Anak Malaysia

By Kalimullah Hassan
June 10, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 10 – Funny, isn’t it?

It’s not easy to be categorised as anak Malaysia in Malaysia. Fact is, it’s impossible to have your official documents state that you are a Malaysian.

I admire Hannah Yeoh and her husband Ramachandran Muniandy’s attempt to list their child as anak Malaysia. Perhaps they have started the national debate that may one day see the change in policy that many of us anak Malaysia have wanted all these years.

When my eldest child was born in 1984 in Muar, Johore, I faced that dilemma. My birth certificate says I am a Pathan as are both my parents. But my wife is Malay, although she comes from a mixed background, tracing her roots to Sri Lanka and China as well. She is Singhalese, Chinese and Malay.

And so there was this weird conversation I had with the clerk at the district office in Muar. He asked what a Pathan was. I said it was an ethnic group dominant in the North West frontier, in Afghanistan mainly, but also well spread over the sub-continent in Pakistan and India.

“Agama Islam ke, Encik?” he asked. Yes, I said, it’s so stated in my birth certificate.

Then he says my daughter’s race should follow the father, so, she was listed as Pakistani. Hang on a minute, I argued. A Pakistani is someone who is a national of Pakistan. My daughter is a citizen of Malaysia and should be Malaysian. Or, if he insisted on following the father’s ethnicity, she should be a Pathan.

But the clerk, who held the power of determining what ethnic group or nationality my daughter belonged to, insisted there was no category for Pathans in the official list. So, after a while, I gave up arguing. What’s in a name? A rose, by any other……

My wife was not happy. She insisted that the children should grow up with one identity and it was not going to be Pakistani, a country we had till then never been to and where we had no roots at all. But despite her arguments and tantrums at the district office when she was out of confinement, the only compromise she achieved was that instead of putting —— daughter of (d/o) Kalimullah, they removed the daughter of (d/o) and left just the name we gave her.

My second and youngest daughters were registered as Malays. That, I suppose, was because both my wife and I are Muslims. But my son, the third in the family, who was also born in Muar and was probably registered by the same clerk in the district office, was listed as Indian.

When the children started going to school, we had to explain to them why all these happened; why, although they were of the same mother and father, they were categorised as Pakistani, Malays and Indian. But it had not ended.

A few years ago, I was cautioned by the Road Transport Department (RTD) that if I did not change my identity card from the old plastic version to the new MyKad, they would not renew my road tax for my car the following year. So, I proceeded to the National Registration Department (NRD) in Damansara and asked for a change.

Déjà vu.

The clerk looked at my birth certificate and asked what a Pathan was. I smiled and explained and then – this guy was a bit meeker and not assertive — he asked what race he should put me down in my IC. “Bangsa saya Malaysia,” I said.

He asked whether he could put me down as “India”.

Now, having been through this all my life, I decided to have a little fun with him. “No, you can’t,” I said. “I am Malaysian. I am not from India. I was born in Malaysia. I am a Malaysian citizen.”

I asked him a theoretical question. What if you were born in England? And what if they put down your bangsa as “British” or “English” in your IC? Would you accept?

“Of course not,” he replied. “Saya Melayu; saya rakyat Malaysia.”

Therefore, I said, I should be Malaysian in my IC, or if that was not possible, I was certainly a Pathan.

The problem was, he said, there is no category for Pathan in the NRD. I had to be either a Malay, Chinese, Indian or dan lain-lain (others). The clerk was perplexed and confused and I felt sorry for him. I had had enough fun but it was the policy makers who had to decide, not the employees who were only following instructions. Therefore, I told him that perhaps he should talk to his boss and decide.

The next week, when I came to collect the MyKad, I was happy to sign off and go away until he asked me whether I wanted a print out of the information on the imbedded chip. He gave me a copy and my bangsa was listed as “India.”

So there you are Hannah. My wife is Singhalese, Chinese, Malay and perhaps along the centuries of history, an Arab, Indian, Anglo-Saxon as well; I am Pathan and maybe something else. Our flesh and blood — our children — are Pakistani, Malays and Indian. And, according to Government records, I am now an Indian.

By the way, my brother is married to a Chinese, another to a South Indian Muslim, three of them to Malays (including a Bugis), and one to a Hindustani (probably a Pathan), and I have relatives who are Kadazan, Dusun and Iban; I have cousins who are married to Canadians, British and Americans. I guess they have the same issues as I do. Most of our relatives are Muslims but we also have Christians and Buddhists among them, and if we were to look carefully, probably a couple of animists and Hindus as well.

