Kadir Jasin reminisces about ‘Kapitan Cina’ heydays after Chun Wai makes Tatler’s Most Influential 2023 personalities list

QUOTING philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, veteran journalist and blogger Datuk A. Kadir Jasin couldn’t help imagining the meteoric rise of his industry peer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai (main pic, left) as the Bernama chairman as reminiscent of modern-day Kapitan Cina given the influence vested in him.

“Wong’s profile trajectory was seen as sudden and unique when the unity government led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim appointed him as the chairman of the national news agency on Sept 12,” penned the national journalism laureate on his Facebook page.

Pic credit: The Star

“This makes him the first non-Malay to head the national news agency. However, for a long time it was known that he was familiar with the Malay political elite as well as some Malay rulers. He is (also) very influential in the Chinese corporate community.”

Personally, Kadir reckoned that it is not surprising for the Star Media Group Bhd advisor to gain prominence “because this is the history of racial interaction in our country since ancient times”.

“The concept of Kapitan Cina and Kapitan Keling pioneered by the British colonialists is very much rooted even though we have become independent. What has changed is the modus operandi and the nomenclature,” the former Bersatu supreme council member who has pledged his allegiance to Pakatan Harapan (PH) pointed out.

“This is closely linked to the history of the Malays who are often plagued by disputes and divisions. Immigrants have become aware of this for generations and they have learned to live with it and take advantage of it.”

Yap Ah Loy (Pic credit: Free Malaysia Today)


Malays must learn from history

Kadir went on to take a leaf from the history of Melaka: “Crisis of such nature existed even at a time when the empire and the Malay Sultanate were at the peak of their power. Malay rulers and warriors quarrelled and slandered each other. Malay states then went to war with each other.”

Without resorting to play the race card, Kadir pointed out that Yap Ah Loy – the renowned Kapitan Cina of Kuala Lumpur – became famous and influential because he was involved in supporting Tunku Kudin during the Selangor civil war in 1867.

“Tunku Kudin’s forces finally managed to defeat Raja Mahdi with the help of the Pahang state and this further strengthened Yap’s position,” asserted Kadir.

“Even the Kuok’s giant business empire began with Robert Kuok Hock Nien’s father, Kuok Keng Kang, obtaining rice, sugar and wheat flour business concessions in Johor in the 1920s with the help of Malay dignitaries.”

Robert Kuok Hock Nien (Pic credit: South China Morning Post)

Fast forward to the 21st century, the ingenuity of the Chinese community to seize opportunities by taking advantage of the continued political, government and administrative hegemony of the Malays has continued, according to Kadir.

“The Chinese society with its captains of industry, politicians and intellectuals continue to progress and sustain in an atmosphere where the Malays are said to be divided,” he observed. “Whether we want to or not, we have to accept the emergence of DAP as the largest political party in Parliament as a manifestation of the ingenuity and tenacity of the Malaysian Chinese community.”

Added the former editor-in-chief of mainstream New Straits Times: “Unfortunately, many Malays only know how to be angry but are too lazy to study history. So, it is not surprising that they continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.” – Nov 28, 2023


Main pic credit: Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai’s Instagram

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