Friday, March 19, 2010

Penang is called Koh Maak, not Koh Opium

Penang is called Koh Maak by Siamese. You do not believe, below is the extract from You do not need to agree with what the blogger said, but it is good to know Penang have another name, Koh Maak.

Below is the extract from the blog:

A Chronicle of Siam's 14 Boundary Losses

" Siam's independence, during the past two hundred years, came under serious threat from foreign powers, and only the astute rule of King Chulalongkorn in the late 19th century saved the country from being swallowed by Britain and France, like much of the rest of Southeast Asia. Siam did, however, suffer some fourteen boundary losses; eight of them to Britain and France, and the rest to neighboring countries. The following lands were lost to foreign states:

1. 11th Aug. 1786: Britain took control of Penang, or Koh Maak, a 375 sq kms. island ceded to the British East India Company by the Sultan of Keddah, in return for protection against the armies of neighboring Siam and Burma."

Betel Nut Island, an ancient name

Penang was part of Kedah before 1786, and Kedah was the vassal state of Siam. Koh Maak(เกาะหมาก) Koh or Ko(เกาะ)is Siamese for island, maak(หมาก)is for Areca nut. Koh Maak is areca nut island. The Areca nut is the seed of the Areca palm (Areca catechu), which grows in much of the tropical Pacific, Asia, and parts of east Africa. It is commonly but perhaps erroneously referred to as "Betel Nut.".

Still cannot get it? Betel Nut in Malay is Pinang, Pulau Pinang is Betel nut island. The old colonist called it Pulo Pinang. Pulo/Puilau is Malay word for island, Pinang is betel nut. Koh Maak is Pulo Pinang, Pulau Pinang, and betel nut island. Latter on, Pinang become Penang, the corrupted version of Malay by colonist.

The island was referred to as Bīnláng Yù (檳榔嶼, 槟榔屿) in the navigational drawings used by Admiral Zheng He of Ming-dynasty China in his expeditions to the South Seas in the 15th century. Bin-lang(檳榔)is areca nut in Chinese, yu(嶼)is island in Chinese. Binland-yu(槟榔屿) is betel nut island. Admiral Zheng He knew it was named Betel Island in 15th century, the Siamese knew it was Koh Maak, in the old days before it was found by Capt Francis Light. The name of Pulau Pinang must be known to the trader of sea spice route before 15th century. Bīnláng Yù (檳榔嶼) is Koh Maak(เกาะหมาก), Pulo Pinang, Pulau Pinang and is betel nut island.... Penang island.

The Chinese, Siamese, Colonist, Kedah Malay or Achenese, Minankabou, and other Indonesian all called it Betel nut island. So, most of the traders knew it was named Betel Nut Island long time ago before 1786. The island must have found before Capt Francis Light. But since that place is insignificant, compared to other more developed ports in Sumatra, Pattani, Malacca etc, it remain as fishing village, a quite peaceful island, and occasionally the trade merchant ships come for water, until Capt Francis Light cheated the Sultan of Kedah for the island.

The island was turned into opium storage port for EIC(East Indian Company)for opium from India to China. It was turned into an opium island, which had resulted in many Asian, especially Chinese suffered the addiction, and the start of Opium Wars, and many have to leave their homeland due to the wars, and many faced humiliation, suffering, slavery and even death. The colonists and its traders, agent, revenue farmers profited from the sinful trade. However, Capt Francis Light, and its friends from the Scotland, with the efforts of the other early pioneers. The Chinese traders from Phuket, Kedah and Malacca, Chulia traders from India, Acheh traders from Sumatra, Arabs from India and Sumatra, the Eurasian from Phuket, together built the island to become a trading port. The European planters, the Chinese planters, the Indian estate workers, the local Malay worked hard to make Penang an agricultural producers of peppers, nutmeg, sugarcane, spices etc. All the effort of the early Penang people, their pioneering spirit which make the Penang today. It become the Pearl of Orient.

