From The Star, 11th September 2005:
Sheer nonsense, Mr Liu
POINT OF VIEW WITH TUN HANIF OMAR
ON Sept 3, DAP international secretary Ronnie Liu posted on the DAP website a declaration, no less, that â€œUmno leaders were not the real fighters for Independenceâ€.
This is a completely exclusive statement with the very ordinary meaning of its words shining through.
It means that Umno leaders were not in the group of â€œreal fighters for independenceâ€, period. The independence that we thought was achieved principally through them and their collaborators was really â€œwonâ€ by others, exclusive of the Umno leaders.
This is of course nonsense and unsurprisingly raised the ire of the Umno Youth deputy chief. It would have raised my hackles too if I had any left at my age. For me, the greatest objection lies in the totally exclusionary nature of the statement.
By this token, then our revered Tunku Abdul Rahman, who did so much to see that Malaya and later Malaysia were strongly founded on constitutional evolvement, was not a real fighter for independence. Really, but why?
Because, Liu argued, like Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Hussein Onn and Tun Mahathir Mohamad, at some stage of his career Tunku had served the â€œBritishâ€ or â€œcolonialâ€ government. Really? Of Kedah, Pahang, Johor and Selangor? If at all they were British colonies, it was only for the brief Malayan Union period, probably from April 1 to May 4, 1946.
On April 1 that year, Britain perfidiously annexed its nine Malay state protectorates into a colony lumped in with Penang and Malacca. It was done surreptitiously, using threats and blackmail on the Malay rulers and without any consultation with the Malay rulersâ€™ subjects. This fait accompli was thrust upon the Malayan peoples. The Malays were shocked and alarmed. Their â€œprotectorsâ€, who could not protect them from the Japanese invasion, had now sold them down the drain.
Malays all over the peninsula, Malacca, Penang and Singapore, had protested over the British White Paper on the creation of the new colony which was revealed in January 1946 but when this fell on deaf ears, over 40 Malay organisations met in Kuala Lumpur on March 1 and 41 of them decided to form Umno to reject and resist the transformation of the protectorates into a colony.
Three days later Umno was officially formed under Dato Onn bin Jaafar, the Mentri Besar of Johor, and it demanded that the British Government let the protectorate status quo remain without change â€œ for the momentâ€.
Dato Onn and Umno leaders so galvanised Malay resistance that, on May 4, the newly installed Governor of the new colony, Sir Edward Gent, himself declared the Union to be unworkable in the face of the intransigent opposition of the Malay peoples united under Umno.
Once the architect and chief implementer of the annexation of the Malay states himself had made this declaration, the Malayan Union existed only in name until its official demise with the formation of the Federation of Malaya on Feb 1, 1948, which largely restored the position to status quo ante.
So, how could Umno leaders be stigmatised as British lackeys, as Liu probably meant but did not say in that term, just for serving the government of their own country or state?
The British presence was by treaty and was supposed to work in Malay favour. They proved their independence by refusing to accept a British fait accompli and making clear that they would fight the British if necessary.
The Umno struggle for complete independence did not really lose its momentum with the Federation of Malaya Agreement. As Umno had told the British Government in March 1946, it wanted the status quo to remain only â€œfor the momentâ€.
It took a breather. It assessed the situation that had unfolded as a result of the CPMâ€™s armed struggle. It did not give strong support to the British until the British governmentâ€™s announcement in early 1949 that it was prepared to grant eventual independence to Malaya.
When the British Government added a rider in 1952 that independence could be given when the various races were united, Umno and the MCA seized the opportunity to call the British bluff and fielded their candidates on a common ticket in the KL Municipal election.
They won resoundingly, paving the way for the formation of the Alliance. But it was not plain sailing after that.
For Liu to say that, â€œUmno (MCA and MIC) leaders were treated as friends of the Britishâ€ and therefore imputing that independence was given on a silver platter, shows he has not read enough of the history of the road to independence.
If they were all so pally together, would Templer have called Aziz Ishak a rat?
Why did Tunku and the Alliance members who won their federal, state and municipal seats walk out of these chambers in protest?
Why did Tunku and T.H. Tan have to lobby their friends in the British Parliament before the Colonial Secretary would see them?
It was Parti Negara and not Umno that was the British preferred party.
No doubt there were other anti-colonial forces at play as quite rightly pointed out by Liu. One was the CPM. But it was battling for a â€œdemocraticâ€ and â€œindependentâ€ Malaya with Singapore as its focus.
What would this have meant? The Sinoisation of the Malay Peninsular under a â€œdictatorship of the proletariatâ€ that would likely be a satellite of the USSR?
Both points were nightmarish to the Malays who, by virtue of British immigration policy, had become a minority in their own country within the shockingly short span of 20 years â€“ between 1911 and 1930.
Then Liu listed a litany of â€œthe real freedom fightersâ€: the leaders of PKMM (Malay Nationalist Party), and API (Taskforce of Awakened Youth). His list also included Dr Burhanuddin al-Helmi and Ibrahim Haji Yaacob, leaders of KRIS, the Union of Peninsula Indonesians.
All these organisations were republican and believed in Melayu Raya or Indonesia Raya. The PKMM was in fact part of the CPM United Front. If they had succeeded in their â€œindependence struggleâ€, where would we be today? Care to hazard a guess?
Tunku Abdul Rahman and his colleagues in Umno leadership waged a constitutional struggle. That has made it difficult for any body of persons to depart from the norm, and we should be grateful for that. The path to violence must be the last path.
So, did the CPM contribute to Malayaâ€™s attainment of Independence? I guess they did. They created the climate that coalesced the unity of the majority of the people of all races against them and their atrocities. They killed almost 4,000 civilians, Mr Liu!
Chin Peng pulled out of Malaya for southern Thailand in defeat as early as 1953. From that moment, he ceased to be an important equation. In 1957, by carrying on his armed struggle, he became an anti-independence element, still fighting for a â€œgenuineâ€ independence of Malaya with Singapore.
In 1963, he refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of Malaysia and joined forces with the Indonesian Confrontation to crush Malaysia. Was he a genuine independence fighter, killing the citizens and security personnel of independent Malaya and Malaysia until 1989?
I think he contributed more to the wastage and destruction of Malaysian wealth. He made our country pay a steep price for achieving independence peacefully. That was his real contribution.
But he is an old man now. He has laid down his arms. It is best that we look past his old follies and deeds. We have too much to do to live in rancour.