Sikh community a crucial part of Malaysian society, says Perak Sultan

PETALING JAYA: The Sikh community has played a crucial role in the nation’s development dating back to the British colonial era, and are an important part of the country’s racially diverse setting, says Perak Ruler Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah.

Sultan Nazrin said the Sikh community always stood out and made their presence known despite being a small community, making up 2.5% of the population.

“These five characteristics – adaptability, patriotism, commitment to education, hard work and thriftiness, and respect for tradition – have empowered the Sikhs to conquer the highest heights in modern Malaysia.

“From the modest beginnings of their forebears in the security forces of the nascent British colony, they have become highly-valued citizens of Malaysia, a numerically small but vitally important component of our rich multicultural society, ” said Sultan Nazrin at the launch of Sikhs in Malaysia: A Comprehensive History, a book written by Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi, yesterday.

Noting that the first Perak Armed Police was set up in 1874, Sultan Nazrin said it was the Sikh’s reputation for courage, loyalty and discipline that ensured safety in tin mining areas and coastal settlements that were once filled with highway bandits.

“The Sikh’s prowess in the security forces became so well established that, as the book informs us, even non-Sikh Indians were reportedly encouraged to don a turban in order to qualify!

“When the first colony-wide regiment was established in 1896, Sikhs made up over 80% of it, ” he said.

Royal support: Sultan Nazrin holding a copy of ‘Sikh In Malaysia’ during its launch at the Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur. He is joined by Ranjit (left) and Ranjit’s brother Gurdev Singh Malhi. Royal support: Sultan Nazrin holding a copy of ‘Sikh In Malaysia’ during its launch at the Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur. He is joined by Ranjit (left) and Ranjit’s brother Gurdev Singh Malhi.

At present, Sultan Nazrin said Perak had the largest Sikh community in the country outside of Kuala Lumpur, adding that it was the qualities of dedication, discipline and sense of duty that have propelled the Sikh community across the board.

He also said the Sikhs could be found at the top of their game in all professions, such as lawyers, judges, and accountants, and as distinguished academics.

“They equally excel in business and industry, as well as in the fields of sports, culture and the arts, ” he added.

Sultan Nazrin, who cited various prominent Sikh figures in Singapore and Malaysia, said adaptability proved to be a “main ingredient” for the success of the community.

“Despite the very different climate, culture and customs, these early Sikhs were able to integrate comfortably with the existing local community, and take full advantage of the opportunities available in this new environment, ” said Sultan Nazrin, who also praised their great sense of patriotism, with many prominent Sikhs found serving in the armed forces.

“We have had three esteemed Sikh brigadier-generals – Rabans Singh Gill, Baljit Singh and Datuk Ranjit Singh, ” said Sultan Nazrin, adding that the third ingredient for success – their emphasis on education – was reflected in the community’s willingness to invest in their children, thus contributing to the nation’s human capital.

Sultan Nazrin said Ranjit’s book helped in highlighting contributions by the Sikh community, while providing fascinating and illuminating details of various aspects of the community’s history.

“I highly recommend you to delve into this most readable book, which I believe is destined to become a classic in this field, ” he said.

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