RCI proceedings: Facing up to the truth of where Malaysians come from

By Dr. Lim Teck Ghee | Sunday, 20 January 2013 11:03

The pro-Umno author and blogger Syed Akbar Ali, in a post critiquing the Royal Commission of Inquiry on illegal immigrants in Sabah, has argued that it would not be out of place to have a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate why one million immigrants who were mostly Chinese and Indians were given citizenship in Malaya in the 1950s (see his post of 17 Jan 2013).

According to him, “surely there must be at least five million Malays on the Peninsula today who may be wondering why or how that particular incident happened? Were they consulted? Was there a public referendum?”

He also asserted that “Let’s not argue about the fairness. Let’s have a RCI first on the issue – how and why 1.0 million Chinese and Indians (including my mamak gang of course) were given citizenship.”

He may have made his proposal provocatively or tongue-in-cheek but a variant of it has appeared as one of the lines of defence used by the former prime minister in justifying the distribution of identity cards to foreigners and their registration as voters in Sabah. According to Dr Mahathir Mohamed , “One should also look back and remember that Tunku Abdul Rahman was worse than me, he gave one million to citizenships to people who are not qualified and not even tested”.

“Why is it when he does it, it is not wrong, and when I do it, it’s wrong?” he asked.

Dr Mahathir’s response has drawn widespread derision since his remarks have appeared in the Internet media. His was not only a shallow attempt to divert attention away from his role in this unconstitutional operation by playing up to the chauvinistic feelings of the Malay audience. He also chose to malign a deceased prime minister in his attempt to get off the hook for masterminding the massive influx of illegal immigrants into Sabah.

There is no comparison between the widely-publicized citizenship deal for non-Malay residents who became citizens of the country based on the principle of jus soli and the surreptitious citizenship-gifting racket that Mahathir and his gang ran.

One was open, transparent and agreed to by all the major political stakeholders in the country, including the Rulers. The other was underhand, opaque, known to only a small group of conspirators and objectionable to the citizens of Sabah and the country as a whole.

For anyone to suggest that this recent (and other similar) political gifting of citizenship is equivalent to that which was carefully negotiated to secure our independence is to scale new heights of political expediency, if not idiocy.

It is necessary amidst the scorn poured on Dr Mahathir to note that he is correct in pointing out that the inflow of people from the southern Philippines into Sabah is not a recent phenomenon. The free movement of people in that region is indeed part of a long historical trend.

But this free movement was ended by the establishment of the two new nation states –Malaysia and the Philippines. As a key figure in protecting our national interest – a responsibility which he swore to uphold when he accepted the position of prime minister – Mahathir should be the first to recognize the difference between the unrestricted movement of people during the pre-colonial and pre-Independence period and the illegal influx that he authorized.

The RCI hearing may yet bring out new discouraging disclosures on the way the former prime minister abused his power to ensure a decisive electoral advantage for the Barisan Nasional and how he sought to prolong his rule over the country by unfair means.

While we may not be able to do anything to revoke the illegal citizenship papers provided to non-Malaysians by the Mahathir regime, amidst all the gloom however, there is perhaps one positive development that we might console ourselves with. This is that we are indeed a nation of migrants with the latest large scale influx of Indonesians, Filipinos and other non-Malaysia migrants – illegal or otherwise – adding to the diversity of the country.

Nearly 80 years ago, R. Emerson, in his classic work, Malaysia: A Study in Direct and Indirect Rule, noted the large size of alien communities as “an admirable index of the extent to which the Malayan way of life has been superseded by the new economy” (Pustaka Ilmu edition, University of Malaya Press, 1964, p.195)

From his table derived from the Census Report, 1931, we can see that “other Malaysians” comprised close to 10% of the population of the Unfederated Malay States (UMS) and Federated Malay States (FMS).

The census at that time had defined “other Malaysians” as covering “immigrant peoples from the Archipelago, ethnographically akin but politically alien to the Malays of the Peninsula, and “aboriginals ethnographically far removed from the Malays but more truly ‘people of the country’ than any other race – in fact the only autochthonous population”.

