In reading history, I have issues in applying the boundaries of modern states into the past, in times before modern states were established. While history is indeed continuous in nature unless we are referring to the beginning of time itself, the act of applying modern boundaries into the past before establishment of modern states knowingly falsely assumes that these states existed long before its establishment date. With respect to Malaysian history for example, there are those that take everything that occurs within modern Malaysian states as Malaysian history while those occurring outside Malaysian boundary as someone else’s. If one wishes to understand history, such perspective restricts overall comprehension of history.

In Malaysia, there are those that assert Malaysian history begins with Malacca. I opine that this is done to legitimize the position of those in power through religion. Like what been written earlier, history is continuous and Malaysian history is no exception. It is improper to assume that Malaysian history began at the beginning of the 15th century. For an event to occur, there must be a background, or a precursor, to it and that precursor for Malacca is the decline of Srivijaya, just as how the background for the establishment of Malaysia is everything related that occurred in that past, be it Sulu, Brunei, Langkasuka, Srivijaya, Chi Tu, Johor, Negeri Sembilan and the other modern states of Malaysia, etc.

While I have addressed how the time barrier placed on Malaysian history is a form of denial, I have yet to address how modern boundaries — within our context, Malaysia — are irrelevant in the distance past. As much as history is continuous in time, it is continuous in space as well. This is the purpose of the post.

The idea that Malaysian history is confined within the border of modern Malaysian border is acceptable to as far as the Anglo-Dutch Treaty in 1824 or maybe slightly earlier in the 19th century. History of this region only officially developed separately after that. Prior to the understanding between the Dutch and the British brought in part of the result of the Napoleonic War in Europe, history of the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, and to some extend part of Borneo and Java, mostly moved on hand in hand, at one point of time or another. Our society, we, in the past, especially before 1824, were a society unbounded by the boundaries of modern nation states.

During the era of Srivijaya, the commonality occurred close to a thousand years. And indeed, during Malacca, the history of the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra was one of the same. Whatever happened to these powers affected the timeline of Malaysian history. Srivijaya was part of Malaysian history as much as Malacca; Malacca was part of Indonesian history as much as Srivijaya. On Borneo. the history of the Sulu belong to both Malaysia and the Phillipines. This history of Brunei is part of Sarawak and Sabah’s history and vice versa as well.

Our history, Malaysian history, cannot be taken in isolation. Malaysian history itself occurred within and without the modern boundary of our federation. What happened within the boundary of the modern states of Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines in the past may be part of our history as well simply because our history is a history of trade. It is a story of interaction among us, our neighbors and strangers from afar. A substantial amount of history, especially before 1824, is shared.

If we insist that events occurred outside the boundary of modern Malaysia are not part of our history, we are denying part of ourselves. Reading history in isolation might be tantamount to living inside a box, being simply unable to see the big picture.

7 Responses to “[1247] Of we were one”

  1. on 06 Jun 2007 at 02:38 Michael Chick

    Ahhh. Someone intereted in History. Malaysian History. Locals call it Tanah Melayu. The Malaysian Government calls it the Malay Archipelago.

    While we are on the subject, how many of you have read the book entitled \\\”Contesting Malayness\\\”? Written by a Professor of National University of Singapore. Cost S$32 (about). It reflects the Anthropologists views that there is no such race as the \\\”Malays\\\” to begin with. If we follow the original migration of the Southern Chinese of 6,000yrs ago, they moved into Taiwan, (now the Alisan), then into the Phillipines (now the Aeta) and moved into Borneo (4,500yrs ago) (Dayak). They also split into Sulawesi and progressed into Jawa, and Sumatera. The final migration was to the Malayan Peninsular 3,000yrs ago. A sub-group from Borneo also moved to Champa in Vietnam at 4,500yrs ago.

    Interestingly, the Champa deviant group moved back to present day Kelantan. There are also traces of the Dong Song and HoaBinh migration from Vietnam and Cambodia. To confuse the issue, there was also the Southern Thai migration, from what we know as Pattani today. (see also \\\”Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsular\\\”)

    Of course, we also have the Minangkabau\\\’s which come from the descendants of Alexander the Great and a West Indian Princess. (Sejarah Melayu page 1-3)

    So the million Dollar Question… Is there really a race called the \\\”Malays\\\”? All anthropologists DO NOT SEEM TO THINK SO.

    Neither do the \\\”Malays\\\” who live on the West Coast of Johor. They\\\’d rather be called Javanese. What about the west coast Kedah inhabitants who prefer to be known as \\\”Achenese\\\”? or the Ibans who simply want to be known as IBANS. Try calling a Kelabit a \\\”Malay\\\” and see what response you get… you’ll be so glad that their Head-Hunting days are over.

