Rabu, Oktober 31, 2007

Artikel dari The Penang File, Nov 2007

Lim Kean Chye, salah seorang tokoh yang ditemubual dalam dokumentari 'Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka' telah menulis sebuah artikel berkenaan filem tersebut di laman web yang dikendalikannya, The Penang File.

Fahmi's documentary: Ten Years Before Merdeka
by Lim Kean Chye


THE TWISTED HISTORY of Malaya almost invariably portrays Malaya as a country of hostile peoples facing one another with fear and hatred. Its picture of the post-war period after the Japanese surrender is of a divided people governed by a benevolent Britain honestly trying hard to reconcile racial animosities and to create a viable united nation. But the truth is that there were in fact two groups - the pro British and the anti British who wanted freedom, one might conveniently call it right wing against left wing. The left was inspired by the Indonesian battle against the Dutch for independence and the role of the Soviet Union in defeating fascism and the downfall of Churchill and the ascendancy of the British Labour Party. They noticed that even the returning British soldiers were singing Soviet songs.

There was no doubt that the left were in the majority and they were demanding "merdeka." Among them were the MIC. The right were the palace pro-British elements led by Dato Onn in Johore and in Perak by the Dato Panglima Bukit Gantang and clutter of very small clubs and associations whose timid slogan was "Hidup Melayu" that disdained challenging British rule.

The documentary "Ten Years Before Merdeka" by Fahmi Reza has pierced the mist of disinformation to reveal from the National Archives the story of the united front against British colonial rule ten years before August 31, 1957, especially, of the coalition known as the PUTERA-AMCJA. That the narrative was done by some actors still alive to tell the story is a tribute to the grinding work of searching and researching that he and his team must have done.

The film explains the Peoples Constitutional Proposals of 1947, the culmination of the resistance to the naked restoration of the 1940 British colonial rule, and the smashing of the left by mass arrests, led by the detention of 10,000 Malays. The British feared the Malay nationalists above all else for they knew that they could only rely on the support of those around the palaces. While Ho Chi Minh in French Indo-China had maintained his armed forces, the British agent Lai Te, otherwise Wright, ordered the MPAJA to surrender their arms, ensuring the supremacy of his returning masters.

Tan Cheng Lock

The film missed emphasising the immense significance of Tan Cheng Lock, the chairman of the PUTERA-AMCJA. That is largely my fault and I make amends here.

Tan Cheng Lock (later Sir Tan Cheng Lock) was British to the bone. A wealthy man with interests in rubber and banking, he was a Straits Settlements Legislative Councillor from Malacca, at the same time as my father who was appointed from Penang. He was a loyal Straits Born British Chinese. To understand him, we have to look at the loyal Chinese of 1945. They were shocked by the British running away and leaving them to an uncertain, fearful future under the Japanese; they began to look at the British with different eyes. Lim Ewe Hock's "A Straits British Chinese Discovers Himself," published in March 1946, neatly epitomises their anguished awakening. (see The Penang File - Archives - jul-2004 - page1135). It is not surprising that when the Malayan Democratic Union was formed at the end of 1945 it won the immediate support of Raffles College graduates, the so-called cream of the English educated. Lim Tay Boh, Goh Keng Swee, Yong Nyuk Lin, Eu Cheow Chye, Seow Cheng Fong were among the majority who supported us, openly or clandestinely. The minority, who disdained the "disloyal" anti-colonialists, even voted against the setting up of a university when the graduates, meeting as the Stamford Club, debated the Carr-Saunders Commission. That they were only able to muster three votes against exposed the comedy of their size.

The older generation, such as C C Tan in Singapore, rallied around John Laycock, the English solicitor. In Penang, Heah Joo Seang ran to London to plead desperately for Penang to remain a crown colony.

Cheng Lock came back from India, to which country he had fled when the Japanese invaded, a rather changed man. He was very impressed by Nehru and Gandhi and the Indian independence movement. I went to see him in Malacca and after a few talks formed the definite impression that he would support us in our work for self-government. He was very interested in the Malayan Democratic Union which he was convinced was not communist (being well connected, he had his sources of information) and asked a few questions to clear up in his mind that we were not puppets of the communists, the trade unions, and youth and women's movements nor stooges of the Malay groups. The significance of Cheng Lock agreeing to be chairman can never be exaggerated. He dissolved the hesitancy among many border liners and even persuaded the local Chamber of Commerce to come out in support of the general strike - the hartal, something which we had never heard of and learnt from Cheng Lock, who urged us to use a weapon he had seen in action while in India.

Shut down

The film did not lie about the success of the hartal. We effectively shut down the country for one day. A circular, issued by the chief secretary to the government, on September 19,1947 is enough to prove this. It read:

"Whatever a hartal might signify in Malay, the Chief Secretary desires to make it quite clear that if any Government servant absents himself from his duties in the public service with the real or ostensible object to bringing pressure to bear on Government on a political issue, not only will such officer forfeit his pay for the period of his absence, but he will be dealt with under the disciplinary regulations of the service."
They were not sure even of their civil service.

The colonial office with the colonial cataract in the eye took no notice of the Constitutional Proposals and went ahead with their "negotiations" with a rump UMNO and the Sultans. The hartal failed to break their resolve. They retaliated with mass arrests.

Sumber: The Penang File, Issue 56, November 2007

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