Archive for the ‘Malaysia Stories’ Category








Update: 彭麗媛



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Dear Najib,

When Robert Kuok said Malaysia today is owed to all Malaysians, it is not the same as saying a rich Chinese owes his wealth to government. We Chinese are what we are not because of the government but in spite of it. You can’t tell the difference, pondan? You piece of motherfucking kleptocrat. Now that your mother is dead, go fuck that Nazri Aziz boy of yours.



Postscript: Why stop at Robert Kuok? If you have the telur, keep it up. And, is that all you can do, barking like a mad dog at our doorsteps, Petaling Street, now a 94-year-old man. Come to Hong Kong and say it, if you berani. Babi. You seem capable of only taking on the weak, the old, children and Mongolian women. Come to China and say it again. We’ll be waiting, pondan babi.



Najib, you piece of Malaiyoo babi. Take on one Chinese, you take on all 1.4 billion Chinese; you take on China, my motherland. Now, do you have Nazri’s telur to go on? No have? Pondan!

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Dear Nazri,

You are so Malaiyoo. Now go fuck your mother.




Postscript: Malaiyoo’s Tanah Malaiyoo…These fucked up Malaiyoo, Malaiyoo, Malaiyoo and lagi Malaiyoo…





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Here’s a wager, Robert Kuok: name a Malaiyoo more twisted than the above. All your money against all of mine.


Dear Mr Kuok,

Read Petra Kamarudin and you get a sense of the state of writing produced online today. In him are repetitive words and lines, long airy passages in convoluted syntax, opinions faked as facts, and then for a semblance of veracity little nuggets of information strewn in between those lines. All that combined substitutes for true language. He manages to displace then subvert good and insightful thoughts. Of course, Petra is not alone in his endeavor. Articles produced online are so disreputable that its ultimate effect is cynicism. We eventually disbelieve what we would wish to believe.

When China entered the modern era the government’s information 宣传 xuanchuan department was named in English as the Propaganda Department (no kidding). Seeing the name, Westerners exclaimed: “Ah! So true of Chinese Commies.”

The Chinese language doesn’t have the equivalent word for ‘propaganda’. Xuanchuan 宣传 is dissemination and it is the duty of the government (and the imperial authorities before that) to spread word to the people its rules, regulations, ideas and proposals (health care and agricultural production, for example). 宣传 xuanchuan is, to us, what it is — dissemination — not an objectification of certain information in order to influence an outcome. We were so naive to the outside world of deception. To us, if it works, it works. That is, in our innocence, the Chinese never thought of dissemination as having a propaganda purpose, which we now know to be a western invention.

For example, when China disseminated ideas about the Belt, Road Initiative (BRI), the constant feedback from the western and foreign recipients (such as Malaiyoos and Anglophiles) was that it was propaganda and, worse for it, commie government propaganda. So deeply cynical and so acculturated are western notions of government that whatever we propose with all sincerity without hidden motives is invariably treated with skepticism when not outright hostility. China and we Chinese engaging with the world has become a dangerous enterprise. We are constantly interpreted on their, duplicitous terms — never the other way around, never honest, never forthright.

The same thing has come to be regarded over online material or content. It is also the way Americans and many westerners have come to regard us Chinese. This is also called paranoia.

There is little we can do about western prejudices and tian forbid we should change their worldview. Petra Kamarudin will be Petra Kamarudin, a Form Five dropout, illiterate, part time selling nasi lemak, full time on propaganda for Najib Razak (and doing it crassly with no finesse). 狗嘴里吐不出象牙 No ivory ever comes out of a dog’s mouth.

What we can do are little things — on our side — such as with changing the English name of the 宣传部 xuanchuan bu to the Information Department. What else we can do is what our forefathers have asked of us. Recall Laozi (Stephen Mitchell translation):

That which shrinks
Must first expand.
That which fails
Must first be strong.
That which is cast down
Must first be raised.

Better yet, consider this:

At rest is easy to hold. Not yet impossible is easy to plan. Brittle is easy to break. Fine is easy to scatter.

Umno, the Malays with it, is so brittle that it is, therefore, easy to scatter. You don’t have to lift a finger to produce that outcome. This Malay weakness, of Umno, is deeply inherent, and you don’t have to look far to see why. Petra Kamarudin is prime example: mother is white and Welsh, sells nasi lemak, carries a dagger to ceramahs, works for PAS, takes money from Umno, prays to an Arab god named Allah, writes in English, argues in biblical, Anglophile terms, married to a Chinese, titles himself a Raja ‘prince’, lives in Manchester, yet calls himself a bumi and Malay — son of Tanah Melayu soil. I wager you, Robert Kuok, to find a Malay more twisted.

