I am sure many of us have heard this question asked many times before, "Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" Here I am reproducing an article by a Malay reformist, C T Ali, which more or less pose the very same question, which comes first, the Malays or Tanah Melayu?
As a Malay, I am trying to understand where I am now politically. You cannot simply aske me to detach myself from Umno - the only political party I have known from the time that iconic word "Tanah Melayu" came into my consciousness.Not Malaya (as we know it then) but "Tanah Melayu."
I remember it being spoken of reverently by my uncles and the older Malays as I sat and listened to them speak not of politics but of what the future will hold for them and the many other races that was already calling Malaya their home even then.
Tanah Melayu was our land, our country, ours to call our own – we belonged here, it was our home.
But in reality Tanah Melayu was not ours to call our own.
Let me explain. Today Malaya is called Malaysia. Somehow along the way from then to now, things have changed.
“Tanah Melayu” to quote the words of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad “belongs to the Malay race. Peninsular Malaysia was known as Tanah Melayu but this cannot be said because it will be considered racist. We must be sincere and accept that the country is Tanah Melayu.”
Mahathir said the Malay community may risk losing the country if the communities continue to identify themselves according to the country of origin … as it is an admission that they are immigrants in the country.
But how can the Malays lose Malaysia when it never belonged to them in the first place!
We Malays belong to this land called Malaysia – not the other way around.
‘There is no risk’
That being the case, no other community, no other people, no other race can take away Malaysia from the Malays – not when these non-Malays have pledged themselves to belong to the same Tanah Melayu.
So Umno really has nothing to do if it says that its work is to save Tanah Melayu for the Malays.
The Malays have never risked losing the country – it is the country that risks losing the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians, its Orang Asli, the Dayaks, Ibans, Kadazans…and all those who have called Malaysia their home.
And even as I write this, you and I know that this Tanah Melayu is losing its people as they leave this Tanah Melayu to make their home elsewhere.
So why is Umno still trying to save this Tanah Melayu for the Malays when what needs to be done is for Umno to ensure that this Tanah Melayu will not lose the people that it already has?
The very people that helped build Tanah Melayu into what it is today – a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious community comfortable in its own identity and trying to move forward as one people in the global community that we are all part of.
But Umno will not have any part in this. Their political survival is dependent on this Tanah Melayu belonging to the Malays and not the Malays belonging to Tanah Melayu.
That is why as a Malay I am trying to find myself politically.
Do I subscribe to Umno’s insistence that Tanah Melayu belongs to the Malays or do I say that it is the Malays that belongs to Tanah Melayu.
In truth the decision has already been made for me.
Tanah Melayu has never belonged to the Malays. It never belonged to me. It belongs to all who call it their home. We are all transient beings passing through this earth for a while.
Let me share this verse by an 18th century Quaker missionary Stephen Grellet, who said: “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.”
So to Umno I say this: This Tanah Melayu belongs to all who want to call it their home. Begone!