SEJARAH PENYEBARAN ORANG MELAYU
Friday, April 10, 2009
“I am a Filipino but a lot of people have mistaken me for Indonesian, probably because not only do I look Indonesian (yes, we Malays resemble each other) but I speak the language as well. Having been visiting Indonesia for almost 14 years now, I feel at home in archipelago which is so much like the Philippines in so many respects. Heck, I even got married in Indonesia but to a Filipina of course. In embracing another world’s culture, one keeps coming back to your own”.
ज्ञानकोश: – The Indological Knowledgebase
The Malays are the dominant race which live in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines which, together with Singapore, make up what is called the Malay archipelago. The Malays are traditionally classified as a member of the Mongoloid race, along with other Asiatic peoples, including Chinese, Mongols, Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Vietnamese and Burmese. They have black hair and typically darker skin color (usually brown).
The word “Malay” comes from the Dutch word “Malayo”, which comes from the original Malay word “Melayu”, the word they use to identify themselves.
The term “Malay” is both generic and specific.
Generally, the name “Malay” is used to describe all the numerous related groups including the Acehnese, Minangs, Bataks and Mandailings who live in Sumatra ; Javanese and Sundanese in Java ; Banjars, Ibans, Kadazans and Melanaus in Borneo ; Bugis and Torajans in Sulawesi; and the various dominant ethnic groups in the Philippines such as the Tagalogs, the Maguindanaoans, the Tausug, the Ilocanos, and the Visayans.
Specifically, this name is also the proper name of the subgroup which is native to the eastern part of Sumatra but migrated to the Malay Peninsula and the Riau Archipelago over the past thousand years or so. Sometimes, but very rarely, this subgroup is called “Riau Malays” to distinguish it as a specific group.
Other groups classified as Malays which live outside what is called the Malay archipelago include the Cham who live in Cambodia and Vietnam and the Utsuls who live on the island of Hainan. Descendants of the Malays could be found today in Sri Lanka, South Africa (the “Cape Malays”) and Madagascar. In the latter, they are known as the Merina and one of the dominant ethnic groups in that country.
Surinam, on the north-eastern coast of South America, has a large population of ethnic Javanese.
The languages spoken by the Malays were classified in the Malayo-Polynesian family of languages which is now known as Austronesian family of languages which includes the language spoken by the Merinas in Madagascar, the Maori language in New Zealand and other Polynesian languages such as Samoan and Hawaiian.
In terms of religion, most of the Malays are Muslims; they form the dominant religious group in Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Their conversion to Islam from Hinduism and Theravada Buddhism began in the 1400s. Most Malays in Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Surinam are also Muslims. Most Malays in the Philippines have been Christians since the colonization by Spain with the native groups of the southern island of Mindanao and the Sulu chain being mostly Muslim. Like Malays of The Philippines, Malays in East Timor are Christians as a result of thePortuguese rule. Hinduism is the dominant religion in the island of Bali while small groups in other parts of the archipelago practice animism and Buddhism.
Malay Minority of Sri Lanka:Defending Their Identity – Suwarn Vajracharya
“We might stand up for our community, but it cannot be said that we have stood against the interest of the country as a whole. I have always said, and I repeat it today, that I consider the interest of the country as a whole, to be paramount.”
(Dr. T. B. Jayah1) , 1937)
The Malays of Sri Lanka would have been a long forgotten minority, had they not maintained their mother tongue, the Malay at least in a colloquial form. The Malay community is a distinct ethnic group. They are Muslim by religion. The present population of Sri Lankan Malays counts only a 5% of the Muslim population, which is also an 8% of the whole population3) of Sri Lanka. Except for slight changes in numbers, the percentage of the Malay population remained unchanged. While the present number of Malay population stands at 60,000 persons, one third of them live in Colombo, others are scattered out in several districts of Sri Lanka. Among them, the largest number is 1% of the population of Hambantota district in the southern Sri Lanka.
Despite its small size in number, the Malays have maintained their language, and culture distinct from other communities such as Sinhala, Tamil and Moors of Sri Lanka. They have also contributed joining hands with other communities towards the nation building of a united Sri Lanka. One time they had represented in the National Council, Parliament including in the first cabinet of Independent Sri Lanka and engaged in wider range of professions including Public and Educational service, in the armed forces, judiciary, medical and engineering etc. However, as a community, the Malays have not achieved much progress due to several factors including the indifferent policies of the past governments towards their plight and dilemma.
Although a three fourth of a century has passed since Edward Reimers, a renowned archivist first shed lights on Malay community in Sri Lanka, only a handful of papers were written on the subject until some of serious scholarly research papers of Dr. Hussainmia were published in 1987 by the Institute of Malay Language, Literature and Culture (IBKKM) of the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Then his doctoral thesis ‘Orang Rejimen, the Malays of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment’ published in 1990 by the same university in Malaysia, turned out to be a prime source for study and research on Malays in Sri Lanka.
The purpose of this paper is to study about the Malays of Sri Lanka, their history and how they formed a distinct ethnic group in Sri Lanka. It will examine their share of contribution towards the nation building of Sri Lanka and their present plight and dilemma how to preserve their distinct identity in parallel with their religious identity as Muslims in a multi-ethnic Sri Lanka. The Malays assert they are Muslim by religious identity. But they are a distinct ethnic community with their own language and culture different from others. Less has been written about this socio-political aspect of the Malay community that has focused on their distinct identity. Hence, this is an attempt to fill that long due gap at least in some way.
To complete this paper, I have mainly depended on interviews with many Malay gentlemen of different socio-political calibre and informants at the fieldwork on my several visits to Slave Island in Colombo, Galle, Matara, Kirinda, Hambantota in Sri Lanka. Several reference materials at the Public Library in Colombo and borrowed materials from several Sinhala and Malay scholars and friends in Sri Lanka were indispensable for the purpose.
2. The Background: The Arrivals of Malays in Sri Lanka
The Malays of today’s Sri Lanka are said to be the ‘descendants of the 17th century Malay Kings, Princes and Nobles exiled from Java by the Dutch and of the Malay soldiers brought in by the British in the 18th century from the region including Malay Peninsula4), then known as Suvarnabhumi’5). However, the origin of the Malay community of Sri Lanka goes far beyond the 17th century A.D. It is impossible to say the exact date of the original arrival of the Malays to Sri Lanka. But references in Chulawamsa about an invasion by a Malay King named Chandrabhanu make it presumable that the Malays had contacts with Sri Lanka earlier than the Dutch period. According to Edward Reimers, there are also references to the Malays in other historical works of the Sinhalese of the 13th and 14th centuries A.D. that King Parakramabahu, the Great’s Admiral and captains were Malays and King RajasinghaⅠis said to have had Malays in his service. This may suggest that there were Malays before they were brought or arrived during the Dutch and the British colonial rules in Sri Lanka. Therefore, the arrivals of the Malays can be categorised into three periods. What are they?
The Early Period (1247-1640 A.D.):
The earliest arrival of the Malays we have known took place in the middle of the 13th century A.D. with the invasion of Chandrabhanu, the Buddhist King of Nakhon Si Tammarat in the Isthumus of Kra of Malay Peninsula. Culawamsa, a chronicle of Sri Lanka has recorded the incident:
When the eleventh year of the reign of this King Parakramabahu II6) had arrived, a king of the Javaka known by the name of Chandrabhanu landed with a terrible Javaka army under the treacherous pretext that they were followers of the Buddha. All these wicked Javaka soldiers who invaded every landing-place and who with their poisoned arrows, like (sic) to terrible snakes, without ceasing harassed the people whomever they caught sight of, laid waste, raging their fury, all Lanka. (Culawamsa LXXXIII, 36-51).
The term Javaka used in the chronicle is a well-established name for the Malays of the Peninsula7). Chandrabhanu attacked the Sinhala kingdom twice and failed both times. In the second attack, he himself got killed. But Chandrabhanu had succeeded taking over the northern part of Sri Lanka and become the ruler of the Javanese Kingdom8) in Javapattanam (present Jaffna). This Javaka King of Sri Lanka who is mentioned in the inscriptions of the South Indian Pandyan King, Jatavarman Vira Pandyan (A.D.1235-1275) has been identified as Chandrabhanu (Sirisena 1977, 14).
The Yalpanam Vaipava Malai, the chronicle of Jaffna mentioned of two local names such as Chavakaccheri9) (Javakaccheri-Java settlement) Chavakotte or Ja Kotuwa (Javaka Fort) confirming the Java/Malay connection with Jaffna. It is presumable that these Javakas may have moved towards the Kandyan kingdom at a later part of the history and worked for the King of Kandy, who is said to have a garrison of army consisted of the Malays. There is a well-known story that a Malay captain named Nouradeen and his brother were beheaded at the order of the King of Kandy because the brothers declined the royal offer to head the Malays in the service of the king but chose to remain loyals to their British master, the King of the Great Britain.
