Saturday, February 21, 2015


My music has been a continual change since I first started playing on stage in 1960.  During this time I have played all sorts of music - country, Malaysian folk, cabaret /dance, jazz, rock, dangdut and what not.

Listen to this recording of my music in 1965 here. 

Now all this was over a period of about 35 years between 1960 and 1995 when I more or less gave up active on-stage performances and went strictly into managing entertainment events. Now that I am 70 I wanted to leave an impression of what sort of music I played last compared to, say, the Malay  pop music of the 60's which I had recorded commercially and for which I am mostly remembered.

By 1993 I was already playing the keyboards and piano solo ( a one man band concept - no midi files though) and performing with some good singers like Azizah Basri for gigs.  Here is what we sounded like here.

In 2002 I was invited to put a jazz band together for a 60 min program for Astro on "JAZ"....and I manged to get a good band together and performed for the last time as a big band

So listen to this singles album that we completed in January 2015 with the help of my music industry friends....all are top-notch musicians who have helped add a little class to my music.  Listen to it here

"The Prophets of Doom" (POD) in Malaysia

Since the late 1960's I have met many PODs. It also coincides with the emergence of DAP as a political party to replace PAP when S'pore was asked to leave Malaysia. Many PODs still walk among us or have left the country for "greener" pastures. These PODs may not be happy about the politics and/or politicians and resultantly tend to condemn everything in sight. Get real I say.

But the higher the prophecies of impending doom predicted, the higher becomes our standard of living besides the higher influx of legal and illegal immigrants into our country from Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, India and Bangladesh.....besides even China. How come ah ??

Look around and see how we Malaysians are peacefully celebrating our various festivals after year. We are smack in the middle of one right now. We have more to eat than ever before and in greater variety. We drive better cars and live in better homes with better comforts from showers to waste disposal systems.

All our schools are much better in infrastructure with increasing enrollment to bear. The ports are busy as are our airports. The police and all other essential services are doing their work well. The malls, if they can also be considered indicators of the economics in the country, and other places of retreat and entertainment seem to be always full. More people are travelling overseas than before....just go and sit quietly at KLIA and KLIA 2 and see what is going on there. We have a better as well as choice of medical care ............ in short, the country is fine but some people are not.

Yes, Malaysian politics suck but there is no need to condemn the whole country which is a blessed country with such varieties of people, food, culture, religions etc..

Yes we do have problems and the main one, in case you do not know, is the "Malaysian Malaysia" first shouted out by PAP in the early 60's. This problem is yet to be resolved....otherwise we are fine. So get out and enjoy Malaysia.

BTW all govt. servants and pensioners (like me too) sudah dapat gaji awal....I believe no other country in the world does this.

The Chicken Chop - A Malaysian-Western dish ??

Is the chicken chop a local Malaysian creation: I’m not able to provide a history of how it came about, but it may have something to do with the Hainanese in Malaysia. No one outside of Malaysia or Singapore seems to know what the heck a chicken chop is. It is not even to be found on Wikipedia. Pork or lamb chops yes but chicken chop? Only in Malaysia. 


My first chicken chop experience was definitely in the 1950's at The Tanjung Club in Muar. Later on in the 60's I have eaten this superb dish at rest houses, railway restaurants, army messes and some Chinese restaurants.
Today there are at least three varieties . One is the dry type which is quite rare. The other two types come with some thick gravy. The gravies are of two types. One is mainly tomato ketchup and reddish in color. The one that I would plainly say is the more "original " Hainanese Chicken has hints of taste from the HP sauce and Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce. The chicken chop as I remember it from the rest houses and army camps of colonial days had this sort of brownish gravy. The one that is more easily found these days is the tomato ketchup variety.
Whatever it is, there are two halal places that I know of in Seremban that serve that "original" variety      with the brownish sauce  ( see picture) .....The Royal Sg. Ujung Club and Jayamas Resaturant.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


There is a clear divide in Malaysia today which is not often highlighted anywhere as I see it. I am referring to the group that is proficient in English and the other group which is not.  Let me share my experience in having witnessed this  phenomenon as a teacher in the system from 1960 to 1996 at the primary, secondary and college levels.