Petra’s assumption in this, farting aloud (to say he wrote the article is saying it nicely because how does an imbecile know what’s writing, a most noble of many human endeavors?) that you have a target in Umno by supporting the DAP rests on two further premises. Assumptions resting on more assumptions:

  • (a) you are able to influence the course of history (so that makes you a What? Jesus Christ?); and
  • (b) that the outcome of that influence is for the better (than the present? than what?).

Petra’s argument recalls your acknowledgement in your memoirs that you once visited Hussein Onn in the hope of stopping the NEP because once it were placed on the train (your analogy) then it would head towards a disastrous destination place. That is, Petra used your memoirs as evidence of intent. This is, of course, false association of past with present and an argument internally self conflicting and contradictory. Since you are a beneficiary of Umno policies, why have the party destroyed? Since the NEP is itself flawed and would therefore bring ruin to Malays, why bother dismantling it?

A lot more needs to be said about your worldviews, but we’ll leave it at that excepting this: Your ideas don’t work and your persistence to want to shape Malaysia’s national affairs goes nowhere other than bring more pain — not just on yourself but to other Chinese. Leave it, Mr Kuok. Your time has passed. We, the younger Chinese, are taking over and our methods are not yours which, it must be added, are counterproductive. You are saddled on Anglophile terms which, to put it politely, are incoherent and absurd. Stupid is as stupid does. For your remaining days, be rid of it.

We have a better way. Wuwei 无为, Mr Kuok. Wuwei.



Postscript: We, our generation of Chinese, would today argue that, as a matter of rational, strategic choices presented, Umno vs DAP or BN vs PH, the first is worth keeping. Knowing when and how to tilt to the winds is a Chinese virtue; it’s also our ancient and an excellent self-preservation device.

Update: In case your understanding of Chinese governance culture is rusty, here’s a reminder. Our ancestors have beaten and beaten on us what we should do and not do, and we forget when we ignore. Even our Motherland has forgotten the advice of the sages, but we are working and not working on it. And, James Kuok think the DAP is the answer? They are just a bunch of bananas… all these Jameses, Tonies and Ponies.

Here’s a thought from our forefathers: Govern a great state as you would cook a small fish. You know how to fry a fish, Mr Kuok?


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Reply to Rais Hussin

In 1,138 words on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) subject, Rais Hussin (above) spent 800 words talking about the West. Those 800 plus words is, in Rais’s word, ‘telling’: it says of a man struggling to give an intellectual sheen to his fascist master’s voice — Mahathir Mohamad’s.

Rais’s language is also telling about his motives, pouring scorn on China by dressing it up like he is offering rational argument. Let’s start, therefore, as Rais did, with Teresa May. (For a full text of the Rais diatribe, see further below.)

Rais: Why did May pass on the chance to ingratiate herself with President Xi Jinping’s signature project?


Let’s consider the Rais syllogism, that is, his irrationality. In Beijing, May didn’t say no nor yes. So, what is it then to ingratiate? If May ingratiate herself with Xi, then Rais Hussin will do likewise? And how will Rais ingratiate? Stick his prick out of his pants for Malaiyoo dogs to lick?

More to the point: Since when did China asked for May’s endorsement? Or Britain’s? This is because BRI is not a project, much less a ‘signature’ project of Xi Jinping. We Chinese, and that includes Xi, do not need endorsement from Malaiyoos, the British much less, for what we want to do. Hence, if, indeed, there is a ‘signature project’ it is not even outside China but inside. China and the Chinese matter more to us, and to Xi, than the like of Mahathir or Rais Hussin; we don’t need to curry favor their arses.

BRI, hence, is an initiative, an idea. You are welcome to participate, join in for the benefit of all, or to toss it aside: the choice is not ours, only the suggestion is. If you are paranoia and xenophobic, seeing ghost at every turn, like Donald Trump and Mahathir, then don’t bother with our idea. Fuck off, so you can stop making threats like Mahathir is wont to do all the time.

A Pakatan Harapan government, if it comes to that, is welcome to cancel all the projects undertaken under Najib Razak’s administration. You think we don’t know that and still went ahead to make those deals?


Rais: To begin with, May wasn’t sure if BRI could succeed.

The syllogism again: How does Rais know what May doesn’t know? It is queer isn’t it, May isn’t sure BRI would succeed but Rais is sure that it would fail. And what is it to succeed? Measured by what? How long?

