During the last June school holiday, my sister and I visited Batam Island. We stayed there for a week to get away from our busy lives in Singapore. I bought five tickets for my family and friends to attend the "Pesta Kebudayaan dan Masakan Nusantara". It was organised by the Cultural Department of Batam in an effort to forge close ties among the different ethnic groups in the Nusantara region. The Head of the Batam Cultural Department gave the opening speech.
My sister was amazed to hear him speaking fluently in Malay language. She immediately asked me, "Why is this man speaking in Malay like us, with no Indonesian accent. Shouldn’t he be speaking in Bahasa Indonesia?" I replied, "This is because he is a Malay." She asked me again, "How can he be a Malay when he was born and raised in Batam, in Indonesia." I explained to her that the indigenous people of Batam are the Malays. Batam is part of the Riau Lingga Archipelago –the homeland of the Malays.
I explained further to my sister that only the Batam Malays speak Bahasa Melayu while those who speak Bahasa Indonesia are obviously from other parts of Indonesia –immigrants mostly from mainland Java. Then she asked me again, "So, what are we? Aren’t we Malays?" I replied, "Look at your NRIC. What does it read?" She answered, "Boyanese." I replied, "Yes, we are Boyanese!" I further told her that both of us are Baweanese (Boyanese) descents because our father was born in Bawean (Boyan) Island and his forefathers were born and raised there.
Such confusion is common nowadays. Most Baweanese descents (outside Bawean Island) from the younger generation, especially in Singapore, believe that they are Malays….my sisters, brother, cousins, daughters, son, nephews and nieces … all of them thought that they are Malays. Very sad indeed!