The recent National Day Rally highlighted on the progress achieved by the Malay community in Singapore, while also citing "worrying trends" in home ownership.
From what I have learned, home ownership was of least concern to the Malay community in the past — as history teaches us — because they had kampung houses and plots of land that they could once proudly call their own.
To the Malay community, their sense of ownership towards their kampung houses were unmatched; grounded solely in the understanding that their homes were built with the live and labour of their ancestors. The blood, sweat and tears of their forefathers were their idea of "securing a better future".
Almost overnight, the Malays had to witness the demolition of their ancestral houses and with the compensation provided by the State, had to rebuild their lives from scratch in an unfamiliar urban environment on what should have been their familiar island home.
The same could be observed on our offshore islands — which were mostly predominantly inhabited by Malays.
From Tekong to Ubin, Blakang Mati (Sentosa) and Brani, Sekijang Pelepah (Lazarus) and Sekijang Bendera (St. John's), Semakau to Bukom, hundreds upon hundred of Malays were uprooted from their ancestral islands and moved into the mainland in the name of national development and social integration.
A people whose sustainable livelihoods depended on the seas and nature through their vast indigenous knowledge of farming, fishing and foraging, were gradually reminded that their way of life was becoming obsolete in a rapidly modernising Singapore;
From an open and natural environment, they were suddenly removed into concrete boxes on a land across the straits; taking up new jobs or fear not being able to provide for themselves — spiraling into financial instability and uncertainty, which still plagues a handful of the Malay community till this very day.
Undoubtedly, the kampungs provided the Malays with a profound sense of home ownership, which helped shape their unique cultural identity and dignity. The loss of our kampungs in Singapore reflects just one of several challenges the Malays have in keeping their traditions and identity relevant, while proving that they are no lesser a Singaporean as their friends of other races, languages and religions.
As resilient as the coconut palms stand in the force of monsoon winds, so are the Malays in the face of adversity.
This post was originally uploaded on WUJ's Instagram page on September 6th, 2021.