A tale of two rumpuns

Interesting to see the different reactions to the Rasa Sayang(e) controversy both in Malaysia (see comments here) and in Indonesia (see comments here). On both sides of the Straits we have nationalism come to the fore, good sense go out the window, fear and loathing of the other.

But what should the real issue be in the Rasa Sayang(e) issue where different countries have many things in common like food, culture and sometimes even history?

Is the issue one of rights or of marketing savvy?

If it is one of rights then Indonesia wins hands down. Rasa Sayang(e), Unspun is willing to bet, almost certainly originated from Maluku, Negara Ku is probably a spinoff from Terang Bulan, Batik was probably developed and refined in Pekalongan long before Malaysia got its hands on it, Orang Utans are more plentiful in Indonesia, Sate Padang was probably being fanned on the fire longer than the satay in Kajang.

If, however, the issue is one of marketing savvy, then Indonesia losses big time to Malaysia. It falls flat in packaging its cultural icons so that they come to be associated with the country. This is nothing new.

When Unspun was growing up and during his first years in Indonesia Unspun used to resent the fact that restaurants here would sell Singapore Laksa when the real home of laksa was probably Penang in Malaysia. Singapore even had the gall to appropriate Chicken Rice from the Hainanese. And what is Singapore fried rice but plain old nasi goreng or chow fan? Singapore fried noodles? Pluhese! Go north of the border and you’ll find real tasty noodles.

The point here is not to start a culinary debate but to point out the fact that the country that is most adept at marketing becomes the perceived “owner” of something.

Therefore the answer to stopping others from stealing what is perceived as rightfully yours is not to moan and groan about how someone’s taken our lolly but to be better maketeer than them.

In this way, Thailand’s monthong durians are now world famous (well, in the civilized world anyway;) ) even though Malaysia and Indonesia has excellent durians (Unspun, a durian fanatic, thinks the Medan and Taiping ones are more delicious. Similarly even though Indonesia has probably the best traditional and modern batiks, Malaysia is more well known for its batik, at least among the mass tourist market.

It’s all, as a commentator in Rocky’s blog said, about globalization. Like it or not, we all live in a highly competitive world. The spoils go to those who are most nimble and competitive. Competition here is for the attention of the world at large, for brand equity.

Indonesia, as Unspun has written about here, is a great country with tremendous resources, but it falls flat when it comes to marketing. Example: Indonesia has the world’s best coffees, from Toraja to Madheling and the exquisite semi-mythical Luwak coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world. Yet does it maket its coffee well? Is Indonesia associated with the world’s best coffee in the tourist mind? No. Even Bolivia does a better job in this area.

Ditto with the world’s best dive sites, the best orang utan sanctuaries, tourist attractions, the best raw leather (no kidding – Indonesia apparently produces the best raw leather but falls flat on processed ones, so raw leather is exported for processing and then repurchased for manufacturing or as expensive ibu-ibu handbags and shoes)…so whose fault is that? The thief’s or the man who let the thief steal his most precious goods — because he can’t be half arsed to take proper care of them and market them effectively to his customers?

15 thoughts on “A tale of two rumpuns

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  1. Me thinks it’s a political tit for tat (a lame one at that).
    Read: kasus karate cops, kasus pemerkosaan.
    Let’s all take a break … have a kit kat.
    BTW, our kit kat is better than yours … ooops!


  2. Malaysians are cheats and liars. No doubt about it. And they always get away with it. It’s time Indonesia told Malaysia to stop taking the mickey out of it. For too long, Malaysians have been treating Indons with contempt. Now Indons want to be paid for playing stupid.


  3. Indonesians always want to pursue their rights with exerting efforts in deserving it (i.e. through savvy marketing efforts or do civil obligations or by not turning blind eye into corrupt practices)


  4. Mr. Unspun, what is your opinion on comment of your minister ?

    So, Malaysia has a right to “steal” everything from Indonesia because that songs are also their heritage…. What next ?