Beside these Javakas who arrived in Sri Lanka as Chandrabhanu’s army or servicemen during the reign of King Parakramabahu II, there were seafarer freight careers, and the merchants ventured in ambitious maritime pursuits around Madagascar. They often called round the coastline of Sri Lanka, which suggests that many of them may have settled in areas near the harbours such as Hambantota and around the coastline. According to one of my Malay informants at Kirinda Malay settlement10), Hambantota was named after Sampan, the seafarers from the Indonesian archipelago, who called to the natural harbour in the past. These seafarers, and the freight careers of the East, after their conversion to Islam at the beginning of the 16th century A.D. relinquished their ambitious maritime pursuits in favour of their co-religionists, the Arabs. The visits of Malays became lesser and ceased visiting Sri Lankan waters at the beginning of the 16th century A.D. when Arabs and Mohammadians established themselves in the seaports of Sri Lanka and gradually took over the entire trade of the Island into their hands. (Edward Reimers, 1924)
The Dutch period (1640-1796 A.D.):
The second arrival of the Malays in Sri Lanka took place during the Dutch administration, which ruled the coastal area of Sri Lanka for a period of more than one hundred and fifty years. Having driven away the Portuguese, who were ruling the coastal area of Sri Lanka, the Dutch established the full control of the coastal area in 1640. They brought hundreds of Malays from all over in Malay Peninsula and Indonesian islands. Those who were brought to Sri Lanka consisted of two categories. One being the political exiles from Indonesia including other deportees expelled by the Batavia11) government and second group consisted of all other classes of Malays who were brought to serve the Dutch government in Sri Lanka. This second group included those recruits for the Military and other services, too.
Among the first category, it also included princely exiles from various parts of the Indonesian islands and the Malay Peninsula. The Batavia government banished the Javanese including the nobles and many other eastern kings, princes as well as the chiefs and the dignitaries of the region for rebelling against the Batavia rule. In 1709, Susuna Mangkurat Mas, the King of Java, was exiled to this country by the Dutch with his entire family and followers. This was followed in 1723 by 44 Javanese Princes and Noblemen, who surrendered to the Dutch at the Battle of Batavia, were exiled to Sri Lanka12). All these lived in the four main coastal towns under the jurisdiction of the Dutch, namely Colombo, Galle, Trincomalee, and Jaffna (Hussainmia, 1990, 40). Others including the slaves were confined to quarters on the Slave Island surrounded by Bere Lake in the center of Colombo. The majority of people living in the area even today are the Malays. The Dutch is said to have stocked the lake around the island with crocodiles, preventing the slaves’ escape. Those who escaped were flogged and branded for a first offense, hanged for a second.
The Dutch government also established a first settlement for the Malays, who served them, in an area close to the Slave Island. A Dutch report dated 25th June 1681 indicates that a piece of land 13 Morgen (about 28 acres) in extent was granted to the Javanese Malays situated at Wolvendahl. There were 196 houses and had coconut and jak trees planted.
It is not known the exact number of exiles brought to Sri Lanka during the Dutch period. But by the end of 18th century A.D., it appears that at least 200 members of eastern nobility were resident in the Island. With their families, the number of Malay people amounted close to 2000 people.
The British Period (1796-1948 A.D.):
It was the British who brought the third category of Malays to Sri Lanka. Many came from the Malay Peninsula and became the permanent source of providing military manpower and to serve the British in the island. The British drove the Dutch away and took control of the coastal area in 1796. Frederic North, the first British Governor of Sri Lanka, at first, did not like the idea of incorporating the Malays, the soldiers who fought against the British during the Dutch rule over Sri Lanka and had become prisoners of war after the Dutch fell to the British, into his military. But he agreed to take the 300 Malay soldiers under custody of the British when the Dutch surrendered. The Dutch had stipulated that the Malays should be sent back to Java Island at the cost of the British, who in turn first sent them to Chennai, India and later incorporated into the British military in Sri Lanka. This was the starting point that recruited hundreds of Malays into the British military service, thereafter.
Governor North was also the first British Administrator, who initiated reforms in the military and formed Malay Corps raising their salaries resembling to those of the native Corps. As a result, these Malay Corps were admitted into the King’s service on 23 April 1801 forming a Malay Regiment for the first time outside Malay Peninsula. The Malays became the first Asians to hold commissions from the British Sovereign. By this time, the strength of the Malay Corps amounted to 1200 soldiers.
During North’s time, he established several Malay colonies in Sri Lanka starting from Mahagampattu region, in the southern part of Sri Lanka. The first one was opened in Hambantota, which is now a major Malay invalid settlement in the south. Later, two other settlements were established in the villages of Kirinda and Palatupana. The settlers were assigned to different kinds of work including in the saltpans found in the region and farming and fishing etc. The region at the time was a jungle and not even a coolie from other community wanted to work in the area. Having seen the Malays were enduring the hard life, Governor North was pleased with the Malays and wrote that ‘they were hard workers and courageous and not easily terrified with little dangers and inconveniences’ (Hussainmia 1990, 63) in one of his dispatches to the Home Government.
Thereafter, Governor North decided to recruit Malays to enlarge his forces. His recruitments largely came from Malay Peninsula as he set up recruiting agency for the first time in Penang (Prince of Wales Island) around 1800. He also tried to bring Malays from other British colonies like, Cochin in India, Island of St. Helena etc. But larger number came from Malay Peninsula with their families to settle in Sri Lanka to serve the British military. The Malays were periodically brought to Sri Lanka until the recruitment was halted in 1803 after the British lost to the Kandyan kingdom in the war against Kandyan Kingdom on 24th June 1803. The defeat was largely attributed to the desertion of Malay soldiers who formed the main strength of the British garrison.
The desertion of ‘British Malays’ had occurred mainly because of the ‘Kandy Malays’ who were in the Kandyan King’s service and offered security and protection to the Malay soldiers in the British side. 700 Malays deserted to the Kandyan side leaving only 250 Malay soldiers behind. Governor North was so furious that he immediately ordered the halt of recruiting the Malays. But he later changed his mind and resumed taking the Malays into the service. He changed his mind in consideration of the loyalty of Captain Nauradeen who led the Malays in the British force and the assurance and “invariable attachment” shown by the Malay exiles living in Sri Lanka to the British government. He then rebuilt the Malay Regiment, which was left with only 600 soldiers by recruiting more from the Malay Peninsula and other east islands. North continued his effort to strengthen the Regiment until his departure from Sri Lanka at the end of 1805.
3. Formation of Malay Community in Sri Lanka
The Malay community of Sri Lanka is formed of a number of people arrived in Sri Lanka at different periods of time, on different reasons and from a diverse region of eastern islands that included Malay Peninsula, Java and other Indonesian islands. They are popularly known as “Jaminissu” among the Sinhalese community and “Jamanusar” among the Tamil community meaning “People from Java” in both languages. The term “Javaka” we found in the Culawamsa also has a similar meaning: “Person from Java” (Java+ka) (Java+person) while the Malays call them “Melayu” in Malay language. How did they form the Malay community?
There are several factors that helped form the Malay community of Sri Lanka. Firstly, the formation of a separate regiment for Malays in the British military played an important role towards the formation of the Malay community. By the time of Governor North’s departure from Sri Lanka, he had laid a foundation for a future Malay community of Sri Lankan style. During his tenure of 10 years as Governor, he persuaded 75% of the Malays that included exiles of various class and people come from different islands in the East living in Sri Lanka to join the British military service. During his administration, North recruited Malays from all over including locals and those from the Malay Peninsula. He set up a separate military regiment for Malay soldiers, formed a Boy’s company to give prior training to the children of the Malay soldiers and formed an Invalid Regiment to help them find alternative jobs. North set up Malay settlements and provided jobs. He even looked after the children and wives of those soldiers who died in the battle. The Malay regiment played a central role in promoting welfare for the Malay soldiers and communicating with other Malays and settlements in cities and villages in the island. On top of that, the Malay Military mosque, primarily set up to serve the spiritual need of the soldiers, also attracted the Malays living around the area. The mosque served as a center promoting friendship among the Malays came from different places of origin.
Secondly, the Malays themselves played a formidable role in maintaining their language and customs. Although they came from same region of the East islands, they spoke variety of dialects spoken in Malaya and Java islands. During the time of the Dutch rule over Batavia, the people living in the area had developed a separate dialect called “Batavia dialect” which is a form of simple spoken Malay. As the majority of people came from this area to Dutch Ceylan13), it is possible that they retained the “Batavia dialect” and got mixed with local languages in Sri Lanka. This was only natural because of their long absence from their native land. Further, there was no proper learning and teaching of standard Malay language in Sri Lanka neither in the past nor even at present. This may have contributed to the creation of a Sri Lankan styled “Malay” language. In fact, Malay and Sinhala languages share a common root of Sanskrit language. The Malay language, like Sinhala has a strong influence from Sanskrit language as Java, Sumatra had Buddhist and Hindu empires in the past. A close look at some examples below give us a better picture of the fact.
