Where to draw the line on ‘pendatang’

 |May 2, 2017

It all depends on how far back you want to go.

Go back far enough and in the end, we are all pendatang or immigrants.

If you go as far back as to the Book of Genesis, then even Adam and Eve were pendatang.

All three Abrahamic faiths – Jews, Christians and Muslims –  believe in the story of ‘The Creation’.

So that makes us all pendatang.

In short, as far as roughly 55% of the world is concerned, every single human was a pendatang since we were all descendants of the first two humans who ‘migrated’ to this world.

So never mind whether you are Malay, Chinese, Indian, Punjabi, Pathan, Pashtun, Thai, Minangkabau, Bugis, Javanese, Sundanese, Bantenese, Madurese, Batak, Acehnese, Dayak, Banjar, Balinese, etc., — or one of the natives of Sabah or Sarawak or an Orang Asli of West Malaysia — we were all the same, we were pendatang.

So what gives us the right to declare that we own this land (or country) and that the other person was a pendatang?

Ah, this is where Socrates, Plato and Aristotle come in.

Ironically, democracy was invented by the Greeks but the Greek philosophers were opposed to the system.

They felt that democracy is the tyranny of the majority over the minority and they preferred a benevolent dictatorship.

In fact, one of the most famous British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

And often Nazi Germany is cited as an example of how democracy works.

It is because of democracy that Adolf Hitler came to power and 60 million people or 3% of the world died in WWII that followed.

Because of WWII, many changes came about (territorial included) and because of these changes we are still suffering from indigestion or from the aftereffects or post-WWII.

Hence, to calculate the death toll of Hitler’s rise to power, it is not enough that we just talk about the direct deaths of 60 million but the indirect deaths that followed for the last 60 years since the end of the war.

The Middle East, as one example, is one indirect effect of WWII – which actually started post-WWI because the Ottomans decided to side with Germany instead of England.

The historical proclamation of Merdeka by Malaya first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman.

So, why are some Malaysians called immigrants or pendatang while others are called sons of the soil or Bumiputera? Simple.

That is due to democracy.

A democracy is the tyranny of the majority over the minority and since Malays are the majority they get to decide who was Bumiputera and who was pendatang.

And since you insist that Malaysia was a democracy then you have no choice but to live with it.

In the US, Australia, New Zealand, etc., the whites are the pendatang.

However, since they are now the majority, then they become the Bumiputera while the natives, who are the minority, no longer own the country.

If you were to trace the immigration history of Japan, Korea or Taiwan you will also find the same thing there.

The Orang Asli are now the minority and no longer own the country.

And to a certain extent even the Chinese in some parts of China are immigrants but since they are the majority they ended up owning China.

So, the question is, when that particular territory decided to proclaim itself a nation-state, who was the one who did so?

To answer this question let us look at Malaysia’s situation in particular.

Tan Cheng Lock was born in Melaka in 1883 and was the founder and first president of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA), which was formed in February 1949 (about two years and nine months after Umno was formed in May 1946).

Now, we must understand that Umno was formed in 1946 in opposition to the British plan to set up the Malayan Union soon after the end of WWII in September 1945.

Hence Umno, which was formed eight months after the Japanese went home, was formed in response to an event, the formation of the Malayan Union.

Umno was not formed to fight for independence or Merdeka, as some would like us to believe.

Because of the strong opposition to the Malayan Union, the British abandoned that idea and instead formed the Federation of Malaya.

This, the Malays could accept.

But then the Chinese did not like the idea because that more or less made the Chinese second-class citizens.

That was why Cheng Lock formed MCA in February 1949, one year after the Federation of Malaya was formed in February 1948.

It was basically to protect Chinese ‘rights and interests’, which were being threatened by the formation of the Federation of Malaya (which in Malay was called Persekutuan Tanah Melayu).

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra with his first cabinet after independence.

So, while Umno was formed in response to an event (the formation of the Malayan Union), MCA, too, was formed in response to an event (the formation of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu).

What we must note here is the English translation of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu was Federation of Malaya when it should have been Federation of Malaysia (‘Malaysia’ meaning the land of the Malays or ‘Tanah Melayu’).