    In an article in the Star, dated: Dec 3rd 2006

    available for on-line viewing at: c=focus

    An excerp is reproduced here below:

    \\\”The Malays – taken as an aggregation of people of different ethnic backgrounds but who speak the same language or family of languages and share common cultural and traditional ties – are essentially a new race, compared to the Chinese, Indians and the Arabs with their long histories of quests and conquests.

    The Malay nation, therefore, covers people of various ethnic stock, including Javanese, Bugis, Bawean, Achehnese, Thai, orang asli, the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak and descendants of Indian Muslims who had married local women.

    Beneath these variations, however, there is a common steely core that is bent on changing the Malay persona from its perceived lethargic character to one that is brave, bold and ready to take on the world. \\\”

    The definition of “Malay” is therefore simply a collection of people\\\’s who speak a similar type language. With what is meant by a similar type language does not mean that the words are similar. Linguists call this the \\\”Lego-type\\\” language, where words are added on to the root word to make meaning and give tenses and such. Somehow, the Indonesians disagree with this classification and insist on being called \\\”Indonesians\\\” even though the majority of \\\”Malays\\\” have their roots in parts of Indonesia? They refuse to be called \\\”Malay\\\”…. Anyhow you may define it.

    The writer failed to identify (probably didn\\\’t know), that the \\\”Malay\\\” definition also includes, the Champa, Dong Song, HoabinHian, The Taiwanese Alisan and the Philippino Aetas. He also did not identify that the \\\”Orang Asli\\\” are (for lack of a better term) ex-Africans. If you try to call any one of our East Malaysian brothers an \\\”Orang Asli\\\”, they WILL BEAT YOU UP! I had to repeat this because almost all West Malaysians make the same mistake when we cross the South China Sea. Worse, somehow, they feel even more insulted when you call them “Malay”. Somehow, “kurang ajar” is uttered below their breath as if “Malay” was a really bad word for them. I’m still trying to figure this one out.

    Watch “Malays in Africa”; a Museum Negara produced DVD. Also, the “Champa Malays” by the same.

    With this classification, they MUST also include the Phillipinos, the Papua New Guineans, the Australian Aboroginies, as well as the Polynesian Aboroginies. These are of the Australo Melanesians who migrated out of Africa 60,000yrs ago.

    Getting interesting? Read on…

    \\\”Malay\\\” should also include the Taiwanese singer \\\”Ah Mei\\\” who is Alisan as her tribe are the anscestors of the \\\”Malays\\\”. And finally, you will need to define the Southern Chinese (Southern Province) as Malay also, since they are from the same stock 6,000yrs ago.

    Try calling the Bugis a \\\”Malay\\\”. Interestingly, the Bugis, who predominantly live on Sulawesi are not even Indonesians. Neither do they fall into the same group as the migrating Southern Chinese of 6,000yrs ago nor the Australo Melanesian group from Africa.

    Ready for this?

    The Bugis are the cross-breed between the Chinese and the Arabs. (FYI, a runaway Ming Dynasty official whom Cheng Ho was sent to hunt down) Interestingly, the Bugis were career Pirates in the Johor-Riau Island areas. Now the nephew of Daeng Kemboja was appointed the First Sultan of Selangor. That makes the entire Selangor Sultanate part Arab, part Chinese! Try talking to the Bugis Museum curator near Kukup in Johor. Kukup is located near the most south-western tip of Johor. (Due south of Pontian Kechil)

    Let\\\’s not even get into the Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekiu, and Hang Lekir, who shared the same family last name as the other super famous \\\”Hang\\\” family member… Hang Li Poh. And who was she? the princess of a Ming Dynasty Emperor who was sent to marry the Sultan of Malacca. Won\\\’t that make the entire Malacca Sultanate downline \\\”Baba\\\” ? Since the older son of the collapsed Malaccan Sultanate got killed in Johor, (the current Sultanate is the downline of the then, Bendahara) the only other son became the Sultan of Perak. Do we see any Chinese-ness in Raja Azlan? Is he the descendant of Hang Li Poh?

    Next question. If the Baba’s are part Malay, why have they been marginalized by NOT BEING BUMIPUTERA? Which part of “Malay” are they not? Whatever the answer, why then are the Portugese of Malacca BUMIPUTERA? Did they not come 100yrs AFTER the arrival of the first Baba’s? Parameswara founded Malacca in 1411. The Portugese came in 1511, and the Dutch in the 1600’s. Strangely, the Baba’s were in fact once classified a Bumiputera, but a decided that they were strangely “declassified” in the 1960’s. WHY?