Sanskrit Sinhala Malay 14) (Meaning)
Agama agama agama/igama – religion
Bhasha bhashawa bahasa – language
Bhumi bhumi bhumi – earth
Devi devi devi – goddess
Dosa dosa dosa – sin
Grahna grahna grahna – eclipse
Guna guna guna – use/benefit
Guru guru guru – teacher
Jeeva jeevita jeeva – life
Labha laba laba – profit
Manusya manusyaya manusia – human being
Megha megha megha – cloud
Mukha muhuna muka – face
Puja puja puja – worship
Pustaka pustaka pustaka – book
Pustakalaya pustakalaya pustakalaya – library
Sadhu saadu saadu – priest
Sawari sawari sawari – tour/journey
Senapathi Senapathi Senapathy – army commander
Sisya sisyaya siswa – student/pupil
Sundari sundari sundari – pleasant
Swarga swarga swarga – paradise/heaven
Wanita wanita wanita – lady/woman
Warna warna warna – colour
Warta warta warta – report
Wangsa wangsa wangsa/bangsa – race/tribe
Dharmawangsa Dharmawansa Dharmawansa – religious tribe
Jayawangsa Jayawansa Bangsajayah – victorious tribe
Sinhawangsa Sinhawansa Sinhawangsa – lion tribe
Weerawangsa Weerawansa Weerawangsa – warrior tribe
Above are some of many Malay words that have derived from Sanskrit words and similar to Sinhala language, which show that not all words are corrupted in today’s Malay language as some suggest as the language has become corrupted and left to a mere Creole language. The Malays have not lost their attachment to their linguistic identity nor to their ethnic identity of “Malays”. The Malays of Sri Lanka has developed their own distinct features to an extent that Tunku Abdul Rahman, a former Prime Minister of Malaysia commented on the Sri Lankan Malays in the following:
The only difference is that their features have changed. They look more like Indians (the Kelings) than Malays and their language is strongly influenced by the Indian dialect. What’s more they have lost touch with adat and custom, but still they call themselves Malays…
But these (Malay) soldiers who went there without their womenfolk married into the families of the Indian Muslims. These Muslims were known as the Moors and after generations of intermarriages, it is hard to pick one from the other, Malays or the Moors, except when they themselves announce their racial identity…(Rahman 1983, 195)15)
However, there is no argument about the fact that the Malay language accorded a stronger support in forming the Malay community of its own outside Malay Peninsula and Indonesian archipelago.
Thirdly, the religion of Islam was another force behind the formation of a Sri Lankan Malay community. Islam played a constructive role to keep them distinct from other religions. However, the Islam that Malays had embraced was not the orthodox Islam of Arabia. When the Arabs introduced Islam into South India and Indonesian islands, ‘they merely wanted the new religion to be accepted by the people.’16) And the Malays who were brought especially during the Dutch period to Sri Lanka were not all Muslims.
It is not known exactly since when the Malays of Sri Lanka got converted into Islam, though their homeland folks had done so at the beginning of the 16th century A.D. The Malays, who had arrived or lived in Sri Lanka after Chandrabhanu’s invasion till the Dutch invasion, have been Buddhists, Hindus or mixture of both in the present terminology of Buddhists and Hindus. It is difficult to establish the religious back ground of these Malays because they were formed from various groups that included Amboinese; Balinese and Javanese because among the Amboinese, there was a considerable number of Christians, and Balianese belonged to Hindu or Buddhist religions. Some Javanese had become Christians and were receiving benefits from the Batavia government (Hussainmia, 1990, 53). Therefore, the Malays who came to Sri Lanka before and during the Dutch administration are not known whether all of them were Muslims. An extract from the Dutch minutes by Council of 8th September 1660 shows that there were Christians among those who came to Sri Lanka:
“Whereas the Javanese soldiers 28 in number have now for some time past offered themselves to be instructed in the Christian doctrine, have made public profession thereof, accepted Holy Baptism, and have solemnly married according to Christian rites; also seeing that they have procreated children and, further have elected to dwell in this land and to serve the Honourable company most respectfully and obediently; so has the Superintendent proposed (and they with the greatest delight accepted), to select a place within the watches of this City, a fertile spot, in order to settle them there with their families, and to found there a village according to the limits and ordinances that shall be appointed for them; further they shall cultivate rice according to their natural skill, but nevertheless, that they shall always continue in the military service, wherefore a general increase is hereby granted them and their wages have accordingly been raised as follows: to a sergeant, 8 Spanish reals, to a Corporal 5 1/2 , and to a Private 3 1/2 Spanish reals monthly.” (E. Reimer’s Translation)
There is also no historical record, which indicates that all the Malays had adopted an Ambedkar style of mass-conversion to become Muslims nor there was any Malay ethnic leader like Ambedkar of India, who got converted to Buddhism with millions of his followers of the Achut (untouchable) cast. Malays’ conversion to Islam may have been a gradual and centuries long process. It is recorded that the Malays (of the Malay Peninsula) converted into Islam at the beginning of the 16th century A.D. and ceased visiting to Sri Lanka as Arabs and Mohammadians had established themselves in the seaports of Sri Lanka and ‘had gradually taken over the entire trade of the Island into their hands. The Malays were the freight careers of the East, but after their conversion to Islam, they relinquished ambitious maritime pursuits in favour of their co-religionists, the Arabs contenting themselves with ventures nearer home, for which the numerous islands of the Archipelago and the extensive coastlines of the Peninsula and Java and Sumatra afforded them ample scope’ (E. Reimers).
This suggests that the majority of Malays of Sri Lanka may have converted into Islam after they came to Sri Lanka and through their Moor relatives. Although there is no mention about any mosques erected during the Dutch period, the British Administration in Sri Lanka built several separate places of worship for their soldiers. They built Sri Siva Subramaniam Swami Kovil for the Indian Hindu soldiers and the Military Mosque and Akbar Mosque for the Malay soldiers. What role did the Malay mosques play?
The Malay mosques catered the spiritual needs of the regiment and boosted the socio-religious cohesion of the community. The first Malay mosque was built during the British rule at Wekende in Slave Island at the request of the Malay soldiers, as they wanted to have their mosque erected closer to where they live. Otherwise, they were in disadvantage in attending the Moor mosque, where sermons were held in Tamil and Arabic, not in their mother tongue, Malay. There are several mosque built in Galle, Trincomalee, Kalpitiya, Badulla, Kirinde, Kurunegala and Kandy to cater the spiritual needs of the Malay military personals as well as the ordinary Malays, who worked on their own or worked for the British as gardeners and servants.
The mosques played very important role in the formation of a Malay community serving them with their social and cultural needs in addition to the religious service. This helped build an ethnic and cultural identity for the Malays. ‘The mosques were not only the places of collective worship, but also center of community administration, where important discussions were held by members of the community and decisions taken on behalf of respective congregations. Every Muslim settlement of some size had such a mosque which was its only public building and object of great pride.’(Hussainmia, 1990, 126-127). The mosques are also the centers of learning, where the Malay children are taught Arabic language and recital of holy Koran.
Thus the Malays arrived in Sri Lanka at different periods of time, on different reasons and from a diverse region of Eastern islands that included Malay Peninsula, Java and other Indonesian islands formed a community of their own: the Malay community with the support of British founded Malay Regiment, the Mosques erected for their sake and their own undying efforts of maintaining their lingual and ethnic identity as the Sri Lankan Malays.
4. The Malay Contribution towards Sri Lanka
The Malay community, despite being one of the smallest communities in Sri Lanka, has contributed towards the nation building of Sri Lanka as an equal partner in the multi-ethnic mosaic of the island nation. ‘They were not only daunting soldiers in time of war, but erudite scholars dedicated to their religion, cultural pursuits and contributed commendably to all walks of Sri Lankan life.’17) Muslim leaders fought shoulder to shoulder with their counterparts, the Sinhala and the Tamil freedom fighters for the independence of Sri Lanka.
Among Muslim leaders, Dr. T. B. Jayah was one of the most prominent and illustrious national leaders of Sri Lanka. He was an educationist and a political visionary. Being a Malay Muslim, he strove for freedom of all communities. He is known as a leader who put his country before community. It was his thesis that became a corner stone of the present governance as ‘One Nation ﾐ One Country’ in which he originated a united democratic concept of a Unitary State. Originally as a teacher, he taught at several well-known schools such as Ananda College18), Prince of Wales and as the Principal of Zahira College, he transformed a tottering elementary school to a premier educational institution in Sri Lanka.
As a politician, he was deeply concerned about the welfare of the Muslims including his own Malay community as well as other communities. He was first elected to the Legislative Council in 1924 and appointed Minister of Labour and Social Service in 1947 in the first Cabinet of Independent Sri Lanka under Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake. He also served as the first High Commissioner (Ambassador) of Sri Lanka in Pakistan in 1950. He won praises from S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike19), then leader of the House in the State Council for a three hour long speech he made in 1944 in support of the Dominion Bill that paved the way for full independence for Sri Lanka.
