Sin Chew Daily
During a recent interview with a senior journalist, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of Johor said, "They are not pendatang. They were invited to Johor to cultivate our plantations…Let no one in Johor describe the Chinese as pendatang. They are just as Malaysian as everyone else."
This is not the first time His Majesty has made such an open-minded remark in public or during a media interview. As such, he has always been perceived among Chinese Malaysians as an amicable ruler.
He customarily uses "saya" instead of "beta" when addressing himself at many public or official events, and has made frequent visits around the state to meet his subjects, or share his views on many things on Facebook. He has indeed built a formidable bond with the people of Johor, pulling the people closer to the royalty.
His Majesty was right. The Chinese people are always citizens of this country.
Chinese migrants had been traveling between China and the Malay Peninsula and Borneo for business or engaging in agriculture, mining and road-building works, for almost six centuries from Ming dynasty to the 1950s. Few of these early migrants eventually returned to China, but a lot more settled and died here.
Owing to Chinese traditions and customs, none of the first generation pioneers from China was willing to die in a foreign land for fear no one would visit and sweep their tombs during the Qing Ming festival. So, they were called "pendatang" here, but it didn't matter to them as they had seen themselves as such.
Most of the first generation locally born Chinese here were born before the second world war. Like other ethnic communities here, they also suffered the rampage of the Japanese imperial army and communists, and fought alongside others for the country's independence. They suffered not less than any others on this land, and very very few would ever think of "going back to China" save to visit their relatives there.
Why on earth has a nation that has all this while enjoyed harmonious coexistence among its diverse communities suddenly labeled the Chinese here as "pendatang"?
Several years ago, when our reporters covered the street protests in town, they were yelled at as "babi Cina" and were told to "balik Tongshan".
Even though that could only be an isolated incident, for the many law-abiding Chinese Malaysians who have worked so hard to make a living here, such abusive remarks are extremely disheartening. Then Selangor MB Azmin Ali called the incident "disgusting and disgraceful".
Over the past one or two decades, a handful of irresponsible politicians have occasionally displayed their keris and made hurtful remarks during their party's annual conventions. These people were exploiting racial sentiments in an attempt to gain political mileage, said PM Muhyiddin Yassin while launching the national unity policy and blueprint a couple of days ago.
Indeed, many countries around the world have witnessesed regular demonstrations against the migrants, including the Syrian refugees flooding Europe, the Rohingyas from Myanmar., as well as Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s and 80s.
But, these are totally different from the situation of Chinese Malaysians, with very different historical backgrounds, too. We have been living here for at least three generations and have made significant contributions towards the country's development since the dawn of its nationhood.
Actually only a very small group of politicians have treated the Chinese as "pendatang", and we do not have to feel excessively alienated so long as we embrace the five principles of Rukun Negara: "Belief in God; Loyalty to the King and Country; Supremacy of the Constitution; Rules of Law; and Courtesy and Morality", and be proud Malaysians!