Zaharah Sulaiman is wrong on Malay genes as second oldest in the world

On August 2, 2018, Malay Mail published an article by Azril Annuar titled “Historian : Malay genes second oldest in the world.”

Aug 16, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: On August 2, 2018, Malay Mail published an article by Azril Annuar titled “Historian : Malay genes second oldest in the world.” The article states that this was the report of a forum entitled “The Origin of the Malay” organised by the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim) and contains statements made by Zaharah Sulaiman.

We find this article to be highly misleading and erroneous. The contents are absurd, fictitious, and any content claimed to our research is complete misrepresentation.We are appalled that she has misquoted our academic work in human population genetics, archaeology and history that we and our colleagues in Human Genome Organization (HUGO) and other reputable institutions have done for many years to date.

As academicians who have been funded largely through grants from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Ministry of Higher Education of Malaysia, the UK government and our respective institutions, we are duty bound to address the dubious statements that do not stand to factual or scientific scrutiny, and only serve to misinform and confuse the public.

1. We must unequivocally state that there are no such things as Malay genes, Chinese genes, Indian genes, etc. All of humanity are Homo sapiens with Homo sapiens genes.

2. Zaharah is reported to have said that “roughly 60,000 to 75,000 years ago, there was a migration by some of the shortest people from humanity’s cradle in Africa to Sundaland, which is now known as Southeast Asia.”
This seems inconceivable and illogical. How could these “first migrants” have been the “shortest people” and how could they have skipped the landmasses between Africa and Southeast Asia such as the Arabian Peninsula, Middle East, Levant and Indian subcontinent to get to Southeast Asia? There are clear archaeological evidences of the existence of Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) from the following sites that have been carbon dated. For example, Jebel Qattar (75 thousand years ago (kya), Mundafan (100-80 kya), Aybut Al Awual (105 kya) and Jebel Faya C (125 kya); in Levant Qafzeh (120-90 kya); and 16R Dune (96-80 kya), Jwalapuram (85-75 kya).

3. She is reported to have said that “The study conducted by the Human Genome Organisation (Hugo) that was published in 2013 showed that the ancestors of the Malay people, the Semang and Senoi, migrated to the ancient kingdom of Champa that is now located in parts of Vietnam and Cambodia.”

We are members of the Human Genome Organisation and can verify that there was no such publication in 2013.What we did publish were papers in 2011 and 2014 that elucidated genetic variants among various Malay sub-populations. We found no evidence whatsoever that Senoi and Semang were directly related to Malays. The Champa were never mentioned. The Malaysian Negrito (also known as Semang) and Senoi groups are Austro-Asiatic speakers, while Malays are Austronesian speakers. Both groups are genetically distinct from each other.

4. She has been reported to have claimed “From Semang and Senoi came the rest of the ethnic tribes including the indigenous peoples such as the orang Asli, Iban, Dayaks and so on. In fact, the Malays’ closest ancestor is the Jakun tribe”.

This statement is fundamentally flawed and misleading. There are 3 main groups of Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia ? Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay (of which Jakun is a sub group). Jakun and Malays are genetically related. However, there is no strong evidence to prove that Jakun are ancestral to Malays. Neither is there any evidence to prove that Semang (Negrito) and Senoi are the ancestors of the Iban or Dayak in Borneo.

5. She was also reported to have said that “based on scientific evidence, the Malay set of mtDNA is 63,000 years old when compared to the Chinese mtDNA that is 43,000 years old. The youngest set of mtDNA in the world belongs to the South American civilisation at 10,000 years old.”

The mtDNA is inherited from mothers and is used to roughly estimate departure from our female ancestors. It contributes only 0.00005 per cent of total human DNA/genes and is less stable than nuclear DNA (99.99995 per cent) in cells. Population genetics does not rely solely on mtDNA to draw conclusions about human ancestry, evolution or migration. To do so now would be inaccurate and unreliable. We always consider maternal, paternal genetics and the bigger picture.

We trust that we have provided a comprehensive explanation of the scientific facts that inform our knowledge of population genetics and various ethnic groups in Malaysia and elsewhere. Most of our publications are free and accessible through our university websites, Google Scholar, PubMed, Scopus and ISI.

The following were the academicians who were involved in the Human Genome Organisation and have since rebutted historian Zaharah Sulaiman’s assertion:

-- Prof Dr Maude E Phipps, Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University Malaysia, Founder member of National Bioethics Council (Maude.Phipps@monash.edu)

--  Prof Dr Hoh Boon Peng, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, UCSI University Malaysia (KL campus). (hohbp@ucsiuniversity.edu.my)

-- Prof Dr Stephen Oppenheimer, School of Anthropology and Museum of Ethnography, Oxford University, UK. (Stephen.Oppenheimer@anthro.ox.ac.uk)

-- Prof Dato’ Dr Mahani Mansor-Clyde, Former Professor of Genetics, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Past President of the Genetics Society of Malaysia and Past Chairperson of National Bioethics Council (mahaniclyde@gmail.com)

-- Dr Farhang Aghakhanian, Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Monash University Malaysia. (Farhang.Aghakhanian@monash.edu)

Additional notes:

Background information on significance of mtDNA

? mtDNA are very small pieces of DNA that we inherit from our mothers and only from the maternal line. Size wise, it has about 16 thousand DNA bases.

