Cocos Malays

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Cocos Malays
Melayu Cocos
Coral and atolls; a history and description of the Keeling-Cocos Islands, with an account of their fauna and flora, and a discussion of the method of development and transformation of coral structures in general (1912) (20672742846).jpg
A Malay bride and bridegroom as seen in a wedding event in Cocos (Keeling) Islands, 1912.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Malaysia: 4,000[1]
 Cocos (Keeling) Islands: 400
 Nauru: N/A
Cocos Malay, English and Malaysian
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
Malays, Javanese people, Betawi people, Bantenese

Cocos Malays are a community that form the predominant group of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, which is now part of Australia. Despite that they all have assimilated into the ethnic Malay culture, they are named in reference to the Malay race, coming from places such as Bali, Bima, Celebes, Madura, Sumbawa, Timor, Sumatra, Pasir-Kutai, Malacca, Penang, Batavia and Cirebon.[2]



The first Malays are believed to have arrived and settled in the Islands in 1826 "when Alexander Hare, an English adventurer brought his Malay harem and slaves there." [3] In 1827 John Clunies-Ross changed the lives of the Malay slaves when he settled the Islands with his family. The existing Malays and a large number of newly arrived Malay immigrants that Clunies-Ross brought with him were employed to assist with the harvesting of coconuts for copra.[3] In September 1978, the Clunies-Ross family sold Cocos Islands to the Australian government. Since then, the Chief of State has been Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the current Governor-General, Administrator Brian Lacy. The Chairman of the Islands Council is Haji Wahin bin Bynie.

Cocos Malays in Malaysia[edit]

The Cocos Malays in Malaysia primarily reside in several villages known as Kampung Cocos near Lahad Datu and Tawau in Tawau Division of Sabah.[4] Originally from the Cocos Islands, they settled on this area in the 1950s after been brought by the British.[5] The number of those who participated in the first emigration is thought to be around twenty, but it increased when they expanded their settlement in Lahad Datu. Their culture is closely related to the Malay peoples in Malaysia[6] and their current population in Sabah is around 4,000, about eight times larger than the population remaining in the Cocos Islands.[1] They are accorded bumiputra status by the Malaysian government and also a part of the Malaysian Malays ethnic group found in the state of Sabah.


Most of the Cocos Malays follow the Sunni branch of Islam.[7]

Dress code[edit]

The Cocos Malays have their own dress code - Baju Kebaya for the women and Baju Melayu for the men. Baju Kebaya consists of a loose tunic (which refers to a long collarless shirt with a short neckline that is pinned together with a brooch) and is worn over a skirt or sarong. Baju Melayu is a loose shirt (either with a collar with three or more buttons or collarless with a neckline). The Baju Kebaya and Baju Melayu of the Cocos are indistinct of the attire of typical Malay. The dress of the community are believed to be having a blend from several cultures, the Javanese and the Scottish.


Cocos Malays have their own language variety, which is being called Basa Pulu Kokos. It is considered rough and unsophisticated because of the use of slang in it and the constant change in word meanings. The language is predominately Betawi Malay,[citation needed] a Jakarta creole mix of Malay and Indonesian (as well as Javanese, Sundanese in which the Betawi language derived from) with local pronunciation and elements of English and Scots being mixed in.

Phrases/ Vocabulary[edit]

  • Selamat pagi - Good morning
  • Selamat ténggah hari - Good Afternoon
  • Selamat soré - Evening
  • Selamat malam - Good Night
  • Apa Kabar? - How are you?
  • Kerangkeng - Food closet.
  • Ke kaca - Cute
  • Kenes - Cute
  • Baik - Good
  • Jumpa lagi - See you later (See you again)
  • Korsi - Chair (in Standard Malay, Kursi or Kerusi)
  • Dostor - Doctor (in Standard Malay, Doktor)
  • Esbok - Fridge (from English "icebox")
  • Bok - Box (in Standard Malay, Kotak)
  • Epel - Apple (in Standard Malay, epal)
  • Jukong - Cocos Malay boat (Junk ship came from this)
  • Gue/Loh - Me/you (Derived from javanese normal in Cocos Malay)
  • Cimni - Chimney (from English)
  • Kot - Coat (from English)
  • Hiju/Hijo - Green (in Standard Malay, hijau)
  • Kalo - if (in Standard Malay, kalau)
  • Emak/Mak - Mother (used to address females with children)
  • Pak/Ayah - Father (First term used to address males with children. Second term is father)
  • Paman/Man - Uncle (used to address males without children)
  • Bibik - Aunty (that is younger than the parent)
  • Nek/Nenek - grandma (used to address grandparents of any sex)
  • Wak - respectful term to address woman with teenage children
  • Oh tuhan ku! - Oh my god!

Addressing elders:

  • If Yusri is a teenager, then Mak Yusri (mother of Yusri) becomes Wak Yusri.
  • When Yusri who is now Man Yusri, has a child called Mustafa, Wak Yusri becomes Nek Mustafa and Man Yusri becomes Pak Mustafa.
  • If Mustafa who is Man Mustafa and a teenager, has a child called Budi, then Pak Mustafa becomes Nek Budi.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Yong Leng Lee (1965). North Borneo (Sabah): A Study in Settlement Geography. Eastern Universities Press.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Cocos Malays
  4. ^ "RTM documenting unique culture of Sabah Cocos community". The Borneo Post. 7 March 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  5. ^ Sabah: history and society. Malaysian Historical Society. 1981.
  6. ^ Frans Welman. Borneo Trilogy Volume 1: Sabah. Booksmango. pp. 168–. ISBN 978-616-245-078-5.
  7. ^ Cocos Malays

External links[edit]