KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 — The National Civics Bureau (BTN) today said that there was nothing wrong with the term “pendatang” to describe the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia as it is a historical fact, despite a minister’s call yesterday for the term to be banned.
BTN director Datuk Raja Arif Raja Ali added “pendatang” merely meant “immigrant” which would be an accurate description for a foreigner or to describe the origins of certain Malaysians.
“I think nothing wrong with that word but the way you say it, that’s wrong. ‘Pendatang’ translated to English is immigrants, is it not?
“Chinese, Indians, Iban, Kadazan, they are Malaysian citizens. They’re citizens of Malaysia. Just that we study history, of course their origins cannot be denied,” he said during a press conference today.
Raja Arif said knowing history was crucial as once people come to understand that the term “pendatang” was merely describing a historical fact, Malaysia will be more peaceful.
“Don’t deny the facts of history, that cannot be done. We here at BTN make history a resource to be learnt and even (the) Ministry of Education has also made history a compulsory subject.
“Why? Because we’re confident that by understanding history we will live more peacefully,” he said.
In his speech at the MIC polls yesterday, MIC president Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam urged Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders to stop describing the country’s non-Malay communities as “pendatang” (immigrants), and even suggested that usage of the term be banned entirely.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak later assured the Indian community that they are not seen as “pendatang” (immigrants) but are recognised as important to the country.
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.