William Roff was emeritus professor of Islamic and Southeast Asian history at Columbia University, in New York.
Roff ‘s famous book is The Origins of Malay Nationalism.
His widow Sue Roff believes that “much of what he identified 50 years ago is apparent in the results” of Malaysia’s 2013 general election.
The eminent historian understood kenapa Melayu telah bangkit menentang Malayan Union ketika itu. We are now looking at an ulang tayang – kali ini, ianya umat Islam yang bangkit.
Malays who opposed the Malayan Union in 1946 were against the idea of giving relaxed access to citizenship for the non-Malays, particularly the Chinese.
BELOW: According to some DAP fanboys, the early Chinese immigrants wore tudung too, and hence this head covering is not something exclusive to be claimed solely by Malay women on religious grounds
Roff writes: “The manifestly transient nature of the majority of Chinese and Indians, the principal non-Malay groups, tended to obscure the steady growth among them of settled and stable communities”.
The word “transient” means impermanent or not permanent. The dictionary defines it as a noun to refer to “a person who is staying or working in a place for a short time only”.
Transient or not, by the end of 1930, Chinese made up 29 percent of persons residing in the peninsula. And this figure refers merely to those enumerated by the 1931 census. There were other impermanent Chinese workers who were uncounted.
BELOW: Mammoth demos where protestors carried placards “Down with Malayan Union” and “Hidup Melayu”
Migratory birds of passage
The Chinese labour force “come and go” ... or rather, came and went. Between 1911 and 1921, a total of 1-and-½ million Chinese arrived to work in Malaya and over the same period, almost a million left to return to China.
Until 1957 forced the choice on them, many Chinese had considered themselves sojourners whose stay was temporary. They always wanted to return to their families in the village in China.
The Chinese repatriated money ‘home’ – much like the foreign workers we have in our midst currently who send money back to their wives and parents in Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar.
BELOW: The Sun Yat Sen memorial centre in Macalister Road, Penang
Split loyalties but China First
Sino-centrism clearly informed the outlook and policies adopted by the Chinese community in Malaya.
According to Asst Prof. Heng Pek Koon, they had a cultural and political orientation that was “strongly China-centric”.
In her paper on Chinese response to Malay hegemony, Dr Heng wrote that although the Chinese wanted to be political equals of the Malays, they also wanted dual citizenship.
And despite that holding such a citizenship as they demanded would have obligated the Chinese to be loyal to both Malaya and China, the communist party – when Malayan Union proposal was being debated – still stuck to a decision that “ultimate allegiance should be owed to China in the event of conflict between the two countries”.
The Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) were Bintang Tiga communist guerrillas who saw their resistance to the Japanese occupation of Malaya as linked to the war of resistance ongoing in motherland China.
1946-1955: Chinese here considered China their country
The Kwong Wah Jit Poh broadsheet was established in 1910 by Dr Sun Yat Sen, first president of the Republic of China. The daily is the oldest Chinese newspaper in the country. Based in Penang, it was at one time coupled with The J-Star.
The China Democratic League (CDL) was a China political party that had branches catering to the Chinese diaspora, including those living in Malaya.
Nan Chiau Jit Pau – a CDL party organ first published in November 1946 and read by Chinese in Malaya – boasted a circulation of 22,000 (a circulation figure not far behind that of the New Straits Times currently).
BELOW: Diorama of Dr Sun holding his Penang Conference at 120, Armenian Street
Celebrating Oct 10, China’s National Day
In 1948, Malaya’s Kuomintang chapter counted a membership of 45,000 Chinese. The number of Kuomintang members in our country back then was roughly the same as the PKR membership that took four months to vote their party office bearers recently.
Chinese in Malaya commemorated the birth and death of Kuomintang founder Sun Yat Sen.
From the end of the World War Two until the British clamped down on such activities, the Chinese in Malaya celebrated the Oct 10 anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of China, i.e. China’s National Day.
At these gala celebrations, portraits of Dr Sun, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong were hoisted. The flag of China was also flown.
BELOW: China national flag has five stars; the J-Star logo has five stars too
“A transient labour force”
All these China-hearted Chinese settled in the urban areas of the Malay peninsula. They were shopkeepers, traders and clerical workers, i.e. a class of people who had accumulated a little capital. Thus the Chinese immigrants, through their wealth acquisition, staked their holdings here.
