Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year : Penang - Unity in Diversity

This is the first day of the new year 2011(write earlier, blog's date is 2nd day).

What is the direction for Penang lang in the new year? 2010 was ugly with many racial sentiment and remarks that nearly disturb the peace of the state. It may be politically motivated, with malice intention to topple the state government. The state government survived, will the new year 2011 become worst?

I have the opportunity to talk with one Malay community leader in Balik Pulau, who is a successful businessman, and religious. He told me that the problem with some political party is that they are wearing mask when facing and talking with people. They will talk bad about one race in front of another race. They change their mask frequently to meet their political agenda. He said despite Malaysian are from different background, there is commonness in diversity. All religions teach the same thing, to be good, we have common value in our culture. Even we see differences but we learn from the differences, there is nothing wrong to be different....

I once read an article from a nice blog, the blogger wrote:

"As a descendant of the ‘Rawthers’, I ventured deep into the annals to get a clear description of the clan. It is said that Rawthers were horsemen and warriors of the Moghuls who eventually settled in South India- then they diverted their attention to become businessmen. The clan was in Penang long before Francis Light set foot. My grandfather and his brothers opened up shipping, stewarding and lighter services. Penang flourished as a port of call for many great liners. Most of the workers employed were from my village. Well the Rawthers and other Indians were fondly called by the Malays as ‘Kelings’ or specifically "Keling pelikat" (to illustrate an Indian Muslim). It was a term used to describe migrants from the Kelinga district in central India. It was a maritime kingdom which had its centre of power in modern Indian state of Orissa. I wonder what it has to do with us Indian Muslims from the extreme south of India. ‘Keling kia’ is also used in a racist context in the 'Hokkien' or 'Teochew' dialects, spoken by 'Chinese Malaysians'. At the beginning it was used without any malicious intent but now people have twisted the meaning here and there to make it become offensive. Recently a polished politician in the Malaysian Parliament used the word ‘Keling’ in a derogatory manner. He was caught pants down for uttering such words in a country where different races live in harmony. Conclusion: Politicians, ignorance of history should be excused not executed".

As I did some research on the issue of Kalinga kingdom in India, it was a great kingdom that all Indian should be proud of. Keling kia is not an offensive words in Hokkien, which mean the children of Keling. Kia means child, Teochew people is call teochew kia, Cantonee is call konghu kia, Hakka people is called Khek lang kia, Malay is call Huan kia, white man is call angmo kia. Keling may be the polluted pronunciation of Kalinga, which become Keling by Malay, and Keling kia by Hokkien Chinese, which is direct translation from Malay. Some Chinese still call Indian as Kelinga, which is from the word Kalinga. So there is nothing derogatory, it is not racist as the word kia is universally referred as child to all non- Hokkien people, even Chinese e.g. mata-kia mean the child of a police, is it offensive?. The negative perception of the word was due to the reason that many non-Chinese did not understand Hokkien dialect, and the tone used by some Hokkien Chinese dialect may be loud, especially from working class, causing unnecessary misunderstanding. Keling was never an offensive word in historical Malay word, if not Munshi Abdullah will not call himself Peranakan Keling; Tun Seri Lanang will never call India as Benua Keling. So Keling must be historically refer as India since 1600s. So please remove the wrong perception, after all it just a name, a historical name derived from Kalingan Kingdom.