It is irrefutable fact that a large proportion of the country’s now politically and statistically defined indigenous Malay population migrated to Malaya at the same time or perhaps even later than the immigrants from China and India.

The demographic record is that the Malay Peninsula was thinly populated by Orang Asli and native Malays for a long period of time. Beginning from the late nineteenth century onwards, economic development of the country accelerated with the establishment of British colonial rule. This economic development was the catalyst for the large scale arrival of Chinese, Indians, and migrants from other parts of the Malay Archipelago – notably Sumatra and Java.

Whatever the findings of the RCI, we must realize that all these migrant streams – past and recent – have contributed to our country and deserve their place in the sun.

Population of Malaya, 1931

State Total Europeans Malays Other Malaysians Chinese Indians
Johore 505,311 722 113,247 121, 175 215,076 51,038
Kedah 429,691 411 279,897 6,365 78,415 50,824
Perlis 49,296 3 39,716 115 6,500 966
Kelantan 362,517 124 327,097 3677 17,612 6,752
Trengganu 179,789 35 163,955 609 13,254 1,371
UMS 1,526,604 1,295 923,912 131,941 330,857 110,951
FMS 1,713,096 6,350 443,618 150,113 711,540 379,996

*Unfederated Malay States (UMS) and Federated Malay States (FMS)

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 20 January 2013 - 5:00 pm

    Again, let me point out that THIS VIEW of questioning the ‘jus soli’ principle of citizenship of independence, is the fantasy VIEW of POST-INDEPENDENCE ANARCHIST ULTRA-MALAYS

  2. #2 by sotong on Sunday, 20 January 2013 - 5:12 pm

    Questioning 1 million non Malays’ citizenship after achieving independent, a condition for independent????

    After decades of contributing to the country, now they are letting millions of illegals become citizen, with privileges and benefits, to marginalise and discriminate the non Malays, including bumi.

  3. #3 by sam2013 on Sunday, 20 January 2013 - 5:19 pm

    My grandfather was given the citizenship under agreement of Alliance/Sultans/British, and if present leadership of the component parties of BN refuse to step forward to defend the principle behind that agreement, that only mean they have concur with TDM. We the voters know what to do in GE13.

  4. #4 by tskp on Sunday, 20 January 2013 - 5:21 pm

    MM up to his old tricks again! Why can’t he emulate our neighbors beloved MM and bring our country to greater heights economically instead of politicizing everything and covering up all past doings. A man’s character can never be changed, I suppose.

  5. #5 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 20 January 2013 - 5:32 pm

    I have a suggestion – what about taking a group of Sabahan with presentations inclusive videos and making them do a road trip in Peninsula with their personal story of dislocations and marginalisation into the HEART of UMNO territory?? Make them say the magic words – being swarmed with foreigners and if the Malays don’t act – UMNO will do the same to them to stay in power..

  6. #6 by Godfather on Sunday, 20 January 2013 - 6:56 pm

    This country cannot handle the truth. If it could, mamakthir would already be behind bars for his manipulation of the judiciary. Mamakthir will go on spewing venom at anybody, and his only objective is to see his son rise up the Umno hierarchy. Anything to destabilise the country for his own selfish aims. Only the Malays can rise and put this crook behind bars.

  7. #7 by chengho on Sunday, 20 January 2013 - 6:56 pm

    Malaysia ku , bahasa jiwa bangsa

  8. #8 by eh on Sunday, 20 January 2013 - 7:10 pm

    TDM= Talam Dua Muka.!

  9. #9 by Loh on Sunday, 20 January 2013 - 7:26 pm

    ///According to him, “surely there must be at least five million Malays on the Peninsula today who may be wondering why or how that particular incident happened? Were they consulted? Was there a public referendum?”///–the author

    There were 2.5 million Malays in Malaya in 1957 just before independence, and they were the people to be consulted if at all consultation was necessary. Malays who were above 21 years old then would be 77 years and older. How many of these are still around. It should be interesting to ask their opinion, together with another question as to whether they prefer the days where racism was almost non-existent to the daily talk about race so that UMNO politicians particularly of the Mamak brand.

