Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM).
“Penceroboh” or Plural Society?
I am not particularly interested in the recent developments of the political scene. Although the controversial and offensive remarks claiming Chinese as “pendatang” or “penceroboh” made by numbers of “racist” organization are being constantly highlighted in the media, no efforts are being undertaken to find amicable solutions to this racial dissent. Worse still, there are Malaysian Chinese reacted by claiming the Malays were “pendatang” as well.
Rationally, should we agree that the 37 percent of the Malaysian population is made up of pendatang? In a historical perspective, I will definitely agree with them as historical facts prove clearly that the Chinese migrated to Tanah Melayu.
‘Jus Soli v Jus Sanguinis’
Even, before Merdeka, Malay leaders had compromised a lot to accept them as citizens of Malaya, by adopting the jus soli principle. They were willing to share the nation by neglecting the doctrine of jus sanguinis even though it was the common practice of all newly independent states in the world at the time and acknowledged by international law.
Jus soli is the principle that the country of citizenship of a child is determined by its country of birth, irrespective of the nationality of its parents. In a nutshell, the doctrine is accepting of all who were born in the country as citizens without taking into account their ancestors.
Ironically, jus sanguinis is defined as the principle that the country of nationality of a child is that of the country of nationality of the parents, irrespective of their place of birth. In other words, it regards all descendants of immigrant as non-citizens despite the fact that they were born in the country.
Controversial History Education in Asian Contextspointed out that in 1970s; there were objections by academics to use the term plural society to describe Malaysia which to them implied equality among all Malaysians. Their contention was the Malay should be regarded as the “base society” of Malaysia while the non-Malays as “immigrant” were just “splinters” broken off from their own societies. Perhaps, the old generations must have their interpretation respectively without looking forward to young generation of Malaysia 50 years ahead that need the recognition of the term plural society by hook or by crook.
Now, after 56 years of independence, the question arose among the young generation as to what constitutes national society and certainly the answer bear in their minds is plural society where the principle of equal citizenship prevails. As human being, none of us wish to be born in this country as second class society and having said so there is no doubt whatsoever that all Malaysians should be treated as citizens.
When our forefathers decided adopting jus soli principle, did they decide to accept the non-Malays as citizen with the title of immigrant? Citizenship is everything. Once you are citizen your equal rights are protected by Article 8 of Federal Constitution.
Nevertheless, history should not be forgotten by all quarters, particularly those who reacted negatively claiming the Malays as “pendatang”. It is a true fact that the Malays migrated to Tanah Melayu but it is also a concrete fact to say that the Malays were “definitive” people of this land. The basic principle is being this – one particular land is belonging to one particular nation who first play significant role in determining the nature of the land.
In fact, the existence of aborigines in this country before the Malays came, is not a significant basis to claim them to be definitive people. None of any government established by them, what more to set up international trade with other governments outside the land that reflects the recognition of others towards them as rightful owner of the land, but merely to live exclusively without bothering who give the definition to this land.
Unlike the Malays who the first nation defined the land by setting up the kingdom and by having played such significant role, the land was given the name of Tanah Melayu which literally means "Malay homeland" assumes proprietorship of the Malay states.
One common example that can be illustrated from The Malay Dilemma is by looking at the case of Aussie-“white man” who claimed as the first nation be the definitive people in Australia though there was the existence of aborigines long before they migrated to the land.
‘Chart the way forward’
The major concern today is not about “pendatang” or “penceroboh”, but the conflict of interest between the Malays and Chinese. Both have claimed that their authentic rights in many fields have been seized and marginalised.
This racial impasse has to be solved at first. We need to look forward for the betterment of the Malays and Chinese altogether. It is must for us to make concrete decisions which incorporate good governance and policies of equality that should be upheld in helping those who are suffering and living in poverty and miserable conditions.
Hence, we must have a new language of discourse by looking at the problems as a collective responsibility. It is irrelevant to confine the problem to one particular ethnic group by labelling it as a Malay or Chinese problem. The perspective must be shifted to make it a ‘people problem’. We must speak up and act on behalf of all Malay, Chinese and Indian citizens.
Now it is time for us to shut the term “pendatang” or “penceroboh” off since the term is no longer relevant in this plural society and it was not even what our forefathers expected. When they accepting non-Malays as citizens their expectation certainly not just for 10 years of Malaysia but forever Malaysia with indispensable element of multiculturalism.
* Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz is the Secretary General of ABIM.