The phrase “Malaysian immigrant” is self-contradictory, the Universiti Malaysia lecturer explained, and faulted poor education for the perpetuation of the myth that has been revived in the latest racial flare-up between the Malay majority and the ethnic Chinese minority.
“Pendatang or immigrants is a term, someone who came from another country. Let's say this country, and he is a citizen of another country, then he is an immigrant.
“But if he has been living here for a long time and applied for citizenship, then he is no longer a pendatang, he is a citizen,” Khoo told a forum on “Defending Malay Dignity” organised by a non-government group, Gabungan Merdeka Rakyat.
“Pendatang is only for people who are not citizens,” he reiterated.
However, he noted that the misunderstanding of such phrases, like the term “bangsa” were commonplace and present even in government forms.
“Our leaders made a mistake on forms, where you’re supposed to tick Malay, Chinese or Indian. Bangsa means nationality so if we are Malaysian, we should just write Malaysian.
“If we write Chinese on forms it indicates that we are citizens of China. Terms and words are different, terms only have a singular meaning,” he explained.
To illustrate his point, he gave the example of Malaysia’s membership in the United Nations and said that the global organisation’s name in Bahasa Malaysia translates to Pertubuhan Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu.
“It’s United Nations, not United Races,” he stressed.
Khoo said phrases or terms differ in meaning from individual words.
“Here, education is at fault. We are not taught the meaning of a term. An ‘istilah’ is not the same as a word,” he said.
Earlier this week, Sungai Besar Umno division chief Datuk Jamal Md Yunos asserted that Chinese Malaysians have the option of returning to China, compared to Malay Malaysians who only have this country to call home.
His assertion was in response to the Chinese ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang’s reported remarks last Friday, that Beijing would not hesitate to speak out against any threat that may affect the country’s ties with Malaysia.
Jamal’s assertion is seen to be a variation of the “balik China” calls hurled by some Malays in the past against ethnic Chinese, much to the minority group’s consternation as many identify themselves as Malaysians and not citizens of China.
In 2008, then Bukit Bendera Umno chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail was suspended from Umno and stripped of all party posts for three years following an uproar over his remarks describing Chinese Malaysians as “pendatang” during a political rally in Permatang Pauh.
No criminal action was taken against him, though a journalist was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for reporting his speech.
By Mayuri Mei Lin