This is the trouble with make-pretend intellectual Anglophiles like Rais. He thinks in terms of English verbiage — success, failure and that sort of thoughts — that pretends there is solidity to wind. So, as Hannah Yeoh would say, he is ‘low class’.


Rais: …it was actually the Reaganite and Thatcherite revolution of “small government” that transformed the world with former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad doing his earnest best to create a smart partnership that combined the private and public sector throughout the 1980s.

Well we know what that ‘smart partnership’ has led to in the present. Don’t we? Toll roads, MAS, Perwaja, Proton and on and on and on and on.

And did Rais actually say ‘small government revolution’? Does that man even know any elementary economics? Any at all? Has he any idea what was US government debt before Reagan and after? This guy, Rais, is pathetic. His scholarship ineptitude and his woolly language hark back to the opening remarks of this posting: “a man struggling to give an intellectual sheen to his fascist, master’s voice — Mahathir Mohamad.”


Replying to little media hacks such as Rais is tiresome. So we’ll just cut to the chase.


Rais: Harapan is not anti-trade nor anti-China. They are simply pro-Malaysia and pro-trade for development that can benefit the people, not just the Umno/BN or PAS elites.

Harapan not anti-trade nor anti-China? Yes, of course, not. Rais is also not anti-China. Only Mahathir is. He was never anti-Chinese; he is just pro-Malay.

Again, back to the point: the fact that Rais has to repeat, for the umpteenth time, that apologia of a statement is revealing. It shows Harapan, Bersatu in particular, is a racist, fascist endeavor no different from Umno when Mahathir was readmitted into the party and the government by Abdul Razak.


From Malaysiakini, by Rais Hussin

‘I am not racist. I am simply pro-fascist.’

COMMENT | British Prime Minister Theresa May, in her recent trip to China, politely declined to endorse the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China.

Had she done so, a post-Brexit Britain, which must happen by March 29, 2019, would have found a way to return to Asia Pacific in a big way. That is after returning Hong Kong to China in 1997 too.

But why did May pass on the chance to ingratiate herself with President Xi Jinping’s signature project? After all, BRI seeks to physically connect China with 64 countries across Euro-Afro-Asia continent.

Even Turkey is a member of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), despite not being a dialogue or sectoral partner of Asean or the Asian Development Bank in any way.

If Turkey wants to get into European Union, which is still comprised of 27 member states, and at the same time benefit from the same logic of the BRI, which has even more marketplaces to exploit and explore, why can’t London do the same?

Even Japan, knowing that the US under President Donald Trump has looked inward to jettison the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), has looked favourably at the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) backed by China and other Asian countries.

In other words, when an economic agreement promises more marketplaces and opportunities, it is a good thing to follow up on it no matter whether it is called ‘One Belt One Road’ or just BRI.

In fact, by the end of 2016 alone, BRI-related investment in Malaysia alone shot up by 116 percent. according to Hong Kong Trade Development Council.

Surely, if Malaysia can enjoy such a huge spike in Chinese investment, the same can be claimed by Britain with or without Brexit in the background; perhaps especially because of Brexit since access to European Union would have been shrunk by some 26 peer states that Britain could have otherwise claimed as fellow members.

Yet, May and her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, refused to accept the BRI even while on a visit to Beijing itself. This British attitude is telling. And, a new Malaysia, ideally with a new government able to displace and replace the corrupt Umno/BN government, should take note of Britain’s attitude.

To begin with, May wasn’t sure if BRI could succeed. If such a massive geopolitical project failed, it would be akin to various African and Latin American countries calling for the New International Economic Order (NIEO) in the chambers of the UN General Assembly in the mid-1970s.

Incidentally, the failure of NIEO happened despite the support provided by China when former paramount leader Deng Xiao Ping proclaimed the dawn of a new “Third World” which Chairman Mao had vouched to support. But NIEO failed anyway.

Instead, it was actually the Reaganite and Thatcherite revolution of “small government” that transformed the world with former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad doing his earnest best to create a smart partnership that combined the private and public sector throughout the 1980s.

While the supply-side or trickle-down economics of Reagan and Thatcher have their respective problems, leading to the rise of populist Trump and xenophobic Britain, Malaysia has seen the same problems.

In Malaysia, while the Umno/BN government continues to tout the growth of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), even a reduction of 0.1 percent of its Gini Coefficient that measures the inequity of income, truly Mahathir and the rest of his colleagues in Pakatan Harapan know that Malaysia hasn’t gained from deep and broad growth. After all, you cannot eat GDP.

