Malaysian Tourism Minister on Rasa Sayang

Wading into the Rasa Sayang controversy is the Malaysian Minister that every blogger loves – to hate mostly, because of Tengku Adnan‘s infamous comment that all bloggers are liars and unemployed and that 80% of them are women.Unspun thinks that the root of the problem may lie in the different understandings of the word Malay. To the Malaysians, especially the Malaysian Malays, seem to think it refers to a Malay race, as proposed by the German scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (see Wikipedia reference here). It is a theory that has been dismissed by anthropologists, continues the Wikipedia entry, but “is still often used in this context, and it is the basis for Malay identity within the Malaysian nation.”

If you go by the first definition then sure, Malaysia has the right to use anything in the Malay Archipelago because it belongs to the Malay race.

If you go by the second definition then, boy, Malaysia can’t even claim to be the king of the mountain of the Malay world. The Melayus of Sumatra especially can claim the right to the throne since it is in their island that Iskandar Zul Karnian (Alexander the Great, how did a Greek get into the picture? It’s all Greek to Unspun) appeared and all floweth from him.

To Indonesians and others, Malay means “the ethnic group located primarily in the Malay peninsula, and parts of Sumatra and Borneo.” In other words the Melayu is a small ethnic group holed up in mainly Sumatra where Indonesians are concerned. And they are a small minority compared to the javanese, the Sundanese, the Bataks and the Ambonese, who seem to be the undisputed source for Rasa Sayang(e).

So here’s a wicked idea to add to the controversy: What if Sumatran Melayus sue the Malaysian government for trying to pass itself off as the Big Swinging Stick of the Malay world? Iskandar, after all, did not see it fit to trample on their earth but Sumatra’s. And who’s got the Melayu River where Iskandar made his debut?

clipped from

KUALA LUMPUR: Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor has dismissed an Indonesian legislator’s claim that the song Rasa Sayang belonged solely to Indonesia.

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20 thoughts on “Malaysian Tourism Minister on Rasa Sayang

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  1. If Melayu is a small ethnic group, I cann’t understand why Soekarno pick Bahasa Melayu as the Bahasa Indonesia. Why not pick the major ethnic group’s language as national language. Really puzzle me.


  2. Because Malay language- the Indonesian variety- has been the lingua franca of Indonesian people for centuries. It wasn’t Soekarno who chose the language but the 1928 Youth Declaration that stated ‘One Language: Indonesian’ (see it was already renamed Indonesian back then). This is the beginning of a Pan-Indonesian nationalism.

    Why not Javanese- the language of the majority? Because unlike Malay, it is heavily socially-stratified, very feudalistic – as opposed to the egalitarian nature of Malay. And what a smart choice: to pick a minority’s language to accommodate a multi-ethnic entity.


  3. now then these are very interesting facts that uguys brought…thats really stunned me. all the while i thought bahasa indonesia and bahasa melayu are two different things although all the similarities hehe


  4. Thanks for sharing your fair view on this issue. It’s always nice to see someone who can be objective in analyzing the issue even when it is related to his/her own identity.

    Btw, Long John, Kemsey is right, Malay is egalitarian in its nature, thus much easier to be learned, unlike Javanese. Also, Malay was a trading language, it’s widely practiced in coastal areas of most big islands.


  5. I think Malay is a political term, and this is in reference to a group of people who “dominate”as a single big majority, a country. In absence of a proper term they call themselves Malay, or Melayu. If it is not a political term Melayu means “lari” or to run. Acordingly, a group of Indonesian people left in a lurch or to flee so they were referred to as Bangsa Melayu, or a race who flee or run away. If you say “Babi Melayu” it is not an insult but merely a reference to a pig that was running away form a hunter. But frankly I do not see where the attempt to scoff off the such a thing as a Malay race debate is heading for. As long as the Malay are the dominant group running the country called Malaysia I am a Malay, but if tomorrow the DAP were to come to power and decided to call us Malay a Bangsa Moron, hey there is nothing that I can do! Because I am in a minority. MY other question is should Australia be given back to the aborigines? Dont think that will ever happens. Well the truth of the matter is, the aborigines there are so disenfranchised and insignificant and such a pathetic defeated people, they have to be content living under a rule of a race called Australian, another political term eh!

    If you ask me let them take the song or any song back who cares! Even the Negara Ku, Terang Bulan, who cares, lets have another new anthem, like Majulah Malaysia?