    The Sultan of Kelantan had similar roots to the Pattani Kingdom making him of Thai origin. And what is this \\\”coffee table book\\\” by the Sultan of Perlis claiming to be the direct descendant of the prophet Muhammed? Somehow we see Prof Khoo Khay Khim’s signature name on the book. I’ll pay good money to own a copy of it myself. Anyone has a spare?

    So, how many of you have met with orang Asli’s? the more northern you go, the more African they look. Why are they called Negrito’s? It is a Spanish word, from which directly transalates “mini Negros”. The more southern you go, the more “Indonesian” they look. And the ones who live at Cameron Highlands kinda look 50-50. You can see the Batek at Taman Negara, who really look like Eddie Murphy to a certain degree. Or the Negritos who live at the Thai border near Temenggor Lake (north Perak). The Mah Meri in Carrie Island look almost like the Jakuns in Endau Rompin. Half African, half Indonesian.

    By definition, (this is super eye-opening) there was a Hindu Malay Empire in Kedah. Yes, I said right… The Malays were Hindu. It was, by the old name Langkasuka. Today known as Lembah Bujang. This Hindu Malay Empire was 2,000yrs old. Pre-dating Borrobudor AND Angkor Watt. Who came about around 500-600yrs later. Lembah Bujang was THE mighty trading empire, and its biggest influence was by the Indians who were here to help start it. By definition, this should make the Indians BUMIPUTERAS too since they were here 2,000yrs ago! Why are they marginalized?

    Of the 3 books listed, \\\”Contesting Malayness\\\” (about S$32 for soft cover) is \\\”banned” in Malaysia; you will need to \\\”smuggle\\\” it into Malaysia; for very obvious reasons…. :( or read it in Singapore if you don’t feel like breaking the law.

    The other, \\\”Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago, and the Malay Peninsular\\\” (about RM84) are openly sold at all leading bookshops; Kinokuniya, MPH, Borders, Popular, Times, etc. You should be able to find a fair bit of what I’ve been quoting in this book too, but mind you, it is very heavy reading material, and you will struggle through the initial 200+ pages. It is extremely technical in nature. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t banned (yet)…coz our authorities couldn’t make head or tail of it? (FYI, if I wasn’t doing research for my film, I wouldn’t have read it in its entirety)

    While the \\\”Sejarah Melayu\\\” (about RM 35) is available at the University Malaya bookshop. I have both the English and Royal Malay version published by MBRAS.

    Incidentally, the Professor (Author) was invited to speak on this very subject about 2 yrs ago, in KL, invited by the MBRAS. You can imagine the \\\”chaos\\\” this seminar created…… :(

    There were actually many sources for these findings. Any older Philippino Museum Journal also carries these migration stories. This migration is also on display at the Philippines National Museum in Luzon. However, they end with the Aeta, and only briefly mention that the migration continued to Indonesia and Malaysia, but fully acknowledge that all Philippinos came from Taiwan. And before Taiwan, China. There is another book (part of a series) called the \\\”Archipelago Series\\\” endorsed by Tun Mahatir and Marina Mohammad, which states the very same thing right at the introduction on page one. “… that the Malays migrated out of Southern China some 6,000yrs ago…”. I believe it is called the “Pre-History of Malaysia” Hard Cover, about RM99 found in (mostly) MPH. They also carry “Pre-History of Indonesia” by the same authors for the same price.

    It is most interesting to note that our Museum officials invented brand new unheard-of terms such as \\\”Proto-Malay\\\” and \\\”Deutero-Malay\\\”, to replace the accepted Scientific Term, Australo-Melanesians (African descent) and Austronesians (Chinese Descent, or Mongoloid to be precise) in keeping in line with creating this new “Malay” term.. They also created the new term called the Melayu-Polynesian. (Which Melayu exists in the Polynesian Islands?) Maybe they were just trying to be “Patriotic” and “Nationalistic”… who knows…? After all, we also invented the term, “Malaysian Time”. While the rest of the world calls it “Tardy” and “Late”. It’s quite an embarrassment actually…. Singaporeans crossing the border are asked to set their watches back by about 100yrs, to adjust to “Malaysian Time”…

    In a nutshell, the British Colonial Masters, who, for lack of a better description, needed a “blanket” category for ease of classification, used the term “Malay”.

    The only other logical explanation, which I have heard, was that “Malaya” came as a derivative of “Himalaya”, where at Langkasuka, or Lembah Bujang today was where the Indians were describing the locals as “Malai” which means “Hill People” in Tamil. This made perfect sense as the focal point at that time was at Gunung Jerai, and the entire Peninsular had a “Mountain Range” “Banjaran Titiwangsa”, as we call it.