Dr. Jayah was also very much concerned about the education. He believed that equal educational qualification would eradicate the gap among the different ethnic groups. He emphasized that:
“The supreme need of the hour is education, not merely elementary education, not merely half hearted education, but an education that will turn out heroes and heroines, leaders and reformers, thinkers and philos-ophers, an education that will make us a progressive enlightened and powerful minority.”20)
1. A road in Colombo 7 area named after a java (Malay) settlement in the past.
The formation of prominent societies of today’s Muslim and Malay elites attributes to Dr. Jayah’s initiatives that promoted education among the Muslim population, which included the Moors, the Malays, and the Mehmans etc.
As indicated earlier, the Malays were primarily the soldiers, the policemen, and the fire brigades. They have a long history of service in the armed forces of Dutch Ceylan, British Ceylon and today in the multi-ethnic Sri Lanka. A police day is marked on March 21st every year to commemorate Police heroes, is the day on which a Malay PC named Sabhan laid down his life in 1864 becoming the first Police officer to die in action21). Although the number is small, the Malays continue to serve in the Armed and Police. Quite a number have made their sacrifice in the ethnic war with the Tamil separatists.
2. Members of Colombo Malay Cricket Club in Slave Island.
The Malays are also known to be impressive in their contribution to national sports in Sri Lanka. The history of Cricket in Sri Lanka records that the Colombo Malay Cricket Club founded in 1872 was the first cricket club in the island. The club has produced outstanding cricketers some of whom have represented Sri Lanka. They have also donned the Sri Lankan jersey in football and rugger. Some of them have even become captains of the national team and couched in swimming etc. The Malay sportsmen and sports women are also known excelling at other sports including Judo, Karate, Athletics and Netball bringing fame to Sri Lanka. The Malays aspire to contribute to the nation building of Sri Lanka by undertaking their share of duty while defending their legitimate rights. What rights to defend?
5. Defending a Distinct Ethnic Identity
The Malays of Sri Lanka are compelled to defend their legitimate right: a simple right to be heard. They have made Sri Lanka their home though they had originated from the islands of the East. They have lived here more than 300 years first as exiles, then as settlers and now as legitimate citizens of Sri Lanka. All the Malays except aliens or wayfarers, living in Sri Lanka are those who were born in this island. They live side by side with communities belonging to Moor, Tamil, Sinhala and Burghers as well. They fought shoulder to shoulder for freedom, made their sacrifice to safeguard the country they were born whenever they were required to do so.
The Malays in Sri Lanka are generally hard working people. The majority of city dwellers are educated and multi-lingual, competitive in business. They represent in the Public and Education Services, in the armed services and Police, in the field of law, medicine, science and technology, engineering and now in Information Technology and Computer Science. They also hold high posts in private companies. But they have no voice in the national Parliament, the highest body of the decision makers for the country and its citizens. These circumstances have deprived the Malays from the opportunity of participating in the decision making process.
It was not that they had never been represented in the National Councils. There were several Malays elected or nominated MPs including Dr. T. B. Jayah, Dr. M. P. Drahman, and Mr. B. Zahire Lye till 1960 and Mr. M. S. Ossman, and Mr. M. E. H. Maharoof in the Republican Parliament till 1994. But in retrospect, the appointment, the election or the nomination system did not secure a continued representation of the Malay community in the Parliament.
In the most cases, members from minority communities like the Malay could not win elections except in special cases. Dr. Jayah who was first appointed to the Legislative Council in 1924 as the third Muslim Member and who was an energetic and dynamic leader would espouse the cause of the Muslims, when the occasion demanded. But he lost the State Council elections he contested in June 1931 and again in the State Council held in February 1936. But this time he was appointed a nominated member of the State Council.
It was in 1947; Dr. Jayah got elected to the Parliament when he won the first Ceylon Parliamentary election. He was elected the 2nd member of the three-member electorate. He was then appointed Minister of Labour and Social services in the First Cabinet of Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake. He served the ministry and as an MP till he was offered Sri Lanka’s ambassadorial post in Pakistan by the Prime Minister. Dr. Jayah was again made an appointed MP in the short-lived Parliament of March to July 1960 on his return to the island from Pakistan. Not many Malays were lucky to be appointed or elected to the Legislative or Parliament of Sri Lanka after him. However, the Soulbury Constitution had a provision allowing the Prime Minister to choose six members to the House of Representatives. He chose all these members from the minority communities who could not otherwise get them elected to Parliament. This led to a tradition that the Prime Ministers appoint a Malay member to Parliament afterwards. As a result Dr. M. P. Drahaman and Mr. B. Zahiere Lye were appointed MPs. The tradition of appointing Malay members did not continue that long, when Prime Minister Dudly Senanayake, who succeeded his father after his death in 1952, did not appoint any Malay MPs to Parliament.
After a long gap of more than 25 years, two Malays were accommodated in the National lists of two major political parties: one was Mr. M. S. Ossman in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party22) (SLFP) National list and other was Mr. M. H. Amit in the National list of United National Party23) (UNP). Mr. Amit was appointed an MP and served until he resigned to make way for Mr. Gamini Dissanayake to reenter Parliament. At the same period, Mr. M. E. H. Mahroof was elected to Parliament from the Trincomalee District and served as the Deputy Minister of Port and Shipping during the latter part of his tenure24). Since 1993, there has been no Malay member in Parliament. In the General Election held in October 2000, there were two Malay members in the National lists of two major political parties. Mr. T. B. Abbas was in the UNP National list, while Mr. T. K. Azoor in the National list of the National Unity Alliance (NUA). But both failed to get appointed MPs. In the General Election called in after a year, none of the major political parties had Malay names in their lists of candidates or in the National list.
Although these two gentlemen failed to secure seats in Parliament either through nomination or election, they later contested local elections and proved worthy to be nominated by the political parties. Mr. Ossman was elected in the Sri Lanka Muslim Party25) (SLMC) ticket from the Colombo District to the Western Provincial Council in the Provincial Election held in 1988. He resigned from the Party after a year. His place was then given to another Malay Mr. M. A. Ameer an ex-Sri Lankan footballer who served until 1993. In the case of Mr. T. K. Azoor, a leading lawyer in Colombo and dynamic leader of Malay community joined the SLMC in which he was elevated to a Deputy leader won the Colombo Municipal Council election held in 1997.
He polled the second highest number of votes in his list and got himself elected to the Council. There are several other Malays who have been successful in winning local elections. They are also worthy of mention: Mr. Shiraz Sheriff, the Vice Chairman of the Nawalapitiya UC, Mr. Hilaly Abdeen, a member of Kandy Municipal Council and Mr. Allon Deen a member of Hambantota UC. These limited Malay positions in a few Municipal and in Provincial Councils have yet to serve as a clout to force their voice heard in the national level. But it is not an easy task to make their voice heard, for the Malays cannot elect a leader of their choice because there is no electorate, which has a Malay majority. The only way out is to create a system that elect or appoint members of minority: a Malay member to represent the Malay minority community.
3. Mr.T.K.Azoor, the president of Conference of Sri Lankan Malays (COSLAM)
Several organisations have raised the above issue asking the government to pay worthy attention to the dire need. One such organization was the Conference of Sri Lankan Malays (COSLAM) led by Mr. T. K. Azoor, an untiring activist for the Malay cause. His movement urged at a special session held on 4th May this year the Government to make constitutional provision to elect or appoint a Malay to Parliament as well as each to the Provincial Councils and its Successors of the Western, Central and Southern Provinces (see the Appendix 1). The Malays urge the government to create a system that will addrsss the plight of Malay community. What are their plights?
The first is that the entire Malay community, except those individuals, who have their own wealth, power or extra ordinary talents, are deprived of their legitimate rights: right to employment, right to abode and right to free education as equal as to other communities of Sri Lanka. The majority of Malays, who were employed in the armed forces, Police and the fire brigade in the past, have been displaced by individuals from other communities. While several housing projects were launched to provide houses for the houseless, the Malays were left out. And in the case of free education, too, the Malays had no other choice but to choose either Tamil or Sinhala as their me-dium of instruction in schools since the English stream education was abolished in 1962.
4. A family gathering at the residence of Mr. Hamin, a vice president of Conference of Sri Lankan Malays (COSLAM)
And this language policy of the gov-ernment even divided the Malays into two language streams: one those speaking Sinhala and other speaking Tamil. Generally Malays are known to be multi-lingual and are in advantageous position than those of mono-linguals in finding employments. But in reality, the number of multi-lingual Malays is lesser than one would expect in the settle-ments farer from Colombo. An example can be drawn from two Malay settlements in Sri Lanka one being Slave Island and other being Kirinda, both places, where I happened to meet a number of Malay people.
Kirinda, a historical seaside community where Queen-to-be Viharamahadevi26) is said to have come ashore after her perilous drifting voyage from Kelaniya, is now a larg-est Malay settlement in Sri Lanka, which is located in Hambantota district in the south, about 170 miles away from Sri Lanka’s capital city Colombo. Out of 300 families living in this village, the Malay comprised 95%. Malay is the main language spoken in households, shops and in the market-places. The 75% of the Malay population are fishermen and the rest are farmers. In the fish market, my informant told me that even non-Malays speak Malay when they negotiate with the Malay fishermen.