    The remaining Malays in Peninsular have no say on the matter of what were agreed to between the leaders of the different communities then, in their efforts to seek independence for Malaya from the British.

    Mamakthir was not even Malay then in 1957 before article 160 of the Malayan constitution came into force which provided the possibility for him to be wrongly included as Malay. Mamakthir cannot even vote on the matter since he was not even Malay when the issue arose before the Malayan constitution was adopted.

  10. #10 by john on Sunday, 20 January 2013 - 8:03 pm

    He knows the Malay folks will hang him up dried for good this time if he ever try to hoodwink them again like before to rally their blind support in the name of race. Is totally different now as he is the REAL TRAITOR TO THE MALAYS themselves now and is non-defendsible act, solely for his SELF-INTEREST, GREED AND SON’S ASCEDENCY.
    Hence, he hope (being thinking) he can hoodwink (as still for his self-interest, safeguard the LOOT, RM135Billion,more) the ‘ULTRAS’ at least to garner some support and DIVERSION by such a SPIN again.

  11. #11 by tuahpekkong on Sunday, 20 January 2013 - 9:09 pm

    Before he relinquished the Prime Ministership, he had cited one of his reasons for leaving was his wish to be closer to God. I thought he would spend time repenting his past mistakes/misdeeds. Instead he keeps raising many contentious and divisive issues over the past few years. He knows best if he can endear himself to God with what he had done in the past and continues to do in the present.

  12. #12 by Loh on Sunday, 20 January 2013 - 9:57 pm

    There were 2.5 million Malays in 1957, and whatever special assistance given to Malays was thought to be the 2.5 million and their issues. But soon after Mamaks were included. Now we have the Muslim Filipino and Indonesians who came in. Have they right to expect that they too are the beneficiaries of NEP and article 153. Mamakthir thinks so, and not only that Mamakthir would want to have non-Muslim Malaysians become stateless.

    Mamakthir has been discriminating against non-Muslims during his term as PM. Now he says it out about what he had practiced in the past. He wants the Malay community to support those racist agenda to be implemented by his son. Mamakthir believes that with his wealth, he could buy the votes to make his son PM.

    Medical advances are a gift except that when that prolong the life of the person who is less destructive dead than alive.

  13. #13 by Noble House on Monday, 21 January 2013 - 12:42 am

    I thought of nothing in the case of the senile old man but when you have the ilk in the likes of this pro-Umno blogger to come up with the same ridiculous proposal, this is really mind boggling to say the least. It is liked having another wrong to justify what was already a heinous crime.

    Project M is by no means constitutional nor is it legally sanctioned in accordance with the ‘Social Agreement’ as encapsulated in the 20 points agreement with Sabah to join Malaysia in 1963. It is the direct opposite to the mutual agreement inked by both parties. This has nothing to do with the Tunku giving out of citizenship to the one million unqualified people in the Peninsula before Merdeka which was a constitutional arrangement agreed to by the parties, including that of but not limited to, the Conference of Rulers. To ridicule what is already constitutional is to question the Federal Constitution itself, not forgetting Umno’s own cooked up version of the unwritten ‘Social Contract’ of Malay privileges in exchange for Non-Malays citizenship for that matter.

  14. #14 by Bigjoe on Monday, 21 January 2013 - 8:49 am

    Haris Ibrahim made a good point – that Mahathir and ultras are just trying to stir up trouble to justify extreme actions eventually – post GE or even before. These all may just be a ruse and they know very well what they have done was wrong and illegal.

    Sdr. LKS is right, we should focus on the RCI and its results rather than be distracted by their wild distractions..

  15. #15 by good coolie on Monday, 21 January 2013 - 7:52 pm

    Alamak, the Sabah fellows got screwed! We know that for sure now (now that the great one himself admits Projek IC). Why did not you Sabah politicians stand up and protest then? Scared of Dr. M? Don’t worry, you fellows are not alone. We in Tanah Melayu were eunuchs too.

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