Monday, July 17, 2006

The Malaysian Name Dilemma

Disclaimer: The following post is just a piece of opinion of the blogger. While the blogger attempts to avoid provoking people's feelings (due to the thin-skinniness of some readers), the blogger is not responsible for any inaccuracies and differences in opinions by others. Viewing is strictly under own's perogative and discretion.

Saw this piece of news over at NST:

NRD: The a/l and a/p not a must in ICs

PUTRAJAYA: It is not compulsory for Malaysians to use the prefix a/l (anak lelaki) or a/p (anak perempuan) in their identity cards.

Muslims are also not compelled to use bin or binti in their names.

Sabah and Sarawak’s non-Muslim natives, who traditionally use bin or binti, also have the option of dropping it.

The National Registration Department (NRD) made this clarification following complaints from the public that its officers were insisting on the usage.

"It is really up to Malaysians now. They can decide whether or not they want the prefixes added to their names," said NRD spokeswoman Jainisah Mohd Noor.

The New Sunday Times had in recent weeks been receiving calls from members of the public on the use of a/l, a/p, bin or binti.

The confusion arose following conflicting statements made by the authorities.

A June 1998, NRD circular had stated that a child’s name should be registered in full with the NRD.

This means their names in the NRD records would carry a/l, a/p, bin or binti.

For Muslim babies whose fathers’ names are not available, they should use bin Abdullah or binti Asma Al Husna. (Or they can also use the other 99 names of Allah.)

Names in birth certificates too need not carry the prefixes if parents do not want it.

This means when the children are later issued the MyKad at age 12, their names would not have a/l, a/p, bin or binti.

If they do not remove this one year after the birth of the child, the MyKad issued to the child at the age 12 would have it.

Parents can still remove the a/l, a/p, bin or binti, but they would have to pay a RM10 fee for the card replacement.

However, in August 2003, then Deputy Home Minister Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin said such a move could result in complications.

"We have made careful consideration and decided to keep the old system of identifying our rakyat. It is really for the convenience of the Government," he said.

But Malaysians are unhappy that they need to apply to have the prefixes removed.

They say that since the Government had done away with the use of prefixes in Malaysian international passports since June 2001, they see no reason why it cannot apply to the MyKad.

The passport ruling was abolished as the chip-based passports could not read the punctuation signs (/) and Malaysians with bin or binti to their names were being mistaken for Arabs.

Jainisah said since the NRD did not receive any directive, Malaysians could decide whether or not they wanted the prefix to their name.

"There is no confusion here. We hope the public is clear on the ruling."

Jainisah said those who wanted to remove the prefixes from the MyKad must submit a statutory declaration to enable the NRD to effect the change.

I remembered Kenny blogging about the Malaysian-Chinese name dilemma. You can read his post here.

Since the Westerners are very particular about family names, surnames, first names, middle names, last names and given names, I would blog something about the Malaysian Name Dilemma if you happen to be in a Western world. Unless you are a footballer, it is considered rude to address oneself (most commonly, the Chinese) by the family name/surname like Ah Yeoh, Ah Chong, Ah Ooi, Ah Sia, Ah Lai, etc. etc. I do not want to repeat what Kenny has blogged about, so I'm just going to elaborate more on the Malaysian Name Dilemma, with reference to Malay, Indian and some East Malaysian names also.

I remembered the StarWeekend wrote about a piece of article about the Chinese name circa CNY 2004. So, starting off with Chinese names, this is what Wikipedia has to say about how Malaysians put their names as:

In Malaysia and Singapore, it is equally acceptable for Western names to appear before or after the Chinese given name, thus Tan Keng Yam Tony may also be written as Tony Tan Keng Yam, and individuals are free to indicate their official names in either format on their identity cards. General usage tend to prefer placing the Western name first due to the popularity of referring to individuals simply as "Tony Tan" and dropping the given Chinese name entirely. For administrative purposes, however, government agencies tend to place the Western name behind so as to standardise namelists sorted by family names. In some cases, therefore, agencies may choose to include a comma behind the Chinese name to indicate such amendments made, for instance, "Tan Keng Yam, Tony".

So, if you want your name to be 'globalised' or you intend to base in a Western country soon, here's what Wikipedia has to say about the acclamatisation to avoid any 'clash of civilisations':

Personal names in Chinese culture follow a number of conventions different from those of personal names in Western culture. Most noticeably, a Chinese name is written with the surname first and the given name second. For instance, the basketball player who is commonly called Yao Ming (whose name in the English order should actually be Ming Yao), would be addressed as "Mr. Yao", not "Mr. Ming".

Note however, some Chinese people who emigrate to or do business with Western countries sometimes adopt a Westernized name; by simply reversing the "surname-given name" order to "given name-surname", or with a Western first name together with their surname, which is then written in the usual Western order with the surname last. Other Chinese people sometimes take a combined name, consisting of Western first name, surname, and Chinese given name, in that order.