In the days prior to the 60’s, it was not much of a problem.  If one was good at English and had gone to an English school (located only in the major towns ) one would be able to get a “decent” job and earn something that could afford one a better life and comfort.  It was also a time when the bulk of the Malayan population was rural based – in kampongs, rubber plantations and in areas that fringe the secondary jungles.  Not many really complained and life went on with their lot in life.

Most of small towns (pekans) and villages had vernacular primary schools (Malay, Chinese and Tamil medium ) catering more for the rural folks in the countryside or the rubber plantations.  The Malay medium schools were designated differently as Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK).  The Chinese schools known  as Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan (C).  Tamil medium schools were also labeled Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan but had  a “T” in brackets  as say SRJK (T) Ladang Gaddes, Bahau.  This arrangement worked well for the existing population demographics of the time.  Such vernacular schools were also to be found in the towns to cater for those who wanted their children to attend such schools, a practice that is still prevalent.  Besides all these national and national-type schools, there were also the “sekolah pondok” (literally hut schools) that had a heavy emphasis in Islam and resultantly  were more focused on Islamic than the other types. 

There was also an avenue for crossover to the “esteemed” English medium schools for the smarter kids in the vernacular schools.  For Malay kids, they were offered places on the English school after Standard 5 for another two years into what were known as Special Malay Classes ( SMC 1 and SMC 2) after which they proceed to Form 1 in the English medium having “lost” one extra year at the primary school.  For the vernacular schools, their brightest kids were offered a special class for an English intensive one year program known as Form 1 Remove.  After one year, they go to the regular Form 1, having also “lost” one year.  Thus kids from the Malay, Chinese and Tamil media schools who crossed over were all one year older than the other regular kids that had come direct from Std 6 in the English medium primary schools.
My Gymnastic Squad at Johol in 1960

Boy Scouts of High School Muar 1960
MCKK Form 5 1960
After Merdeka in 1957 the government launched an extensive program to build schools and bring better education to the masses in line with the recommendations of The Razak Report of 1956. This report still remains the basic philosophy for education in Malaysia.  The government then started building English medium primary schools (Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan (SRJK) in the rural towns ( “ pekans” ) all over the country complement the vernacular schools.  These schools were more modern and often had better facilities than the older Malay and Tamil vernacular schools.  The Chinese schools were somehow always better equipped even then.  To meet the increase, the government started training more teachers and built more training colleges which originally were only known as Malayan Teachers College or MTC for short.  Graduating teachers from these colleges were then posted to the new schools that had been established.

This was about the time I myself began my teaching career at SRJK (I) Dato Undang Johol in 1960.  My students there came from a very homogenous background which were villages around the “pekan” Johol.  The only difference was that some parents sent their kids to the Malay school there while many Chinese preferred their kids to attend the SRJK (C). 
It is my observation from that time that the English medium schools outclassed the vernacular schools not only in academics but also in the field of sports and other extra-curricular activities.

This was even true in Muar where my (English) school stopped playing against the vernacular schools there and instead preferred playing against other similar schools in Batu Pahat, Segamat and Melaka. My football teams in Johol for instance constantly thrashed the Malay and Chinese medium schools there and this happened not only in Johol but also in all the other rural schools that I had taught in Negeri Sembilan at Tg. Ipoh, Lenggeng, Bahau, Nilai and Rembau.  Thinking about this now, it dawns on me that the students in the English medium schools somehow grew up to be more confident citizens irrespective of what careers they went into.  Call it a superiority complex if we must but they carried themselves well even much later in life.  These traits have even been passed onto their children and grandchildren.

