For almost 40 years now, I have argued in my writings and speeches that the nation’s historical background is an essential prerequisite for understanding justice and equality in contemporary Malaysia. If Malaysians of Chinese and Indian origin appreciate and empathise with the indisputable fact that Malaysia emerged from a Malay polity, their legitimate quest for justice and equality would be founded upon premises that are quite different from what has informed their struggle all these decades. They would not regard the primacy accorded to the Malay language as the sole national and official language as an act of injustice. This was the attitude adopted by a number of non-Malay political parties in the late fifties and sixties. Neither would non-Malays and non-Muslims raise the alarm when Islam assumes a more significant role in the life of the nation especially since the religion was the basis of state and administration in the pre-colonial period. They would understand why our constitutional monarchs are Malays. Given the nation’s history, they would be able to appreciate why the helm and core of the national political leadership is Malay. They would not view attempts to raise the economic wellbeing of the Malays as antithetical to the principle of equality.
That the history and identity of the land impinges upon the present is something that I learnt as an undergraduate at the University of Singapore in the late sixties. It was an outstanding Indian Malaysian academic, Professor K.J. Ratnam, who pointed out to my political science class that as a result of the massive accommodation of Chinese and Indian immigrants in the fifties, the Malays were relegated from a “nation” to a “community”. A Chinese Malaysian scholar of equal repute, Professor Wang Gungwu, reminded us students during a talk at the university shortly after the May 13 incident that the Malaysian Constitution is rooted in a Malay polity.
Even as a final year student, I began to articulate the position that for harmonious ethnic relations in Malaysia, its non-Malay citizens will have to develop some empathy for the nation’s historical roots. In a number of articles and books I have written since then, I have adhered faithfully to this view. Let me draw Ong’s attention to two such pieces produced at two different times – a 1974 article entitled “Trends in Ethnic Relations” in Trends in Malaysia 11 (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies) and a 2002 essay called “Accommodation and Acceptance of Non-Muslim Communities” in my book, Rights, Religion and Reform (London: RoutledgeCurzon).
Of course that is blowing in the wind now as moves are under way to portray this land as not belonging to anyone and the image of the pendatang is a misnomer fashioned by Malay supremacists. But as I often stress, the truth can never be varnished into a lie. It survives in historical documentation, which sheds light on the Other Real Malaysia.. a solo project I have embarked on to unravel the truths and myths that are woven into the Malaysian socio-cultural landscape. I will unravel these details via a serialized story form (in bahasa, for wider readership). It is a smorgasbord that will take us through the Taiping rebellion, the Boxer Uprising, the Nationalist Revolution in 1911, the Warlord era. The 4th of May movement, the Chinese Civil war, the Japanese Occupation of China and the Sino-Japanese war and other events right up to Merdeka plus the fate of Chinese diaspora in other countries, namely Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. In examining these events through the lens of a Chinaman (no apologies here), I will show how the greed and selfishness of a particular community is as much as to blame for the Malaysian problem. That in the end,the policy of tolerance and give and take our Malay Muslim forefathers adopted was ultimately “the weapon that ate the master” (senjata makan tuan). As this is written in a “historico-fiction” (I coined this) style, I hope you will bear with me for each installment, busy as I am with a variety of projects which I have promised you not forgetting my livelihood. My sincere apologies for my Bahasa and, of cours,e for my English, as I have much to learn.
Finally, a caveat here: under no circumstance should this be construed as a racial harangue although perverted minds out there are likely to seize upon this. If you are not happy, please counter argue with facts, not emotion.
Ah Kit menongkah dagu sambil merenung kelkatu yang mengerumuni lampu kalimantang yang menyinari kamar tidurnya. Plasma TVnya hiruk dengan suara sumbang drama swasta manakala disisi tubuh montel isterinya yang diselimuti kain baldu seolah-oalh naik terun mengikut rentak irama dengkurnya dialam mimpi.