5. From left Dr.B.A. Hussainmia, the witer and Mr.T.K.Azoor sharing Malay food at a social gathering in a Malay residence in Colombo.
Kirinda also is in advantage of having a Muslim High School, that has classes from Grade six to twelve known as General Certificate of Education-Advanced Level(G.C.E A/L), where the majority of the students are Malay children from the settlement. They consist more than 95% of the student population. The majority of teachers including the headmaster and his deputy are Malay. They speak to their students in Malay outside the class. But I was told to my surprise that the medium of instruction in the school is Tamil.
The language factor is another plight of the Malay grievances. Almost all Malay children either study in Sinhala or Tamil medium as there is no choice since the English medium has been abolished. There has been no educational policy to allow the Malay students to study a language of their choice let alone receiving instruction in Malay, whereas there are schools, which teach their students foreign languages like German, French or Japanese in addition to English. Several children, whom I interviewed,
6. Malay street, the main street in Slave Island in Colombo.
study either in Tamil or Sinhala medium. An interesting story was that children at Lankasabha School in Colombo teach students Tamil in Sinhala. In another encounter with a Malay settlement, which is known as Kirula Road Malay Gardens in Colombo, there are about twenty Malay families. The children spoke fluent Sinhala and a couple of twin sisters answered me promptly when I asked their name in my broken Tamil. But the great grandfather, a retired policeman was worried about the Malay language as children will be burdened to learn several languages: Sinhala, Tamil and English leaving their mother tongue behind. Next settlement I visited was the Slave Island, the first foremost Malay settlement in Sri Lanka. The main street is named as Malay Street along with which there are government offices and private companies, where onetime in the past was Kampong Kertel, the major Malay settlement in Colombo. The Malays living on the Java Lane that directs to the present Malay Military mosque were worried about the language being used inside the mosque.
7. A Malay boy with his Moor friend in the Glennie Passage that links to free settlement along the railway line in Slave Island.
The Imam inside the very Malay mosque is no longer come from a Malay family like in the past. The priest I met when I visited this mosque was from Eastern province of Sri Lanka and was from the Moor community. He spoke no Malay but fluent Arabic, which he teaches the children and Tamil his mother tongue. My interpreter spoke to the priest in Tamil. Naturally, the mosque goers preferred the priest at the mosque speak Malay. One gentleman I spoke to was the only adult male figure of a family of three generation. He is married to a grand daughter of the lady, who was 72 year old and owns the house. His worry was also about the sermons in Malay lan-guage in the Malay military mosque. He said only once a month they are provided with a sermon in Malay language. The Malay parents of young adults are worried of their children not being interested in learning the Malay but have turned to English stream.
8. A small mosque built along the railway line in Slave Island.
The last but not least plight of the Malays of Sri Lanka is their religious identity. They are Muslim by religion not by ethnicity, they assert. But they are treated as Muslims not as Malays. This is what they emphasize in defending their identity. As indicated in the preceding pages that not all the Malays were Muslims nor they were always Muslims in the past. By the time the Malays were brought to Sri Lanka during the middle of the 17th century by the Dutch, there were large Muslim settlements in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka. They were the settlements of the Moors or those who had come from South India from the 6th century A.D. The large number of Malays particularly soldiers came to the island without their womenfolk, many were still young and single. They took women from Moor community, whose religion was similar to them, especially to those who came from Indonesian archipel-ago.
The people from Java were the follow-ers of the Shafi School of Muslim religion while the majority of Indian Muslims be-longed to the same school. This must have had a stronger impact over the Malays to take Moor wives and to get converted into Muslim had they been not Muslim before their marriage. They also adopted Tamil as their lingua franca to communicate with the Indian Muslims or the Moors. Almost all Malays I interviewed in Colombo, Matara, Kirinda and Hambantota spoke Tamil in addition to Malay and Sinhala languages.
9. A Malay worker in Colombo.
The Muslim identity of the Malays is something they are proud of. Many I met were gradually accepting the orthodox Islamic teachings. Yet what was interesting was their zeal to identify themselves as ethnic Malays while being a Muslim. In Malaysia, being a Muslim is a requirement to be accepted as a Malay. No non-Muslims are accepted as Malays. In Bosnia Herzegovina, Muslim is an ethnic identity. But the Malays who are treated similarly stress that their Muslim identity is religious not ethnic. Why do they assert ethnic identity?
The Malays assert their ethnic identity because their culture is distinct. Their language is different from other Muslims’.
The Malays of Sri Lanka have remained a distinct ethnic group in Sri Lanka primarily because they have maintained their mother tongue, the Malay at least in a colloquial form. Having originated from different regions in the East islands that included Malay Peninsula and Indonesian archipelago, they have formed a Sri Lankan Malay community from a diverse origin.
Despite its small size in number, the Malays had proved that they deserve to be treated as a special class of people, some of whom lived receiving special benefits from the Dutch government, and many as military men getting established special Malay regiment and a separate mosque for the Malay soldiers. Moving from one master to another, the Malays also proved that they deserve care from subsequent masters including the governments of Independent and Republic Sri Lanka.
The Malays made Sri Lanka their home and contributed joining hands with other communities towards the nation building of a united Sri Lanka. They represented in high offices from Legislative Council to National Parliament including in the first cabinet of Independent Sri Lanka and engaged in wider range of professions including Public and Educational service, in the armed forces, judiciary, medical and engineering etc. However, there are several factors that have hampered their progress as a community, for which they have sought solutions. It is still not clear as to how the present government wants to respond. Time will tell the story.
The Malays themselves have been active in defending their distinct identity for a secured future for their community while extending their support to safeguard the country they claim to be their motherland.
“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight;it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
In the Name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful
THE RESOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTED
AT THE SPECIAL SESSION HELD ON 4TH MAY 2002
AT THE PUBLIC LIBRARY AUDITORIUM COLOMBO 7
WHEREAS the Government of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka has entered into Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the cessation of hostilities, as a first step towards initiating peace talks to find a viable and lasting solution to the ethnic problem in Sri Lanka,
AND WHEREAS the Government has also decided to introduce Constitutional Reforms to enable a wider range of the civil society to participate in the decision making process in Sri Lanka,
AND WHEREAS the Sri Lankan Malays who had enjoyed representation in the legislature since independence have been deprived of such representation after the promulgation of the Republican Constitution of 1972 except for the period from 1989 to 1993,
THIS Special Session of the Conference of Sri Lankan Malays (COSLAM):
1. Commends the signing of the MOU as an opportune and necessary step for the initiation of peace talks aimed at finding a just and equitable solution.
2. Calls on both parties to the MOU to assiduously abide by its provisions both in letter and in spirit with sincerity and candour
3. Calls on both parties to expedite the initiation of peace talks and to approach these talks in a spirit of give and take, with the ultimate objective of arriving at a solution to the ethnic problem whilst ensuring the rights of all ethnic and religious groups in the island within the framework of a united and sovereign Sri Lanka.
4. Urges the Government to make constitutional provision to:
a. Elect or appoint a Malay to Parliament
b. Elect or appoint a Malay each to the Provincial Councils and its Successors of the Western, Central and Southern Provinces.
1)Dr. T.B. Jayah was the first Malay Member in the first Cabinet of Independent Sri Lanka.
2)Malays of Sri Lanka have come from various parts of the Malay world that extended from present Malaysia to Indonesian Archipelago.
3)The Total Population estimated in 2002 is 19,576,783 persons.
4)Pertumuan Melayu (Malay Rally) 2002 Souvenir, Sri Lanka Malay Association, Colombo, (2002).
5)Murad Jayah, “Social Welfare issues concerning the Ceylon Malays” in Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home Silver Jubilee Souvenir, 20 July 1970, p. 70.
6)King Parakramabahu II ruled from 1236 to 1270 A.D.
7)Quoted from Hussainmiya, B.A., Orang Rejimen, The Malays of Ceylon Rifle Regiment (1990) p.33.
8)Murad Jayah, “Social Welfare Issues Concerning the Ceylon Malays” in Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home Silver Jubilee Souvenir, 20 July 1970, p. 70.
9Local Tamil people living in this area seem to know little about this history when I asked them during my last visit to Jaffna in January 2002.
10)Kirinda Malay settlement has the biggest Malay population: 95% are Malays.
11)The Dutch name for the Government in Java and other East Islands after Batavia, the old name of the Netherlands.
12)Murad Jayah, “Social Welfare Issues Concerning the Ceylon Malays” in Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home Silver Jubilee Souvenir, 20 July 1970, p. 70.
13)Dutch name for Sri Lanka
14)Qouted Malay words and their meanings from an article by M. Farook Thaliph, ” Malays ﾐ their enriched culture and endemic customs”(04 Sep. 2002)
15)Quoted from Hussainmia, (1990, 18)
16)M. Farook Thaliph, ” Malay ﾐ their enriched culture and endemic customs’ (04 Sep. 2002).