Only 10 percent of the Malaysians paid income tax over the past ten years. Meanwhile, GST is imposed on Malaysians for every single transaction.

Predatory economics

Over the last three years, while BN government has collected an average of RM42 billion in tax revenue, no one knows how the money is actually spent – since the 16 percent of the development expenditure of the Federation of Malaysia is still taxed by one-quarter by the Prime Minister’s Office alone.

At any rate, May and Johnson could not endorse BRI because they are not even sure if BRI is the manifestation of what US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (photo) called “predatory economics”?

If it is, then the BRI of China is closely connected to the South China Sea and its islands of which Malaysia is also a rightful claimant.

As things stand, when Hong Kong gravitated towards the BRI, Moody’s credit rating agency this year downgraded the financial city’s credit rating. Aware that it is not seen kindly internationally, even the BRI is trying to get a friendly rating from Fitch and Standards and Poor’s.

For the lack of a better word, no one knows what is the totality of the BRI. When in a hole, stop digging. But Malaysia seems hell-bent on joining the BRI even without knowing the outcomes and deliverables other than what China had promised.

In 2015, some 1,500 BRI contracts were signed. But the Center of China and Globalisation in Beijing also admitted the US$1.4 trillion BRI project carries with it top political risks. Even China’s own AIIB confirmed to Financial Times that they can only assess a project on a case by case basis – not wholesale.

The Malacca Gateway project, for example, seeks to make Malacca the centre of entertainment, maritime engineering and abode of comfortable living.

On the side of Malaysia, it is supported by KAJD or KAJ Development. The fact is, Malaysians don’t know if these companies – real or merely acting as shells – have the capabilities and resources to complete all these massive projects.

To BRI or not to BRI?

If the BRI is good and sound and free from unnecessary corruption, the Malaysian government under Harapan will support it wholeheartedly. But if BRI or some specks of it carry the imprint of corruption, then Mahathir’s advice would have to be followed.

Contracts all awarded by Najib and his cabinet would have to be reviewed and audited again through stringent forensics. And any ill-gotten gain will have to be returned to the “rakyat” or the people.

To BRI or not to BRI, that is not the question. The question is do we know what is BRI at all, beyond the razzmatazz that Beijing has put up?

If the headlines are more glitzy and appealing than the reality on the ground, then the trade negotiators who have found these movies secure and comfortable in each of their well-nestled projects would have to start their negotiations anew – with full transparency.

After all, if Thailand can professionally push China into at least 18 rounds of negotiations for the Bangkok and Nong Chai High-Speed Railway project, why can’t Malaysia, which is a sovereign country, do the same?

Harapan is not anti-trade nor anti-China. They are simply pro-Malaysia and pro-trade for development that can benefit the people, not just the Umno/BN or PAS elites.

As Jeremy Corbyn famously declared: For the many, not the few.

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Mahathir Mohamad’s fascist mouthpiece Demi Negara prides the keris as a symbol of Malay power and supremacy to make others, Chinese in particular, their subjects. Perkasa uses it, as did Mahathir and numerous others.

These Malaiyoos… they are such losers: they have to import the steel to make a short, crooked dagger, and then they will be hacked dead (weapons below) before they have it unsheathed.

These Malaiyoos… Even in warfare they have neither refinement nor art.



At Syed Akbar Ali, the Perkasa racist extraordinaire named Demi Negara (also called Kijang Mas) has begun calling Malaysia his ‘motherland’.

Well, well, well…. we didn’t know he has a mother.

Ever wonder if Demi asked permission from the peninsula tribes, the Orang Asli, the Dayaks and Kadazans before making the ‘motherland’ claim. Ever wonder if Syed Akbar would concur, that, as a mamak, he, too, would regard Malaysia as the motherland of an Indian and a Muslim? To say that Malaysia is the motherland of a Bugis is a contradiction in terms, No? Or, perhaps Motherland of Nusantara pirates?


If that wasn’t enough — poor Demi, he doesn’t even know what’s entailed in the term ‘motherland’ — he then talks about ‘our common destiny. A task for ALL Malaysians.’

Two things are fundamentally wrong with that statement. (1) It is unIslamic. (2) Since destiny is a matter for Allah alone to decide — inshaallah — then the Chinese and the aborigines can have nothing to do with the ‘task’. After all, on all three counts of bangsa, agama dan negara, such a task can have nothing to do with us.

Next time, you want a favor from Cinakui, go down on your knees, beg, and lick our arses, from the shoes up.

Pakatan Harapan gets (some more) Malay votes, we Chinese transfer ours to BN. Umno loses the Malay vote, we vote Umno. It’s, you see, a matter of balance of power.