Opium Island, are we opium of the island?

The original name is Pulo Pinang....for betel nuts, not opium. Betel nut is better than opium. Lucky the early pioneer did not allow the island to be opium island forever. Luckily the island is not renamed Pulau Opium, but Penang island.

The person who take betel nut, may be called Mat Maak by Siamese?... just guessing.....

The world no longer refer Penang as Pearl of Orient, we know why. We lost our pride to make our island the best, at least good for tourists. The dirty beach, the dirty river, the dirty street, the dirty this and that; the spirit of togetherness was affected, the racial and religion sensitivity were raised; the conservation of heritage buildings were overlooked ; the over development of the island, over development on the hill slope, the poor urban planning, the traffic congestion, .......we forgot we are Pearl of Orient, we have harmony street/Pitt street, we have tolerance in our culture and food, we take Roti Canai, we take rojak, we take cendol, tek tarik, mamak stall, the happening and the time that we are so proud together. No one is marginalized by the state,unless he want to self-imposed marginalization, to be different or more equal than other Penang people or the self imposed privileged few. All actually have equal opportunity in a state of democracy and equality; all have right to enjoy life.

We forgot...

For any religion, all human are born the same, no one is more privileged than other human in God's eyes, that is universal human equality, human right basic. But there are people who want to have self-marginalize to be the privileged one, or expect to be given the privilege or better treatment than others, even at the expense of breaking the law, ethics, and religion teaching...if they fail in meeting their agenda, they create problems for people and the state. They forgot they have benefited from the development of the state, and there are many of the people still not as lucky as them......

To them, may be the island should call Opium Island, not Penang, not Betel nut Island, not Pearl of Orient; they destroyed the island , their home island with their own hands..... they are the opium of Penang state. Many of them are politician or opportunist, or corrupted government officials, or even ordinary people, with no respect for past history, democracy, elected state government, rules and regulation, or even basic human right.

Pearl of Orient, Strait Born

Penang was a remote fishing island; there were some fishermen(50 fishermen were Orang Laut or fishermen from Indonesia?)Note: According to ABDUR-RAZZAQ LUBIS,long before the founding of the British settlement on Penang island by the East India Company in 1786, the island was already inhabited and its dwellers included people from the 'Indonesian' archipelago. Some years before the arrival of Captain Francis Light, the founder of the British trading post on Penang, three brothers connected to the Minangkabau (modern West Sumatra) royal family in Sumatra came to Penang to make their fortune. Even the early settlers/fishermen were from Minangkabau, Sumatra, Indonesia. But the island welcome all Pendatang or immigrant/settlers from different places in the world, otherwise the said fishermen will still be fishermen and today, a heritage village in a remote island.

The Pendatang from India, China, Indonesia, Arab, Persia, Scotland, Siam(include Kedah/Perlis), Burma, Armenia, Germany,....etc, all these pioneer pendatang, work hard in one spirit to built their livelihood, family, and to built Penang. This make Penang different, the Pearl of Orient for others, the envy of others, all because of the early pioneer who welcome all settlers with friendship, freedom and opportunity. This is the spirit of Penang. The descendants of the pioneers then become the strait born Penang people in Strait Settlement, where they are local born anak Pinang. The Baba Peranakan, Jawi Peranakan(or Jawi Pekan), Eurasian, were the fusion of different ancestry background. The spirit continued until the independence in 1957, and all are Malaysian now. The newly formed country with citizen consist of locally born(strait born Penang Lang)or through naturalization process for those who are not locally born. All strait born Penang people are automatically become the citizen of Malaysia by operation of law, the anak Pulau Pinang. The new nation was born, Penang become a state of the new nation, Malaysia.

