Malaysian First: Riong Kali’s pants on fire?

Kalimullah "Riong Kali" Masheerul Hassan

Kalimullah “Riong Kali” Hassan is back writing. After a long hiatus, the media persona non grata  picked the topic of ‘Anak Malaysia’, which was a recent polemic initiated by DAP ADUN for Subang Hannah Yeoh.

Anak Malaysia — Kalimullah Hassan

June 10, 2011

JUNE 10 – Funny, isn’t it?

It’s not easy to be categorised as anak Malaysia in Malaysia. Fact is, it’s impossible to have your official documents state that you are a Malaysian.

I admire Hannah Yeoh and her husband Ramachandran Muniandy’s attempt to list their child as anak Malaysia. Perhaps they have started the national debate that may one day see the change in policy that many of us anak Malaysia have wanted all these years.

When my eldest child was born in 1984 in Muar, Johore, I faced that dilemma. My birth certificate says I am a Pathan as are both my parents. But my wife is Malay, although she comes from a mixed background, tracing her roots to Sri Lanka and China as well. She is Singhalese, Chinese and Malay.

And so there was this weird conversation I had with the clerk at the district office in Muar. He asked what a Pathan was. I said it was an ethnic group dominant in the North West frontier, in Afghanistan mainly, but also well spread over the sub-continent in Pakistan and India.

“Agama Islam ke, Encik?” he asked. Yes, I said, it’s so stated in my birth certificate.

Then he says my daughter’s race should follow the father, so, she was listed as Pakistani. Hang on a minute, I argued. A Pakistani is someone who is a national of Pakistan. My daughter is a citizen of Malaysia and should be Malaysian. Or, if he insisted on following the father’s ethnicity, she should be a Pathan.

But the clerk, who held the power of determining what ethnic group or nationality my daughter belonged to, insisted there was no category for Pathans in the official list. So, after a while, I gave up arguing. What’s in a name? A rose, by any other……

My wife was not happy. She insisted that the children should grow up with one identity and it was not going to be Pakistani, a country we had till then never been to and where we had no roots at all. But despite her arguments and tantrums at the district office when she was out of confinement, the only compromise she achieved was that instead of putting —— daughter of (d/o) Kalimullah, they removed the daughter of (d/o) and left just the name we gave her.

My second and youngest daughters were registered as Malays. That, I suppose, was because both my wife and I are Muslims. But my son, the third in the family, who was also born in Muar and was probably registered by the same clerk in the district office, was listed as Indian.

When the children started going to school, we had to explain to them why all these happened; why, although they were of the same mother and father, they were categorised as Pakistani, Malays and Indian. But it had not ended.

A few years ago, I was cautioned by the Road Transport Department (RTD) that if I did not change my identity card from the old plastic version to the new MyKad, they would not renew my road tax for my car the following year. So, I proceeded to the National Registration Department (NRD) in Damansara and asked for a change.

Déjà vu.

The clerk looked at my birth certificate and asked what a Pathan was. I smiled and explained and then – this guy was a bit meeker and not assertive — he asked what race he should put me down in my IC. “Bangsa saya Malaysia,” I said.

He asked whether he could put me down as “India”.

Now, having been through this all my life, I decided to have a little fun with him. “No, you can’t,” I said. “I am Malaysian. I am not from India. I was born in Malaysia. I am a Malaysian citizen.”

I asked him a theoretical question. What if you were born in England? And what if they put down your bangsa as “British” or “English” in your IC? Would you accept?

“Of course not,” he replied. “Saya Melayu; saya rakyat Malaysia.”

Therefore, I said, I should be Malaysian in my IC, or if that was not possible, I was certainly a Pathan.

The problem was, he said, there is no category for Pathan in the NRD. I had to be either a Malay, Chinese, Indian or dan lain-lain (others). The clerk was perplexed and confused and I felt sorry for him. I had had enough fun but it was the policy makers who had to decide, not the employees who were only following instructions. Therefore, I told him that perhaps he should talk to his boss and decide.

The next week, when I came to collect the MyKad, I was happy to sign off and go away until he asked me whether I wanted a print out of the information on the imbedded chip. He gave me a copy and my bangsa was listed as “India.”

So there you are Hannah. My wife is Singhalese, Chinese, Malay and perhaps along the centuries of history, an Arab, Indian, Anglo-Saxon as well; I am Pathan and maybe something else. Our flesh and blood — our children — are Pakistani, Malays and Indian. And, according to Government records, I am now an Indian.

By the way, my brother is married to a Chinese, another to a South Indian Muslim, three of them to Malays (including a Bugis), and one to a Hindustani (probably a Pathan), and I have relatives who are Kadazan, Dusun and Iban; I have cousins who are married to Canadians, British and Americans. I guess they have the same issues as I do. Most of our relatives are Muslims but we also have Christians and Buddhists among them, and if we were to look carefully, probably a couple of animists and Hindus as well.