Then in the 1970’s this scenario underwent a gradual change.  In accordance to the national language policy, the government began to change English-medium primary and secondary national-type schools into Malay-medium national schools. The language change was made gradually starting from the first year in primary school, then the second year in the following year and so on. The change was completed by the end of 1982.  In the 1970’s I was already teaching in the secondary school level.  The English medium was simply named Form 1 and the Malay medium Tingkatan 1.  It was during this time that I began to see firsthand the differences between the two media kids whom I had to teach.
It was obvious that the English medium students spoke fluent English compared to those from the Malay medium.  They also excelled and took leading roles in all extracurricular activities at school.  As the school sports secretary, I remember announcing the trials/selections for the school team (football, hockey or netball or whatever game) at school assemblies.  Only the English medium would “dare” to come for the selection.  The Malay medium kids would linger around but very rarely would present themselves for the selection process.  In this way, the bulk of the school games and athletics teams were dominated by the English medium kids. I remember in one year, one Malay medium student even wrote to education department complaining that the Malay medium kids were being sidelined.  An official from the education department came to investigate this complaint and found it to be baseless.  It was the Malay medium students themselves who had sidelined themselves.  This notable difference in attitude and educational success was baffling to me even then as both groups were Malays from the same surrounding villages.   

Now when some of the brighter kids from the Malay medium reached Tingkatan 5 many went on to take the Sijil Tinggi Malaysia or went through matriculation classes and ended up as graduates from UKM or ITM.  These early graduates would be in their 60’s by now or finishing service.  I have many ex-students from this group too.  Following the governments affirmative action policies, these early Malay graduates (both from the Malay and English media) climbed the ladders in their respective fields very fast.  Many for example became headmasters hardly two years after graduation.  There were of course also others like Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz who were from the English medium who also rose to hold high offices. 

This short write up may be an over-simplistic analysis but this divide is a national problem for the past few decades.  In 1976, I used to do part-time encyclopedia sales.  I remember visiting a UKM professor’s house in Jalan Bukit in Kajang with the idea that as a highly educated person he would be willing to buy a set from me.  This professor stopped my presentation half-way and asked me why his kids should be reading about apples instead of rambutans.  I replied that he could see rambutans right outside his house and pointed to his tree outside.  His son could have a firsthand with them but not with apples.  This reply clearly angered him and visibly upset with my answer he told me to leave his house.  Does this sort of attitude ring a belI ? I can still hear such bells ringing today.

“ English is a window to the world “said the first prime minister of India,  Jawaharlal Nehru.  Most of our early leaders too felt the same way.  But we have lost it.  So if you happen to go to an office counter at a government establishment and request for something like a stamp in English and the officer snaps back, “Cakap Bahasa Melayu lah” you may then understand which side of the divide that Malay officer comes from.

Friday, January 23, 2015


(by Joe Chelliah)

Seremban as we know it today was not always like what it is today both in physical form as well as in population demographics.  This is also true of almost all Malaysian towns in the west coast of peninsular Malaya and more so of those that have a tin mining historical past.  These towns saw better development of infrastructure in line with the economic needs of the time.  Only the roads in Seremban remain with mostly changed names supposedly displaying a more Malaysian identity.  The prominent roads had names like Birch Road, Paul Street, Wilkinson Street, Cameron Street, Channer Road, Carew Street, Dunman Road and so on.

Birch Road in the 1960's

Seremban was and still is to some extent essentially a Chinese dominated town comprising mostly of the Cantonese speaking variety.  They even had their own name for Seremban as “Fuyong”.  They dominated almost all the big and small business ventures in the towns while others grew vegetables in the areas surrounding the town principally in the Rasah, Paroi and  Sikamat areas which also house the new villages.  Probably a little tin-mining continued with some Chinese as dulang washers along the Sungai Linggi areas. This river flows through Seremban. 
The Dulang Washers
The “dulang” was used to scoop earth mixed with water and by careful swirling the mud was swept away and the heavier tin ore remained.  This is not surprising as Seremban began mainly as a Chinese dominated tin-mining entity. The huge number of man-made lakes to be found around Seremban even today bears testimony to this assertion.  Many smaller lakes nearer to town have been covered up and houses built on them.  Some had been converted to lake gardens by the British, a Britsh legacy in towns with a mining past like Kuala Lumpur, Taiping and Ipoh.