17)Pertumuan Melayu (Malay Rally) 2002 Souvenir, Sri Lanka Malay Association, Colombo, (2002).
18)”Colleges” in Sri Lanka are equal to senior high schools in Japan
19)Father of president Chanerika Bandaranaike Kumararunga
20Pertumuan Melayu, the Souvenir published marking the Malay Rally on 26-27 Jan 2002.
21)Pertumuan Melayu (Malay Rally) 2002 Souvenir, Sri Lanka Malay Association, Colombo, (2002).
22)Centre leaning party formed of ‘Sinhala Mahasabha’ of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, who became the Prime Minister in 1956.
23)First Political Party formed by D.S. Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Independent Sri Lanka.
24)The Malay Dilemma, A Commemoration Issue on the 42nd Death Anniversary of Dr. T.B.Jayah, 31st May 2002
25)A new Muslim Party formed in 1988 by M.H.M. Ashraff, who became a powerful Minister in the PA Government that came to power in 1994.
26)She was a daughter of the king of Kelaniya, who cast her adrift to sea as a sacrifice for a royal indiscretion. She is said to have washed up on the shore at Kirinda and was taken as queen by King Kawantissa. They later became the parents of the great King Dutugemunu, who united the onetime divided Sri Lanka into a united under one crown for the first time.
NEGOTIATIONS OF IDENTITY BY A ‘MALAY’ ORGANISATION
Persatuan Persuratan Pemuda Pemudi Melayu (4PM) in the History of Singapore (1948-2005)
The conceptualisation of Malay identity in Southeast Asia is contextual and dependent on a national as well as community definition. In Singapore, being Malay has largely been determined by both the racial category determined by the state and individual identification with the Malay-Muslim community. The suffix ‘Muslim’ reflects the absence of a religious definition for ‘Malay’, thereby requiring the use of the term Malay-Muslim to denote members of the community who are Malays and/or Muslims.
Existing historical accounts of the Singapore Malay community have been more inclined to focus on individuals, political parties and organisations that have been assumed to be prime mobilisers. However, there exists number of Malay organisations, which was established before 1965 and continues to contribute to the development of the community.
This paper presents the history of the Persatuan Persuratan Pemuda Pemudi Melayu (4PM) as the platform to understand how Malay identity has been negotiated in the realm of non-governmental organisations, grassroots operatives and volunteer welfare organisations. As 4PM was established in 1948, its founders and leaders had negotiated Malay identity within various context and definitions of Malayness. In doing so, this paper aims to share the realistic conception of Malay-Muslim identity and Malayness.
As Singapore celebrates its 40th National Day, a number of Malay organisations will celebrate their anniversaries which will reflect their establishment before 1965. Recently, Sriwana, a Malay performing arts society celebrated its 50th Anniversary on 12 July 2005. In Problems of Elite Cohesion, Ismail Kassim (1974:44) reported that by 1968, there were about 112 Malay/Muslim organisations registered. A number of these organisations which remains active today, had operated and sustained their existence in various periods of Singapore’s history where issues concerning Malay identity and Malayness had come to the fore and became a contention between various sectors in the Malay community.
Why has the issue of Malay identity and Malayness become a concern? Several periods in Singapore’s history had propelled Malay identity and Malayness to the fore. Among them are the initial persuasion towards a Pan-Malay identity, the ‘affiliation’ with Malays in Malaysia pre-1965, the post-separation review of the Singapore Constitution, the status of Malay education, the later ethnic-based self-help paradigm, and the trans-national identification of Malays with the global Muslim community. The issue of Malay identity and Malayness had become a concern due to the very nature of Malay identity and Malayness, which has been ambivalent.
What can the study of a Malay organisation’s history contribute to current accounts of Singapore’s history or the history of the Malay community in Singapore? While the Kesatuan Melayu Singapura and other organisations with political agendas have captured the attention of historians, the history of most other organisations has been kept within their respective archives. Furthermore, Chan Heng Chee (1971) had reported that the Malays “at the time of the formation of Malaysia… was backward, neglected and relatively unorganised in every aspect compared with the robust Chinese majority” (Chan, 1971:44). The lack of mileage given to Malay organisations in mainstream history was further confirmed in A History of Singapore, when Edwin Lee mentioned that the lack of sources about Malays prevented him to provide a more comprehensive writing on the Malay community (Lee, 1991: 242).
Despite the lack of ‘mileage’, these ‘Malay’ organisations would occasionally publish their own histories but their circulation will be limited. One such organisation is the Persatuan Persuratan Pemuda Pemudi Melayu (4PM), or the Malay Youth Literary Association.
4PM was established in 1948, and had been active in issues relating to community development with its emphasis on youth development and improving the educational status of Malays. Its motto, “Bersatu dan berkhidmat” (“Unite and serve”) reflected its social service orientation, but its initiative in submitting a joint memorandum to the Constitutional Committee in 1966 suggest an attempt to enter the political domain. In that Joint Memorandum, some of the recommendations reflected 4PM’s sense of Malayness and its position on Malay identity. Beyond this Joint Memorandum, 4PM ‘failed’ to capture the attention of historians writing on Singapore or the Malay community in Singapore.
Will the history of organisations like 4PM allow us to better appreciate the history of the Malay community in Singapore or of Singapore itself? Given that 4PM was established in 1948 and continues to have a role in the development of the Malay community today, how did such ethnic-based organisations deal with issues of identity and ethnicity, or in this case, Malay identity and Malayness?
My paper is not primarily about 4PM. It will be about expanding the scope of historical research to include the history of organisations which have not been political in nature. It is about consolidating histories, in whatever form and attempting to have histories in various perspectives. From my experience in working in various types of organisations, I find that organisations have agendas which reflect a collective perspective of its influential members. Although the histories of some organisations can be reduced to the histories of its leaders, most often, the character and nature of each organisation is more reflective of its board members.
My interest in this topic stems from my own ambivalence about my identity and the negotiations that I have to make between being Malay, Muslim, Javanese and Singaporean. I had avoided being in any ‘Malay’ organisation until I went to Junior College, where the ‘Malay’ student population was small enough for me to know almost everyone. It was also in Temasek Junior College that I was recruited to be a member of 4PM in 1989. Since then, I have been a volunteer with 4PM and became a member of its Management Committee from 1998 onwards. That same year, I was appointed the Chairperson of the Editorial Committee responsible for publishing a commemorative book celebrating 4PM’s 50th Anniversary. That project made me appreciate the history of 4PM and realise the importance of sharing 4PM’s history with members of the Malay-Muslim community. 4PM’s history reflected the more positive and strategic mindedness of the Malays and the emphasis on education and youth development.
Before I proceed to share 4PM’s brief history, I will provide the contemporary understanding of “Malay” and/or “Malayness”. In discussing issues about being “Malay” and “Malayness”, it becomes evident the extent to which Malay identity and Malayness have become ambivalent yet definitive depending on several factors- legal, constitutional, religious and chronological.
In my exposition on 4PM’s history, I will frame and contextualise my deliberations with respect to periods in Singapore’s history in which Malay identity and Malayness had come to the fore and became a contention between various sectors in the Malay community.
ISSUES ABOUT BEING “MALAY” AND “MALAYNESS”
Malay identity has yet to be clearly defined and has been contextual and dependent on a national as well as community definition. Malay identity has been contextual due to the different interpretations, which coincides with the political realities of constituent countries in Southeast Asia. While a Javanese in Singapore and Malaysia may be considered ‘Malay’, the case has not been widely accepted in Indonesia. While Lily (1998:13-17) attributes the “strong in-group solidarity” among Singapore Malays to a Pan-Malay Nusantara identity, participants and presenters of the recent Dialog Budaya Nusantara IV held in Indonesia prefers to refer to Nusantara as the overarching identity of the various affiliated ethnics groups within the perceived Nusantara.
As a Singaporean attending the Dialogue, I could easily establish ethnic affiliations with participants from Sumatra and Riau due to their perception that I am Malay. At the same time, those from Java tend to identity more with my Javanese genealogy. Back home in Singapore, I identify with the Malay-Muslim community, which includes Muslims from non-Malay or non-Nusantara background. The fluid and contextual nature of being Malay (and Javanese) in my case, and perhaps many others like me, motivated my inclination towards Hall’s (1996) preference for the use of ‘identification’, rather than ‘identity’.
According to Hall (1996) as cited by Davis (1999), ‘identification’ reflects “a recognition of some common origin or shared characteristics with some other person or group, or with an ideal, and with the natural closure of solidarity and allegiance established in this foundation”. An important aspect of using ‘identification’ has been Hall’s assertion that ‘identification’ can be won or lost, sustained or abandoned…identification is in the end conditional, lodged in contingency”. Hence identity is contextual and fluid, subject to changes effected by time and circumstance.
Davis (1999) qualifies his introduction of Hall (1996) in his Ecomuseums- A Sense of Place by stating that the “arguments as to whether identity is rooted in geographic locality, nation, politics, religion, education, ethnic background or genealogy” are not totally irrelevant (Davis, 1999:26). Although Davis (1999) may have had some basis for emphasising the dynamic nature of identity, the case of Malay-Muslims in Singapore will show that identity can be both dynamic and static at the same time. However, the use of ‘identification’ is still relevant.