I don’t really care now what the records say though it often rankles my family and I. They can record what they want — we are Malaysians, first and last.


So the definition of his children’s’ ethnicity is complicated. He is the one who prefer to make it complicated. An educated and exposed man of high stature and his experience to be so close to the powers that might be, Riong Kali could have simplified the matter for his and his circumstances. Then again, he chose to be isolated about it. Probably a trait of an unsecured man whose self esteem is not that high.

Of course he is proud of the ‘rojakness’ of the multiethnic of his own immediate family. That does not make him a Malaysian, whether ‘First’ and/or ‘Last’. It takes a soul with ingredients of patriotism, loyalty and nationalism, for someone to be a Malaysian.

It is easy to justify why he should be denied the claim of his Malaysian-pride.

First of all, it is widely known that when En Abdul Ghafar Baba assumed the position of Deputy Prime Minister 25 years ago, Riong Kali was invited to serve as a Press Secretary the nationalist. However, it was said by many his that ‘security screening failed’. “He was too close to Singapore”, was the popular notion whenever this story is being recollected.

Anchovy-eating-Shark = A corporate raid episode of deceit, manipulate, organised regulatory failure

Then, there is this ECM-Libra fiasco where in 2006, the broking firm ‘reversed-take-over’ an Ministry of Finance Inc. owned much larger firm Avenue Capital Resources Bhd. Riong Kali was part of the ‘raiding team’ where the acquiring firm actually had four times lesser capital and value compared to the target.

Of course, it was white-washed with an attempted fancy but flimsy merchant banking explanation which sounded more like a corporate-cover-up, as the excuse of ‘merger’.

The fact is that the infamous son-in-law of the day, Khairy Jamaluddin, was also part of the deal. Securities Commission Chairman Zarinah Anwar was much in cahoot regulatory-body-cover-up of the take-over scandal and both are still marked by the exercise. The merger enabled ECM-Libra to have the capital and resources large enough to qualify for a universal stock broking license and made the stock broking firm the investment bank what she is today. Along with Khairy and Zarinah, Riong Kali owe Malaysians the full disclosure of the highly elusive and dodgy deal.

The man who systematically and structurally destroyed NST

Then on 11 June 2006 via his weekly column in NST, Riong Kali lied about Prime Minister ‘Flip-Flop’ Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi cancelled a meeting and rushed to meet Fourth Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during the annual Nikkei event in Tokyo. It was at the time where Tun Dr Mahathir has started to openly criticize PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah for his weak leadership, administration and particularly, for the unilateral cancellation of the ‘Scenic Bridge Across Johor Strait’ in March 2006.

He was proven to lie when Tun Dr. Mahathir’s Press Secretary Sufi Yusoff issued a statement to clarify the truth. The deceit was about to make the ‘Feel Good Factor’ of PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah “Grandson of a renown ulama’ ” when he lead BN for a thumping thunderous victory of the 11th general election April 2004 to continue where else the rakyat started to have funny feeling about the negligent and intolerably weak leader.

Conveniently, tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of Riong Kali’s lie published in the centre bit of NST, where then he was the GEIC. At the top job in NST and purported a lie just to make PM “Flip-Flop’ Abdullah look good inadvertently brought down the credibility of the editorial.

Many criticized Riong Kali for this lie. As a result, in January 2007 he and three others plus NSTP decided to sue Supremo-bloggo-journo Datuk Ahirudin “Rocky” Attan and Jeff Ooi, which some regard as an ‘evil attempt’. That got the bloggers to come together. In the same breadth, the suit gravely eroded public perception of mainstream media especially NST.

Riong Kali 'Happy Hours': "Bottoms up!" Two of the power-crazy blokes who sued Rocky & Jeff

In five short years, Riong Kali at the helm of NST at the expense of making PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah look rosy and pretty, managed to ‘throw the spanner to the works. One time as a major referral of news for the English readership, PM ‘Flip-Flop’ Abdullah’s “Dia kawan saya” managed to bring the credibility and integrity of NST to a record low. He also should be held responsible for NST’s attempt of demonising Tun Dr. Mahathir as a racist, which should be categorically place him as an anti nationalist.

Recently, blogger Apanama scooped on the deal involving the system developed for Inland Revenue Board. Riong Kali’s hand in this made the exercise an attempt to ‘sell of information on Malaysians to parties abroad’. His name was also implicated of harbouring fugitive techno-cyber-anarchist Raja Petra “Compulsive Liar” Kamaruddin whilst in London, running away from a criminal defamation charge.  Of course, he denied.

All these point towards Riong Kali’s failure as a Malaysian. And he still is very much so.

Published in: on June 10, 2011 at 19:10  Comments (38)