The Sermban Lake Gardens

The Seremban market was almost entirely run by Chinese with some Indian Muslims selling mainly mutton or beef.  There were also exotic animals that were easily available to suit the prevalent Chinese tastes of the time – tortoises, snakes, iguanas and what not. The Chinese had so many secret societies – 03, 04, 08, 18 Immortals, Long Foo Thong etc.  These people mainly provided protection for the business community and often had gang fights for territorial control.  They also ran brothels and massage parlors and illegal lotteries.  Needless to say, there were opium dens and illicit samsu sales too that were done in the back lanes which was essentially a Chinese social problem of the times.  Mahjong was their popular game.  Very few Chinese worked in government jobs although some educated ones worked as teachers and also in the police force, especially in the special branch which helped combat the communist insurgency.  A handful of Chinese also did a very important social service at the town council which no other community wanted to do – the job of a “night-soil” collector – a highly paid job too.  The human waste was collected at night and “distributed” / sold to the surrounding vegetable farms as manure. The rest was just dumped into the  Sungai Linggi.

Malay presence in Seremban was somewhat very restricted to the few small Malay kampong areas that surrounded the town essentially in Ampangan and Rasah areas mainly.   Most Malays in Seremban at the time were from the police force and lived in quarters provided for them.  Others were in the Malay Civil Service as district officers and clerks or technicians.  Unlike today, the three army camps in Rasah, Paroi and Sikamat were populated by British troops including Gurkhas at the Sikamat Camp.  Of course today these camps have been taken over by the Malay dominated military.  Even as late as the early 1960’s, there was not a single Malay eating shop in town.  I remember there were only two in the mid-60’s – Kak Yan Restaurant and another beside the Plaza theatre.  Earlier on, the Muslims could only eat at one or two public Muslim restaurants run by Malabaris ( Indian Muslims from Malabar in Kerala) such as Ally's Cafe.  Other than that, there was row of Indian Muslim (we wrongly call them mamaks now) mee goring and rojak stalls in the lane beside the Rex theatre which was a popular venue for Malay and Tamil movies.  There were only two mosques in Seremban at the time and that too were built by the Indian Muslim community – one in town and another in Rahang.

A Malabari Stall

Besides the Chinese and the Malays ,  Seremban also had a significant number of Indians of different Indian ethnicity too which significantly added to the non-Malay segments of the Seremban population.  One such group dominated mostly all the civil service, railways and utility boards.  These were the more English educated Ceylon (Sri Lankan) Tamils who held almost all the middle-management and supervisory posts in all the government departments.  The lesser educated Tamils manned the public works departments and worked mostly as laborers or lower posts like peons at the Public Woks Dept. (PWD), Telecoms, Electricity Boards and Town Council.  These folks were housed in laborer quarters in Lobak.  Of course there were exceptions to the rule. The Indian Muslims also traded in groceries and the food business. 

There was also a very small Chettiar community that functioned as registered money-lenders.  It was customary for the Chettiar community to build temples wherever they resided..  The biggest Hindu temple in Seremban town was more often referred to simply as the “Chettiar kovil”.  Its real name is Sri Bala Thandayuthapani Temple and was first built in 1895 even before Seremban developed fully.

Sri Bala Thandayuthapani Temple today

Then there was a small Pakistani and Punjabi community too in Seremban which comprised of mostly retired policemen.  The Punjabi community also had some wealthy businessmen who owned mostly transport companies running lorries and many of the bus companies too – Utam Singh, Seremban Town Bus Service,  Ganasan and so on.  One of the bus company bosses even drove a Buick car with the number plate NA 1.  But the bulk of the ex-policemen worked very hard as watchmen at night while by day the reared cows, drove bullock-carts, sold cow-dung as manure besides being the sole source of fresh cows’ milk.  This community was extremely frugal but placed heavy emphasis on education and sent their children to study medicine mostly and also law.  Today there is a kampong in Seremban named Kampong Singh.

National coach - Peter Van Huizen

There was another prominent community in Seremban in the 60's - the Portuguese Eurasians. Most of them lived in Temiang and also at the government quarters in Rahang Square, Melaka Road, Hill Road and Bland Road. There were so many of them at the time especially in the government services. This group played a significantly disproportionate role in the fields of sports and music at the time in Seremban.  Many excelled in hockey and even became national coaches.  In music this community produced quite a few family bands - The Woodens, The Sparklers, The Monotones, The Starlings and the Danker family had many drummers. Understandably, the boys attended St. Paul's Institution and the girls where else but The Convent.  There were many Eurasian families too - the Sta Marias, Van Geyzels, Lazaruses, Van Huizens, Hoseys, Dankers, Valens, Especkermans, Freemans, Henderofs, Jacksons, Woodens, De Mellos, Nonis, Sequerahs, etc. Many from this community migrated to UK too in the 60's..