Yet according to the late emeritus professor Roff, “the British persisted in looking officially upon the Chinese as exclusively a transient labour force” – p.110, see page scan below.
Click to enlarge
Nonetheless following the Malay uprising in 1946, the Perjanjian Persekutuan Tanah Melayu, inked in 1948 after the successful dissolution of the Malayan Union, tightened the citizenship requirements for non-Malays. On the other hand, Malays were considered natural subjects of the Raja-Raja Melayu.
Do note that it was only in 1963 that this country ceased being officially called Tanah Melayu.
BELOW: Watikah pemasyhuran kemerdekaan
Chinese struggled for Merdeka, really?
Two days ago, the MCA issued a press statement titled ‘Ex-CJ must stop offending the joint sacrifices of multiracial Malayans in the struggle for Merdeka’.
Prior to 1952*, not many Chinese were citizens of this country. They were NOT anak watan yang tertakluk kepada Raja-Raja Melayu. Many of them were China-centric and oriented to the homeland. The Peranakan Chinese lived in the British crown colonies.
Straits Chinese living in Penang and Malacca considered themselves British subjects. In fact, there was a movement of Penangites, including resident whites, who objected to Penang’s 1957 entry into the Federation. They had wanted secession, preferring instead to give their loyalty to the Queen of England, like in Hong Kong.
Why does MCA assert that these Chinese, who were never rakyat Tanah Melayu, had struggled to free the land from the British?
BELOW: The only BN Chinese supporters left today are those MCA old folks who signed up with the party during Tan Cheng Lock’s era
MCA feels insulted, offended and deeply aggrieved
Party sec-gen Ong Ka Chuan stated on Sept 8:
“MCA is deeply aggrieved that retired Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid has uttered statements which hold zero basis by refusing to recognise historical facts that the struggle for Merdeka was a joint effort by all communities with a common vision of sovereignty and freedom from British colonial rule.”
Actually Tun Hamid gave a fair representation of the historical premise.
Ong complained that “Tun Hamid’s utterances are a complete insult against the contributions of MCA, in particular, our party’s founding father Tun Tan Cheng Lock”.
The MCA founding father Sir Tan Cheng Lock was a Malacca Baba who could not read hanzi (Chinese script). He was knighted by the British. Tan is totally unlike the majority of the Chinese in Malaysia today.
Who does MCA represent nowadays, pray tell?
BELOW: The MCA symbol is modelled after the Kuomintang logo
Malays diluted own voting power by allowing Merdeka citizenships
MCA’s Ong wrote that the “Alliance lead by Tunku Abdul Rahman, supported by Umno, MCA and MIC swept to a landslide victory in the first ever general election on 17th July 1955, by winning 51 out of 52 seats in the Federal Legislative Council”.
May I remind Ong that the ethnic breakdown of those registered to vote in 1955 were:
- 84.2 percent: 1,078,000 Malays
- 11.2 percent: 143,000 Chinese
- 3.9 percent: 50,000 Indians
- 0.7 percent: 9,000 Others
The electorate in 1955 comprised only 11 percent Chinese.
It was the 84 percent Malay voters mainly who delivered the seats to the Alliance, and it was those Umno Malays who voted across ethnic lines that gave MCA the party’s seats in 1955. Same as in the 2008 and 2013 general elections, for which The J-Star thinks that Malay BN traditional voters are stupidly kampung-minded for refusing to usher a Change (“Ubah”) in Putrajaya.
In 1955, when 84.2 percent of the voters were Malay, the Alliance obtained 79.6 percent of the popular vote.
In 1959, when the percentage of Malay voters dropped to 57.1 percent (due to the Chinese voters conversely increasing by 24.4 percent), the popular vote obtained by the Alliance dropped too – drastically to 51.7 percent.
BELOW: DAP was Selangor’s biggest winner in the 10 May 1969 election, sweeping half of the DUN’s 28 seats; MCA won a measly one state seat in Selangor
Setiakawan tapi ditikam belakang
The MCA sec-gen contended in his press statement: “The [1955 Alliance] victory might not have been able to come about easily without the support of the multi-racial voters”.
In 1955, eight-and-a-half out of every 10 registered voter was Malay.
From a voting strength of 84.2 percent, the Malays saw their influence reduced to 57.1 percent during the following next general election in 1959. The reduction of the Malay’s voting power corresponded with a reduction in the Alliance’s vote share.
