ON 8 March 2021, a short youtube movie made the rounds on whatsapps. Titled “Chinese Go Home” it related the story of Chinese men in Malaya repatriated by the British to China in the midst of the British war against the communists in Malaya in the late 1940’s.

Acclaiming the movie as having succeeded in presenting the repatriations as an atrocity against ‘Chinese Malayans’, on 10 March a lengthy letter by Kua Kia Soong appeared in a newsblog. A letter that seemingly sought to convey a picture of ‘systematic repression’ of Chinese.

12 March, I sent to the news portal a rejoinder to the Kua letter, but that did not get published. Below is the rejoinder, edited slightly and improved.

The rejoinder :


I refer to Kua Kia Soong’s letter “ ‘Chinese Go Home’ rekindles another emergency atrocity” (FMT 10 March). The youtube movie to which the essay referred is a minor production, but insensitive, unabashedly highlighting communism, an obvious disregard and disrespect for individuals and families who gave their lives, sacrificed or suffered (as if their sufferings and sacrifices were nothing compared to the “harrowing” deportations of the Chinese referred to in the youtube movie), so that their generation and ours that followed in Malaya/sia could live in peace and comfort, free of the fear, horrors and atrocities of communism in Malaya from 1945.

In applauding the youtube movie, Kua (the writer) took a swipe at Malays and ‘the colonialists’ on a wide range of Malayan/sian issues of the time and today. And, in the effort he misrepresented many things, which have to be corrected.

The writer referred to “Chinese go home” as a “racist [Malay] slogan … bandied around by politicians as well as racial supremacists [Malays]”. A faulty description. “Chinese go home” is not a slogan, nor a racist expression. It is the understandable reaction of exasperated Malays who have become the object of ridicule, insult, and unending political and other demands from some sections of the non Malays since the independence of Malaya in 1957. These, the consequence of a general non Malay failure to fit in with the Malay society since they assumed Malaya as their home.

In the deliberations of the 1940’s on citizenship for non Malays in Malaya, the conception of citizenship was based on a notion of ‘sufficient assimilation to the Malayan way of life’. But what showed up has been a disappointment. Instead of moving toward assimilation or even integration, the language and culture of the Malays have been challenged, the history of the (Malay) land belittled, and the Malays accused of racism, bigotry, supremacism, and so on. “Supremacism” to be correctly understood is an attitude/belief in racial superiority. Malays have never had that attitude or claimed such a belief. On the contrary, Malays have been the object of a not too subtle non Malay attitude of superiority – unable to accept historical Malay rule, and Malay culture in the land. Yet, the term “racial supremacists” have been bandied around against Malays by many non Malay politicians, the media, and even academics and the intelligentsia, who should know better. The Malay consciousness of Ketuanan Melayu has been rendered as ‘malay supremacy’ by the non Malays, despite repeated Malay rejection of this wrongful translation.

And, the repatriations of Chinese referred to by the writer should be understood in the historical, social and legal contexts, instead of blaming “the colonialists”. Masses of Chinese and Indian migrants had been coming to the Malay peninsula for more than a century before Malaya’s independence. From their collective memory, the Malays expected a huge number of them to return to their countries of origin. But, at the end of World War 2, in 1945 and the British preparing a new political structure for Malaya, a very large number of the non Malays had still not returned to their countries of origin. And, then chinese communists rampaged throughout Malaya, committing unimagined atrocities. The British sought to restore peace and order, and repatriations of Chinese were started, and then followed by relocating of Chinese squatters (there were squatters, which the writer denied, and overstayers by Malay collective memory) to new villages, to contain the communist nationwide terrorism. And, the British had the right to repatriate those Chinese as they were aliens, even if they were locally born, and they certainly then had not assimilated ‘sufficiently with the Malayan way of life’. They were not “Chinese Malayans” as claimed, but people of China. As the Tunku famously asked in 1951, “Who are these ‘Malayans’ ? Let the Malays decide who they are”. Was it an atrocity to return the Chinese then to their country of origin ?

The British did not apply a divide-and-rule policy in Malaya for racial reasons as claimed by the writer. The British merely devised a policy that could best serve their colonial economic interests. Immigrant Chinese and Indian labour provided that, which the Malays did not.

And, the British did not carry a communalist policy which ‘conveniently’ made the Chinese dispensable, while Malay rulers and aristocrats were deliberately ‘propped up’ to maintain “the myth” of “Malay sovereignty”, as claimed. “Malay sovereignty” during British times was not a myth – except to leftists, and hostile polemicists. It was real in the legal sense. When a colonial secretary asked a British attorney general what jurisdiction the British monarch had over the Malay states, the answer was “not a scintilla”. Queried further, if Britain recaptured these states from the Japanese, whether Britain could regard them as captured territory that they could keep, the attorney general’s answer was ‘no, we promised to protect the Malay rulers, which we failed. So, if recaptured the states have to be returned to the Malay rulers’. The British were in Malaya by treaty with the Malay rulers.

The British recognised not only Malay sovereignty, but also the identity of the Malay states and society, as well as the Malay concept of citizenship (the rakyat raja), made the central pillar of the British design for federal citizenship in Malaya – thus, Malays and the Orang Asli did not have to apply for Malayan citizenship.

And, that relates to the subject of “Malay special position”. The idea was not British in order to maintain the “myth” of “Malay sovereignty” as claimed by the writer. The ‘Malay special position’ was there for the British to see, and they recognized it. British colonialists merely recognized what they found in the land – that the Malays were the natives as a historical fact. And, the Malays founded the kingdoms and states in the Peninsula hat the Europeans encountered. The British understood all that, studying the Malay society and culture very well. And, when the time came the colonialists left, but not forgetting to return the country to the Malay rulers (and, the Malays), as advised by the British attorney general.

But, many immigrant Chinese and Indians in Malaya, then and even now, did not possess the British attitude. They did not want to recognize what they found in Malaya. They did not want to learn about the Malays, their history, and their society and culture. Instead, the non Malays challenged anything Malay – and, focused on “demands for civil rights” instead, as alluded to by the writer himself. And, they stayed, unlike the British who left.

And, to suggest like the writer did, that the British “promoted the idea of the special position of the Malays … confining the Malay peasantry to the ‘Malay Reservations’ … to prevent their [the Malays] integration into an anti-colonial movement”, exemplies the ludicrousness of historical revisionism. Of course “anti colonial movement” is a typical communist/leftist slogan. But, the independence mission in Malaya was a nationalist one, and precisely of the Malays !! Non Malay leaders joined in only to secure the interests of their people and obtain citizenship. Right to the year of independence, Chinese and Indian nationalist sentiment in Malaya majorly was heavy toward China and India, respectively.

Arof Ishak

DISCLAIMER: This opinion is solely the writer’s and in no way reflects that of BebasNews.

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