the role of the ethnic Chinese in supporting corrupt regimes like in Myanmar, while enriching their communities disproportionately.

    I have worked overseas for several years. In fact I am in the Middle East now. I am one of the few Malays who are tired of the racially tinged environment that is always cropping up in the political and the professional spheres in Malaysian society.

    However, the environment in overseas organisations (western as well as eastern) are all drawn along ethnic, political and religious lines. It is naive to think that Malaysia can forget about race. It is part of daily life.

    The main reason I and many professional Malays are suspicious of Chinese Malaysians, especially, wanting to abolish racial politics is that we feel that it is their way to diminish the discrimination I personally have felt working under Chinese management in Chinese-majority companies. In many other cases I was rejected by Chinese-dominant western multinational companies simply because i did not fit their ethnic expectations.

    This article asks about who are Malays? But it is a distraction. Who cares who are the Malays? I am actually not ‘ethnically’ Malay. But I identify with them. I lived more than half my life overseas and have another passport, but I don’t want to lose my Malay identity, after having felt discrimination at the hands of Chinese Malaysians.

    This article and writers like JWTan wish to distract the attention away from the historical discrimination that the ethnic Chinese have displayed against those outside their communities. If JWTan wants to be honest, he should start by criticising his own community.

    I know there are faults in the Malay community. But it has nothing to do with the quota/affirmative action systems. I talk to professional non-Chinese Thais and Filipinos and they all quote how the Chinese make it difficult for them to work in their own countries, so they seek employment elsewhere.

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @ MalayinMideast

      Yea… the Chinese are the reason for the problems in your (and your non-Chinese friends’) lives, ain´t it?

      [Dear Editor: Please note that I excluded “Malaysian” on purpose. Thank you.]

    • Idris says:

      Well said, I couldn’t agree more (no) thanks to my personal experience.

      I too am overseas for reasons similar to that given by MalayinMideast – discrimination by the Chinese [Malaysians]. I’m not even Malay to begin with, certainly not by the government’s definition, but most Chinese are not used to the concept of ‘Malays’ who do not fit the stereotype and at the same time are not out to run down other Malays (which is trendy nowadays, makes you appear intellectual and earns you a lot of non-Malay friends).

      To call me Chinese, on the other hand, seems like an insult to the Chinese race – to most Chinese, it would seem.

      Maybe Ms Surin should also write articles in similar vein about the Chinese, Indians and the rest. Dismantling the notion of a Chinese race would be interesting. Judging by the reactions to an article by RPK condemning the non-Malays some time back […] I don’t think it will go down well here despite the supposedly higher education level of those who frequent this site.

      After all, the Malays are the oppressors and the non-Malays the oppressed, no?

      • Idris says:

        I would like to clarify the portion above that was deleted by the moderators. Hopefully my manner of writing will be more acceptable to them this time.

        When commenting about race, RPK, from what I have noticed, generally says not too pleasant things about Malay-Muslims, most of which I have to admit are true. I am not a fan of his; nonetheless, I believe he says these not to provoke the Malay-Muslims but to rouse them from their [self-censored]. Whenever he writes such articles, the support (for the not too pleasant bit, not the ‘rousing’ bit) from the non-Malays (judging solely by id and writing style) is quite overwhelming.

        On the one and only occasion that I remember where he wrote about the non-Malays in an equally damning manner (which, again, I have to admit was true for the most part), the condemnation he received was equally overwhelming. He had, for that moment at least, ‘betrayed’ the ‘trust’ of the non-malays.

        How does this relate to the current topic? I dare say, had Ms Surin tried to dismantle all three major races in this country, rather than just one, she would not have received the kind of support she is getting now. Of course we’ll never know – especially now that I have mentioned it, some will react in spite. But why should she, anyway? As I said in a previous post, Malays are the oppressors, the ‘evil’ ones, the supposed ‘Tuan’ of the land, the racists, the ones at fault. Right?

        Articles such as these, while written truthfully and (I presume) with the best intentions, are not too helpful. In fact, it will just make the ‘Malays’ dig in their heels, and nobody wants that. You should be trying to convince the ‘Malays’ that a new mindset is required. What you are doing instead is giving the non-Malays more reason to continue their hammering, which will in turn make the Malays dig in further and stronger then ever.

        Or so I believe.

        • andre das says:

          Actually I feel it is not the Malays who are digging in and taking offense, but rather Umno who are trying to dictate what, in their opinion, should be the Malay attitude and reaction towards non-Malays. And they try to convince PAS about this, too.