    The Mandarin and Cantonese accurately maintain the accurate pronunciation of “Malai Ren” and “Malai Yun” respectively till this very day. Where “ren” and “yun” both mean “peoples”.

    Interestingly, “Kadar” and “Kidara”, Hindi and Sanskrit words accurately describe “Kedah” of today. They both mean “fertile Land for Rice cultivation. Again, a name given by the Indians 2,000yrs ago during the “Golden Hindu Era” for a duration of 1,500yrs.

    It was during the “Golden Hindu Era” that the new term which the Hindu Malay leaders also adopted the titles, “Sultan” and “Raja”. The Malay Royalty were Hindu at that time, as all of Southeast Asia was under strong Indian influence, including Borrobudor, and Angkor Watt. Bali today still practices devout Hindu Beliefs. The snake amulet worn by the Sultans of today, The Royal Dias, and even the “Pelamin” for weddings are tell-tale signs of these strong Indian influences. So, it was NOT Parameswara who was the first Sultan in Malaya. Sultanage existed approximately 1,500years before he set foot on the Peninsular during the \\\”Golden Hindu Era\\\” of Malaysia. And they were all Hindu.

    “PreHistory of Malaysia” also talks about the “Lost Kingdom” of the “Chi-Tu” where the local Malay Kingdom were Buddhists. The rest of the “Malays” were Animistic Pagans.

    But you may say, \\\”Sejarah Melayu\\\” calls it \\\”Melayu\\\”? Yes, it does. Read it again; is it trying to describe the 200-odd population hamlet near Palembang by the name \\\”Melayu\\\”?(Google Earth will show this village).

    By that same definition, then, the Achehnese should be considered a “race”. So should the Bugis and the Bataks, to be fair. Orang Acheh, Orang Bugis, Orang Laut, Orang Melayu now mean the same… descriptions of ethnic tribes, at best. And since the “Malays” of today are not all descendants of the “Melayu” kampung in Jambi (if I remember correctly), the term Melayu has been wrongly termed. From day one. Maybe this is why the Johoreans still call themselves either Bugis, or Javanese until today. So do the Achehnese on the West coast of Kedah & Perlis and the Kelantanese insist that they came from Champa, Vietnam.

    Morover, the fact that the first 3 pages claiming that \\\”Melayu\\\” comes from Alexander the Great and the West Indian Princess doesn\\\’t help. More importantly, it was written in 1623. By then, the Indians had been calling the locals “Malai” for 1,500 yrs already. So the name stuck….

    And with the Sejarah Melayu (The Malay Annals in page 1-3) naming the grandson of Iskandar Zulkarnain, and the West Indian Princess forming the Minangkabau. Whenever a Malay is asked about it, he usually says it is \\\”Karut\\\” (bullshit), but all Malayan based historians insist on using Sejarah Melayu as THE main reference book for which \\\”Malay\\\” history is based upon. The only other books are “Misa Melayu”, \\\”Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa\\\”, and “Hikayat Hang Tuah” which is of another long and sometimes “heated” discussion.

    I find this strange.

    I also find, that it is strange that the \\\”Chitti\\\’s\\\” (Indian+Malay) of Malacca are categorized as Bumiputera, while their Baba brothers are not. Why? Both existed during the Parameswara days. Which part of the “Malay” side of the Baba’s is not good enough for Bumiputera classification? Re-instate them. They used to be Bumiputera pre 1960’s anyway.

    Instead of \\\”Malay\\\”, I believe that \\\”Maphilindo\\\” (circa 1963) would have been the closest in accurately trying to describe the Malays. However, going by that definition, it should most accurately be \\\”MaphilindoThaiChinDiaVietWanGreekCamfrica\\\”. And it is because of this; even our University Malaya Anthropology professors cannot look at you in the eye and truthfully say that the word \\\”Malay\\\” technically and accurately defines a race.

    This is most unfortunate.

    So, in a nutshell, the “Malays” (anthropologists will disagree with this “race” definition) are TRULY ASIA !!! For once the Tourism Ministry got it right….

    We should stop calling this country “Tanah Melayu” instead call it, “Tanah Truly Asia”

    You must understand now, why I was \\\”tickled pink\\\” when I found out that the Visit Malaysia slogan for 2007 was \\\”Truly Asia\\\”. They are so correct… (even though they missed out Greece and Africa)

    BTW, the name UMNO should be changed to UTANO the new official acronym for “United Truly Asia National Organization” . After all, they started out as a Bugis club in Johor anyway….

