— Ahmad Mustapha Hassan
The Malaysian Insider
Jun 13, 2013
JUNE 13 — We left a path that we had created to travel forth to achieve what we had desired when this blessed motherland of ours was freed from the colonial yoke in1957. Now in order for us presently to go forward, we need to reflect whether we had moved in the right direction or had we wandered away from what our founding fathers wanted to achieve.
As the Malay proverb goes “Sesat di hujung jalan, balek ka pangkal jalan”, meaning that if we have lost our way, then we just have to go back to where we started the journey.
But of course, we have to know whether we have indeed lost our way. We had been travelling for over half a century and we have to ascertain whether we have achieved anything at all.
In the first place, why did we clamour for independence or did we? A certain section of the people did organise themselves for that struggle but they were crippled by the British. As for the rest, they were simply caught up in the wave of nationalism that was engulfing all the countries still under colonial rule, after the Pacific war.
The British colonial power was not naive to all the happenings that were taking place. They thought they knew how to play their cards. Of course they knew whom they could trust to safeguard their interests. And they ruthlessly annihilated those they knew would be detrimental to their well-being.
The British were masters in the art of pacifying those who mattered to them. Malay society was feudal in structure and that made it that much easier for the British to control them. So long as the structure was kept intact, peace and economic exploitation of the land could proceed unabatedly.
To exploit the riches of the land, they brought in outsiders from various territories under their control and at the same time kept the Malay societal structure intact.
The Malays were happy and of course the British were much happier as they were able to merrily exploit the vast natural resources available.
But then there emerged among the British colonial administrators those who did not understand the political and social conditions in the country. They thought that all the people in their colonised territories were the same in character and would accept whatever changes that they wanted to bring in.
The British now wanted to impose direct political rule so as to make the administration more compact and efficient for them. This policy switch naturally hit at the very heart of Malay society. The introduction of the Malayan Union had shaken the Malay feudal establishment and thus created animosity.
The Malays demonstrated, not because there was mass hunger in the country, or because they wanted freedom and equality or independence for that matter. They demonstrated because their societal structure had come under threat.
There was no cry for independence “Merdeka” like in Indonesia or the battle cry in India “Jai Hind” (Victory to India) but instead championed “Hidup Melayu” (Long Live the Malays). It was a call to preserve the age-old structure based on feudalism. The Malays had been under this societal structure for centuries and a threat to it would mean the Malays would have no protector.
Thus Umno came into being, born in the royal palace in Johor to lead the Malays against this threat.
The British again in a clever twist made use of Umno to cripple all other radical movements against them as they knew Umno would shield their economic interest. Umno readily accepted and danced to the tune of the British colonial administration. And Umno was very proud that the transfer of power was smooth and peaceful. The British had won in this political battle.
With independence, how would Umno move? They had not planned for this and thus they said the country would follow the political system of the free world as compared to that of the centralised economies.
The first attempt towards this concept failed and the country experienced a very major disaster in 1969. Changes were made to pacify the various groups but the goals, whatever they were, were not met.
This was a case of losing the way right from the very beginning. And that was what has been happening for the last half a century. The country had moved backwards rather than forward. It is a case of one step forward and two steps backward.
And the future? It will also be another five years of losing the way.