Khamis, April 03, 2014

| | |
Artikel ini dipetik sepenuhnya daripada NewStraitsTimes yang diterbitkan pada  April Fool Day 1 April 2014. Bagus dibaca oleh pemuja April Fool.

By Dr Paridah Abd Samad 

The day the Malays decided not to be fooled

MALAYAN UNION FALLACY: April 1 was a historic occasion when the Malays, with their rulers at the helm, rejected British overtures
THE Malayan Union came to existence on April 1, 1946, and would have made a fool of the Malays.

Sixty-eight years ago, the collapse of the Malayan Union on this day saved the Malay Rulers from irrelevance.

Some analysts considered the plan of the Malayan Union as a purposeful conspiracy to diminish the existence of the Malay royal institution in the country.

Under this radical plan, all the Malay states were to be merged into a unitary state (the Malayan Union) that offered equal citizenship to both Malays and non-Malays (the Chinese and Indian immigrants), removed the Malay Rulers' sovereignty and transferred it to the British Crown.

With the form of a unitary state, this could have eroded the individual Malay states as the foci of loyalty and activity among the Malays.

The plan was thought as a form of a British punishment for the Malays, who were accused of collaborating with the Japanese after the British surrender in 1942, which led the British administration to become increasingly sympathetic to the non-Malays' cause and agreed for the inclusion of their civil rights in the political progress of Malaya.

The plan of the Malayan Union involved the non-Malay leaders lobbying the British government in London.

In fact, informal negotiations regarding the plan between Sir Malcolm MacDonald, the Governor-General of Malaya with Tun Tan Cheng Lock, the founder of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) had taken place during the war.

By restructuring the governing system in Malaya under the Malayan Union, the non-Malays could participate actively in governing and administering the government.

This bequest was brought at a time when the Malays were still feeling the after effects of the ruthless Communist Three-Stars (Bintang Tiga) Chinese guerillas.

Before the British returned to take over power from the Japanese, the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) ruled the Malay states for a brief 14 days. The period was associated with hostility as the Chinese guerillas took the opportunity to take revenge against the Malays.

From Oct 20, 1945 to Dec 21, 1945, Sir Harold MacMichael had all the nine treaties in hand. The sultans were given only one choice, which was to sign the new treaties to keep their posts. Their refusal would mean their removal from office.

It was Datuk Onn Jaafar, through the force of his magnetic personality and oratory powers, who welded the Malays under a single cohesive banner, and succeeded in bringing an end to the Malayan Union.

He and other patriotic political comrades managed to unite the Malays for the first time against one foe, to protect the sovereignty of the Malay Rulers. They were fighting to survive as Malays and to exist as Malays.

An explicit objective of the fight was to strategically oppose the abysmal Malayan Union. The enthusiasm of "the Malays must unite", consequently, saw political parties and associations formed all over the country to fight the plan.

On the day of Sir Harold McMichael's arrival in Kota Baru at the end of December 1945, a crowd estimated at more than 10,000 confronted him.
On Jan 3, 1946, the Peninsula Malay Movement of Johor managed to unite more than 100,000 Malays in Batu Pahat, creating the biggest political Malay movement in the history of its homeland.

In February, the first rally was held in Batu Pahat attracting over 15,000 Malays. This was a superb piece of organisation, as at that time mass rallies were unheard of in Malaya.

At the historic gathering of the first Pan-Malayan Malay Congress on March 1, 1946 at the Sultan Sulaiman Club, Kampung Baru Kuala Lumpur, a resolution was unanimously resolved: first, to oppose the Malayan Union and second, to form the Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Bersatu (Pekembar) that would later become Umno.

Meanwhile, under the leadership of Dr Burhanuddin al-Helmy, the Malay Nationalist Party (Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya) organised a congress to unite the Malays and non-Malays in favour of the Malayan Union.

The incongruity of support for the Malayan Union was partly explained by Dr Burhanuddin's close relationship with the non-Malay leader Cheng Lock and several high-level British government officers.

On March 29, 1946, at the inaugural Malay Congress, the members of all the Malay associations were urged to wear white cloth on their songkok (a Malay head cover) as a sign of protest, connoting their mourning for the loss of the political supremacy of their sultans.

The intensification of protest was validated by the fact that Malay women, for the first time, took part in this open demonstration.

The sultans were warned that their presence at the investiture ceremony of the establishment of the Malayan Union would cause emotional upheaval and social unrest, as attending the ceremony was equivalent to bearing the funeral of the Malay race itself.

On the morning of April 1, 1946, Onn ensured the gathering of thousands of Malays, male and female, in the grounds of the Station Hotel Kuala Lumpur to appeal to the sultans not to attend the ceremony.

From the balcony, the sultans could see thousands of Malays with a white cloth over their songkok, shouting loyal slogans "Long live the Kings -- Daulat Tuanku!" three times, with tremendous emotion in their voices, and tears in their eyes.

An unprecedented gesture by identifying themselves in public for the first time, the sultans endorsed and conceded the delicate shift of power to the people. None of the sultans attended the ceremony. This was indeed a big blow to the British government.

The British government agreed to the formation of the Federation of Malaya on Feb 1, 1948. The feudal Rulers were to be maintained, which bolstered the Malays and their hundreds of years of traditions, and a more difficult requirement for citizenship.

Indeed, 70 to 80 per cent of the Chinese and Indian immigrants would have qualified for citizenship under the Malayan Union.

If the British had not introduced the Malayan Union in 1946 but had carried on in the same manner as before the war, it was unlikely that Umno would have emerged since the Malay elite found little justification to quarrel with the British.

In fact, the nation's independence might have materialised much later and also differently. Onn asserted the need to improve the socio-economic circumstances of the Malays before pursuing independence.

The first day of April would likely be an ordinary day for many in Malaysia.
To some playful others, it is April Fool's Day marked as a celebration of practical jokes.

But it is also a historic day in which a race came together unprecedentedly from all corners of Malaya and stood for their identity, traditions and as importantly, their kings.