Penang state, citizen of Malaysia

Pulau Pinang was an island for immigrants/settlers(Pendatang), but today it is the home for people from Penang, the Malaysian from Penang. The immigration history was the past, even all are descendants of immigrants in Penang......we are proud of the history. Any attempt to ignore or to deny or to alter the history of Penang by any Penang people, is the slap on his own face as he is the descendants of his great great ancestry who are once come from somewhere; Siam, Sumatra, Kerala, Madras, Punjab,Gujarat, Amoy, Swatow, Dapu, Bengal, Pattani, Kedah(a separate nation under Siam), Burma, Arab, .......who built Penang. Any denial is to erase the contribution of the ancestors who built Penang. The issue of Pendatang become history when Malaya and Strait Settlement achieved independence from British in 1957.

The newly formed country with citizen consist of locally born(strait born Penang Lang)or through naturalization process for those who are not locally born. All strait born Penang people are automatically become the citizen of Malaysia by operation of law, the anak Pulau Pinang. The new nation was born, Penang become a state of the new nation, Malaysia. From 1957, we do not accuse or classify the citizen of the new nation as immigrant(or pendatang)anymore, as the island is no longer a colony of Britain, it is now an independent nation, all citizens are the legitimate people of the new nation, Malaysia. They are citizen under the new constitution, legally defined, a citizen right provided by Malaysia's constitution. Any question on their status today is an insult and disrespect to the constitution. Moreover, after 53 years of independence, the Malaysian are mostly local born, the history have been more than 200 years after 1786, a mature Malaysian, a mature citizen, will fully understand the history, and value of independence. As matured nation, we look forward for future; if we forever look backward we carry the burden of history, we will stay behind......Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, were at par with us once, despite facing economic crisis,they go ahead, left us behind. Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are now at par with us, they are going to overtake us despite their political problems; where are we now?...are we still linger at the history 200 years ago?....

The responsibility of Penang lang

Sometime I wonder how many authentic Penang lang or anak Pinang still around; betul betul anak Pulau Pinang, or there are only people from somewhere coming here for better life and employment?. The new generation just do not care about the state. Many anak-anak Pulau Pinang may have left to other state in 70s, when there was no factory in Penang; the situation changed when industrialization come to Penang under the Chief Minister of Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu. Many from other states come in for employment. But there are some later migrated to other countries, when the education opportunity for their children is not clear; and some are leaving because of the political situation?... But a new waves of migration and new generation of Penang people was formed, where some were from other states,and who are still Malaysian; some are from other countries who are still immigrants(legal or illegal). What is the attraction of Penang to them? Penang have a tradition to treat all equal,no matter where you come from. Penang do not have law to protect the locals like other states. It is because the Penang people have the spirit of friendship, freedom, and opportunity, which treated all, old or new Penang lang equally, and provide the opportunity for all. As long as we have choose to live in Penang, this is our state, and we are anak Pinang, we should make the effort to built Penang, a sense of belonging to Penang.

As Penang lang even trivial thing like throwing rubbish into the river I will think twice....why dirty our island....

We the current Penang people, should work hard like the pioneer Penang lang, to make Penang Pearl of Orient again....that should be our goal and not to listen to useless empty political talk and watching the political acts of some failed politician, a political opportunist. Penang have right and freedom to change the government, like in 308, anytime in state election, if any state government elected did not built Penang as expected by Penang people, we can always repeat the 308. However we respected the elected state government elected by the people, and allow the government to run and finish its tenor. We do not slap our own old Penang said. What we want as Penang lang, is to return to the glorious days of the Pearl of the Orient.....

Let the spirit of Penang grow, and let those who cannot cope with this style of Penang leave, even he is anak Pinang, as he had lost the spirit of Pinang...... We need to go forward....

Let not(us) be the blame of future generation, blame us as opium of Penang state....

Related articles

1. Roots of Penang Malay, by Ong Ju Lynn,
2. FROM MALABARIS TO MALAYSIANS: The Untold Story of Malayalees in Penang*, by Professor Suresh Narayanan, USM;
3. Jawi Peranakan, the Malays of Penang(2004), Bernama;

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