Malaiyoo keris the Malaiyoo. Kijang keris Najib. One pirate knifes another pirate. Adoi….

Here, for the Chinese electorate — after (a) don’t vote, and (b) #undirosak — is the third, more effective voting strategy: Vote BN. That, for sure, will save Malaysia, from the Malays like Demi Negara, Mahathir Mohamad, et al.

(See, Annie, that’s a good reason to go back to Johor. You are a big girl now, so you know where to mark the ballot, yes?)

BTW, Demi, did you really say, ‘a task for ALL Malaysians’? Your emphasis? Or did mamak Syed misquote? If you want our votes, just say so. Instead of going on and on and on with your infantile polemics and your absurd racist yada, yada. What’s the matter with your tongue? You came out of mother’s arsehole, tail first?

Here’s our Cinakui’s answer to your plea: Go fuck your motherland’s Java mother.

Or was she from Sumatra? Celebes? Maybe Kerala?

And motherland? Bah….

PRU14 is when we Chinese will, once again, fix the Malaiyoos. As the Cantonese would say, 14 = sure die. Know what that entails, Demi?

These Malaiyoos… as fucked up as the country they seized, occupied, and now under their management.

Let’s have more of them.

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Like the woman and child below, the Chinese, many millennia moons ago, were once a mountain people. More than ever before, we must assist the present mountain people to resist Malays, Islam — and Anglophiles.

This year we Chinese dedicate Dog Year, in warm, loyal friendship to the natives, the Orang Asli, the mountain people: Their lives are our lives; their sufferings our sufferings.

We had had enough of running away from Mahathir Mohamad, from Umno, from Malays and the power they stole. We’ll stand up to them, we’ll resist and fight them. We know how.


A Sad Short History in the Origin of Malay Power

The trail of Malay destruction that Mahathir Mohamad subsequently refined in the modern era, by exploiting Malay sentiments to cement his personal political power, had begun much earlier. Malays, Mahathir said, were a tolerant and generous lot. Yet this wasn’t how history had recorded the truth about the Malays and the Malay chiefs specifically.

Most glaringly, the Orang Asli (above photo) paid for this Malay destruction with their lives: Malays would hunt them to death.

Joshua Woo Sze Zeng’s article below about this destruction, though exonerates the West, dismisses a crucial point: What is the source of Malay political power and power over the lives of other peoples if not colonial British rule?

Western recognition of Malay chiefs, thus giving the latter political and moral legitimacy, was to the detriment of the wider population. The Orang Asli, the actual natives, were merely the first of their victims.

With recognition of the Malays, all the ‘Tanah Melayu‘ rights of the Natives were thrown out the window. This rule-by-fiat persecution was identical to the way American natives had paid for with their lives from White invasion and plunder.

For 200 years up until the early 1900s, the West, Britain in particular, were also doing their own slavery. More than 20 million Africans were shipped from one end of the world to the other; one third would be dead before they arrived. Another third were so weakened from conditions in fetid cargo holds, they were dead not long after.

Conveniently, Woo (a banana Christian and Anglophile) ignores that point as well, holding up the White Man instead as the beacon of civilization’s hope in the Malay destruction. If however the West had annihilated that lot of Malay slave traders and pirates, that is, the Malay system — as they did from the Yukon mountains to the tip of Argentina — then Malaysia, or a Malaysia by another name, would have been better for it. But history continues to be unkind to us: it gave us a mamak by the name of Mahathir.


Malay Occupation via its Slave Trade of Natives

From Malaysiakini:

By Joshua Woo Sze Zeng

One disturbing aspect arose from the (Ismail Mina) controversy is how history, or the lack thereof, has been distorted to instil racial antagonism among ethnic groups.

Such a malicious tactic is still being used because history is more than a record of the past, it shapes how we see ourselves and others in the present.

Learning about our colonial past in the 1900s is a case in point. My generation was taught that the British were the exploiters of our land and the destroyers of our local traditions.

Such indoctrination has led many to believe that the West is the immoral agent of decadence. The West is thus conveniently scapegoated so that the ruling regime can get us to see ourselves as victims, to see the West as a threat, and to see the present rulers as our needed defenders.

That is the recipe for a siege mentality, a proven method to win votes.

I am not here defending colonialism or the West, but to point out one piece of our history that has been forgotten, not even footnoted in history textbooks. That is the fact that it was the British who liberated the bumiputeras (Malays and Orang Asli) from slavery, a cruel age-old trade practised by locals for hundreds of years.

