Dictatorial former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, barking up the wrong tree on Indian and Chinese diaspora in Malaysia, on Tamil and Malay as language and form of identity!
Commentary And Analysis . . . Dictatorial former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad belabours in the delusion, probably driven by demons i.e. signs of forms of mental illness and/or insanity, on various issues in the diaspora on language and form of identity. Tamil and Malay languages, and Malay as form of identity, remain burning issues in Malaysia.
There’s no basis for comparison between Malaysia on the one hand and India and China for that matter on language and related issues. Again, for example, there’s no basis for comparison between Malaysia and Indonesia on language. Bahasa Indonesia, the official language, has 127K words which far exceeds versions in Malaysia.
Malaysia has the 20K word Bahasa Melayu, under Article 152, as national language (bahasa kebangaan). That’s about as far as it goes. Bahasa Melayu was rendered redundant before 1969 by the 40K word Bahasa Malaysia as the unofficial official language.
India, unlike Malaysia, has no national language. Hindi as the official language isn’t universally acceptable in Tamil Nadu, for example, if it comes at the expense of the English language.
It was not so long ago that people in Tamil Nadu self-immolated themselves on language issues. The Indian government in New Delhi, taken aback by the strong backlash, virtually stopped imposing Hindi in Tamil Nadu. Hindi can only prevail in Tamil Nadu at the expense of the 385K word Tamil and 175K word English languages.
Likewise, there’s also risk of people self-immolating themselves in Malaysia, as in Tamil Nadu, if Tamil schools are closed down.
In Malaysia, Mahathir or no Mahathir, non-Muslim and non-Malay in particular will likewise not abandon English.
At the same, they and the Church will not abandon the Orang Asal (original people) languages and dialects in the former British Borneo, and the Tamil and Chinese languages and dialects. The Orang Asli (aboriginal people) in Malaya have also kept various languages and dialects.
Tamil Speakers Fanatics
It’s true that Tamil speakers, like French diehards, are fanatics on language. Mahathir has called out Tamil speakers in Malaysia as disloyal and fanatics on language.
Tamil speaking politicians universally claim, without proof, that Tamil was the oldest language in the world. Ironically, loanwords from Sanskrit make up 50 per cent of Tamil.
In fact, Negrito was the first people in India. They came 70K years ago from east Africa by hugging the African, Arabian, Persian and Indian coasts. The Negrito can still be found in the mountains of Kerala in southwest India and the mountains of Malaya. The Negrito (Semang) in Malaya came 40K years ago from Kerala and spread as far as the Philippines where they still survive in the mountains. Many Negrito work in the hotels in Manila.
Tamil and French speakers provide study in contrast with Jew for example. Jew are not about language and faith but culture. Jew speak multiplicity of languages in the diaspora. They speak Arabic in north Africa and the Middle East, Hebrew in Israel, English and European languages in the West and Malayalam in Kerala. Originally, Jew — Jesus an example — spoke Aramaic as well in the Biblical Holy Land. Jew don’t promote faith. Anyone can become Jewish. The issue of Jewish mothers are Jewish, but not the issue of Jewish fathers unless the mother was Jewish.
However, Mahathir may be barking up the wrong tree on Indian and Chinese diaspora in Malaysia on Malay as language and form of identity.
Under the Definition of Malay in Article 160(2) as form of identity, only habitually Malay speaking Muslim born or domiciled in Singapore and Malaya by Merdeka, 31 August 1957, are Malay (i.e. by form of identity). Their descendants are also Malay.
Mahathir, although from Kerala in southwest India i.e. outside the Archipelago, remains eligible in Malaya as Malay by form of identity. Even so, he was probably ashamed of the Melayu label before Merdeka brought affirmative action programmes under Article 153, the New Economic Policy (NEP 1970 to 1990), and quota system. He wrote Indian Muslim when applying to enter the University of Singapore. The social media went viral on Lee Kuan Yew providing the late Johor Sultan with a copy of Mahathir’s entry form.
Tun Dr Siti Hasmah binte Haji Mohamad Ali, Mahathir’s wife, wearing saree on wedding day goes viral in the social media whenever Mahathir makes derogatory remarks on the Indian diaspora in Malaya or denies Indian heritage.
