Monday, July 30, 2018

70th anniversary of the Malayan Emergency
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Emergency, a 12-year war declared by the then British colonial power against the insurgent anti-colonial forces led by the Communist Party of Malaya.
It is not a well-publicised fact that the Central Committee of the CPM launched the armed struggle only in December 1948, six months after the declaration of State of Emergency by the British colonial government in June.
Surprisingly, there has been no commemoration of this anti-colonial struggle by the Government or our local universities, leaving it to civil society to remind the country of this fateful turn of our peoples’ history.
It is hoped that in the “new” Malaysia, Malaysian historical facts can be set in perspective so that the new generation understands the class forces that were arraigned during the anti-colonial struggle, know who the real anti-colonial fighters were and the structure of the Merdeka Agreement that was in keeping with British colonial strategy.
Five key questions about Malaysian history
This alternative history poses 5 key questions for Malaysians today:
  1. Who were the patriots who fought to liberate the country from the British colonial power and the Japanese fascists during WWII and who were the pretenders?
  2. Which parties stood for genuine and inclusive multi-ethnicity?
  3. How would the nation have developed if the “People’s Constitution” of the AMCJA-PUTERA coalition had been adopted?
  4. What is the so-called “Social Contract” we have today and was it the same at Independence?
  5. How did the pattern of communalist politics that has plagued Malaysia for so long come about?
The most complete record yet compiled on the Emergency (1948-60) was written by British academic Anthony Short, commissioned by the Malayan Government and given full access to confidential and secret papers. When his finished manuscript was handed over in October 1968, Short had to wait three years before being told that it was not to be published!
Official history of Emergency banned by government
Nevertheless, his work “The Communist Insurrection in Malaya, 1948-60” was eventually published in 1975 while Short was senior lecturer at Aberdeen University. For many years, this book was banned in Malaysia.
Isn’t it time we had an official explanation of why Anthony Short’s commissioned history of the Emergency was rejected by the government?
On this 70th anniversary of the Emergency, is it not time for Malaysians to read Short’s book and for the 70-year secret documents to be declassified for the benefit of scholars and other Malaysians?
Isn’t it time the country properly acknowledges the contributions of the patriotic class forces in all the ethnic communities to Independence and nation building?
Who were the main opponents of the British colonial power and who put up a protracted struggle to end the exploitation of the country’s natural and human resources while forging a truly multi-ethnic peoples’ united front?
The Umno leadership after the Second World War represented the interests of the Malay aristocracy. They were by no means anti-colonial and did not challenge British interests.
The workers’ movement was the main threat to colonial interests and the Federation of Malaya proposals culminating in the Merdeka Agreement were intended to deflect the working-class revolt by introducing communalism in the Independence package.
Alliance Party was a neo-colonial solution for the aristocracy and capitalists
Any history textbook on the Emergency has to include the history of Malayan workers’ struggles that has been so well written by M.R. Stenson.
The Emergency was as much a crackdown on the workers’ movement as it was a war against the anti-colonial insurrection.
The subsequent “Alliance Formula” comprising the Malay aristocratic class and non-Malay capitalist class was designed to deal with the workers’ revolt and put in place a neo-colonial solution. Thus, the ‘Alliance (racial) Formula’ with all its contradictions was devised in Independent Malaya.
The so-called “Social Contract” would have looked very different if the “Peoples’ Constitution” of the AMCJA-PUTERA coalition representing the workers, peasantry and disenchanted middle class had won the day.
The Malay Nationalist Party (MNP) called for, among other things: the right to self-determination of the Malayan people; equal rights for all ethnic communities; freedom of speech, press, meeting, religion; improving standard of living of all the people; improving farming conditions and abolishing land tax; improving labour conditions; education reform on democratic lines; fostering friendly inter-ethnic relations.
People’s Constitution from the anti-colonial movement
The anti-colonial movement demanded self-government and their AMCJA-PUTERA coalition put forward their “Peoples’ Constitutional Proposals”.
Imagine what our nation would have become had this “People’s Constitution” been the federal constitution at Independence.
This coalition encapsulated a more genuine multi-ethnic approach compared to the “communal formula” of the Alliance that was made up of racially-based parties and fraught with contradictions from the start.
The component parties in the Alliance (now the Barisan Nasional) were unashamedly racial and have been dominated by Umno from the start.
The Prime Minister in the “new” Malaysia does not see the incongruence in heading a racially defined “Parti Pribumi”.
These race-based parties would find it difficult to justify themselves if there was an Equality Act or if Malaysia ratified the International Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination.
The Malayan workers’ movement and radical intelligentsia in the anti-colonial coalition of AMCJA-PUTERA displayed strong organisation, solidarity and inter-ethnic unity and this history is a source of inspiration and a model of genuine multi-ethnic cooperation for Malaysians today.
Through this struggle, they developed an awareness of nationalism and anti-imperialism and the socialist road to egalitarian development.
British communalist strategy to dive and rule
The British colonial power used its communalist strategy to divide this anti-colonial movement using the issue of citizenship for the Non-Malays and reneging on the promises of civil equality for all. What would it have been like if all Malayans had been granted genuine civil liberties and political equality?
The anti-colonial movement was defeated largely because the Malay peasantry had been isolated from the movement, buffered from capitalist exploitation in the estates, factories and other urban industries. The colonial state did not hesitate to use crude racial and religious propaganda against the movement.
If Malaysia is to have a viable future and a new agenda for change involving all Malaysians, we must demand a fair, socially just, equal and democratic country that respects human rights and breaks through to a people-centred non-racial agenda for change.
And when we do, imagine how much we will be able to celebrate at the 100-year anniversary of the Malayan Emergency?
Kua Kia Soong is adviser to Suaram.

Blogs about Dance, Travel and Food, Photography and gadgets that he purchases for work. Am available to do reviews.

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