An old tradition

There was a saying in the sixteenth century Melaka, “[It] is better to have slaves than to have land, because slaves are a protection to their masters.”

Slavery was a valued regional trade, woven into the economy and social fabric of the local society. It was, contrary to today’s society, a widespread and perfectly acceptable practice in Malaya, before the arrival of the British.

“In the early period,” remarked historian Nordin Hussin, “slaves were an integral part of Melaka, the descendants of those who had lived within the socio-cultural context of the old Malay world.” The Italian trader John of Empoli, after he visited Melaka, wrote in 1514 of a certain “Utama Diraja” who owned 8,000 slaves.

In the mid-seventeenth century, slaves comprised more than 30 percent of Melaka town’s population. According to anthropologists Robert Knox Dentan, Kirk Endicott, Alberto G Gomes, and MB Hooker, the practice of slavery was common among the ancient kingdoms in Southeast Asia. When the Portuguese and Dutch colonised Melaka, they “took advantage of this old practice and kept the slave trade alive as a cheap means of obtaining labour.”

Two types of slavery

Slavery in Malaya has its own characteristics. As historians Barbara and Leonard Andaya describe in their important chronicle:

“Europeans tended to define such slavery in Western terms and to see slaves as an undifferentiated group of people condemned to lives of unrelenting misery. But among Malays, slaves were generally divided into two classes: slaves in the Western sense, and debt bondsmen. The latter type of slavery served a particular function in Malay society. Debt slavery usually occurred when an individual voluntarily ‘mortgaged’ himself in return for some financial assistance from his creditor, frequently his ruler or chief.”

Other scholars likewise note that, “There were even two ranks of slaves, “debt slaves” (orang berhutang), who lost their freedom by being unable to repay a debt, being above “bought slaves” (abdi). In theory, debt slaves – usually Malays in the Malay kingdoms – were freemen with some rights, while bought slaves had none.”

However, theory and practice are different. As pointed out by anthropologist Kirk Endicott: “In theory, debt-slaves could redeem themselves by repayment of the debt but in practice, this was virtually impossible because work performed by the debt-slave did not count toward reduction of the original debt.”

The arrival of the British

When they came to power in Malaya, the British began to register slaves, partly because they wanted to abolish the practice. “[The] English administration,” wrote Hussin, “made a compulsory order for all slave masters to register their slaves with the police. Regulation was passed and those who refused to register would see the slaves liberated.”

From their record, we know that there were male and female slaves, and child slavery was also a norm: “In 1824 the number in the town of Melaka was 666 males and 590 females, with 86 under-aged males and 75 under-aged females, making a total of 1,417 slaves, including 161 children born into slavery.”

“In Perak the issue of slavery,” according to the Andayas, “was more apparent than in Selangor because the Perak ruling class was considerably larger. In Perak, slaves and debt bondsmen numbered an estimated 3,000 in a total Malay population of perhaps 50,000 (approximately six percent).”

Apparently, one record shows that the price for a slave in Kinta, Perak was “Two rolls of coarse cloth, a hatchet, a chopper and an iron cooking-pot.”

The cruelty of slavery

Slavery, as practised in Malaya as well as in other parts of the world, involved rampant cruelty and injustice. Slaves were generally despised. They were kidnapped, sold, abused, raped, and killed.

Some slaves were born into slavery, inheriting their parent’s enslavement. Slaves were deemed sub-human. Thus, common folks would not even want to carry out tasks that were affiliated to slaves.

As a mid-sixteenth century record states, “You will not find a native Malay, however poor he be, who will lift on his own back his own things or those of another, however much he be paid for it. All their work is done by slaves.”

Slaves owners on the hand are dignified and reputable. Malay chiefs would raid villages and rural settlement to hunt for their human commodity.

Due to Islamic teaching that forbids enslaving fellow Muslims, the indigenous people, or Orang Asli, who weres labelled as ‘Sakai’ (slave) or ‘kafir’ (infidel) became the usual target. The Orang Asli were the “greatest local source of slaves”.

Walter Skeat and Charles Blagden recorded certain Orang Asli’s account in the period between late nineteenth to early twentieth century:

“Hunted by the Malays, who stole their [Orang Asli] children, they were forced to leave their dwellings and fly hither and thither, passing the night in caves or in huts (“pondok”), which they burnt on their departure. ‘In those days,’ they say, ‘we never walked in the beaten tracks lest the print of our footsteps in the mud should betray us.’”