    I am highly confidence, your country will also steal “everything” from India and China with the same reason…

    Menteri Kebudayaan dan Seni Malaysia Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim menyatakan isu itu tidak perlu muncul sebab lagu rakyat tersebut — seperti halnya Jauh Di Mata, Burung Pungguk dan Terang Bulan — merupakan lagu yang biasa terdengar di kepulauan Melayu dan merupakan warisan leluhur.

    “Saya kira Indonesia atau pihak-pihak yang lain tidak bisa membuktikan siapa pengarang lagu itu (Rasa Sayange),” kata Rais seperti dilansir kantor berita Malaysia, Bernama, Rabu (3/10/2007).


  5. If in the past our relation with Malaysia is close, I believe this kind of thing won’t be a big deal. But since the relationship between Indonesia and Malingsia is always bitter since the past, even small things like this can make a big friction.


  6. Sorry, i meant: Indonesians always want to pursue their rights withOUT exerting ENOUGH efforts in deserving it (i.e. through savvy marketing efforts or do civil obligations or by not turning blind eye into corrupt practices)


  7. Arent there more pressing matters to be dealt with instead of rasa sayang. The reconstruction of Aceh after the tsunami, the recent quake in Sumatera, etc etc….


  8. bangsa indon ini sebenarnya cemburu dengan apa yang Malaysia telah capai hari ini
    Indon merasakan mereka lebih dahulu merdeka dan abang kepada malaysia cemburu kalau malaysia mendahului mereka dalam apa2 bidang pun …

    rasa sayang ….. umpama sampah yg tak berguna kemudian dirawat menjadi barang yg cantik baru dia kecah kata hak dia …tu le lain kali jaga baik2


  9. *Sigh*
    Malaysians just never learn. Must be a severe case of Amnesia. Didn’t I just give you all the run-down on the History of Malaysia? Or rather, the origins of the Malays? Unspun please show them the way.

    All self-claimed“true-blood” keris-wielding Malays are ex-Indonesians. As such, all crafts and songs, legends and stories originate from Indonesia. Together, they form the “Rumpun Melayu”. Unfortunately this Rumpun Melayu does not stop at Indonesia. It extends all the way up till Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand right up until Easter Island. The so-called “scientific” name is Malayo-Polynesian. (yes that is the correct spelling) It was rejected in 1870’s because of lack of evidence in classifying the Malays as a race. Hence the Linguistic constipated definition.

    In fact 75% of self-claimed True-Blood Malays are no more than ex-Javanese. The rest, are Bugis (Sulawesi), and the Sumatrans. Even the “Great Malaccan Empire” was a Sumatran migrant.

    Take the great “founder” of Modern Malaysia. The “Legendary” Parameswara. Who was he? Our “his-story” textbooks tell us that he was a Prince from Palembang who founded the great Malacca Empire. Apparently a small mousedeer kicked his dog’s ass so hard that he said that this was a good place to start a Kingdom.

    Number ONE) I’ve got very bad news for you. A prominent NUS Professor is about to publish a 600+ page TEXTBOOK, which in a nutshell summarizes that


    I’ve already read it. The facts clearly point in that direction. (E-mail me, and I will get you autographed copies of it when the book goes to print at the end of Oct)

    Number TWO) Don’t’ you think the tiny ass-kicking mousedeer part is a bit far fetched? Mind you, this is in YOUR CHILDRENS” TEXTBOOKS!!!! Do you want them to be fed that kind of CRAP?

    Number THREE) Here’s the REAL Story. Parameswara was the Prince of the Majapahit Empire. There was a Death Warrant on his head decreed by HIS OWN FATHER for wanting to usurp the Throne. He ran. He ran to Singapore. After a week, he KILLED THE SINGAPORE chieftain. (Its beautifully played out in a multimedia presentation in The History Museum of Singapore. I think I was the only one in the room, who was proudly clapping when I saw this) (even the Pasir Salak, Perak Museum confirms this with a marrionette) Since Singapore was under Thai rule at that point, The Siamese King issued Parameswara’s second Death Warrant. He ran to a place called “Biawak Busuk” at the mouth of the Muar River. As the Siamese were catching up with him, he ran away again. This time, to Malacca. By then, since his only source of income was Piracy by his Bugis followers, (who plied the Straits of Malacca), the Achenese issued Parameswara’s THIRD Death Warrant for Piracy of their ships.

