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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Different naming conventions lead to an identity crisis for many Malaysians

PETALING JAYA: Forms asking for first, middle and last names can be a headache for Malaysians because of the unique naming culture here.

And it gets trickier when terms like surname and given name are used.

Pang Khee Teik (pic), 40, is battling protocol to correct his name on a graduation certificate issued by a university in London.

Unlike most Western and European societies that place their surnames at the end, Chinese surnames come first.

“The name printed on my certificate is Khee Teik Pang – which is not my name.

“Is (British tycoon) Richard Branson the same as Branson Richard?” asked the arts advocate, who wanted the university to issue a new certificate.

He said an official had insisted that it was “protocol” to write the surname last.

“The order of my name cannot be changed just to suit British culture.

“My naming convention must be respected,” he said, adding that there had been many “perversions” of his name because of forms that did not accommodate different naming cultures globally.

Public relations officer Haikal Amir Hamzah Muhammad Hasnul Ariffin, 22, only uses his first three names when filling out forms.

The first page of his passport reads “Haikal Amir Hamzah” but on the second page, it states that he is “also known as” “Haikal Amir Hamzah bin Muhammad Hasnul Ariffin”.

Like Haikal, lawyer Naveen Singh Sidhu a/l Manjit Singh, 28, also has two names in his passport.

If a form asked for “name as per the identity card”, everything, except Naveen, would be written in the surname column, he said.

Anak lelaki makes filling in forms complicated as it is not a name,” he said.

Monash University Sunway Campus School of Arts and Social Sciences senior lecturer Dr Yeoh Seng Guan said forms were usually a “one-size-fits-all” bureaucratic legal instrument that might only work in homogeneous cultures.

Tags / Keywords: middle names , surnames , last names


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