Monday, 05 September 2011 00:50
Of Tok Janggut and Umno's distortion of history to fool the less educated
Written by Moaz Nair, Malaysia Chronicle
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EDITOR'S PICK The media is giving rapt attention to the world of truths and half-truths concerning who among others truly fought for Malaya’s freedom that eventually led to nation’s independence.
This stark perplexity is made even more shadowy when exploited by some disingenuous politicians to confidence trick the people. To the general populace, those who are out there to score brownie points in the game of politics is understandable. Politicians just have to, on purpose, dupe the less informed in our society by making a palatable feast out of a recent statement made by a popular politician on the unsung freedom fighters of Malaya during the Colonial rule.
The attack on that Bukit Kepong police station happened on 23rd February 1950. The policemen (with due respect to those who died in the incident and the bereaved family members) were then serving the British who colonised Malaya (1786-1957). It happened during a protracted hostility between the British and the people of Malaya at that time. The issue of who is the hero and who is the villain in a situation of this nature does not really merit exploitation by the media. In this case, only independent historians are able to take apart the morsel from the casing.
History is more often than not manipulated by politicians to ensemble their false ego. History could always be deviously distorted to favour the serving politicians or the victor and the vanquished would forever be the less heard of.
To some politicians, the art of hoaxing the less educated becomes a mileage in politics. In the same manner history could be conveniently manipulated to this effect to arouse the anger of innocent people. Propitiously though, not all people are that naive to succumb to these dim-witted tricks. When a political entity is struggling in a quicksand to recoup they would have no choice but to resort to dim means to survive by resorting to politics of pretence.
The British ruled by proxies
The fact was that at that period of time in our history the British were astutely ruling Malaya by outsourcing some of their power base to proxies. Unfortunately, the naive locals were resourcefully exploited and poised to work for them. From the ordinary labourers and the security force to the administrators and rulers, most were subjugated to unfalteringly guard British economic ravenousness, their voracious appetite to rule and their continued existence in Malaya.
Regrettably, by putting the locals on the front line to meet their self-seeking goals many innocent and powerless Malayans died in the hands of those who opposed British presence in the country before independence. On the other front, many Malayans working in dire conditions in the plantations and building railways and roads for the British interests died due to diseases and malnutrition. Those damned to this deplorable enslavement were passive Malayans who had no choice but to work for the British to earn a living.
Attacks on British interests were awfully rampant during the colonial days that it came to a point that this bane on them helped pave the way for Malaya’s independence in 1957. It is noteworthy that most attacks on British interests happened before independence where the ordinary people detested the Colonial rule. Nevertheless, despite this apparent abhorrence, there were at the same time many Malayans among the local elites who were rubbing shoulders with the British colonialists for some reasons best known to them.
The perception by most people at that time was that the British were indeed reputable and remarkable people. At their zenith, Britain managed to colonise over two-thirds of the world and brought both untold miseries and, undeniably, some corporeal benefits to the people. This colonisation included Malaya (1774-1957). The British on the whole had no earnest interests in the welfare of the ordinary people of Malaya, which included the poor Malays, Chinese, Indians and the Indigenous.
The people, who included the elites among them, were in truth used as their proxies to safeguard their imperialistic interests. There were many Malayans who were willing to serve the interests of the British without question. And this included many top local administrators who were working hand in glove with the British to undermine the nation.
The impression that came with administrative posts in those days was so grand that it was just irresistible for most people not to succumb to the career inducements created by the British. This made the gullible among the elites more inclined to revere and associate even more with the British. Some of these administrator-cum-politicians stayed on to hold even more important government posts after the country’s independence.
The privileged group
The social and economic woes of the ordinary people – farmers, labourers and low wage earners - were craftily neglected by the British. On the contrary, they - nattily and sneakily - gave some privileges to the elite groups to ensure that their supreme role as chieftain was well cosseted and fortified. This move was widely conceived as a whizz approach by the British to espouse their interests in Malaya.
The British recruited professionals only to take care of their administrative prowess and economic interests. They later built special schools, social clubs and gave recreational, job and educational opportunities for the elites among Malayans so that they could become more submissive to them and in the process succumb to their phony scheme to further harvest the country dry.
Many among the elites, after studying in exclusive local schools, had the privilege to pursue their studies overseas and later returned to work in the civil service under the British. These were English speaking Malayans and many were then regarded as Western Educated Gentlemen (WOG) who lived a life many notches above the ordinary Malayans at that time.
Children of Malay farmers, Indian estate workers and poor Chinese were deprived of this privilege and were not privy to this modus operandi as they were of no strategic value to the British other than to be confined to their designated roles as labourers and low-income employees to serve the British. The British were aloof and stayed in comfortable, well-built houses in exclusive residential enclaves. Out of little choice, most of the ordinary Malayans were actually helping to make enormous wealth for the British. Rubber and tin industries brought richness to the British and many Malayans were employed as police and servicemen to maintain social order and safeguard their business interests.
To the British then, those who went against their rule and interests were treasonous and branded as rebels. Even rulers who were against the British demand to pave the way for them to colonise and impose tax on the people without encumbrances were exiled or banished from the country. Those who associated themselves with the Japanese (1941-45) to denounce British rule were then branded as treacherous and banished. Even some rulers who were against the British tyranny and were suspected of coalescing with the Japanese were not spared.