That in a nutshell is how I personally witnessed the kaleidoscope of Seremban through my personal observation and experiences in Seremban since 1955 till now.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


The Background.

The education system in the pre-Merdeka days was utilitarian at best.  It served the interests of the time and the denizens of the Malay Peninsula in particular.  I am not including East Malaysia in this writing simply because I know too little of what happened there.  The British freely allowed vernacular education which developed along the needs of the respective community concerned.

The Malays lived mostly agrarian lives in the rural and coastal areas. To them an education was

Sekolah Attap

seen as necessary especially in Islam. They were quite satisfied with the “sekolah attap / pondok” that were provided for them even though it was only at the primary level.  Such schools existed nationwide in almost all kampongs.  The teachers had little specific training and were themselves Std. 6 “graduates”.
Better Equipped Chinese schools

The Chinese, as a rule, did value education very much more and had Chinese schools in every Chinese community that grew into small or big towns mainly along the mining areas in the west coast of the peninsula.  Their children could learn up to the secondary school level.  They had their own system of school, teacher training and syllabus.  The schools too were better built and had better facilities as the community and its leaders funded the schools generously.  The schools were also built on land with proper titles.

Tamil schools were situated mostly in the rubberestates

As for the Indians, their schools were mostly Tamil medium with a few Sikh ones too.  Most of the schools were built in the rubber plantations owned by the British to serve the estate workers.  In the towns too Tamil schools were attended mainly by children of laborers and other menial workers from the town councils, public utility departments like JKR and NEB.  Education here too was for only 6 years and the teachers were not properly trained and were educated up to Standard 6 themselves.

The schools to go to then and in fashion were the English schools of course and situated in all the major towns.  These schools supplied the needs of the British to man the clerical and sub-managerial jobs in their civil service. The schools provided eleven years of schooling, six primaries and five at the secondary level. The Form 5 students sat for examinations set by Cambridge and the curriculum, needless to say, was very much like the secondary schools in England.  The parents of these schools were the town dwellers who preferred English education to the vernacular varieties.  Most often, they themselves were English educated.  These schools were also well-built and with good facilities.  Only a few Chinese schools could match them. Teachers in these schools were trained and the highest qualification at the time was the Overseas Cambridge Certificate. Even the Higher School Certificate only came about after Merdeka.  Of course, the British freely allowed missionary schools to operate. These schools served well and left a legacy hard to follow.

English schools were the most prestigious ones

After Merdeka

By 1956 it was already becoming crystal clear that we were going to be independent soon.  The government set up an education commission to plan education for an independent Malaya.  The commission was led by Tun Razak.

                                                                                                               Elite Schools - MCKK & Kolej Tunku Khursiah                                 

The Report provides for Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil schools at the primary school level and Malay and English schools at the secondary level.  The Malay medium schools were referred to as "national" schools while the others were referred to as "national type" schools.  All schools are government funded and use a common national curriculum regardless of school type. Other provisions include :-
  • Formation of a single system of national education
  • Commencement of a Malaysan-orientated curriculum
  • Conception of a single system of evaluation for all
  • Recognition of the eventual objective of making Bahasa Melayu the main medium of instruction.
Today, there is much dissatisfaction regarding the school system and education in general.  Almost all harsh critics are unaware that the main framework and aims of The Razak Report have indeed been achieved.  National unity which was the report's primary aim, however, remains elusive.

The eventual and ultimate objective of making Bahasa Malaysia the main medium of instruction has become a praiseworthy success and  was not really the result or handicraft of Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim or even Tun Dr. Mahathir…. those who think so simply do not know their history well.