Another misconception is the word of "mamak", I do not know how the word come from. According to wikipedia, Mamak is a term used in Malaysia to describe the Indian Tamil Muslim community and culture. Most Indian Muslims consider this term to be pejorative but are receptive. The word 'Mamak' is from the Tamil term for maternal uncle, or 'maa-ma'. In the context of Singapore and Malaysia, children of all ethnic groups are taught to refer to adult neighbours, shopkeepers and even strangers as 'uncle' and 'auntie', as a form of respect for and deference towards elders. But I know when you mentioned of the mamak stalls, all Malaysian will be happy to talk about. It has become something that all races accepted as the meeting place for multiracial country of Malaysia. It has become the national heritage that all Malaysian are proud of, a meeting place where all races can come together and be happy, a place where it is always mention in Malaysian conversation, the name we are fond of to talk about. But sad to say there are some quarter which said "mamak" is degrading word. It should not be used to refer to certain community. This word had been passed down through history without problem, and suddenly the word is prohibited. Should we changed the mamak stalls to Indian stalls,Malay stalls, Malaysian stalls, Penang stalls or other names?.....I think all Malaysian will be proud of mamak food, nasi kandar, mamak rojak, roti canai, teh tarik.... it sound so Malaysian and unique to our country.

Some Malay called Chinese "chin", in Kelantan even "tok pek"; I do not think it is derogatory words, "tok pek" may be Hokkien word for tua-pek, the big uncle, a respective word to call an elder person to Hokkien people. Kelantanese and Trengganu people still going to kopitiam owned by tok-pek, taking nasi dagang, satay, nasi lauk, nasi breakfast...

Imagine if one day mamak stalls are no more, kopitiam are no more, warong are no more. The stalls and shops are called coffee house, what is your reaction?.....we will all miss it....Malaysian way of life....

Malaysian and Penang lang should be matured to accept the historical facts and the actual meaning of the words before making any negative remarks. There is no communication problem in ancient time, why there must be misunderstanding in modern time?

The story tell us we must be mature to accept diversity and differences and not simply listen to baseless political talk. We should learn how to respect differences of various races, cultures, and religions.

2011 should be the year of blessing and greatness for Penang...Unity in diversity, penang lang should be bold and confident to accept the differences. Look at Jalan Masjid India(or formerly known as Pitt Street), the Harmony Street, the heritage street did not come from nothing, it is the heritage of our ancestors who were able to accept the differences of each others, and are able to live peacefully and in harmony. They left a street to remind us to continue their heritage, to live in harmony in Penang.

Please do not let racists to have their political platform in Penang; there is no place in Penang for opportunist to play dirty politic using sensitive sentiment. People elected state government should allow to continue rule without fear or favor. Any grievance or complaint should be channel through proper channel, without disturb the peace and stability of the state. With the modern technology and social network(facebook, blog...), there are many ways to express our differences, for whistle blower there is wikileak, and other ways...

One Malaysia, Malaysian Malaysia, or any other slogan... is the same. But obviously it cannot be "Satu Bangsa Satu Negara". Malaysia is not the nation of single race, be it Malay,Chinese, Indian,Iban or Kadazan. It is a multiracial country. Malaysia is one nation, not Malaya, Sabah or Sarawak, nor West or East Malaysia, it is one Malaysia, multiracial, all the way. There are differences, but Malaysia is unity in diversity......

Penang as a state, have always promote unity through different cultures, religions and people.

Penang forward in 2011....Best Wishes...

Related articles
1.Punjabi people,
2. Sikhism,
3. Mamak stall,
4. Tamil Muslim,
5. Who is a 'Malabari',


  1. Hi Raymond,

    My name is TK Lim from KL. Have been following your blog for about a month now. Does the blog name teochiewkia means you are Teochew?

    Pardon my intrusion cos I am Teochew in my late 40's and recently have found out a lot about my ancestry. Cheers

  2. Thank you for reading my blog. We should be proud of our root, it is not important who you are from, even a native tribe with basic living in the jungle, they have many beautiful things that we can learn. We are proud of our root and ancestry, but we are also proud of being a human being, and respect other people from different root and ancestry, we learn from the differences and enrich our own.
    There are many early civilization that did not survive, as they did not learn from the other culture and people who are able to cope with the changes. People who did not learn, from other culture and enrich themselves disappears from the world. You look at the ancient culture that survive, they are the one that adopt and adapt from other culture/civilization to meet the requirement of the bigger environment.

    We learn from the differences and diversity...