Malacca’s Peranakan Chinese seek bumiputra status

MALACCA: Ronald Gan’s mother tongue is Malay. His clan exchanges poems in Malay and he lives like a Malay, preferring to use his fingers rather than chopsticks when having a meal.

He is a typical Peranakan Chinese, a community steeped in Malay customs and traditions although they are of Chinese ancestry.

With their rich hereditary and Malay traits, the community said they met all the criteria to be bumiputra and hoped the Malacca government under Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron would push for the status to be granted to them.

Gan, who is Peranakan Chinese Association of Malaysia president, said that during the British rule, the English administrator awarded land deeds, known as Crown Titles, to the community and accorded them the status of sons of the soil (bumiputra in today’s context).

“Before the British, the Dutch had also placed the Babas and Nyonyas as bumiputras and awarded land deeds to the community as granted to the Malays,” he said in an interview here yesterday.

His comments followed the reported move by the state government to reconvert some tracts of land in Tengkera and Klebang that were previously awarded by the colonial powers, purportedly because the actual owners could not be traced or the existing landowners could not provide sufficient proof that these properties were owned by their ancestors.

The Peranakan Chinese, who settled in Malacca as early as the 14th century, were recognised as Malays when the Malay Customary Land (MCL) was established under the Malacca Lands Customary Rights Ordinance that was drawn up during the British administration (from 1826 to 1957).

The standard Malay language dictionary Kamus Dewan defines Peranakan as keturunan anak negeri dengan orang asing, meaning the descendants of the inter-marriage between indigenous people and foreigners.

The Peranakan Chinese are also referred to in some texts as Straits Chinese.

Gan said that as many as 200 descendants currently had in their possession land titles awarded by the British to their forefathers.

Most of these properties are said to be in Klebang, Tanjung and Bukit Rambai. In 2011, Malacca Chitty Association secretary K. Nadarajan Raja also lobbied to have the community recognised as bumiputra by the state government.

However, the Malacca Straits-born Hindus, or Peranakan Indian community, have yet to receive a response from either the state or federal governments.