See how the British played us out?

To the Malays they said the country is called ‘Persekutuan Tanah Melayu’ while to the non-Malays, the British said the country was called the ‘Federation of Malaya’.

So both sides are happy.

Tan Cheng Lock viewed the future of the Chinese in jeopardy where no longer would citizenship be automatically granted.

Furthermore, the Chinese were badly divided between the supporters of the KMT and the Communists (just like the division between the Umno nationalists and the PMIP Islamists).

Cheng Lock was fiercely anti-Communist and the Chinese played an active role in raising money for the KMT.

In fact, most Chinese were more concerned with politics in China rather than politics in Malaya and Cheng Lock realised this was a big mistake.

Chinese immigrants to Malaya.

Cheng Lock knew that the Chinese could no longer go back to China and would eventually have to die in Malaya so they had to focus more on Malaya than on China.

And that prompted Cheng Lock to make a trip to England to speak to the British about independence for Malaya.

The British, however, would not layan Cheng Lock if only MCA were to negotiate for independence.

The Malays and Indians had to also be involved.

So Cheng Lock was advised to return to Malaya and talk to Umno and MIC.

MIC, however, which was formed three months after Umno, was only interested in Indian politics (in fact, it was more leftist at the time).

So it took a bit of persuasion to get the Indians to agree to team up with Umno and MCA and negotiate for Merdeka (so why is Hindraf making so much noise?).

Eventually, after a lot of haggling, shouting, table-banging, walking out and sulking, and so on, the Alliance Party of Umno, MCA and MIC was formed in 1952 (but was not legally registered until five years later in October 1957 – which means after Merdeka).

To see whether the Alliance Party had the support of Malayans, the British held the first election in 1955 (two years before Merdeka). ]

The Alliance Party won 51 of the 52 seats (PAS won the other seat) and that convinced the British that the Alliance Party was workable and was ready to take over an independent Malaya.

Two years later, Malaya was granted independence.

In that 1955 election, Umno won 34 seats, MCA 15 and MIC two (and PAS, of course, one).

Umno also won almost 600,00 votes against 200,00 for MCA and 30,000 for MIC (PAS won 41,000 votes and the ‘others’ 64,000).

The problem is at that time the Chinese and Indians did not care too much about Malaya.

They were more concerned about politics in China and India.

So by default, the Chinese and Indians ‘gave’ Malaya to the Malays.

Undeniably, Umno and the Malays emerged the majority and would be the ones who would head the Merdeka talks and lead Malaya post-Merdeka.

Baling talks between David Marshall, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tan Cheng Lock (far right) and Chin Peng.

So you see, MCA was the first to negotiate Merdeka with the British.

But the Malays were and are the majority.

So the British gave independence to an Umno-led or Umno-majority Alliance Party, not to MCA.

That is called democracy, which DAP and Pakatan Harapan talk so much about.

That formula was in place for the last 65 years since 1952.

And the majority Malays do not want that changed.

And if the DAP-led Pakatan Harapan tries to change that then expect trouble.

Tan Cheng Lock knew this, as did all the early MCA leaders.

The British made it very clear to the Chinese that the Malays would be running the country.

And if the Chinese want to share power (and that is the most the Chinese should expect: power-sharing) then they need to sit down with the Malays and work out a power-sharing formula.

Is this fair?

According to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, no! Even Churchill says democracy sucks.

But then since you want democracy you will get democracy.

And in a democracy the majority rules while the minority has to play second-fiddle.

And, in Malaysia, the Malays are the majority and the non-Malays had better not question that.

To question that means you are being undemocratic and no one likes to be accused of being undemocratic. – Malaysia Today

Raja Petra Kamarudin or RPK, cousin to the Selangor Sultan, is one of Malaysia's earliest online 'citizen journalists'. He started his website in 1995 before the internet 'explosion' triggered by the Reformasi movement in September 1998. Malaysia Today was launched as a blog in August 2004 and is one of the few pioneer blogs still active and posting articles on a daily basis 24-7. RPK, 66 years old, has been writing since 1990.