    A runaway Hindu Prince called Parameswara with 3 death warrants on his head. That’s the founder of Modern Malaysia. Now why weren’t we told of this? Coz it’s embarrassing! That’s why! Wanna hear what else has been hidden? I’m merely scratching the surface!

    I was researching for any trace of the “Great Malaccan Empire” and sad to say, I did not find one shred of evidence at all! To visit “Historic Malacca” you see the Portugese Fort, and the Red Dutch buildings. You also see a “re-creation” of a big building they call the Palace. I want solid evidence of the “Great Malaccan Empire”. Not the “Great Portugese Empire”, or the “Great Dutch Empire”.

    The Malaccan Sultanate existed. Don’t get me wrong, but it was not THE Great Empire which one is falsely led to believe. It was more akin to a roadside canteen selling the-tarik.

    We now ask ourselves, what all this “Ketuanan Melayu” is all about. Transalated, it means the “Lordship of the Malays”. Let us all ask who the Malays have “Lordship” over? And is how they celebrate this “lordship” by frantically waving a keris (crooked knife) at public meetings on national tv like a Drunken Wiccan Ritual on steroids? Let’s all wait until the Malays release the “official” press release on whom exactly the Malays have lordship over.

    Until then, let’s all debate on the other fact, which is that Rais Yatim specifically stated that the Wayang Kulit is of Hindu origin. Not just that, the design are all clearly Siamese, to reflect the other northern migrants’ origins.

    Final word, Bengawan Solo is so much nicer than “Taste of Love” (rasa saying).
    And Anggun’s English Albums are far superior to Malaysia’s backward-driven-cheap-copies of crap metal of the 70’s. Not worth it. Forget it. The fact is, Malaysia will always be a B-grade copycat. And to think that the Foreign Minister made an ass of himself on Hard Talk on the BBC just not too long ago. Worse, he openly admits to copying others…..

    Culturally speaking, Malaysia and Indonesia are like dissected twins. Maybe Indonesia wants to take over their “rightful claim” on Malaysia like in the 1960’s? So they are now spawning ideas about all that I’ve written so far….be warned. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.

    Truly Asia Boleh


  10. Dear Unspun, this Rasa Sayang issue has been so hot that you have depicted so many threads discussing related issues and mostly actually boils down to the same problems but heck, it’s so hot it is still burning not just one, but all your related threads. Ha ha.

    We have so many things in commons but just because there’s an invisible line, we became so different. Singapore also promotes a lot of things both of Malaysian and Indonesia but no voice from yourside of the border. Maybe the main problem is that Bahasa Malaysia & Bahasa Indonesia is so similiar (from the same root right?) but Singapore is speaking English, so we don’t understand them. Ha ha ha.

    Anyway, Malaysia is such a Rojak country which blends so many cultures that it’s just so tasty but also always confusing.

    I think Malaysia is the only country that has a 3rd language thought in schools.


  11. So basicly you are saying:
    if a party turns into a chaos, blame the host, not the party-crashers
    if a bank robbed, blame the security system, not the robbers


  12. I think I had posted something here before, heck, must be eaten by Askimet.
    Anyway, @ DeaGle: Why blame here blame there?
    If the host invites problematic guest then chaos la. If someone fighting, both also lose what. Problem with police is either they be objective or they favour one side.
    For the bank without good security, of course the robbers take advantage la. Are you going to blame the robbers or the bank for not keeping safe your money?


  13. “so whose fault is that? The thief’s or the man who let the thief steal his most precious goods”

    you are admitting malaysians are thiefs


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