Traditional naming schemes often followed a pattern of using generation names as part of a two-character given name; however, this is less used today, especially in the mainland of the People's Republic of China, where many given names use only one character. However it is still the norm among the Chinese populations of Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Yes, the Chinese glorify their family name a lot that they put it at front and they do not usually have a middle name, unlike the Westerners (for example David Robert James Beckham). The middle character in the name couldn't be the middle name; it just simply doesn't make sense. So, for the Malaysian context, if your name is Lee Sin Jie as stated in your MyKad, you should start calling yourself Sin-Jie Lee in the Western world. If your name is Au Yong Chan Wah, then it should be Chan-Wah AuYong. Or you could just surrender the traditions of the descendants of the dragon simply give yourself a Western name [if you don't have one in the first place as you are not a Christian or you just don't fancy one (like me; Howsy is not a Western name, it's a ....why should I tell you :P)] like Jeff, Kenny, Patrick, Maverick, Desiderata, Merdeka, Xpyre, etc. etc.

Now, for the Malays, as mentioned in the above piece of news, the 'bin' and 'binti' could be dropped off if wished. There is also this confusion about the presence of 'bin' as one would be mistaken as an Arab(but some of the Malaysians would beg to be associated with the Arabs with the... you know...) or the stereotyping by the Westerners due to the association with the Most Wanted Man in the World. I tried to search the Wikipedia on what it says about Malay names but unfortunately there isn't. But here's a comment on the new NRD regulation as reported in the news also:

Datuk Abdul Rahman Manan (Veteran unionist)

TIMES are changing. And with it, procedures have to be simplified.

We have people, including Muslims, using surnames now.

Although this is personal, there should be a clear ruling on this as some people may be ignorant of the consequences.

People should be allowed to drop the use of prefixes.

Maybe these were necessary decades ago but today, we have many ways to identify people. The MyKad is one example.

Prefixes can be confusing and cumbersome. Some people who had been bestowed with titles such as Tan Sri and Datuk never incorporate this in their MyKad but people know that they have these titles.

The rigid procedures for one to do away with the prefixes should be abolished. Why do you require a statutory declaration and all the unnecessary trips to the NRD?

Due to the sensitivity of this matter and the thin-skinniness (is there such a word?) of some people, I would leave out elaborating on this. But one thing I could tell you that the surname/family names for the Malays would be their father's name.

Nevertheless, you could read also an interesting article by Utusan Malaysia about an actor/director named Mohd. Hitler.

Now, what about the Indians? This is what the Wikipedia has to say:

Malaysian Indian Names - South Indian Origin

Most ethnic Indians in Malaysia traces their ancestral origin to South India. In Malaysia, the general naming format format/ formulae for Indians is X son of Y or X daughter of Y. The term 'son of' is ANAK LELAKI (abbreviated to A/L in ID documents) in the Malay Language and the term 'daughter of' is ANAK PEREMPUAN (abbreviated to A/P in ID documents) in the Malay Language.

* In the British colonial days, Male Indian names would employ the connective term S/O (son of) and female Indian names D/O (daughter of) respectively, and these terms are still in common use in Singapore.

Example: Murugan the son of Vellupillai would appear as MURUGAN A/L VELLUPILLAI in Malaysian ID Card (MyKad) in the name field and the Malaysian Passport.

In the eyes of the authorities in the West, the connective term A/L (son of in the Malay Language)appears deceptively similar to the Arabic prefix 'Al' which appears in numerous Surnames/ Family Names of people of Arab descent.

Using the example above, MURUGAN A/L VELLUPILLAI would also arrange his name in such a way that his father's name become his initial and his given name appears to be his Surname/ Last Name: V. MURUGAN. This practice is not dissimilar from the name format of a very famous South Indian writer R. K. Narayan (R - Place of Origin: RASIPURAM , K - Father's Name: KRISHNASWAMI). Since most Malaysian Indians are today born in Malaysia, usually only the father's name appears as the initials. R.K. Narayan's equally famous cartoonist brother is R. K. Laxman.

However there is increasing number of Malaysian Indians migrating to the West have begun to use their father's name as their Last Name to avoid confusion. Therefore, Murugan the son of Vellupillai would simply go as MURUGAN VELLUPILLAI or M. VELLUPILLAI in the West. For Malaysian Indian females, they sometimes take their husband's given name as their Surname or Last Name.

I guess the above explains all. Semi a/l Value in the MyKad would be just Semi Value. And again about the 'a/l' and 'a/p' thingy again, eh? So, in order to be 'globalised' again, it would be advisable to request the a/l and a/p (not to be confused with Approved Permit :P) to be dropped from your birth cert, MyKad and hence the passport. And like the Malays, the surname/family name for those without one (for example, like the legendary MGG Pillai) would be the father's name again. (Fathers always rule, eh?...or not! Like Jolie-Pitt, you could go both ways!)

As for the Aborogines (Orang Asli) and some East Malaysians, anak would be part of their name also. For example, Openg anak Juggah or Amoi anak Merdeka. Anak just couldn't be their middle name. So, again, for the 'globalisation' factor, it would be recommended to drop that off also; understandable that Juggah is the father's name and also the last name/surname.

Guess that's all. Dilemma, eh? Not if you intend to be a jaguh kampung and stay under the coconut shell stay in your backyard for long...

p.s. Guess this Malaysian Name Dilemma adds up to the MyKad Dilemma also...

1 comment:

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