Selamat (pen)Datang Malaysia!

The term "Pendatang" has recently become a household name here in Malaysia. Pendatang is Malay for 'immigrant'. If you have migrated to Malaya/sia at some point, you earn this title. In fact, everyone residing in Malaysia except the Orang Aslis (indigenous people - namely people of Negrito origins) are essentially pendatangs. A quick read of Malaysia's origins ( will help you realise that the nation of present-day Malaysia is a result of centuries of migrations, coalescing of various cultures and people groups.

For instance, although the Malay race was dominant in the peninsula in the first millennium, they were descendants of the Deutero-Malays from Cham in Cambodia. And the early states here were influenced by South Indian culture. The early Indians were involved in trade and politics here since the 13th century. The early Chinese were trade partners since then as well. Malay people (there are many subgroups in the Malay Archipelago) had migrated into the peninsula too. Europeans made their footprint here in the 1500s (the Portuguese got here before the Dutch and British). Unfortunately, the Jamaicans never found their way here.

What this says to me precisely is that, we're all on the same boat. We are all pendatangs. And there are two things I can derive from this: 1) None of us can really claim full ownership of this land because our histories began elsewhere, and our ancestors' histories possibly began in some other place; or 2) All of us can claim full ownership of this land because our histories began here because our ancestors had decided to make this peninsula home for themselves and their descendants. And I choose the latter perspective - that we can all claim full ownership of Malaysia.

What this means to me now:
  1. Any efforts to denounce one group of people from the country is immature and lacking in perspective. If you feel entitled because you have an older history in the land, wake up to reality and recognise that others who came later also call this land "home". You just got the early bird discount!
  2. The term pendatang ought not be viewed as derogatory as it merely states our shared history. If others assign weakness and negativity to the word, it is really their loss and foolishness.
  3. Those who feel threatened being called pendatang should wake up and not feel a tinge bugged because you are also children of this land. Stop behaving like 'tourists' here and start loving your brothers and sisters, and don't victimise yourselves. This is your home.

What disheartens me is the bigotry that governs some who feel they are entitled to everything. Just because a child was born the first in a family, it does not entitle him to his parent's full attention. The other children need their parents attention too. The goal of a family is to grow together towards a shared future.

Equally disheartening is the 'victim-mindset' that some develop, making them feel trapped and oppressed. From them you hear about plans to migrate to other countries (typically to Australia, Canada, UK). The irony is, they hate being called pendatangs here, but tirelessly make plans to become pendatangs in other countries.

It is time that we put aside childishness and help our fellow boat members embrace the land we now call home.


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