        • JW Tan says:

          I would have found it interesting if Jacqueline Surin had tried to write a similar article on the fallacy of a “Chinese” race. Chinese are at least united by a written language of ancient provenance, but a large number of those who self-identify as Chinese Malaysian do not write it. The key denominator seems to be the ability to trace one’s ancestry back to a province in mainland China, and as you say, anyone with at least one grandparent from mainland China can do this.

          I suggest that the Chinese clique that tends to discriminate against Malay Malaysians is Chinese-speaking/-writing (and sometimes it’s not Mandarin they are speaking). Therefore to counter this it seems appropriate to make all Malaysians learn Mandarin and Tamil (Hindi?) at school. We should not only speak our national language, we should also speak those languages which will be most useful in the 21st century.

    • MalayinSK says:

      I am a Malay working in South Korea. I agree with this comment. I am working for a South Korean company. I can tell you that the South Koreans are more willing to hire some ethnicities over others. For example, they like to hire non-Chinese Filipinos more than Chinese Filipinos. I am told that South Korean managers are very wary when ethnic individuals form cliques.

      The SK managers noticed that the worst cases of clique-forming behavior occur among ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian/Pakistani invidivuduals. These people have a large tendency to use their own languages to withhold vital information and promote an unhealthy, clique-ish working environment. Their culture also binds them together strongly, even when they originate from different countries. So, SK companies tend to eschew people from those ethnicities in particular. I know I can’t generalise for all SK companies, but it is a pattern that is revealing. In general, it shows that those who draw differences along ethnic lines will create problems.

      Yes, it is true that Malays in Malaysia are guilty of making ethnic cliques, too. However, i think I can speak on behalf of my ‘assigned’ race that Malays are not as organised in forming cliques. I think this diminishes their ability to work cooperatively. In the political arena, PAS forms a clique centered around religion, while Umno forms a clique centered around race (of all things!). The disunity is something that is used by other 3rd parties (this site included) that highlights and magnifies the differences for their political advantage.

      In Malaysia, the Malays view the ‘others’ as monolithic blocs. To them, the Chinese are Chinese – which is as circular as it gets. They rarely differentiate between Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew etc. So, a question can be asked, who are the ‘Chinese’?

      This site should be more sincere and pose a question like that. There are some Chinese ethnicities that are behind economically and politically. They deserve to have recognition.

      If this site wants to discuss about origins of Malays and who they ‘really’ consist of, then it should also discuss the emergence of the Chinese, especially this concept of “Han” Chinese that is also dominant in China and other parts of the world, sometimes to the dislike (or even hatred) of other world communities.

      • […]

        PRS President James Masing was quoted in The Star on 22/03/2011 as saying that the PRS has formed a special team to learn from IT experts in Kuala Lumpur on how to tackle these online challenges, and that this special group has bloggers working day and night to counter the opposition propaganda.

        From Masing’s statement, could we assume that the Federal Government are grandmaster experts in adding fiction to facts, and that these agents of government are already here on The Nut Graph?

      • andre das says:

        The Han Chinese in China (90%) of the population practice affirmative action favoring the other 10% minorities which include the Tibetans etc. Just wondering if the reason that Malays do not form cliques is because they do not have the long history that Chinese or Indians have, or other similar traits that can unite them. For sure the Kelantanese Malays form their own cliques everywhere they go, even among Malays from other states; so your assumptions are quite narrow and stereotypical.

        • TenDi says:

          I think serious sociological studies need to be performed how cliques are formed. I know from my own experience that a common language and culture really encourage clique formation. The kelantanese have this capability because most I have met share a stronger merchant culture and are willing to use their dialect to communicate. […]

          Studies should also be made to counteract all forms of cliques. On a national level that would mean affirmative action.

      • gua says:

        Who says Malays have less tendency to form cliques? Even in foreign unis, they have their cliques; if the number is big enough, according to the state they come from.

    • andre das says:

      I think a lot of dissatisfaction racially has to do with fairness especially when someone who is Chinese and has roots more than 400 years in Malaysia is discriminated against someone who is just one generation old in Malaysia. Newly arrived immigrants who have been given Malay status because of political reasons or definitions are given preference over people who have toiled to build this country certainly exemplifies the point.

      Why are the non-Malays viewed as threats in these current times with the current system? Case studies of African countries such as Uganda who chased away the Indian immigrants will show the repercussions. While I do support affirmative action to even out disparity, when such actions have been taken to the extreme, it stinks. For example, when the majority of people who are substandard are allowed to become teachers because of affirmative actions, we( meaning Malaysians of all races who go to public schools) will end up with mediocrity, and future generations will suffer from being unable to challenge and face emerging nations such as Vietnam, not to mention China and India. The pain will be felt when petroleum runs out.