The fluid nature of identity and identification has been somewhat explained by Shamsul (1999) through his deliberation on the “Two Social Realities” and by Nagata (1974) in her choice of “situational selection of ethnicity”. In Shamsul’s “two social realities”, which was based on his case-studies in Malaysia, he considered perceptions of identity and its contestation or negotiation as existing in two realities- the ‘authority-defined’ and the ‘everyday-defined’. In a similar discussion on the Malays in Malaysia, Nagata interpreted her observation of situational selection of ethnicity among ‘Malays’ in Penang, as a form of pragmatic considerations in social interaction and leveraging on pro-Malay policies.
In Singapore, in terms of the ‘two social realities’ model, the ‘authority-defined’ of Malay identity has been defined by the census, Select Committee on the Group Representative Counstituency (GRC) and through the Immigration and Customs Authority which presides over the Registrar of Citizenship. Beyond these definitions, the Singapore government have had the infrastructural capacity to apply the multi-culturalist model of racial integration by having “clear conception of Malayness, Chineseness, and Indianness” (Lian, 2001:873), and determining how its citizens and permanent residents perceive their ethnic identity. This is done through the racial categorisation of ‘Chinese’, ‘Malay’, ‘Indian’ and ‘Others’ (CMIO) and the designation of racial types on the identity card.
Census 2000 defines the ethnic group ‘Malay’ as “persons of Malay or Indonesian origin, such as Javanese, Boyanese, Bugis, etc” (Statistics Singapore Website, accessed 31 October 2004). Correspondingly, the Select Committee on the GRC defines a Malay “as someone who is Malay, Javanese, Boyanese, Bugis, Arab or any other person who is generally accepted as a member of the Malay community by that community” (Lily, 1998:18). There is no religious definition attached although 99.6% of Malays are Muslims (Statistics Singapore Website:31 Oct 2004). Hence, being Malay in Singapore does not imply that a person is a Muslim.
As the majority of Malays are Muslims, an Islamic biased agenda has been dominant in issues related to the community. For example, Mendaki, the Malay self-help organisation formed in 1982, has an Islamic identification. This Islamic identification is evident with the monthly contribution to Mendaki being compounded with that of the Mosque Building Fund- known as the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund (MBMF). The result of this strong affiliation between Islam and Malay identity has been the use of the loose ‘Malay-Muslim’ label. The suffix ‘Muslim’ reflects the absence of a religious definition for ‘Malay’, thereby requiring the use of the term Malay-Muslim to denote a community whose members of the community are Malays and/or Muslims who identifies with, and have been accepted to be part of the community. The use of Malay-Muslim also provides some ‘space’ for Malay Christians who make up a small minority of 0.2% of the total Malay population and Muslims who resists being acculturated or assimilated into being culturally Malay.
The close ‘Malay’ identification with Islam and being Muslim has been reified by Hussin Mutalib (2005) in his recent exposition on “Singapore Muslims: The Quest for Identity in a Modern City-State”. He has provided sufficient justifications and factual data to assume being ‘Malay’ and ‘Muslim’ as similar within the Singapore context. While he purports to be discussing issues of Islamic and Muslim identity, a closer examination would reveal that in most instances, his paper has been about the negotiations of Malay identity and Malayness in Singapore.
In this paper I have no intention of discussing the validity or nature of this Malay-Muslim identity. My aim here has been to share the real experience of a supposed ‘Malay’ organisation in negotiating its Malay(-Muslim) identity; how it has done so since its inception; and how it has attempted to operate beyond ethnic boundaries, which could provide an impetus for the emergence of a Singaporean identity.
DEFINING THE ‘M’ IN 4PM
Amidst the plethora of explanation or understanding of identity and identification, a structural and even a pragmatic process of identification based on a given, is possible. Such a case can be seen from the experience of a Malay-Muslim organisation in 4PM since its establishment.
4PM is the acronym for Persatuan Persuratan Pemuda Pemudi Melayu . The ‘M’ in 4PM is therefore ‘Malay’ and refers to its affiliation to the Malay-Muslim community. This affiliation can be better understood in the context of the organisation’s history, being a registered society in 1948 during the post-war period that had been characterised by nationalists’ ideals of identity (Lian, 2001:867, 870-872).
Lily (1998) had framed her historical exploration of the Malays by first setting it within the Pan-Malay identity and/or identification. The idea of being Malay then may have been more inclusive, especially with banners like ‘Melayu Raya’ and ‘Nusantara’ (Lily, 1998:14-15; Reid, 2004:14-22). However, Lian (2001:871) had stressed that the “Malay nationalism in the Peninsula was exclusivists”. In the case of 4PM which is situated in Singapore, the inclusive version had been adopted probably due to the relatively high number of ‘Malay’ immigrants from outside the Peninsula. The existence of distinct enclaves of Bugis and Javanese kampungs suggest the lack of assimilation in the onset of arrival in Singapore.
The Pan-Malay identity could have existed among the founding members of 4PM, who decided to register their association as a ‘Malay’ organisation. Nagata (1974) had considered the use of the ‘Malay’ label as indicating an ethnic-based agenda as well as identification. The first President of 4PM was Mohammad Hanifa S. Kanoo and the Management Committee was made up of ‘Malays’ who could have been descended from a variety of genealogy. Given this Pan-Malay identity, the initial thrust of 4PM’s existence was fuelled by the concern for the educational status of the Malays.
Despite the current concerns on academic achievements, as expounded by Hussin Mutalib (2005), 4PM’s founding revealed that the emphasis on education and the awareness that good education brings about a better life has existed within the Malay community since after the Second World War. Hence, the continued call by community leaders for constant vigilance and effort in the academic domain merely reflects the constant struggle and frustrations felt by Malays in Singapore.
At its inception, the objectives of 4PM had been to develop the Malay community for the present and future. 4PM’s initial focus in its formative years was on education and the promotion of the Malay Language (4PM, 1999:46). In the immediate period following its founding, Malay education and the promotion of the Malay language became a priority. As a result several Malay schools were established. Tengku Sri Indra (1975) reported that 43 schools were established by 1950 (Tengku, 1975:9). 4PM was part of this wave as it established the Sekolah Rakyat (Peoples’ School) at Kampung Serangoon Kecil in 1948. In 1951, another school, Sekolah Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah, was established at No.2 Hillside Drive. Although 4PM did not figure in Ismail Kassim’s account of the Malay community’s concern on education, the establishment of two schools manifest 4PM’s emphasis on education (Ismail Kassim, 1974:41-69). Beyond sharing a common concern in education, 4PM had been active in identifying with the Pan-Malay identity. Members of 4PM had been active in attending conferences like the Congress of Malay Language and Culture, and the annual meetings of the Gabungan Pelajar-Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung (Malay Peninsula Students’ Union) (4PM, 1999: 33-36).
Beyond electoral results in the 1963 and 1964 elections, which showed the Malays’ support for the Peoples’ Action Party, very little had been written about such support leading to the victory attained in the Malay heartlands in those elections. Within the same period, 4PM had gained extensive influence through the establishment of branches like the Persatuan Kebajikan Melayu Ponggol (Malay Welfare Association of Ponggol) in 1951, Pulau Sudong Branch in 1963 and Pulau Bukom Kecil Branch in 1964 (4PM, 1999:33,39,132). Geographically, 4PM’s influence can be said to have extended from the north-eastern part of Singapore up to the southern islands, from its centre located at Jalan Eunos. The fact that the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had been invited as the Guest-of-Honour for an event organised by 4PM in 1960 might provide some clues as to the probable relationship between 4PM and the Peoples’ Action Party. Whether or not 4PM’s influence had any impact on the Malays support for the PAP, only further research could make such revelations. This exposition on 4PM’s expanding influence in its formative years and its probable links with the PAP merely reflect that there are Malays in Singapore who may have strong and amicable links with Malays outside Singapore but yet remain grounded in its position on what they want Singapore to be. Hence, despite the existence of a Pan-Malay identity, a sense of belonging to Singapore could have already taken a foothold in identification of these ‘Malays’.
Following Singapore’s independence with separation from Malaysia in 1965, 4PM maintained its public presence by submitting a Joint Memorandum to the Constitutional Commission in 1966, with other Malay organisations like Persatuan Perdagangan di-Raja (Royal Commercial Association), ASAS’50 (Association of 1950s Malay Writers) and Kesatuan Guru-Guru Melayu Singapura (Malay Teachers’ Union, Singapore) (Constitutional Commission, 1996:31). In this Joint Memorandum, 4PM’s position on Malay identity became documented and in that sense, an affirmation. According to Ismail Kassim, the Joint Memorandum had suggested the definition of Malays as “any person who professes the Muslim religion, habitually speaks the Malay language and conforms to Malay customs”. In addition, 4PM-led Joint Memorandum recommended that “the Head of State should always be a Muslim and that Malays should be represented in all statutory bodies, and a Malay Advisory Council should be set up to implement Article 89(2) of the Constitution” (Ismail Kassim, 1974:46-47).
