population of Malaysia are smaller communities scattered throughout the peninsula and in Sabah and Sarawak.
Officially, these groups are classified as Lain-lain or Others.
Although they are only a small minority on their own, the Lain-lain groups collectively form a sizeable portion of Malaysia's almost 21 million people.
In the peninsula, orang asli, Portuguese, Eurasians and Malaysian Thais are just a few of these small communities.
Orang asli are scattered throughout the peninsula, from the Malaysia/Thai border to Johor. Generally categorised as bumiputras, orang asli are divided into three groups - Negritos, Senois and Proto-Malays.
The present population of orang asli is 92,529, according to statistics compiled by the Department of Orang Asli Affairs (JHEOA). Of this, 2,972 are Negritos, 49,440 Senois and 40,117 Proto-Malays.
Up until the 1960s, most of the orang asli were jungle dwellers who foraged in the vast forests of the peninsula for their daily subsistence. Being animists, they depended on the spirits in their surroundings to keep them safe, often invoking their help in cases of illness or strife in the community. This was done mainly through a sewang (seance) session which was almost always a village-wide affair.
Nowadays, with changes brought about by religion, education and the cash economy, many orang asli have given up their traditional lifestyle.
Almost five centuries of European presence, starting with the Portuguese conquest of Malacca in 1511, then the Dutch and later the British, was bound to leave its mark on the social make-up of Malaysia.
A prominent aspect is the presence of a sizeable community of Eurasians who are descended from inter-marriages between locals and Europeans, and also between Europeans and children of Chinese and Indian immigrants who had earlier made this country their home.
Among the Eurasians, the Malaysian Portuguese stand out as a distinct group of people who are linked together by their beliefs, religious practices and language. To this day, the Portuguese Settlement in Malacca remains their cultural and religious meeting point; the place where they congregate in their thousands to celebrate important festivals like Festa de San Juang and Festa De San Pedro. Festivals are usually celebrated with spirited singing and robust dancing.
Up on the northern frontier, a community of Malaysian Thais makes another piece of the colourful and intricate jigsaw that is the Malaysian populace. In Kedah alone, there is an estimated 26,000 Malaysian Thais residing in some 55 villages. The rest are scattered around Perlis, Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu and Penang.
Members of the Malaysian Thai community are linked by their religious beliefs (most are Buddhists), the use of a common dialect called Pai Thai and a rich cultural heritage related to Thailand. Besides Pai Thai, they also speak the more conventional Bahasa Malaysia, English and Hokkien. The Hokkien influence is the result of inter-racial marriages and living with Chinese people in the same village.
The formation of Malaysia in 1963, when Malaya and two former British in Borneo - Sabah (then North Borneo) and Sarawak - federated together to become a new political entity, led to further enhancement in the social milieu of the entire nation.
Like Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah were also a melting pot of diverse ethnic communities and immigrant groups which had coalesced after a few centuries of living together.
Unlike Malaya's population which could be generally classified into three distinct groups, Sabah's and Sarawak's were made up of a great diversity of linguistic, cultural and ethnic groups ranging from relatively large communities like the Kadazandusun (Sabah) and Iban (Sarawak) to small groups such as the semi-nomadic Penans (Sarawak) and the Lundayeh (Sabah).
Although it covers an area 124,449 sq km in size, Sarawak is relatively underpopulated when compared to other Malaysian states like Selangor or Penang.
However, its population of only 1.9 million people is a bewildering mix of 29 indigenous groups including Malays, and immigrant groups comprising the Chinese, Indians and others, mainly Eurasians and Europeans.
For administrative purposes the people of Sarawak are respectively categorised as Iban, Bidaytih, Melanau, Malar, Orang Ulu, Chinese, Indian and Others.
While Ibans make up the largest ethnic grouping, Melanaus are reportedly one of the earliest groups to inhabit Sarawak. Bidayuhs are believed to be the original settlers of Kuching, the state capital and the Kayans are the largest sub-group under the Orang Ulu category.
Though not a thorough representation of the people in the Land of the Hornbills, this section will attempt to provide a glimpse of life among the Iban, Bidayuh, Melanau and Kayan communities.
In the Land Below the Wind, the populace is also a highly diverse composition of both indigenous and non-indigenous groups. First, there are the indigenous and mainly non-Muslim communities such as the Kadazandusun, Murut and Lundayeh.
Included under this category are various sub-groups such as the Rungus, Lotud and Kwijau (Kadazandususn) and the Timogun, Tagal and Peluan (Murut). Traditionally agriculture-based, a large section of these communities have now become urbanised or live in suburban residential areas.
Muslim indigenous such as the Bajau, Suluk, Illanun, Brunei and Kedayan make up the next group. In this group, the Bajaus are the most numerous and can be categorised into two groups, the west coast Bajau and east coast Bajau.
Immigrant groups who settled in Sabah over the past 100 years - the Chinese, Europeans, Bugis, Filipinos, Timorese and other Indonesians - make up the rest of the population.
A unique group of immigrants are the Cocos, a culturally and economically vibrant community who live in the vicinity of Tawau, Kunak and Lahad Datu on the east coast. A throwback to colonial times, the Cocos were originally inhabitants of Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean. They were accorded bumiputra status when they arrived between 1949 and 1952 in a (British) government-sponsored immigration program.
Intermarriage between members of Sabah's different communities, which was popular in the passband remains so in the present, has led to a linguistic and ethnic polyglot that is hard to find anywhere else in the world.
With each group in possession of distinctive cultures, traditions and customs, there are presently more than 50 languages and well over 100 dilates in use in Sabah.
Taken as separate entities, the smaller communities are without doubt a minority, but each group has indelibly carved its own mark on the large Malaysian society.
* Text taken from page 120 to 123 of "Soul Of Our Nation" under Other Communities.
|In olden times,the Lundayeh bridegroom had to prepare stacks of firewood which would be used by the bride's family to cook for the wedding festivities. The practice is maintained even though most households now have kitchens with modern equipment.|
|The practice of wearing heavy earrings to elongate|
the earlobes, a thing of beauty in the past among
many of Sarawak's Orang Ulu communities, has become
unfashionable with the younger generation.
|Traveling by boat is the best means of getting around between Punan Vuhang settlements. Dressed in their traditional finery, the ladies are attending a cultural festival.|
|A man of means. Personal adornment such as bronze earrings, gold-capped teeth and beaded necklaces reflect the wealth of this Punan Vuhang man.|
|In the few longhouses that remain in Sabah's Rangus heartland, the shared veranda is the meeting point where the inhabitants come to exchange gossip, work on their handicrafts or just while away the hours before night sets in.|
|Feast in an Iban longhouse. The veranda (ruai) of the longhouse is the main venue for large community meetings and celebrations.|
|Easter is an important religious celebration among the largely Catholic Portuguese. On Good Friday, they flock to the church to participate in the veneration of the Cross to remember Christ's death.|
|Candles are lit in church during Easter to mark the triumph of Christ's resurrection.|
|The Malaysian Thai community honour its chief monk during his birthday. As part of this annual celebration, the chief monk walks on a human bridge that stretches from the village wat to an altar which has been built especially for the occasion.|
|New motifs on their traditional garb, for example the State Crest on the hats usually worn by the Ibans, reflects the dynamism of Sarawak's people.|
|Christmas is celebrated with relish by Christian Melanaus. As their kampung is by the river, the carollers usually go from house to house by boat.|
|A Melanau enjoys a traditional delicacy, siet, (sago worms).|
|Rich cultural mix in Sarawak, Land of the Hornbills. Festivals are occasions for Sarawakians to put on their traditional costumes.|
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