Alliance popular vote
- 1955 – 79.6%
- 1959 – 51.7%
Why? Why the difference between 1955 and 1959, and the reason for the Alliance’s shockingly dismal performance two years after Merdeka?
The answer is … because of the huge increase in the number of Chinese voters who mostly voted for the opposition!
BELOW: One million Merdeka citizenships granted
The Chinese in 1959, enfranchised through the Merdeka citizenships, saw a marked rise in their electoral presence to 35.6 percent (764,000 voters) from 11.2 percent voters earlier in 1955.
When given voting rights as citizens, the Chinese immediately dealt a severe blow to the Alliance.
BELOW: Chinese in Malaya greeting the communist guerrillas (from the jungle) into town with the message “The People’s Autonomous Council Welcomes the MPAJA. Whole Heaven is Rejoicing” – the Chinese characters on the triumphal arch read
Communists were not fighting to return sovereignty to Raja Melayu
MCA sec-gen Ong Ka Chuan claimed that “in the World War II, during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, the Chinese, Malay and Indian communities sacrificed their lives to defend Malaya against the invading forces”.
MCA’s Ong has conveniently neglected to mention that the Chinese communists would not have wanted to return Malaya to a rule by the Raja-Raja Melayu if they had succeeded in their insurgency.
After the defeated Japanese left Tanah Melayu in 1945, the communists still nonetheless refused to lay down their arms but continued to wage war against the Alliance government and our YDP Agong.
ABOVE: Chinese in Chenderiang, Perak welcoming the Bintang Tiga First Regiment marching into town shortly after the surrender of the Japanese
Do you trust MCA anymore?
British historian Arnold J. Toynbee made a thought-provoking quote:
“A truly significant mark that the British Empire can leave in Malaya when she withdraws is the transformation’ of this country into the nineteenth province of China.”
Dato’ Onn Jaafar thought that the Chinese – through using MCA as their instrument – wanted to make Malaya the 20th province of China. Unlike Toynbee, Dato’ Onn counted Taiwan as already the 19th province.
ABOVE: Students from the MCA-owned Utar wave Ah Jib Gor banners but shortly before GE13 on 12 April 2013, a lecturer from the university, Chong Zhemin, represented DAP in a public debate with independent operator Shen Yee Aun who represented MCA.
I repeat, a Utar lecturer represented DAP in a pre-election debate vs MCA.
Click 2x to enlarge
ABOVE: Readers of the MCA-owned paper were “Happy” (20%), “Inspired” (20%) and “Amused” (20%) to hear the news that Wanita MCA vice chairman Lim Bee Kau had died of cancer.
Three out of every five J-Star readers who gave their feedback to the article (at the time the screenshot above was taken) were Happy-Inspired-Amused at the unfortunate passing of an MCA leader.
Do the Chinese hate – really hate – the MCA or what?
(a) Chinese non-officers in the army are 0.2 percent
MCA says former Chief Justice “spewing nonsense”
MCA’s Ong had rounded on Tun Hamid, urging him to
“please desist from blemishing his record in the judiciary, and be a respected public figure by encouraging national unity in line with the 1 Malaysia spirit rather than spewing nonsense to polarise communities and the contributions of every Malayan / Malaysian living and departed towards the defence, Independence and development of Malaya / Malaysia”.
(b) Chinese officers in the army are 1.4 percent
Ong insists that Tun Hamid’s statements are nonsense. On the contrary, Tun Hamid’s statements have a historical basis.
Are the Chinese by and large today involved in the defence of Malaysia as the MCA claims? Look at how many Chinese are in the army (Angkatan Tentera Darat) – pie charts (a) non-officers and (b) officers, above.
Look at how many Chinese are serving in the police force – pie chart below.
Some Chinese even refuse to stand when our national anthem is played.
MCA was indeed pivotal in acquiring citizenship for the Chinese. However, the truth of the matter is, Malaya would have gotten Independence regardless – with or without the participation of the MCA.
Atlantic Charter’s principle of decolonization
At the height of World War Two, Great Britain and the United States issued a joint declaration in August 1941 known as the Atlantic Charter.
One of the principles upheld by the charter is that peoples affected by the war should – after the threat of the Axis forces has been contained or eliminated – have the right to self-determination and to choose their own form of government.