One of the survivors recalled, “Many of my brethren were killed and many others were taken away as slaves…”

A British Royal Navy officer Sherard Osborn wrote in 1857 on how Orang Asli “were tied up or caged just as we should treat chimpanzees.” Sir Frank A Swettenham, the Resident of Selangor from 1882 to 1884, reported a case to the British Parliament in July 1882: “[A] Chief from Slim had a fortnight before captured 14 Jacoons and one Malay in Ulu Selangor, had chained them and driven them off to Slim.”

Those slave raids, wrote activists for Orang Asli Jannie Lasimbang and Colin Nicholas, had “prompted many Orang Asli groups to retreat further inland and to avoid contact with outsiders. For the most part, from this time the Orang Asli lived in remote communities, each within a specific geographical space (such as a river valley) and isolated from the others.”

“Sometimes,” notes Endicott, “Malays tempted or coerced Orang Asli into kidnapping other Orang Asli for them in order to ‘preserve their own women-fold from captivity.’” But ultimately those who were captured will be traded and enslaved by the Malays.

The slave owners “reduce [the Orang Asli] to the condition of hunted outlaws, to be enslaved, plundered, and murdered by the Malay chiefs at their tyrannous will and pleasure.”

Like all forced servitude, the captured individuals suffer greatly at the hands of their master. “Owners could neglect, abuse, or even kill the [slave] at will.”

There are also instances where one Malay tribe subdues another Malay tribe to slavery. As recorded by Skeat and Blagden:

“The Mantra of Malacca have suffered like other aboriginal tribes from the raids and incursions of the neighbouring Malays, their most implacable foes being the members of a Malay tribe called Rawa. This people are natives of a country in Sumatra called Rawa, Rau, and Ara… They are now settled in considerable numbers in Rembau, Sungei Ujong, and the western part of Pahang… [Large] bands of them, under one Bata Bidohom, who was reputed invulnerable, attacked the Mantra in several places, killing many of the men and carrying away more than a hundred of their women and girls into Pahang, where they sold them as slaves. The Rawa declared that they would hunt down the Mantra everywhere and deal with them all in the same way.”

The theoretical distinction between debt-slave and actual slave was used by Malay-Muslim rulers and aristocrats to enslave fellow Muslims.

Although the practice of slavery differs in different parts of the world, in the case of Malaya, “Admittedly the lot of many, especially the women, was indeed deplorable. Slaves proper were often subject to rank exploitation because they were non-Moslem Orang Asli and were therefore considered outside the pale of the Melayu. Among the debt slaves [Malay-Muslim slaves owned by Malay-Muslims] there were also cases of cruelty and other abuses; a chief, for example, might not mistreat his debt slaves but simply refuse to accept payment when the debt fell due.”

Subjecting the entire family to slavery was common through the debt-slavery system. As Endicott remarked, “Usually spouse of debt-slaves were included in the debt and in the resulting state of servitude, and all children born of debt-slaves were debt-slaves as well.”

The prestige of slave-owning

Despite its systemic cruelty, slave ownership was a local prestige, a symbolic status for Malay chiefs and sultans. Slave ownership testifies to one’s power and stature in the society. Slaves were the “main labour force” for the Malay chiefs and sultans.

“The motive for keeping slaves,” according to anthropologist Robert Knox Dentan, “is prestige.” As the logic goes, “For male aristocrats in precolonial Malay society, as for such men in most patriarchal regimes, the prestige comes in part from their power to coerce sex from attractive women.”

Besides that, slaves are a visible indication of wealth since they are a commodity in the then economy. “Through debt bondage, chiefs and rulers gained followers to increase their status and an economic asset which could be transferred, if need be, to some other creditor.”

“Ownership of slaves,” as Hussin writes, “was a measure of one’s wealth and the more slaves one owned the greater one’s status and prestige.”

The more slaves a Malay chief or sultan owns, the wealthier he is perceived to be. Thus, the Utama Diraja mentioned earlier, who owned 8,000 slaves, was also reported as the wealthiest merchant among his contemporary.

Slavery was a key institution

“Malay custom and Islamic law,” wrote Cambridge University’s historian Iza Hussin, “allowed for slaveholding, and the power of a ruler was judged in part by the size of his retinue, making slavery a key institution of Malay society when the British arrived in Malay.”

The Malay chiefs, elites, and sultans benefited from – and thus perpetuated -slavery. Therefore, slavery was not a fringe practice among some inhumane underground syndicate, but a traditional custom in the Malay worldview, a cornerstone of the community’s economy, social structure, and politics, uncontroversial and allowed by religion.

Referring to the slavery in Perak, Swettenham wrote that it was one of the “pillars of the State,” and “every one of any position had debt slaves of their own.”

