Poverty and Baba Nyonya

As it happens while I am driving, this question popped into my head:

If poverty is an economic state, and if it afflicts* everyone regardless of race, how can Malaysia thus justify distributing aid and measures to help these people by race?

A poverty-stricken Malay is still a human being.

A poverty-stricken Chinese is still a human being.

A poverty-stricken Indian is still a human being.

A poverty-stricken Orang Asli is still a human being.

How can you thus justify distributing aid according to race?

I can understand distributing aid according to area. For example, creating specific and targeted programmes to help the poverty-stricken in Pekan, Pahang, or Miri, Sarawak**. If there are poverty-stricken Malaysians in those areas, aid should be distributed to all regardless of race. For instance, a family of 5, no matter the race, still needs to eat. It doesn’t make much sense to give rice only to the Malays in a single neighbourhood and then transport the leftover rice to be redistributed to the next neighbourhood when you can feed the Chinese, Indians, and everyone else in that neighbourhood.

I cannot understand this obsession with race. Especially not for something as straight forward like this.

And there’s something else that’s even weirder.

Historically, it is said that the Baba Nyonya group were here before the Eurasians (as far as I know, Eurasians, especially Portugese Eurasians like me said to descend from the Portugese invasion in the 1500s). In our history books, they are held up as a symbol of Malaysia being the melting pot that she is, in that they are Chinese people who have married the Malay culture with their own.

Yet Eurasians are considered bumiputra (aka we have special rights) while these Baba Nyonya don’t. And I have been told bumi status is awarded to those whose race has been around longer.

So how come Eurasians are bumis but Baba Nyonya are not?

* Afflicted may not be the best word. If you can suggest something else, please do.
** I do not intend to mean that these places are poverty-stricken, just that they are the first non-Klang Valley names that popped into my head.