In other words, the Atlantic Charter had already set forth the blueprint for the decolonialization process.
Britain would have been compelled by the post-war circumstances to dismantle her empire overseas and let go her colonies eventually. It did not require the MCA’s role for Tanah Melayu to achieve our independence.
China would not have wanted the Christians back
One must not forget that the Malayan treaties were all signed between His/Her British Majesty’s government and the Raja-Raja Melayu. The Chinese had no locus standi.
Furthermore, the Malay states were legally constituted and sovereign, with each having their own Undang-Undang Tubuh Negeri. They owed nothing to the Chinese who were not party to, and whose signatures did not appear, on the various legal documents.
Rather than accommodating the Chinese masses, Malaya could have chosen to take the Brunei route.
BELOW: Chinese Christians in Federated Malay States were not recognised as China nationals by the Secretary for Chinese Affairs Enactments of 1899
Chinese – stateless in Brunei
Brunei, a former British protectorate, got her independence from Britain in 1984.
When Brunei dimerdekakan, only some 9,000 ethnic Chinese were granted Brunei citizenship. The status of about 20,000 other Chinese (some of whom were previously British passport holders) remained as “stateless” persons.
To put it another way, for every Chinese granted Brunei citizenship, two others were denied. They failed to pass the nationality test, flunking the national language exam.
Unlike in Malaya, Brunei did not give away automatic citizenship to the Chinese nor did she make it so easy to be awarded citizenship. See ‘Stateless residents fight for sense of belonging in Brunei‘ (China Daily, 19 Dec 2013).
Even today, the Chinese there are only Permanent Residents and not full-fledged citizens despite being born and raised in the Sultanate, simply because Brunei rejects jus soli.
BELOW: Hannah Yeoh’s tweet to J-Star CEO Wong Chun Wai about the “racist parties” pointless to educate
Umno failed to live up to its reputation
Umno – whom the Yahudi Yeohs call a “racist party” – could have opted for the jus sanguinis (right by blood) approach when advising the Raja-Raja Melayu on the citizenship issue.
Might as well the “racist party” just behave as ‘racist’ly as how the “fourth class citizens” Chinese perceive it to be. After all, Umno is daily assailed as Nazis who perpetuate apartheid.
Two days ago, the MCA sec-gen accused the former CJ of “spewing nonsense to polarise communities”. If Ong Ka Chuan is referring to the Chinese and the Malays, well, these two communities have been divided since 100 years ago. Why blame Tun Hamid for this situation or for revisiting history?
An editorial in The Times (of London) on 2 July 1957 said:
“… one need only look at the Constitution [of Malaya] and the latest amendments incorporated to be reminded how great is the divide between the Malays and the Chinese.”
BELOW: Azmi Sharom’s J-Star article headlined ‘Thugs allowed to set agenda’
“Hate-spewing, divisive, race-obsessed ignoramuses” you all
The London Times editorial above was penned when the Perlembagaan Persekutuan Tanah Melayu was printed following the submission of the Reid Commission report in February 1957.
But it is really the editorials of the MCA-owned newspaper that is “spewing nonsense”.
- ‘Hate politics taking its toll’ (31 Aug 2014)
- ‘Mirror not the bully‘ (17 Aug 2014)
- Silly political charade (3 Aug 2014)
- ‘Drown out the bigots‘ (27 July 2014),
- ‘Overplay of a haunting tune‘ (13 July 2014)
- ‘No cause for paranoia’ (6 July 2014)
Wong Chun Wai and his J-Star have been thumping their chests and strutting around like they are paragons of “moderation” while at the same time ranting at all the rest of Malaysia who are non-evangelistas.
Those not enamoured of Wong and his ilk are called “hate-spewing, divisive, race-obsessed ignoramuses” by the screaming J-Star editorials.
But do you know WHY Wong Chun Wai can get away with pointing his finger at those whom he calls “right wingers” and Umno hawks?
Do you know why The EvangeliSTAR can get away with positing itself as the “moderates” benchmarking ‘Moderation’?
Do you know why their patron the MCA can slam Tun Hamid and disregarding the three fingers pointing back at themselves?
I’ll give you a pictorial clue
And oh by the way, how much is the Prime Minister’s office contributing to the J-Star ‘Voices of Moderation’ campaign?
* Malayan Citizenship was liberalized in 1951 and took effect in 1952.