KUALA PILAH, July 8 (Bernama) -- The latest hit of the hip-hop group Waris, "Rembau Most Wanted," seems to have become not only a catchy tune for radio listeners nationwide but also a voice to revive the popularity of the Negeri Sembilan dialogue through young singers.
The song, for which the lyricist has creatively added the features of the adat perpatih or Malay customary laws, serves as a reminder of the practices that have now become distinct memories, especially among the younger generation.
It is an irony, considering that these customary laws are the core of the culture and traditions of the Negeri Sembilan people, who have been practising them for generations, rain or shine.
The customary laws, which give plenty of privileges to the women folk, particularly in the area of inheritance and the right to properties, have been facing criticisms from onlookers and non-practitioners.
One of the negative perceptions is that males have negligible power in the matters relating to properties and assets in the state of Negeri Sembilan.
These customary laws, brought in from Sumatera as early as the 14th century, cover wider aspects of daily life, including the selection of leaders through a democratic process, marriage laws and community cooperation and rules.
The selection of the Yang DiPertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan is one such example where it is not a hereditary right but a procedure conducted through four assemblies, namely Undang Rembau, Undang Sungai Ujung, Undang Johol and Undang Jelebu.
Meanwhile, these laws, which have existed in the state for generations, are now being slowly forgotten, especially by the later generations, particularly those born after 1960.
The current generation, meanwhile, either has no inkling or knows very little about the Adat Perpatih customary laws.
They are unable to link the customs to their respective divisions and are unaware of the custodians of the practices and the workings of the customs.
IS THE YOUNGER GENERATION UNINTERESTED?
An academician offers his views on how and why there has been a decline in the understanding of Adat Perpatih.
"Young people are not being engaged to understand the adat perpatih, and in fact, the older generation behaves as though the customs are their "property"," said Associate Prof Datuk Paduka Dr Rosli Saludin, a senior lecturer at the Department of Malay Language and Literature, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris.
The views of the younger generation on the customs are often brushed aside, said Rosli, who conducts research on the history of Negeri Sembilan.
Indeed, youngsters who show interest in the customs are often seen as a threat by the older people. The older generation sometimes makes mischievous remarks and accuses the younger generation of "trying to take over their positions."
"The intelligent ones among the younger generation are already marginalised amid fears that this group of people will talk a lot and ask the custodians questions related to their traditions.
"By right, young people should be engaged and invited to the helm of the system, where they can share their views, help keep these laws relevant in this day and age and narrow any gaps in between," he told Bernama recently.
Young people are exposed to current trends in management and so on, which can be shared with the current custodians of the adat perpatih.
"Therefore, what is wrong with engaging these young people in the region since they can help in the management of the young generation?" questioned Rosli.
It is important for both the older and younger generations to get "rid of their egos," find a common ground, and upon finding that, they should be able to sit down and discuss matters, he said.
Youngsters should not be blamed for losing touch with the customs.
They should not be simply left alone in the world; a creative approach should be taken to impart these laws to them via new media channels such as blogs, and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and so on, he suggested.
GETTING TO KNOW ADAT PERPATIH
Youngsters who do not understand adat perpatih might view it as a collection of troublesome "laws," and they might eventually leave them behind.
This is because they have not been given clear explanation of the customs, and there are not many books or materials that they can refer to, explained Rosli.
"Books that are available in the market are not very clear, and they can be confusing at times. Even today, information that we find on the Internet or YouTube may not be accurate. Mostly they are negative rather than positive. And finally, they do not provide answers to problems that exist within the customs," he added.
In reality, in the presence of advanced technologies, it is easier to reach the young and share information pertaining to adat perpatih. The era of passing on information orally is over, he said.
"More creatively produced materials on the subject should be made available. They cannot be dogmatic; more people will be interested if these materials are more creative in nature. They can take the form of cartoons, documentaries, dramas, songs and so on," explained Rosli.
PROMOTING ADAT PERPATIH To retain the relevance of adat perpatih, positive elements of the customs should be promoted widely and not retained for the home turf alone.
By holding on to these customary laws and adjusting them to the present times, great human capital can be developed.
"Adat perpatih teaches us to respect elders, family members, leaders, races, religions, and languages. Above all, it spreads love for the community and advocates wisdom and harmony.
"All these are in line with the core policies of this country. The practice of these customs could also help the country in its progress towards a developed state in its own right," he added.
According to Rosli, one should impart the knowledge to the younger generation in a voluntary manner and not via force.
AN ECONOMIC RESOURCE
Rosli also suggested young people to go one step further by studying economic opportunities that might arise while promoting the adat perpatih customs.
He said funds should also be sourced to repair old homes, where these traditions are practised, as part of the efforts to retain the customs as well as to attract tourists.
"These need to be done in a planned manner, with the establishment of a body to take care of such matters, and by tying up with home owners so that all the relevant parties can gain from such ventures," he added.
According to Rosli, the state government should establish an academy or a foundation to keep the customs alive.
Certificates or diplomas could be issued, and potential leaders of the customary laws should be awarded proper qualifications.
"We should also take a second look at Datuk Undang Abdullah Dahan from Rembau, who had called on the custodians of the tradition to be in possession of the highest level of knowledge possible.
"If they become leaders, they should possess integrity and carry out their duties well. If there are problems, they should resign and be replaced with new ones," he said, suggesting that the adat perpatih should be taught as an additional subject in state schools.
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