    • JW Tan says:

      You claim that affirmative action in Malaysia is not racist when it is precisely targeted depending on the race shown on one’s identity card. And I’m being disingenuous?

      I condemn racial discrimination in any form, and abhor Chinese communities’ (everywhere) habits of assuming that their own co-ethnics are more worthy of trust.

      You are wrong when you say that Chinese Malaysians still enjoy high economic status and benefits (and also possibly wrong when you generalise to Chinese communities in other countries). It’s too general a statement. There are lots of poor Chinese Malaysians, and a number of very rich ones (and some in between). The problem is that poor Chinese Malaysians get marginalised by Malaysia’s racist affirmative action policies, when they do not have the means to absorb that discrimination. Same goes for Indian Malaysians.

      I take your point about the suspicion that Malay Malaysians must feel towards Chinese Malaysians. But having spent my entire working life outside Malaysia, I feel that the mutual suspicion between ethnic groups in the workplace in Malaysia is pretty much confined to Malaysia. I’ve had no problems anywhere else I’ve worked, and would be very interested to know which western multinationals are ethnic Chinese-dominated. I honestly can’t think of a single one.

      • MalayinThailand says:

        I think JW Tan misunderstands. When the term ‘racist’ is used, the tone of the discussion changes. It is no longer aimed at addressing the problem diplomatically, it is aimed at denouncing the problem through emotive force. If he had rephrased his words as ‘race-based’ affirmative action or positive discrimination, I think the readers of TNG would understand he is trying to seek better understanding.

        So, there is a sense among Malay readers – the few who care to read TNG and take the trouble to respond – that the discussion by JWTan and people who use the term ‘racist’ is just accusatory in nature, which would only engender a stronger siege mentality among Malays.

        As for the fact that there exist poor Chinese, I personally do acknowledge that. I have witnessed that. However, careful studies by many parties still prove that by far the overseas Chinese community in Malaysia, Southeast Asia and the world collectively have more wealth (land, assets, stocks, cash etc) per capita than other ethnic groups in the region. Just search for ‘overseas Chinese’ in Wikipedia and Google and you will see lots of results. One article written by an ethnic Chinese even claims that overseas Chinese form a population of about 60 million, with an estimated wealth of more than US$1.5 trillion. That would make it the 10th largest economy.

        I am now working in Thailand for a western engineering company. The company started small with about 10 people, but has grown to more than 60 in a span of 2.5 years. Surprisingly (or maybe not) the Thai Chinese (or should it be Chinese Thais?) ethnic group has become the majority in this company. It stands to reason because the British [Caucasian] boss is married to a Thai Chinese wife, who then hired a few of her family members in key positions. I am the real anomaly in this organisation being the only Malaysian, Malay and Muslim. was hired independently.

        Oddly, the few non-Chinese Thais in my company are starting to notice the shift in office politics. The Chinese Thai are still insular despite sharing the same language with the indigenous Thais. I have noticed that the Thai Chinese would not contradict one another in meetings, even though they are obviously in the wrong. This is really effective in creating a strong office clique. Being in a managerial role who has suddenly become burdened with this ethnic issue, I am having difficulty in breaking the office clique. I can’t, for example, dictate the Thai Chinese not to have lunch with one another, when it is obvious they are colluding during that period of the day to get an edge during office hours. I have had to pick project teams that are of diverse ethnic backgrounds, but I noticed the European managers and engineers actually favour the Thai Chinese. Probably, this is also expected, because it is quite obvious the Thai Chinese do work effectively together as groups.

        Perhaps it should be studied why the Chinese have a strong affinity for one another. Maybe their appearance and cultural heritage allows for easier and comfortable interaction. For example, I observed in my office the interaction of a Vietnamese Australian (of Viet Chinese descent) colleague. He came for a short stint, but quickly bonded with a Thai Chinese. Knowledge transfer between the two was fast and steady. I expect similar interactions happening every day among Chinese within Malaysia and Chinese from many parts outside of mainland China. This is the unfair advantage that Malays and other non-Chinese see happening every time the Chinese interact with one another. Therefore, a scheme/force/action/policy or whatever you want to call it has to be mandated to counter \act this phenomenon of Chinese affinity to work with one another.

