The definition of Malay

by Tan Jee Yong

I will just like to add my five cents worth of contribution on the ongoing debate of what is really a Malay.

The hot topic concerns Halimah Yacob. Her father is Indian-Muslim while her mother is Malay. So is she really Malay?

Let us now look across the causeway for some answers.

Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is also mixed blood. He is not totally pure Malay. Mahathir’s father, Mohamad bin Iskandar Kutty was from Penang and he is a Malay with Indian ancestors from the South Indian state of Kerala. Since Mahathir’s mother is a Malay, that means that Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is really ¼ Indian and ¾ Malay. However this did not prevent him from becoming the leader of UMNO and ultimately Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister.

Dr. Mahathir’s successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is also not totally pure Malay. His maternal grandfather Han Su-chiang is a Utsul Muslim Chinese from Hainan island. So that means that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is ¼ Chinese and ¾ Malay. In spite of this background, he was elected as the leader of UMNO and subsequently he became the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia.

So what I am trying to say is this. I do not think we should be too picky on what constitutes a Malay. To me what is important is that the Elected President must be able to perform the duties objectively. If the Malay community has already accepted Halimah Yacob as a Malay, then just let her run for President.