No Pendatang Please We Are All Malaysians




This year, the parts of the country formerly known as Malaya will be celebrating 62 years of independence from the British. We will also be celebrating 56 years of Malaysia on Sept 16 this year. This means that we have had more than half a century of nationhood
Yet even after 62 years of independence, and 56 years of Malaysia, we are still plagued by the rhetoric of ‘the immigrant other’. The polemic of 'pendatang', 'penumpang,' and most recently, ‘guests’
The narrative is simple. This is ‘tanah Melayu’. This is the land of the Malays. Malays own the land; the others are here due to the ‘good grace’ of the hosts. Simple, yet it is increasingly becoming a potent narrative
In recent years, there is another thread flowing through this narrative; non-Malays are not loyal to this country. They do not owe their allegiance to this country because they do not conform to what is purported to be the ‘national identity’
The citizenship of the non-Malays is constantly questioned. More often than not, there would be calls to ‘revoke’ their citizenship, even if such action is constitutionally impossible.Unfortunately, this narrative is now becoming mainstream. More and more politicians, community and religious leaders, now spew such rhetoric. The identity of the ‘immigrant other’ is now part of the national discourse, at a time when we should be celebrating our nationhood
But the Federal Constitution is clear and unequivocal; it makes no distinction on the basis of ethnicity when it comes to citizenship. Those who are citizens by operation of law, like the vast majority of Malaysians, have their citizenship guaranteed by the Federal Constitution
In fact, the Constitution authorises Parliament to make laws to restrict freedom of speech when it comes to the questioning of citizenship
This country was built on the blood, sweat and tears of Malaysians of various ethnicities, religions, social class and backgrounds. We are what we are today because of the contributions of decades of hard work by Malaysians
Enough is enough. It is time we stop calling our fellow Malaysians pendatang, penumpangor guests. It is time we move away from this ‘immigrant other’ rhetoric that is so destructive and divisive. It is time we halt the questioning of the loyalties of certain communities
At the same, non-Malays should also stop viewing the Malays with suspicion and distrust. Do not take the actions of the few to represent the views of the majority. For every person indulging in the immigrant rhetoric, there will be more who will defend the rights of non-Malays in this country
We must reaffirm the belief that this country is for all Malaysians, irrespective of race, religion, creed, class, gender or sexual identity, political ideology and other differences. The various races, cultures, languages, religions are what gives this nation its strength. I, you, they, we are Malaysians. There is a place for all Malaysians under the Malaysian sky, without exclusion
This national day, it is time for us to come together to reaffirm the principles and the basic structure of the Federal Constitution, respect the rule of law and uphold the fundamental freedoms of all Malaysians
Malaysia was built to be a sovereign democratic and independent state, founded upon the principles of liberty and justice
Let us stay true to that
SYAHREDZAN JOHAN is a civil liberties lawyer and political secretary to Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang. - Mkini

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