JOHOR BARU: The Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said Johor appreciates the role played by the Chinese community in the opening and development of the state since the beginning of the Johor Sultanate in the 16th century.
In a special interview to mark the Lunar New Year, the ruler paid tribute to the community, saying their hard work and resilience in modernising Johor was significant.
Describing the Chinese as one of the "pillars of Johor's economy", he said they must be recognised for their outstanding contribution.
Sultan Ibrahim said far from being branded as "pendatang" (immigrants), the Chinese were actually invited to Johor as "guests" by his forefathers to help develop the state.
"My forefathers had the foresight to forge a unique relationship with the Chinese.
"They are not 'pendatang'. They were invited to Johor to open our land and cultivate plantations.
"They are 'Bangsa Johor', just like the Malays, Indians and others, who are all Malaysians," he stressed during the interview.
Tracing the history of their arrivals, the ruler said it was Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim who first invited the Chinese from China to come to Johor in 1844 to help open up big-scale gambier and pepper farms.
Sultan Ibrahim noted it was the Chinese who helped to put Johor on the world map by 1850 as the largest producer of pepper and gambier, with downstream activities like leather tanning and cloth dyeing from gambier.
"The Johor Sultanate and the Chinese have a special relationship. They have played a pivotal role in the development of Johor. We appreciate their contribution," he emphasised.