    I told you all that I hate race classifications…. This is so depressing. Even more depressing is that the \\\”malays\\\” are not even a race; not since day one.

    “Truly Asia Boleh”

  2. [...] is unfortunate how some people fail to recognize that the history of this region did not develop separately before the signing of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 and subsequently inorganic political [...]

  3. on 14 Jun 2008 at 12:24 fairuz

    i like your writings , yes , actually we all have many things in common. That’s why Mahathir when he was PM always like to visit China and Japan frequently, as symbol of continuous frenship since the old days until now. Never Mahathir sees China as a threat as the americans try to provoke of.

  4. [...] us disregard the fact that modern Southeast Asian states, Indonesia and Malaysia included, did not exist before about mid-20th century. Let us ignore the fact that the current boundary between the two countries only came into [...]

  5. on 16 Feb 2011 at 00:13 M Farid

    Those are theory of migration. Chinese are also confused and could not believe to the theory of migration that they were originally from Africa.

    More over, what about the Perak man which is more than 11,000 years old. Predating the 6000 years migration theory

    >>>Malaysia’s oldest inhabitant, Perak Man is back in KL. There is a special exhibition dedicated to him at Muzium Negara as part of the “Festival Kuala Lumpur 2006”. Perak Man is an 11,000 year old human skeleton which was found in Gua Gunung Runtuh in Lenggong, Perak in May 1990. It is the only complete late Paleolithic skeleton to have been found and is an important piece of Malaysia’s prehistory<<<

  6. on 16 Feb 2011 at 09:13 M Farid

    Latest Scientific evidence

    Asia was populated primarily through a single migration event from the south.

    The study indicates that all of Asia was populated through one migration event
    BBC 11 Dec 2009

    An international scientific effort has revealed the genetics behind Asia’s diversity. The Human Genome Organisation’s (HUGO) Pan-Asian SNP Consortium carried out a study of almost 2,000 people across the continent. Their findings support the hypothesis that Asia was populated primarily through a single migration event from the south.

    The researchers described their findings in the journal Science. They found genetic similarities between populations throughout Asia and an increase in genetic diversity from northern to southern latitudes.

    The team screened genetic samples from 73 Asian populations for more than 50,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These are variations in pieces of the DNA code, which can be compared to find out how closely related two individuals are genetically.

    This is the first study to give a clear answer to the question on the origin of East Asian populations

    The study found that, as expected, individuals who were from the same region, or who shared a common language also had a great deal in common genetically. But it also answered a question about the origin of Asia’s population. It showed that the continent was likely populated primarily through a single migration event from the south.

    Previously, there has been some debate about whether Asia was populated in two waves – one to South East Asia, and a later one to central and north-east Asia, or whether only a single migration occurred.

    Diversity explained Edison Liu from the Genome Institute of Singapore was a leading member of the consortium. He explained that the age of a population has a much bigger effect on genetic diversity than the population size.

    “It seems likely from our data that they entered South East Asia first – making these populations older [and therefore more diverse],” he said.

    “[It continued] later and probably more slowly to the north, with diversity being lost along the way in these ‘younger’ populations.

    “So although the Chinese population is very large, it has less variation than the smaller number of individuals living in South East Asia, because the Chinese expansion occurred very recently, following the development of rice agriculture – within only the last 10,000 years.”. Dr Liu said that it was “good news” that populations throughout Asia are genetically similar.

    This knowledge will aid future genetic studies in the continent and help in the design of medicines to treat diseases that Asian populations might be at a higher risk of. And the discovery of this common genetic heritage, he added, was a “reassuring social message”, that “robbed racism of much biological support”.

    This provides another important piece to the jigsaw puzzle of global human diversity

    Peter Underhill, Stanford University. Shuhua Xu from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who was a member of the consortium, said
    that this was “the first comprehensive study of genetic diversity and history of Asian populations”.

    “This is the first study to give a clear answer to the question on the origin of East Asian populations,” Dr Xu added. Vincent Macaulay, a statistical geneticist at the University of Glasgow in the UK told Science magazine that the team had produced “a fabulous data set”. The evidence for the southern coastal migration route, he said seemed “very strong”.

    The consortium involved 90 scientists from 11 countries including China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and the US. Peter Underhill, a geneticist from Stanford University who was not involved in this study said that it represented an investment of a “tremendous amount of time, work and inter-institution collaboration”. He told BBC News: “This provides another important piece to the jigsaw puzzle of global human diversity.”

  7. [...] the land is continuous, whatever state that existed in the relevant period (also, history is “borderless“, i.e. one cannot apply modern boundary into the distant past in the reading of history). [...]