Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hybrid-Malay Woes

(In response to Shanon Shah's recent article about Dr. Farish Noor's "The Hybrid-Malay Malaysian Dilemma" in the The Nut Graph, here, my old friend, retired ambassador Dato Kadir Deen, sent this thoughtful note to his son Umran in London. Umran had asked, "Aren't we all hybrids?")


Many, if not most of us are. Our family is definitely hybrid. Farish's story reminds me somewhat of my own circumstances when I was growing up.

I was born smack in the middle of Chinatown in Ipoh, spoke Cantonese (and swore!) as fluently as any Cantonese child and lived there until my teens. My mean Chinese neighbours (but most were good ones and you know some that I'm still friends with even today) used to call us "chee san" (pig worshippers because we don't eat pork) and a whole lot of other things. First school I attended was a Malay school, where I was called a "Mamak" or "Bengali" because of my skin colour and features (we are hybrids you see!).

I later went to the Anglo Chinese School (ACS) and in my class of 40 there were only 4 Malays. We were often picked on until we made some good Chinese friends who helped us defend ourselves. In fact I became a bit of a thug myself, captained the school rugby 1st. team when I was in Form 3 and not many would dare pick on me. I remember a Chinese teacher who didn't like me who once said to me: "You stupid Malays shouldn't come to school, like elephants you belong to the jungle!".

Later when I went to university in England I also experienced racism. Even when I worked as a diplomat in 8 different countries I would come up against racists. So my experience in life tells me that no one race has the monopoly of racism, we are all exposed to it.

Like Farish I would like to see a Malaysia where every Malaysian child, irrespective of race or religion, can aspire to be the Prime Minister.

Love always...


  1. According to the Federal Constitution we are all Malaysian. Sure as we move forward and anyone elected to the Parliment irespective of race could become the PM of the country. I believe we would get there some time in the future.

    Have a nice day.

  2. In the US, they have been practising integration of races & yet it took them more than 200 years to have a first black or in fact a hybrid president.

    Lets face the reality here in Malaysia. We have a majority of so called "Malay" race who are actually consist of various races such as Javanese, Bugis, Achenese, Thai, Mamak, Pakistani, Arab, Dayaks, Orang asli, Bajau etc etc & other hybrids who share a common religion (Islam) & language (Malay)& with "bin or binti" in their names. Our public & private business sectors practise discriminatory policy. It's common to see job adverts with : bumi only,or preferred Chinese etc.. Most political parties here are race based. School didn't help either.

    Hence, don't dream of anybody can become a prime minister of Malaysia. Perhaps it may take thousand of years to achieve it.

  3. Do read IMAGES OF THE JAWI PERANAKAN OF PENANG (2004)for definitions of some racio-ethnic groups and a detailed description of one group of hybrid Malays i.e. the mamak/ mami Pulau Pinang

    Many implications for One Malaysia!

  4. Captain

    I have always said, the only way to take race out of the national conversation is to change the Constitution and make RACE-BASED PARTIES ILLEGAL under Law.

    50 years of race based parties, led by the highly racially-prejudiced UMNO, running this country have degenerated our social fabric into torn rags. When race lost its charm, these race based parties sought out religion to divide and rule. Forty years ago, it was alright for Muslim women not to wear the tudung. Today, sheer peer pressure in school, by religious authorities have made the tudung almost a ultural dresswear for Malay women.

    Race will be a main feature of Malaysian life as long as Malaysians, still allow race-based parties to exist.

    The only way to get read of race based parties, if 2/3 majority cannot be attained, is to vote ALL race based parties out of government ie make them irrrelevant to 21st century Malaysia.

    It is the first step in the 1,000 mile journey for Malaysian politics. But a necessary first step.

    Today, with our national economy linked tightly to other nations, the struggle is not between races, it is between classes within the races and between the races.

    Make our conversation in the national discourse on the poor and the marginalised,ie the economically oppressed among the Malay, Chinese and Indian, Iban, Bidayuh Kadazan etc be the focus of our national conscience, not about Malays (hijacked by the UMNOputras) or Chinese (hijacked by the corrupt towkdays) or the Indians (hijacked by Samy Vellu's MIC)

  5. Ha, ha. Racism is everywhere, in every country. However, somebody mentioned America, so let me enlighten you. In America, it is not racism but reverse racism. Let me illustrate with just one case which is in the spotlight now because of the Sonia Sotomayor appointment bid to the Supreme Court and her decision on the firefighters' case.
    The firefighters' case stems from a 2004 lawsuit filed by 19 white firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter who said they would have been promoted had the city of New Haven not thrown out the results because no blacks had scored high enough to qualify.
    The city argued that if it had gone ahead with the promotions based on the test results, it would have risked a lawsuit claiming that the exam hurt minorities in violation of the 1964 federal civil rights law.
    Reverse racism is as harmful and hurtful as racism. Go think about it.

  6. The constitution is very clear the Malaysia is a multu racial nation. Many developing countries in Asia and Africa have become failed states because evertime they coume up with a problem they amend constitution. We have to govern this nation in accordance with the constitution and the Rukun Negara. That is why the Malaysian Parliament, Cabinet, and the various State Executive Councils clearly reflect the racial copmposition of the country. Our Founding
    Fathers had the foresight to come to an understanding at the time of independence that recruitment into the Civil Service should be on a 4:1 ratio. Four malays to one non Malay because at that time the were more non malays in the civil ssrvice as a whole than Malays.

    This country can only be governed if the institutions of government remain strong and reflect the racial copmposition of the Nation. By this way checks and balances can effectively be maintained. Otherwise lofty policies such as 1 Malaysia will not get the right kind of hearing at the implementation level.

    We are now 50 years old and policies must ensure that not only the civil service reflects the racial composition of the country at the macro level but it must also do so at the micro level and the ruling class must be perceived as running the country in a fair manner.

    The recent dvelopments in Sri Lanka which was hepled by the United States by declaring the LTTE as a Terrorist Organisation is slowly becoming a beacon for many developing countries with similar problems. We must be vigilent when it comes to dealing with developed countries.Sometimes they may appear to be supporing you when they know that the outcome will be in their favour.

    Malaysia is a rich country and therefore there is no need to try and guide its people. The government must set the tone to allow each invidual to develop his or her i talent and make that all important contribution to the building of 1 Malaysia. Ramlax


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