Malaysiakini News

Sabahans and Sarawakians renegotiating identities

Evelyn Peiqi Ooi  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT There existed a time before race selection in government forms defined who we were ethnically. The Chinese for example, have different dialect groups; among the larger ones are Cantonese, Hokkien and Teochew.

In earlier versions of the five-year Malaysia Plans, these sub-groups were individually specified - different from today’s aggregate Chinese category. Such tabulation was done before the 1970s, before the fateful May 13, 1969 riots acted as a precursor to the New Economic Policy. The policy’s objective of restructuring society necessitated clearer delineation of each race, which eventually promoted the emergence of a new racial identity - the bumiputeras.

By definition, the bumiputeras, which means ‘sons of the soil’, constituted the Malays and the indigenous people of Malaysia. However, the identity of bumiputeras were associated with being a Malay-Muslim - at least in peninsular Malaysia.

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