Given such centrality, any hint of its disruption, in the like of policing and abolishment, will be seen as seditious to the Malays.

As the Andayas wrote: “[Because] slavery was so bound up with a chief’s prestige, British inquiries into alleged mistreatment aroused considerable resentment among Malay nobles. Sultan Abdul Samad of Selangor was so incensed by the intrusive questions that he refused point-blank to permit his slaves to be counted.”

The British attempt to abolish local slavery

The Pangkor Treaty signed on Jan 20, 1874 legitimised British’s colonialism over the Malay states and designated Abdullah (leader of lower Perak), rather than his rival Ismail (upper Perak), as the twenty-sixth sultan of Perak.

The treaty also led to the appointment of JWW Birch to be the Resident in Perak, through whom the British exercised indirect rule over the state.

To the Malay chiefs, the treaty also meant that the “Resident could not interfere with Malay custom [“adat”] and they could continue to capture and enslave as many aborigines as they like.”

However, less than a year in office, Birch was murdered by the Malay chiefs. And one of the main reasons for his assassination was Birch’s opposition against the Malays’ highly-valued adat, a key institution of their society: slavery.

This bloody episode was so well-known that thirty years after Birch’s murder, Swettenham could still recount:

“In the courses of his wanderings Mr Birch met with numerous cases of great oppression; poor people fined and even murdered for supposed offences, traders squeezed and robbed, and men, women, and children subjected to the infamous practice of debt-slavery… The practice of debt-slavery was particularly rife in Perak, and as Mr Birch determinedly set his face against it and helped several of the most oppressed to get out of the country, his action did not increase his popularity with the chiefs. Sultan Abdullah and the Lower Perak chiefs were amongst the worst offenders in this respect… they began to consider how they could get rid of the British Adviser, who interfered with their most cherished privileges, the collection of taxes, the power to fine and kill, and the institution of debt-slavery.”

Birch’s abhorrence over slavery is recorded in his diary: “[Men] and women of the country of the Sakkais or wild people of the interior are captured after being hunted down, and are then sold, and made slaves. These poor people, from what I have seen, are worse treated than any other slaves.”

Birch’s attempt to abolish slavery was perceived by the locals as a threat to their symbolic social stature, intrusive to their way of life. In practical terms, the human commodity, with its accompanying prestige, labour force, and economic asset, belonged to the Malay chiefs but was stolen from them.

As the Andayas described: “[Birch’s] attitude to slavery and his willingness to provide a sanctuary for fugitive debt slaves, especially women, was regarded by Malays as simple theft.”

Nonetheless, abolishing slavery was a must for the Resident. The stake that Birch probably did not realise for wanting to eliminate slavery from the Malay world would be his life. His assassination resulted in the Perak War, the trial and execution of his murderer Maharaja Lela Pandak Lam, and the deposition of the sultan.

Nonetheless, many of us were taught that Maharaja Lela was a nationalistic martyr who fought against the oppressive British for intruding their way of life.

Our school’s history classes do not tell us that Westerners like Birch had lost their lives partly due to their effort to help, shelter, and free Bumiputera slaves. Instead, they are demonised as threats from the West who came to destroy the locals’ cherished tradition.

Despite the violent reaction against the Resident, the British were resolute to eliminate slavery in Malaya. Not even the Perak War could deter them.


Since the signing of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty on 17 March 1824, which established British’s rule over Malaya, the colonial administrator took active measures to phase out slavery. In the seventeenth century, more than 30 percent of the Melaka town’s population were slaves. By 1827, the slave population was less than 11 percent.

When the British politician Edmund Wodehouse inquired about Malaya’s slavery in the parliament on 19 May 1884, the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, Evelyn Ashley replied, “All slave debtors became free in Perak on January 1st of this year, so that slavery of any description is now illegal there, as it already was in Selangor and Sungei Ujong.”

In 1901, the British appointed Giovanni Battista Cerruti, an Italian explorer known for his deep affection for the Orang Asli, to be Malaya’s Superintendent of the Sakai. All forms of slavery by 1915, a year after Cerruti’s passing, were officially abolished.

Commenting on the slavery custom that has lasted for centuries in Malaya, Cerruti wrote: “The British Protectorate came as a blessing to the Sakais because it officially abolished slavery and shortened their neighbours’ talons, that had grown a little too long.”

The same blessing had also come to many Malays who were trapped as debt-slaves, whose great-great-grandchildren are now being taught to hate the West, so that the present regime will continue to remain in power.

Joshua Woo Sze Zeng is municipal councillor with the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP).

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