The proliferation of new schools in Malaysia since Merdeka is can be envious by the standards of almost all countries that were colonized.  Today we have, in fact, such a plurality of schools that is actually working against national unity.  No where in the world do we have such a wide spectrum of schools - national schools, national type vernacular schools, private schools, religious schools and international schools.  While such an array of different school types may be not without benefits and provided for in our constitution, it definitely is a contributory factor in our failing efforts at true national unity these was also the main aim of The Tun Razak Report of 1956.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Music is part of this world of sound, an art based on the organization of sounds in time. We distinguish music from other sounds by recognizing the four main properties of musical sounds: pitch, dynamics (loudness or softness), tone color, and duration. I am going to comment briefly on the pitch aspects only for now.  Contrasts between higher and lower indefinite pitches play a vital role in contemporary western music and in musical cultures around the world.

Now, imagine playing the piano only in the very higher pitches or having to listen to only the piccolo throughout a performance.  There has to be a fair mix of high, medium and low pitched notes. This is easily observable in any western or eastern music ensembles. Just as in life, there has to be a sensible balance in music too.

Now why am I saying what may be seen or known as an obvious fact.  Well, I have for long spoken up against the use of the treble recorder in music education not so much for basic learning purposes but for recorder ensembles that feature only the treble recorders at music contests instead of the whole recorder family ensemble. In the world of popular music the soprano saxophone has become popular but to me, it is a wearisome instrument to listen to how ever perfectly blown for long, say as in a Kenny G concert.

Whenever I have to put a band together for soft music situations I prefer the lower pitched instruments such as the tenor saxophone or guitar in preference over the soprano sax.  That is why there is a pitch register classification for voices and instruments namely the soprano, alto, tenor and bass.  Any musical ensemble has a clear mix of all even in non-western music. And when a high pitched instrument is featured it is seldom for an entire episode but in combination with other medium pitched instruments. That is why we have instruments from the very low to the very high octaves. 

But then this is only my opinion and everyone has one too …. Music and human aesthetics are not as precise as the sciences.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


For those who do not understand the heading let me first explain what I mean.   An Ali-Baba venture in Malaysia is a colloquial term that refers to an arrangement that is commercially motivated in which a Malay and a non-Malay partner enter into a business venture and relationship.  In this arrangement, the Malay usually plays a dormant sleeping partner role.  It is an arrangement in which the Malay who enjoys certain special rights is “used” to do business with a non-Malay, usually Chinese.  Just for information, I am reliably informed that this sort of thing happens in present day Dubai too with the Arab owning the majority share of 51% as a sleeping and decision making partner with a non-Emirates citizen to venture into any business there. And it is official and above the board at that.

What I intend to posit here is that the British were already doing it before Merdeka itself and struck up a deal with the local sultans in which the sultans were “well taken care of” while the British were allowed to do whatever they thought fit economically and more here.  This arrangement worked well and soon Malaya became the world’s largest producer of not only tin but also rubber.

The first Europeans who came here before the British were the Portuguese and the Dutch respectively.  Both occupied Melaka for periods exceeding 100 years during which time Melaka was ruled by them but were mere trading posts then, nothing more nothing less. The Portuguese were in Melaka for 130 years between 1511 and 1641. They endured years of battles started by Malay sultans who wanted to get rid of the Portuguese and reclaim their land.  The Dutch ruled for almost 183 years with some intermittent British occupation.  This Dutch era saw relative peace with little serious interruption from the Malay kingdoms that already existed at the time but this period also marked the decline of the importance of Malacca because The Dutch preferred Batavia (present day Jakarta) as their economic and administrative center in the region.

In 1824, the British and the Dutch signed the Anglo-Dutch Treaty which saw the British taking over Melaka by swapping Bencoolen ( Bengkalis in Sumatra) with the Dutch among other terms.  The Malays were not a party to this treaty.  The Anglo–Dutch Treaty of 1824 officially demarcated two territories  Malaya, which was ruled by the United Kingdom, and the Dutch East Indies, which was ruled by the  Dutch besides a brief 4 year Japanese Occupation.
Now the colonial British were much more witty that the earlier Europeans.   They studied the Malays well and noted a few things about the Malay psyche which helped them tremendously to “rule” and benefit better.  They noticed that :

1.      The Malays were staunchly Muslim and adhered so much to Islam that it dawned on them that a Malay is a Muslim and a Muslim is a Malay over here.
2.      The Malays had an unquestionable devotion and love for their respective sultans and leaders.
3.      The Malays loved their culture and traditions including some animistic beliefs.
Thus it became apparent to the British colonials  that if they were to get anywhere with the Malays and their sovereign sultans it is in their best interests to :