        So, I can’t say I share JW Tan’s observation that ethnic politics is only confined to Malaysia. That again makes JW Tan seem less than forthright in his claim and debases his contentions.

  20. fansuri says:

    I hate the fact that a Malay must be a Muslim. Let’s embrace reality. Malays are getting more educated and open to knowledge. I’m not implying that the more knowledgeable you get, the more you’re inclined to leave Islam. No. But if the Malays want to truthful to Islam, Islam doesn’t teach oppression in religion, so forcing Malays to be a Muslim is not Islamic.

    I hope one day Malays will be liberated from this religious colonisation.

  21. cl says:

    Looks like there’s a paradox concerning contemporary Malays. Let me quote two of the criteria:

    * speaks the Malay language habitually
    * follows Malay adat

    In KL I’ve came across a good number of Malay-looking people (skin color, dress etc) who speak 99.9% English with each other, if not bahasa rojak; can they still be considered Malays?

    And ‘adat’? What is adat Melayu to modern, cosmopolitan Malays right now? How much of Malay ‘adat’ is there left?

    I think the Nut Graph should address this in future write-ups. Cheers and ‘bahasa jiwa bangsa’.

  22. orang lama says:

    In 1957, to get independence, the Alliance agreed to a secular constitution, NOT a Muslim one. The fact that the majority Malays are taking advantage of their numbers to force down some religious/racial issues does not make it any more legal or acceptable. The whole raison detre for “ketuanan” concepts is to take over a whole new Malaysia, which is racist. The non-Muslims, non-Malays will be treated under the principle of “dhimis”, i.e. with no rights. This is to enable the Malays to grab what the Chinese own – without having to work for anything.

    This is the culture of piracy that the Malays have inherited. The Malays have no nationhood to depend on. There never was a country called Malaya run by Malays. The Brits came to Malacca, Penang and Singapore and then took over the whole peninsula. The pirate chiefs gave no resistance and were grateful to the Brits for drawing the boundaries for them. At last they all had a real state. Previously they only occupied the coast and river mouths. Now with power on a plate given by the Brits, they have been overcome by the greed of piracy and concocted the “ketuanan” concepts to achieve their greed. This will fail. No non-Malay will give way to pirates.

  23. A Tan says:

    What’s wrong with being born a Chinese? De Shield’s son has all the rights to be proud to be a Chinese, since his mother IS a Chinese. I can’t see why De Shield thinks being a Chinese is amusing.

    From the article, we can see that:

    1. race is not important
    2. being a Chinese is amusing
    3. when you are a Eurasian, you no longer belong to any race
    4. the definition of ‘Malay’ is loose and arbitrary
    5. anyone can technically be a Malay in Malaysia

    Why don’t all of you work towards being a legal “Malay”? It’s so simple and perhaps an easier alternative to the hassle of any (time consuming) struggle in this country, if this article is anything to go by. At least, you get to BUY Malay reserve land…

  24. TenDi says:

    JWTan gives a poor example. Just search for the minaret controversy in Switzerland in Wikipedia (took me less than 2 seconds) and it will prove that JWTan’s ‘nice choice’ of democracy also leads to suppression of religious freedom based on centuries old hatred and bias. The Swiss Federal Commission against Racism denounced the referendum that led to the minaret ban in some places in Switzerland. This is not a country that treats everyone fairly .

    JWTan is again showing the bias against Malaysia like as if it is on the same level as Zimbabwe, which is far from true. This sort of hyperbole would not convince upper-middle class Malay [Malaysians] like me that people like JWTan are willing to resolve the issues of race, but are only trying to act in a recriminatory manner.

    • JW Tan says:

      At least someone denounced it in Switzerland. That’s the one of the points of democracy – someone gets to speak their mind, and someone else gets to disagree strongly, without having their motives questioned. To be honest, my rights would be better protected in Switzerland than they have ever been in Malaysia, despite me being a Malaysian citizen.

      I’m denouncing Malaysia’s policies, and comparing them to Zimbabwe’s, because I see in Robert Mugabe’s rhetoric an echo of Hishamuddin waving his keris around, and maybe even Ibrahim Ali’s hysterics over the immigration history of his fellow Malaysians. Can you disagree with me on points of philosophy or fact please, and not question my motives?

      For the record, I am not interested in recrimination. I just want an end to all racially delineated rights, special privileges and quotas in Malaysia. All I want is to be recognised as a Malaysian citizen, no more or no less than any other.

Most Read (Past 3 Months)

Most Comments (Past 3 Months)

  • None found




  • The Nut Graph


Switch to our mobile site