? Humans have much more DNA in all our genes i.e. 3.2 billion DNA bases in total and most of it in the nucleus of all our cells. This is called the nuclear genome. This DNA is arranged into discrete structures termed chromosomes. Generally, men have 44 autosomes & XY sex chromosomes and women have 44 autosomes & XX sex chromosomes

? mtDNA contribution to inheritance is very small, approximately 0.00005 and therefore the information we can derive is rather limited. But it can be useful sometimes if we just want to focus on a single maternal lineage in small studies.

mtDNA seems to be more susceptible to mutations than nuclear DNA. It would be erroneous to draw conclusions about human ancestry, evolution and migration based on mtDNA alone, without including looking at nuclear genomes and the bigger picture.

Source: Malay Mail

Total Comments:7

Name
Email
Comments
Dr Gurdial Singh Sandhu gurdialsinghsandhu@yahoo.com
The Malays are of Chinese origins. The first malays or proto malays came from yunnan overland. The second malays or dueyro malays are the second mass migration Chinese from yunnan and are known as the present day orang asli people. The Malays had no name of reference as they were travelling overland over a few hundred years down south from yunnan. When the arrived on the than Malaya, they came down the hills to flat lands and found TamilbHibdusccuktivstingflat lands with rice and fruit orchads etc. When the met the Tamil Hindus of Sri Vijaya Enpire, they uEd sign language to communicate with the Tamil Hindus. The Tamil Hinds named the first or proto malays Malaiis or Hill people. In Tamil Malaii means hill(s).Even until today the Tamils and people of Indian continent origin refer to them as Malaiis or hill people. The Malays thus are overland migrants from Yunnan in China. Their DNA could prove this. Later history changed. Many Tamil Hindus moved back to Tamil Nadu. Islam came from the Arabian peninsular via seafaring Arabs who reached the shores of Acheh. The rule that one could marry four wives helped people to concert to Islam and it spread like wildfire. In Sinatra Hinduism is still present. During the Sri Vijaya Enpire the kaaba was a Lord Shiva Mandir. The old name for a Lord Shiva Mandir was kabalaya. The Arabs shortened it to Kaaba. During this period the Angkor Wat and the Borubudur Hindu temples were built. There is historical and archaeological evidence that Hinduism was rife in Malaya. The peninsula was, also named by the Hindus and in tamil it means land of hills, so it was, called Malaya. In India Himalaya (mountains and hills) means huge hills. Him means huge. Like Sri Lanka the island was named lankawi. Wi means also. Meaning also like Lanka. About 80 percent or more of Malay wrods are of Indian origin. Why the Tamils and Indians still. Refer to the Malays as Malaiis? The present day umno pas bersatu malays are not happy with the truth and such academics thus create or roll out new theories to suit their liking. DNA checks will could show the first and second malays are indeed chinese from yunnan in China. This is the truth. But truth is always bitter when it cannot be swallowed or accepted by those disturbed minds who are just not too happy with the truth.
Wong Miow keng selenewong0620&gmail.com
I was told by a young Nakaysuan who had studied in Cape Town and met a few people , face features resembled of Malaysian Malay and spoke Malay & they told him tgat they & their ancestors had been there since long time ago ?!Is tgat true that the Malay may had follow the Silk Riad to Asia & SEA
shanvesua4334@gmail.com
The Malaysian government is always trying to make the Malay race very superior than others. Always in denial of true History. Look at the school history books had been altered many times. A lot of Indian artifacts in Malaysia was destroyed. Even Mahathir hired International bodies to make Hang Tuah a Malay a hero. However it leads to China. STUPIDITY IN THE HIGHEST FORM.
shanvesua4334@gmail.com
The Malaysian government is always trying to make the Malay race very superior than others. Always in denial of true History. Look at the school history books had been altered many times. A lot of Indian artifacts in Malaysia was destroyed. Even Mahathir hired International bodies to make Hang Tuah a Malay a hero. However it leads to China. STUPIDITY IN THE HIGHEST FORM.
Capt. Konaskonasmark14@gmail.com
Very well said. The writer said that we have mud in our body to absorb water..... How silly she an be. Oh, now I know that he has o ly mud in her head
Sinotibetansedoheptulose7@gmail.com
To Alan One, There is no contradiction. Population genetics does not SOLELY(ie use ONLY or EXCLUSIVELY) mt DNA to draw CONCLUSIONS. Mt DNA is used together with Y Haplogroups and nowadays even autosomal chromosome genetics to have the bigger picture. Using only mt DNA will lead to wrong conclusions.
Alan Onealangmedia@gmail.com
Theres a contradiction within the articles, "Population genetics does not rely solely on mtDNA to draw conclusions about human ancestry, evolution or migration. To do so now would be inaccurate and unreliable" and then "We always consider maternal, paternal genetics and the bigger picture"