I don’t really care now what the records say though it often rankles my family and I. They can record what they want — we are Malaysians, first and last.

  1. #1 by dagen on Saturday, 11 June 2011 - 12:12 am

    Malaysian is only our own calling. Malaysian, strangely, is also an accepted description of our nationality to all countries outside malaysia. But here the term is just not used. Politically incorrect I suppose. But if umno has its way umno would amend the definition of the constitutional malay. Umno would delete that definition and in its place insert a new definition, i.e. that of umnoputra and pendatang.

    Vote umno out people.

  2. #2 by -e- on Saturday, 11 June 2011 - 12:35 am

    why can’t we decide our race but a clerk or a nurse can?

    we should just start a ‘dan lain-lain’ movement when you are required to fill up your race in all forms!!!

  3. #3 by hallo on Saturday, 11 June 2011 - 12:55 am

    They want us to continue to be racial….forever…

    They dont want us to break free….to have them charge of corruption

    They rob billions from country and give Malaysians only millions to blind Malaysian eye and wits

    If proper government administration today, we MALAYSIAN are richer than the small dot SINGAPORE.

    Why we are poorer?

    caused MALAYSIA robbed by corrupted politicians over many years BILLIONS, BILLIONS, BILLIONS

    The number may beyond our imagination

    An audit check of Ministry of FINANCE exposed how much have rob

    How to have audit check?

    ANSWER is new government administration.

  4. #4 by hallo on Saturday, 11 June 2011 - 12:57 am

    An audit check of Ministry of FINANCE exposed how much have robbed

    How to get audit check?

    ANSWER is new government administration.

    Are you ready?

  5. #5 by pulau_sibu on Saturday, 11 June 2011 - 2:04 am

    Let us ask Obama about his race. No one will say his race is American or native American. Most people will say he is a black. However, his mother is a white. Why no body will say he is a white?

    Race is for visual identification only, and is based on the colour.

  6. #6 by monsterball on Saturday, 11 June 2011 - 3:19 am

    Hi…Najib bin Abdul Razak…..our so call Prime Minister..!!!
    Forget about your false one really cares.
    “IMalaysia” Najib?
    Who are you kidding?…school children and idiots?
    How may are qualified voters?
    Non stop bluffing Malaysians with hollow slogans and say you are People’s PM too.
    What people?
    And all against you are traitors?
    You mean in elections…all vote against your government are traitors?
    Sure…tell that to Ibrahim Ali. He will agree.
    The sins that you and Mahathir committed are plenty…especially fooling the Malays.
    Mark my word…Najib….Mahathir is bringing you and his party to Tong Sampah…sooner or later.
    PS: You think he reads comments?
    I think he thinks he is a Prince of Darkness….to high a position to think of Malaysians. He is thinking how to make all to be slaves…and kowtow to him for favours.

  7. #7 by drngsc on Saturday, 11 June 2011 - 8:50 am

    Sad to say, the confusion is intentional. It is all politics, my dear Kali, all politics. If we are all Malaysians, then UMNO Baru, and BN becomes irrelevant.

    We need to change the tenant at Putrajaya.

  8. #8 by PoliticoKat on Saturday, 11 June 2011 - 12:44 pm

    What you should have done is have some fun.

    You should have register one child as chinese, the other as Malay, you are now indian, and you wife should get herself registered as English.

    It would be a wonderfully odd first day in primary school.

    “I’m chinese, my younger sister is a Malay. Our father is an Indian and our mother is English.”

    It would be a great first introduction to the class.

  9. #9 by Jong on Saturday, 11 June 2011 - 2:32 pm

    How much longer are we to tolerate this bunch of jokers in this UMNO-led BN? …54 yrs is too damned long!!!

  10. #10 by boh-liao on Saturday, 11 June 2011 - 7:34 pm

    O, when in doubt, just write AFRICAN since all humans originated fr Africa
    Don’t blame d clerk or nurse, they r just doing their jobs, poor thing
    Products of dis failed, racist, narrow-minded gomen
    However, does PR hv a ready solution 2 dis issue if PR were 2 occupy Putrajaya?
    Pray TELL US what PR gomen intends 2 do when it governs M’sia

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