It was from this Memorandum, that I begin to realise the strong sense of Islamic identity inherent among members of 4PM then. In a recent inter-generational meeting members attended in 25 March 2005, I learnt that there exist debates about the relevance of the performing arts like drama and dance in projecting an Islamic identity. These debates could have led to the decline in emphasis on the arts in the 1980s. In the earlier three decades, 4PM was active in the arts and in staging performances (4PM, 1999:32-48).
With the establishment of independent Singapore, Malay identity became part of the larger multi-ethnic framework of a Singapore made up of the ‘Chinese’, ‘Malay’, ‘Indian’ and ‘Others’. Based on this CMIO framework, 4PM’s identification with its ‘Malay’ label became more entrenched, especially with the formation of MENDAKI in 1982, and the emergence of what Lily (1998) described as the ethnic-based self-help paradigm.
Lily (1998) dedicated a chapter on the ethnic self-help paradigm which attempts to evaluate the efficacy of such an approach. She begins her assessment through a historical overview of how the government’s minimalists approach towards social welfare engendered the ethnic-based self-help paradigm. She considers the establishment of Mendaki for the Malays, CDAC for the Chinese, SINDA for the Indians and the Eurasian Association Endowment Fund for the Eurasians, as approaches which contradicted the multiracial ideals upon which Singapore was founded (Lily, 1998:232-235).
As an institutional member whose President sits on the Board of Mendaki, it becomes inevitable that 4PM will be supportive of Mendaki’s initiatives and programmes. In the past decade, 4PM’s affiliation with Mendaki saw the establishment of the 4PM-Mendaki Family Service Centre at Bedok North estate in 1999. This FSC was among a number of FSCs established through joint ventures between Mendaki and its institutional member. It has been a recognised fact that Malay-Muslims receiving counselling preferred to be seen by Malay-Muslims social workers or counsellors. A seemingly ‘Malay’ FSC would provide that front to assure Malay-Muslim families seeking help that they will be assisted by Malay-Muslims.
Recently, 4PM had undertaken another project from Mendaki. Projek Rentak Remaja (P2R) or Rhythm of Youth Project has been based on Mendaki’s Youth-In-Action project. Through P2R, 4PM will again oversee a number of programmes which will provide assistance and support to Malay-Muslim students and their families.
Other than the newly launched P2R, 4PM has been closely associated with the Inter-Pre-University Malay Debate (BAHAS 4PM), Project bITE, and other programmes which caters to the development of particularly Malay-Muslim youth. Another very telling development (reflecting the entrenchment in the ‘Malay’ mould) was the motivation behind the establishment of Project bITE. In 1999, all Malay-Muslim organisations in Singapore had been called upon to initiate a programme to ensure that the Malay-Muslim community can be competitive in the anticipated Knowledge-Based Economy (KBE) of the 21st century (KBE Convention, 1999). In the KBE Convention in 1999, 4PM proposed Project Bestari ITE (Project bITE). The aim of this project has been to ensure that Malay-Muslim students from the Institutes of Technical Education will be motivated to be life-long learners and make the grade to enter the polytechnics for a diploma. Project bITE was designed as such due to the statistics at the time which showed that fewer Malay-Muslims had post-secondary education or higher.
Despite criticisms of the ethnic-based self-help paradigm by Lily (1998:232-246), 4PM had adopted this approach since its inception and by so doing, had been able to provide comprehensive education support and youth development programmes to the community. However, it seemed that the ethnic-based self-help paradigm had reduced 4PM’s activities which involved non-Malay participants. In the years following its founding, 4PM had been involved in organised activities with non-Malay organisations. The fact that a camp organised in 1995 and involving non-Malay participants has been considered a milestone first attempt at going beyond ethnic boundaries, showed that such inclusive activities had not been organised for a long time.
In 1960, 4PM organised a Malay language speech competition for non-Malays. This event was graced by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. IN 1973, 4PM members took part in forum involving members from Chinese YMCA, Hello Support Group, Pek Kio Community Centre and Rotaract Club.
The camp organised in 1995 was called UNIVISION’95 and involved a multi-ethnic mix of participants. In the following year, 4PM managed to get participants from Vietnam and Thailand. However, in anticipating the concerns surrounding madrasah students, UNIVISION’97 reverted to a Malay-Muslim platform to provide opportunities for madrasah students to interact with Malay-Muslim youths from the mainstream schools. Later in 1999, the ‘madrasah’ issue became a prominent topic brought up by Singapore’s leaders (Hussin Mutalib, 2005:61).
The Malay-Muslim characteristic of 4PM lies in the nature of its activities, which has been designed and conducted mainly for members of the Malay-Muslim community. Despite its ‘Malay’ identification, 4PM had not consciously defined the nature or characteristic of Malay-Muslim identity in the course of designing and developing programmes and activities. 4PM was established in 1948 out of a sense of need to provide education and development support to the Malay community. While the period before Singapore’s independence saw considerable efforts at establishing platforms for Malay-Muslim youth to interact with their peers from other ethnic groups, the ethnic based self-help paradigm of the post-independence Singapore seemed to have made 4PM’s activities more exclusive. Hence, 4PM’s identification with the Malay-Muslim community and its identity became more pronounced. Another fact of 4PM’s Malay-Muslim identification has been that members of its Management Board have been Malay-Muslims and that most official documentation and minutes of meetings have been written in Malay.
A more popular identification with the Malay community has been 4PM’s promotion of the Malay Language through its annual BAHAS 4PM. BAHAS 4PM have had a long history, having its first competition held in 1952 at the British Council along Orchard Road. The finalists then were teams from Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls’ School. During then, the Inter-School debate was organised for secondary schools. In the 1980s, the competition was taken over by the then Radio Televisyen Singapura (RTS), but returned to 4PM in 1993 with a new image and aspiration involving participants from the junior colleges and pre-university centres, including madrasahs. Today, BAHAS 4PM has its finals at the Caldecott Broadcast Centre. Selected participants from the competition have formed the Singapore representative for the annual Titian Minda- a goodwill debate between teams comprising of students from Singapore and Brunei (4PM, 1999:68-70). In the recent BAHAS 4PM finals held on 27 July 2005 and telecasted over Suria channel on 7 August 2005, Madrasah Wak Tanjong Al-Islamiah outwitted Victoria Junior College in their debate on “Blog adalah ruang periadi” (“Blog is a private space”) to clinch the challenge trophy.
Despite its overwhelming Malay-Muslim identification, 4PM had never made the conscious attempt to define its Malayness for the past two decades that I have been with the organisation. 4PM has taken advantage of the ambivalence of this identification so that it can provide its services to as many youth and families as possible.
I had a presented a case of how a Malay organisation have had identifications with the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore, by the virtue of its main objectives, its participation in the national agenda, the nature of its activities, its main group of participants and the ethnicity of its Management Committee members. Although its identification with the Malay-Muslim community was evident in its name at its founding, 4PM had made attempts at organising activities, which provided a platform for interaction between Malay-Muslims and other ethnic groups. The emphasis on more exclusive activities during the period following Singapore’s independence can easily be used as evidence against the efficacy of the government’s minimalist approach and adoption of the ethnic based self-help paradigm. However, such ’cause and effect’ assessment can be flawed as there exist other more fallible reasons for such a situation.
In spite of its strong Malay-Muslim identification, 4PM had not made attempts to define the Malay-Muslim identity. A loose definition had been adopted so that it can be more inclusive. 4PM’s renewed desire to go beyond ethnic boundaries has been facilitated by the change in the national agenda on social service and youth development. However, 4PM has been in a bind once again as statistics has shown that more resources will be needed to provide activities for Malay-Muslim youth, due to the ‘youth bulge’ emerging within the community. Hence, 4PM’s focus for the coming years will again be on Malay-Muslim youths, a pragmatic decision based on its limited resources.
In my attempt to piece together 4PM’s history within these few pages and within the context of identity negotiations, I have been very selective in using my evidences and sources. Although I have had the benefit of an earlier project on 4PM’s history, the 136-page Dian Masyarakat has been inadequate in providing a more comprehensive account of 4PM’s involvement in the community within the context of the history of Singapore. Dian Masyarakat has been more of a historical interpretation based on surviving photographs kept by members and interviews with them.
As part of an ongoing project in providing a better ‘picture’ of the Malays in Singapore through the history of organisations, I intend to expand my research on 4PM through the reading of its minutes of meeting and other publications made since 1948. Another organisation which have captured my attention has been the Persekutuan Jawa Al-Masakin, which was first established in 1901 and had been recently rejuvenated with its first Annual General Meeting on 27 January 2005. A similar study on how this ‘Javanese’ had negotiated their identity over time could provide some explanations for the ‘Javanese’ undercurrents in the perceived ‘Malay’ identity and ‘Malay’ness in Singapore.
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Publications of Conventions/ Conferences/ Seminars
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