1.      Recognize the sultan and his sovereignty
2.      Not do anything to antagonize the Malays by for example trying proselytize Christianity to them or do or say anything against Islam but instead recognize and respect Islam as well.
3.      Also respect the Malay culture and all the traditions and customs that go with it.
In recognition of the above the British then :
1.      Pampered the sultans with pensions, built lovely stone mansions as istanas (palaces) for them and taught them the social graces of the Europeans such as fine dining, music, dancing, cigars, polo and brought them to England to see for themselves what England was like and how progressive it was.
2.      Allowed the sultans be in total charge of Islam and the Malay cultural practices and hereditary customs (adat) and lands.
3.      Built schools, mosques and suraus for the Malays in the villages which must have immensely pleased the Malays who were almost all rural denizens at the time.

In return for all the aforesaid, the Malay sultans gave a free hand to the British to do whatever they wanted with Malaya economically and sometimes even more than that.  This is what I
alluded to as the original Ali -Tom relationship.  The Malay sultans were happy and so were the Malays who were lived mainly as agrarians in rural areas or as fishermen along the coasts.  In return, the British brought in (or were allowed to bring in) an Indian labor force and also the Chinese to transform the Malayan landscape into rubber plantations and tin mines. These new economic efforts were principally manned by Indian and Chinese migrants.   Today any lake or for that matter any town you see in the west coast is a tell-tale sign of tin mines and Chinese settlements.  And, almost any rubber plantation (or palm oil plantation now) that exists today is another tell-tale sign of the efforts of the migrant Indians in Malaya besides the roads, railways and ports.

It is sad that most people do not realize these things. I have always thought of the Malays as a as hornets which are generally very peaceful.  But God help you if you go and poke or provoke their nest.

Related Pictures


Monday, September 1, 2014



This is a good question if you ask me. The common way has always been one of direct confrontation and to fight it out physically and in the open.  This has been the way of the many so-called civilizations in human history.  Ironically, this way is considered barbaric but is still with us till today and being openly practiced everywhere.

Generally, the term "barbarian" refers to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized.  It was first used by the Greeks on any non-Greek.   The word is usually used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization and viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage.  In the Americas the native Indians preferred consultation and negotiation with the Europeans through pow-wow sessions while smoking the peace pipe.  They settled for peace with numerous treaties with the Europeans.  None of the treaties were honored by the far more “civilized” Europeans.  This sort of treachery happened to the native Indians in both the Americas and even in Africa.  Open confrontation or threat with a conspicuous military advantage has happened in all the countries that were colonized by the Europeans.  In fact, it is actually an ongoing reality where “might is right”.

Why am I rambling on about this confrontation and consultation thing one might ask? Okay let me get to the point.  Right here in Malaysia too it is a problem now as I see it.  Open confrontation has become increasingly conspicuous especially among Malaysians.  Such Western orientation may not be actually in sync with our Malaysian culture.  This is being seen not only in the politics of the day but also in other public spheres too.  If one understands the predominant and mainstream Malay culture in Malaysia well, it is a well-known fact that most Malays prefer to sit down and talk things over in a consultative style.  Even if they are adversaries the confrontation is subtle and in the past even poetry was employed to “whack” each other.  If confronted physically the reply is “ Melayu pantang dicabar” and the average Malay mind only then resorts to the use of force.  Even Chinese secret societies preferred to table talk first before hacking each other with parangs.  The Indians?? No comment because I really am not too sure.

Today we are seeing open confrontation even by the Malays against Malays and of late even confronting the royalty.  Non-Malays who are secondary in the main national equation in such matters have also joined in the fray.  We may be westernized in many ways but deep down we are all colored people and considered natives by the West which itself outclasses us with an amazing history of world wars, civil wars, war of roses including the famous 100 Years War between France and England.

All religions and real civilized cultures advocate consultation rather than confrontation.  I do hope that the majority of younger folks in Malaysia too will see it that way.  In fact there is no other way to move forward as we have done in the last 57 years. Less confrontation and more consultation please.