Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s father is one example of an English language teacher from India who came to Malaya and eventually married a Malay woman, resulting in the birth of Dr Mahathir.
Many Indian and Chinese immigrants married in Malaya, sometimes to fellow Indians and Chinese and sometimes to local Malays (that is why many Malays look more Indian and Chinese compared to their Indonesian cousins). And understandably they sired children born in Malaya. And these local born sons and daughters of the immigrants are those Malaysian Indians and Chinese of today, many who have never stepped foot in India or China since the day they were born.
Their parents and grandparents (some are third or fourth generation Malaysians while some, like the Melaka Chinese, have been ‘locals’ since 500 years ago) came to Malaya to serve the country and died in this country. And some of these ‘immigrants’ have been in the country longer than even Malays who are only second or third generation Malaysians.
The question of who came first is an arguable issue. There are Indians and Chinese who have been in Malaysia for hundreds of years and there are Malays who have been in the country less than 100 years. Nevertheless, this article is not to argue about who is more Bumiputera — the Malays, Indians or Chinese.
Everyone — Malays, Indians and Chinese alike — are sons and daughters of immigrants. It would be very difficult to dissect the three different races based on generalising. You would have to look at it on a case-to-case basis. My family came to Malaya in the mid-1700s. Tian Chua’s family came to Malaya much earlier than that. Dr Mahathir and Khir Toyo are merely second generation Malaysians although one became the Prime Minister and the other the Chief Minister of a State.
Okay, the purpose of this article is not to argue who is more Bumiputera as we can argue till the cows come home and will never reach a consensus. What I want to talk about is who has served this country and, therefore, can be considered a true patriot.
The railway, roads, bridges and buildings, right up to maybe the 1980s or so (that means for more than 100 years), were built by the Indians and Chinese (not the Malays). I still remember even as recent as the 1970s when Indians would work in the hot sun building the roads and laying the railway lines. They also worked in the estates and plantations. And the same goes for the tin mines and the construction industry, which were mainly a Chinese affair. And many died. There were numerous cases where entire Chinese communities were wiped out by disease and war and they had to bring in fresh loads of Chinese workers from China to replace those who had died. And the living conditions of these workers were pathetic. Trust me when I say detention under the Internal Security Act in Kamunting is luxurious compared to what these Indians and Chinese had to endure.
The Malayan civil service, legal system, education system, and whatnot, depended on the English educated Indians brought in from India. It was not until the 1920s or so, when the immigration policy was tightened, that the Malays were educated enough to start filling the ranks of the civil service. Even by the time of Merdeka the country still depended on the immigrants because there were not enough educated Malays to serve the country.
And almost all these people died in this country (only some went home to die) and their Malaysian-born children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are those Indians and Chinese you see in the country today.
To sum up: this country was built by the non-Malays. What we see today is the result of the contribution by the non-Malays. Initially, Malaya’s economy depended on rubber and tin, long before we had factories and heavy industries. And it was because we had immigrant Indians and Chinese is why we saw a thriving rubber and tin industry. If not because of rubber and tin, Malaysia would be amongst the poorest countries in this world.
Then we had three wars - the Second World War, the Malayan Emergency, and the Konfrantasi with Indonesia. And not just Malayans, but many foreign ‘Mat Salleh’ (white skins), as well as Africans, Fijians, Gurkhas, Indians, Punjabis, Bengalis, and many more, died in these wars. Of course, Malays died as well. But Malays were not the only ones who died in these three wars.
But is the contribution of these patriots ever remembered? The Malays scream, rant and rave that this is a Malay country. They declare that this is Tanah Melayu (Malay land). But we might not even have a country, at least not in the form that we see it now, if not for the fact that many not of Malay origin laid down their lives for this country. If the non-Malays, including the ‘Mat Salleh’, had not died for this country, Malaysia would no longer be an independent nation but just a small province of Indonesia.
When Malays talk about dying for your country, they just look at the three wars. But the death toll for these wars does not even come close to the death toll of those who died serving this country in other ways. Some died defending the country in wars. But many more died in the effort to build this country to what it is today. And many also died of mere old age after serving this country their entire life and then retired here as citizens.
But how do we repay these patriots or children and grandchildren of patriots not of Malay origin? We insult them. We threaten them. We discriminate against them. We oppress them. We persecute them. We treat them as second-class citizens. We refuse to recognise the patriotic contribution of their parents, grandparents or great grandparents in defending this country and in building this country to what it is today.
So these people feel hurt. So they feel that the sacrifices and contribution of their forefathers are not remembered and appreciated. So they decide to leave the country and go to another country that can better-appreciate their talents and skills instead of threatening and subjecting them to screams of “go back to your own country”.
Who are the traitors here? Are the traitors those who hijrah in search of a better life like what the Prophet Muhammad did? Or are the traitors those who ignore the patriotic contribution of Malayans from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s?
The Umno Ministers should be made to pass a history test before they can be appointed as Ministers. And they should also be made to pass a lie detector test every time they make a statement. As the Malays would say: bodoh (stupid) is bad enough. Bodoh sombong (arrogantly stupid) is unforgivable. And Umno Ministers are just that — bodoh sombong.