  6. Rusdi, just to interject, someone somewhere along the way decided to “upgrade” the term Orang Melayu to “Bangsa Melayu”. Melayu is merely a sub-ethnic cluster of a much larger sub-ethnic group of the Southern Yunan Chinese. Ah Mei, the Taiwanese singer belongs to the Alisan Tribe. And they are the predecessor ancestors of all Malay/ Melayu/ Phillipino/ Indonesians of today. (Please read “Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archepelago and the Malay Peninsular” by Munoz and Prof John Miksic. for a more indepth undertanding)


  7. Unspun, Unspun, looks like I gotta spank you again for not doing your homework thoroughly again. Alexander the Great never sowed his royal oats personally here in Truly Asia or its’ genetic parent. Read again pages 1-3 of the “Sejarah Melayu”. It is his grandsons which appeared around Gunung Gantang who are the alleged forefathers, (or is it 4 fathers? hee hee) of the Melayu. MBRAS sells the English transalation for ease of understanding. For maximum pain, they also sell the Jawi original version.


  8. @ Michael: promises, promises 😉 I had thought it was Alex himself in the legend. So it were his sons then? Well, still an improbable tale and still gives Sumatra a claim to being the Center of the Malay World (if my geography is better than my history and Gng. Gantang is in Sumatra).


  9. *spank spank spank*. It’s his Grandson! Sons of his sons (or daughters? who knows?) There’s no actual evidence or proof at all. Just transalating what the Sejarah Melayu says… You can also read Hikayat Siak, which is about 60% of the Sejarah Melayu for a slightly different perspective, or maybe even Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai…. Next time please let me know if there are such “hot discussions”. You know how to reach me… 🙂


  10. Dear Michael Chick,

    When the Kuomintang took over Formosa also known as Taiwan, there were a series of major ethnic cleansing on the original Malay inhabitant of the island, who are now being referred to as Alisan. Yes we all know Ahmei is of a Malay descent by race.
    Now then, as long as Malaysia is ruled by the majority Muslim Malays, the Malays will be referred to as Bangsa Melayu who once lived in a country called Persekutuan Tanah Melayu, or the Federation of Malaya.
    Another issue I have is this, I am a Malay of a Minangkabau descent, and my ancestors came from Pagar Ruyong, in West Sumatra, and my mother has Dutch blood, a lot, and I my have some bloody Greek DNA or whatever it is, by I am a Malay, or Bangsa Melayu living in a country once called Persekutuan Tanah Melayu. Seriously, there is no issue about the term Malay, Melayu or Bangsa Melayu here, I am happy!

    P.S. Oh if there ever any attempt to say that Malays in Malaysia are also orang pendatang, or immigrants, I have to agree, but my question still remains the same: Should Australia be given back to the aborogines, the same way as New Zealand be given back to the Maoris, who are the original, inhabitants and also probably Malays, on both counts the answer is NO I don’t think so!
    Happy Hari Raya to all!


  11. Let’s draw a parralell, for simplicity sake. i hope we all put our thinking caps on for this.

    The “Hokkiens” are a race! Anyone who also is not a Buddhist ceases to be called Hokkiens! So, Hookine Christians cease to be Hokkiens immediately. At best, they are class two migrants who live onthe same land. They will be called a “pendatang”. And anyone else (including Arabs, Africans, British, etc) who Speaks Hokkien, Dresses like a Hokkien, practises Hokkien customs; will from today be called a member of the Hokkien Race. The Hokkien Race is the BEST RACE on earth. They will call it the “Ketuanan Hokkien”. aka the “Lordship of the Hokkien Race”

    Does anyone else see how absurd this sounds?

    Now replace the word Hokkien with Malay, and Buddhism with Islam. Go figure this….


  12. again mike u are talking the wrong way around, how many times do i have to tell ya huh???
    this ketuanan thing was created by those UMNO ppl lah, its political, its not even widely accepted in malaysia. cut the crap aledy and cheer up dude, u really need to think more and less research…crap


  13. When does everyone migrate back home for the raya? Drive safe, and if anyone gets sleepy, please pull over fro a quick nap, piss and have a good “strong” cup of coffee before continuing. Don’t die, and do please come back so we can continue this friendly sparring sessions.

    Happy Raya to you’all….. 🙂


  14. Unspun — brilliant idea ! It’s time to sue all those bastards who sprang from the Rumah Korban Lelaki (hospital).

    Just who do they think they are with their weird Riau accents, anyway ? As Soekarno said, Malaysia was the puppet of Britain (negara bhoneka inggris).

    Thank you, also for displaying the proof of the Malay race. Ultimately, we are all one family, but differences are normal, even natural in a democracy. Time to make Malaysia our maid, especially this week when we’re all short !