Some were conveniently replaced after Word War II when the British returned to rule. In fact some among these intractable rulers were even banished or exiled during the 200 years of British colonisation of Malaya. What more with the ordinary people of Malaya who went against British rule. They were branded as perfidious and many were imprisoned, banished or killed.
Tok Janggut and those who defied the British
A case in point was Tok Janggut or Mohd Hassan Munas of Kelantan who was killed (1915) under British order. Embroiled in the new land tax system introduced by the British made it hard for the people to pay the tax. Those who could not or did not pay the tax were imprisoned or fined.
Tok Janggut fought a battle against the British forces. He was later killed in the gruesome battle near Kampung Pupuh. His dead body was hung with legs up on a stretched out wooden pole and paraded throughout Kota Baharu and Pasir Puteh. The body was left in that state for several days in front of the Kelantan Royal Palace. Later it was let to rot on a river bank heavily guarded by local policemen under British authority. Tok Janggut's decomposed body was finally buried in Pasir Pekan, ending the rebellion against British rule in Kelantan. Not surprising, at that time sanguine praises rolled out from the tongue of many loyal British subjects for the punishment meted out to Tok Janggut.
Many other Malayans were rebuked and branded as traitors for their activities against the British. As the ninth ruler of Naning (1802-1849)) Dato’ Abdul Said, a rural village precinct in the vicinity of present-day Alor Gajah, he led the local villagers to defy British plans to impose taxes on the district. With some easy weapons, he audaciously fought British forces in Naning with a rare military ingenuity. His combative spirit and illustrious legacy earned a permanent place in Malacca's history but to the British he was a traitor.
The legendary Malay freedom fighter Mat Kilau revolted against the British in the 1890s. Ishak Haji Muhammed (Pak Sako) (1909-1991)was in the early 1940s considered disloyal when he solicited Japanese help to oust the British in Malaya. Even before the initiation of UMNO, Malayans of all races and ancestry were already arms up against the British. Ahmad Boestaman (1920-1983), Dr Burhanuddin Al-Helmy (1911-1969) and Pak Sako formed the Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (PKMM) (1946) opposing the proposed Malayan Union which relegated the powers of the Malayan Rulers to the British Residents.
Between 1946 to1948, saw continuous strikes among workers that almost laid up the nation’s rubber and tin industries. The port workers of Singapore also joined in the strikes, debilitating Malaya’s major port much to the detriment of British interests. British economic interests were affected. The bastion of the British economy which were the rubber and tin industries, were faced with imminent collapse. The British then speedily declared PKMM as unlawful and incarcerated its leaders.
The Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) (1930 - 1989) had their own elusive agenda during the British occupation. Historically, however, it cannot be denied that CPM worked with the British against the Japanese who invaded Malaya (1941-1945) during World War II. CPM was more committed to its communist cause – a political ideology that has since bowed to capitalism in most countries. CPM was first involved in pre-war anti colonial struggle against Britain.
During the War, Malayan Peoples Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) (1942-1945) – involving Chinese, Malays and Indians - and Britain’s clandestine Force 136 worked in tandem to fight against the Japanese. During this time there were many Malayans tacitly working with the Japanese to evict the British from Malaya. Many who were caught doing so were chastised. CPM and the British army together fought against the Japanese invaders with weapons provided by Britain and Australia.
After the War, Britain acknowledged CPM’s role in defending Malaya against the Japanese. Actually, it was a victory to the British more than it was for CPM, as the recouped Colonial power was back in Malaya to defend her rule over post-war Malaya. CPM and British ties snapped just after the War and Malaysian emergency (1948-1960) erupted. CPM consequently became a threat to British rule and they were immediately branded by the British as communist terrorists. The CPM went on to continuously agitate the British administration.
Cruelty and butchery: CPM killed 2,473 while the Japanese killed 83,000
The fact that the communists killed 2,473 civilians during the Emergency (1948 to 1960) would always be remembered as a very poignant episode in the country’s history. However, we should also not forget that the Japanese killed almost 83,000 people during their four-year rampage in Malaya and Singapore. Thousands more were taken away by force to build the Death Railway (Thailand-Burma Railway) (1942-43) and 90,000 Asians out of over 250,000 labourers perished at the site. Many local lives were also lost when Britain’s proxies killed the many freedom fighters in Malaya whom they branded as traitors. These were among the atrocities caused by those who sought power to rule, those with vested political interests and those who wanted to free their nation. Hopefully, no civilised people of today would condone this cruelty and butchery of the past.
Blinkered politicians would however always see history with a skewed mind for political gains. They harp on trivial issues to demean their political adversaries. Little would they cherish that Malaya achieved independence due to the toil and sweat of all her people – Malays, Chinese, Indians and the Indigenous people. There were fighters who had pride in their dignity and died for the others to live on.
No one party in this nation should thus singularly pledge claim for having unilaterally engaged the British to achieve independence. Those who were engaged in this effort – no matter what their ideological affiliations were at that point of time – should not be ignored in the history of this nation.
The history of this country has to be seen from its true perspectives and not with intent and purpose of distorting the truth, as propped up by some ill-conceived politicians whose only aim is just to remain in power.
- Malaysia Chronicle