Diluar kesunyian malam, sesekali bergegar dengan bunyi dengus babi-babinya serta salakan anjing kesayanganya yang ditambat pada tiang dianjung rumah. Sesekali pandangan Ah Kit terpaku seketika pada lirikan manja pelakun wanita yang membelai kekasihnya dengan penuh mesra. Renungan Ah Kit meliar kearah siling, 2 ekor cicak sedang asyik dalam pelukan nafsu. Ah Kit tersenyum lebar, dia memalapkan lampu kamar dan mematikan televisyen. Dia memasang concorong, lamunannya mula dibadai alunan merdu. Fikirannya melayang jauh.. ” masih adakah peluang bagi aku menguasai tanah pusaka di sebelah kebun getah itu?” fikirannya mula membengkak. Rahman sudah mula sangsi dengan niat aku. Aku perlu berhati-hati kalau tidak impian aku pasti berkecai. Dia teringat akan pesan datuknya semasa kanak-kanak dulu ” jangan terburu nafsu dalam membuat perhitungan bila berdepan dengan musuh yang pintar. Gunakan strategi mengumpan dan bersikap lunak..biarkan mereka alpa kemudian terkam” pasti yang diidamkan akan menjadi milik kamu” tetapi Pawang Rimau bedebah itu bukan sebarang musuh. Pasti keparat itu dah meracuni fikiran Rahman” dia mengomel bersendirian. Tak apa, Si kitul dan Tok Iman dalam gengaman nescaya kutundukkan Rahman jua”iltizamnya membuak didada. Ah Kit bangkit membetulkan seluarnya yang tersondol. Tangannya meramas kotak rokok dalam kocek dan sebatang rokok muncul dalam genggaman. Ia menggapai pemetik api dan menghampiri jendela seraya melontar pandangan keluar. Sang rembulan tersenyum lebar, dicelah-celah daun cahaya sinarnya melukis pelbagai bentuk bayang. Langit bagaikan disapu bersih sang bintang. Hanya beberapa butir berkerdipan sayu memandang gelagat dunia. Ingatan Ah Kit menyusuri zaman, dia sedar ketibaan moyangnya dikampung itu satu pembolosan. Melepaskan diri dari kemiskinan dan kebuluran yang menghimpit hidup diwilayah Fujian, lautan manusia mencari rezeki di tanah gersang. Pemberontakan Taiping(1) baru berlalu dan tentera Manchu berpesta menyembelih saki baki pemberontak. Wong Ah San melarikan diri kepelabuhan Canton, menaiki wangkang menuju entah kemana. Kelibat Tai Pang Sai neredupkan cahaya tanglung ’ mana mau kau pergi? Tak tahu jawab Ah San selamba. Mau aku tolongmu tapi kau kena bagi aku jed itu. Ah San mengerut dahi kemudian menguntum senyuman ”setuju” jawabnya spontan. Nah, ini ongkosnya...kertas apa ini? Berkumat kamit mulut Ah San. Surat pajak untuk tanah sungai (2) ” jawab Pang Sai ringkas ....................bersambung
1)The early origins of the Chinese into Johor is debatable. One attributed their arrival from Singapore to various factors:
: ..chief among them being objection to quit rent levied by the authorities in Singapore (Lim 1998, 116-122) The migration of 4000 chinese was the first large scale migration of Chinese into Johor ( Trocki 1979, 101). Chinese sources speak of a retreat from Manchu persecution ( see Lee Xin; 1950). Whatever the cause, this was the first mass movement of chinese into the Peninsula which further accelerated when Abu Bakar became Maharaja of Johor.
2) For a discussion on the Kangcu system ( see: Trocki: 1975 : p1-46)
1) Jonathan Spence, God's Chinese Son: The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom of Hong Xiuquan (1996)
2)Lim, P. Pui Huen."Past and Present Juxtaposed: The Chinese of Nineteenth Century Johor", Sojourn 13 (1998): 114-38.
3)Trocki, Carl A. "The Johor Archives and the Kangchu System, 1844-1910", Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society; Malaysian Branch 48 pt. 1 (1975): 1-46.
4) Lee Xing (1950): The Teochews in Johor.