'Orang Cina cuma tumpang di sini sahaja.' (The Chinese are only squatting here).
This was the statement of 'historical fact' (fakta sejarah) uttered by the Bukit Bendera UMNO Division Chief Ahmad Ismail last month. Since then, we've seen some very 'colourful' reactions and counter-reactions by various parties, some of which to defend while arguably many more to condemn.
Historical fact? True, no one denies that. But isn't it equally a historical fact that the majority of us Malays in Malaysia, if we were to trace our ancestral roots a few hundred years back, our ancestors too started off as squatters (penumpang) in this blessed land? If anyone wants further clarification on this, Kuda Ranggi's excellent piece 'Antara Pendatang dan Punumpang' would be most enlightening.
Undoubtedly there are many Malays who think that there is nothing wrong to say such statements. To them, the Chinese community are simply overeacting to a mere statement of historical fact.
To reach to some level of understanding, we, the Malays perhaps should try applying the golden rule of intercultural dialogue. Let's imagine if we were at the receiving end of such statements.
Imagine at some point in the future, when the orang asli (aborigine) community here in Malaysia has developed substantially socio-economically, they mobilise their resources and establish their own political party (say for example the 'United Aborigines National Organisation' or Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Orang-Orang Asli Bersatu). To reclaim their rights as the true natives of this land, leaders from this party exclaim statements such as these:
"Orang Melayu cuma menumpang di sini, ini adalah fakta sejarah... jangan cabar dan persoalkan hak kami masyarakat orang asli... masyarakat orang asli sudah lama bersabar... kembalikan hak kami... jika orang Melayu tidak berpuas hati, mereka boleh pulang ke tempat asal mereka"
("The Malays are just squatting here, this is a historical fact... don't you dare challenge and question the rights of the orang asli community... the orang asli people have been patient long enough... give back our rights... if the Malays are not satisfied, they can go back to where they came from")
Well, maybe to add more colour to this imagined scenario, imagine these statements were made by an orang asli leader during their annual general assembly, shouting on the stage with a loud threatening voice while holding a machete (parang) on one hand. And the event was telecast live on national television.
The Malays, how would we feel in that situation?
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