  15. Just quoted from your post :

    “If you go by the first definition then sure, Malaysia has the right to use anything in the Malay Archipelago because it belongs to the Malay race.”

    Rasa sayang song even not come from Malay ethnic. It come from Maluccu,eastern part of Indonesia.
    Come on,don’t make any argument for an excuse. Just tell the world that the song is coming from Indonesian heritage. That’s it !


  16. i’ve been following the subject of malay for sometime and I think malay its something like the use of chinese, who is chinese, what is the definition of chinse?, as far as i know there is han ethnic, uquir, manchu etc (correct me if i’me wrong here).

    some interesting note, i remember reading some article (its indonesian and i dont remember what magazine it is) about representation of etchnic is some park, so in that park, they were able to represent javaness desgin, batak, bugis, acheh, minangkabau etc, however there is no malay design, and when asked the curator (i guess) said, it is dificult and unsure what to do because he cant determine what is malay.


  17. there is no such thing as malay ethnic, you could become malay if you are javanese, or maluku, or minang or filipino, but the other way round not possible, just simple example, current johor sultan is bugis line, parameswara from sumatera, probabaly minangkabau, riau people is orang laut, … who is malay anyway? kelantanese is malay… is it? part of them are people from champa kingdom in southern vietname…, pattani?… there are both pattani and malay, there are both bugis and malay, there are both javanese and malay… at then end of the day, its the people themself, the decide who they are


  18. Hi hi, let’s just say that all scientific and general names records are done by the the Western World (Yes, unfortunately, they are still the stronger powers on earth since the last few centuries).

    When they reached our shores hundreds of years back, Malacca was more famous and Malay languange were the lingua franca during that time. So, being new to the region, they conveniently categorised all ethnic groups in these regions as Malays. This includes every locals from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei & Philipines irregardless what ethnic they were as long as they are brown skin and speaks Malays. The same mistake were done on both Chinese & Indians by the world. Pls see my comment in Should Unspun or shouldn’t Unspun?

    @HumbleObservation & Rusdi Mustapha – I think your queries are best answered in that thread.


  19. Now …. we see a new claim by Malaysian Tourism Board …. Pendet Dance … Hahahaha
    Seniman Bali Protes Klaim Malaysia atas Tari Pendet
    Sabtu, 22 Agustus 2009

    TEMPO Interaktif, Denpasar – Kalangan seniman Bali memprotes klaim Malaysia atas Tari Pendet yang digunakan dalam iklan Visit to Malaysia. Tindakan itu dianggap sebagai pencurian atas kekayaan budaya masyarakat Bali.

    Seniman tari Wayan Dibia mengaku terkejut dengan kejadian itu. “Pendet adalah tari yang sudah ratusan tahun dimainkan warga Bali,” ujar mantan Rektor Institut Seni Indonesia (ISI) Denpasar itu, Sabtu (22/8).

    Pada awalnya, tari itu adalah tari sakral yang dipertunjukkan pada upacara ritual keagamaan untuk menyambut turunnya para dewa dari kahyangan.

    Tetapi pada 1950, tarian tersebut dimodifikasi menjadi tari penyambutan tamu dengan mendapat sebutan khusus sebagai Tari Pendet Puja Astuti. Penciptanya Ni Ketut Reneng dan I Wayan Rindi menjadikan Pendet dengan empat penari sebagai bagian dari pertunjukan turistik di Bali Hotel (Denpasar).

    Pada tahun 1961, I Wayan Beratha mengolah kembali tari Pendet dengan lima penari yang bertahan hingga saat ini. ”Tahun 1962 kembali dimodifikasi sebagai tarian massal dengan 800 penari untuk pembukaan Asian Game di Jakarta,” jelas dia.

    Protes kalangan seniman itu akan difasilitasi Dewan Perwakilan Daerah (DPD) RI untuk menjadi protes resmi dari lembaga negara di Indonesia. Anggota DPD RI dari Bali Ida Ayu Mas menyatakan, sikap pihak Malaysia itu tidak bisa dibiarkan. ”Apalagi sudah ada beberapa kejadian sebelumnya,” ujar dia.

    Sementara itu DPD RI juga akan meminta pemerintah Indonesia untuk merlindungi karya-karya budaya nusantara. Misalnya dengan mengurus hak cipta dari komunitas budaya di Indonesia. Karya-karya itu harus dianggap sebagai kekayaan bangsa yang tidak bisa sembarangan diklaim bangsa lain.


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