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It’s OK to dispute Yap Ah Loy as KL’s founder but minus the racist overtones, please

Publish date: Fri, 01 Dec 2023, 01:11 PM

A SOCIAL media post questioning the veracity of Yap Ah Loy’s role in the founding of Kuala Lumpur has elicited plenty of responses, many with barely disguised or even outright right-wing views.

In the post on Demi Malaiu’s Facebook page, it was postulated that famed Kapitan Cina Yap Ah Loy was not responsible for the founding of Kuala Lumpur.

Claiming that the history books had twisted the narrative to hide the truth thereby causing Malay history to be concealed and swept away, Demi Malaiu said this has somehow fuelled an inferiority complex among modern Malays.

While denying that the post was racist in intent but merely wanted to expose the truth, it is little surprise that Demi Malaiu’s post has elicited plenty of right-wing sympathisers who were not shy in using derogatory terms such as pendatang (migrants).

Racist undertone

For certain, history books should not be treated as the definitive source and should be subject to review and scrutiny. It is not uncommon for even renowned historians to have differing views of past events.

No less a personage than national historian, the late Prof Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim, had previously stated that the founder of KL was Sultan Puasa from Mandailing. This claim was further enunciated in a best-selling academic tome by Abdur-Razzaq Lubis in 2018.

However, fellow historian Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi is of the opinion that Sutan Puasa was not the prime mover behind the core city’s founding and subsequent development, particularly when compared to the enormous leadership and legacy left behind by his contemporary Yap Ah Loy.

“To conclude, if the term ‘founder’ refers to ‘the originator of a settlement’, the founder of Kuala Lumpur is arguably Hiu Siew,” contended Ranjit in an article entitled “Demystifying the Founder of Kuala Lumpur” which was published in Vol 33, 2021 of the Architecture Malaysia magazine.

“If the term ‘founder’ refers to ‘the early builder of a settlement’, then the founder of Kuala Lumpur is undoubtedly Yap Ah Loy,” he alluded.

Views of historians aside, what is disconcerting is the amount of hate speech and xenophobia that surrounds social media postings by over-zealous nationalists on the subject. It may be time for the Communications and Multimedia Ministry to draw up stricter guidelines for permissible content on social media.

‘Free speech’ should never be confused with ‘hate speech’ and of late, the content on many social media accounts is very clearly creating further discontent amid an already fragile racial landscape.

It is probably wishful thinking that the authorities will be spurred into action when all forms of unacceptable utterances are spewed even in the Dewan Rakyat or at political ceramah.

While the above content may be nothing new (both the racist overtones as well as the questioning of Yap’s role in the establishment of KL), it is a clear barometer of public sentiment that right-wing element is growing in influence and social media is the perfect platform for it to expand its reach. - Dec 1, 2023

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