Mahathir’s identity crisis probably continues. He has penchant, like Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, for courting needless controversy by casting derogatory remarks on Tamil speakers in particular. The inferiority complex, arising from divided loyalties, runs deep. It appears that both men don’t feel good and complete unless they can look down on someone.
The sky will fall down if Mahathir emulates, for example, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The British Prime Minister said that he was proud of Hindu and Indian heritage. His billionaire wife, from the south, remains Indian national. They celebrate Deepavali at No. 10 Downing Street, the official residence. There are no eyebrows raised in Britain on the Sunak family.
US vice president Kamala Harris’ favourite food, for example, is iddli, the popular breakfast in the south. Her mother was from Tamil Nadu, the family having migrated from Sri Lanka during British days. Her father was Scottish and Jamaican.
Anwar’s paternal grandfather was Tamil speaking Hindu. Anwar himself, in conceding, claimed that the grandfather was Brahmin (priest caste). Under the caste system, those who marry outside the caste or leave the allotted profession, are declared as having no caste, casteless or outcaste (Pariah in the south, Harijan and Dalit in the north) of untouchables, unlookables and unapproachables. In addition, Brahmin who cross the waters are declared Pariah. The waters, it’s said, carry polluting substances.
It’s open secret that Mahathir and Anwar know more than few words in Tamil or Bahasa Keling as termed by the latter. Mahathir has been noted for saying “podah” (Tamil for get lost) every time he gets the chance. He probably lets loose in private with obscenities in Tamil. Apparently, he speaks privately in Malayalam with his countrymen who otherwise speak Malay under “form of identity” status under Article 160(2).
In law, the Constitution cannot be seen as going against itself.
Already, several Articles in the Constitution have been rendered redundant after Article 153 ceased existence in 1972 when the 15 years sunset clause allowing discrimination ended.
The redundant Articles include 160(2) on form of identity and Article 3 which originated as abberation in law. Article 152 was rendered redundant by Bahasa Malaysia eclipsing Bahasa Melayu.
Parliament can make Bahasa Malaysia as official language, but not as national language, since vernacular schools exist. Most vernacular schools may have become national schools as their enrollment has become multicultural. The vernacular schools no longer cater solely for those who habitually speak Tamil and Chinese languages at home.
In law, Article 4, even invalid law remains valid as long as not ruled otherwise by the court of law or repealed by Parliament.
Mahathir, like Anwar, never had grassroots support in Malaya from among those who originate from the Archipelago. Most of their supporters originate from the Indian subcontinent and Turkish and Arabic speakers with roots in south India.
It explains why Mahathir, allegedly in cahoots with Anwar, placed PTI (pendatang tanpa izin or illegal immigrants) in the Sabah electoral rolls. The 2013 Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI), commissioned by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, explored the Projek IC Mahathir phenomenon. The RCI concluded that “Projek IC Mahathir” probably existed.
The bottomline, Keling or no Keling, remains the disenfranchisement of the Indian diaspora in Malaya. There’s not even one seat in Malaya where the Indian diaspora forms the majority. In 2008, when the ruling BN (Barisan Nasional) lost the coveted two thirds majority, the Indian diaspora picked the winners in 67 parliamentary seats in Malaya. The latest figures are not known.
Still, there’s no “race”, religion, clan, tribe, caste, or political parties in Parliament. There are only lawmakers, elected by all, and pledged on Oath that they would serve all, including those who voted against them.
It was great disservice when the 3rd vote was suspended in 1965.
Otherwise, the Indian diaspora would have been empowered in more ways than one. At present, the nominated local government, town council, and village committee deny the Indian diaspora. The composition in the 3rd tier of government, under the Federation concept, doesn’t reflect the demography of the nation.
In law, Article 8 in Malaysia with or without sunset clause, there can be no discrimination. All are equal before the law, no one was above the law. — NMH
Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez has been writing for many years on both sides of the Southeast Asia Sea. He should not be mistaken for a namesake formerly with the Daily Express in Kota Kinabalu. JF keeps a Blog under FernzTheGreat on the nature of human relationships.