A few days preceding the formal constitution of UMNO, about 40 Malay organizations met at the Sultan Sulaiman Club in Kampung Bharu. All over the country, the Malays were angry. their anger directed at the British for deviously planning to create a new system of governing Malaya. From the British standpoint, their aim was to achieve administrative uniformity between the various states. it was the political ramifications that proved to be the Union's own undoing.
Unchallenged, it will mean the end of the world as the common Malay sees it. the introduction of the Malayan union however proved a number of things. when push comes to shove, the Malays really must depend on themselves to progress. The opposition to Malayan union accorded the Malays a golden opportunity to shatter the dependency culture. It could have been the chance to establish the strengthening of personal responsibility to make our society work. it also shattered the myth that the sultans are here to protect them. Malays must pull themselves out on their own bootstraps. Of course if the Malayan Union were to be unchallenged, it would have precipitated a sea-change in the Malay mindset. Understandably, the Malays would have none of this. while the progressive elements within Malay society desired a change in Malay mentality, it must achieved on Malay terms.
The new form of governing Malaya was known as the Malayan Union. Under the Malayan Union, all the Malay states will be ruled by the British governor general. he will be helped by a British resident in each state. The British will in fact form the state government. it was clear, the Malays had no role to play in administering their country. by design and default, Malays were sidelined by the Malayan union. Malays were not proficient in the English language and were ill trained to participate in matters of administration. Malays existed at the periphery of shaping the destiny of their own country. perhaps this was due to the observation of people like Frank Swettenham that Malays lacked political institutions and Europeans, were innately more intelligent than Asians.
The only form of government hitherto known to Malays was the rule by Malay rulers. how did they fit into the new form of governing? Malay rulers were reduced essentially as royal yes men and were to play a major role only in matters pertaining to Malay culture and religion. Selected Malays were co opted into state councils to assist the British residents. even in those fields where Malays consider themselves competent, their councils will be attended and presided by the British resident . the bane of Malay anger was the intention of the colonial government to grant citizenship to immigrants, notably the Chinese and Indians. the Malays feared that they would eventually be overwhelmed by these immigrants. already, immigrants were playing a more substantive role in the Malayan economy, increasingly marginalizing the Malays.
The idea of a MalayanUnion drew vehement protests from Malays. Dato Onn Jaafar rallied and galvanised Malay opposition to the idea of a Malayan Union. he worked tirelessly. as a result, over 40 Malay organizations convened at the Sultan Sulaiman Club under the auspices of a National Malay Congress. their main objective was to unite all Malays to oppose the creation of a Malayan Union. Malay leaders pressed the Malay rulers not to sign the formation of the union. it was eventually replaced by the Federation of Malaya Agreement of 1948. the concerns of the Malay people were addressed. the sultans regained their status. the conferment of Malayan citizenship was made stricter. The congress resolved to form UMNO thus giving the Malays the first national political platform. It was also resolved that Dato Onn by Jaafar be appointed UMNO's first Chairman, now President.
as many of you may now conclude, the Malayan Union was essentially a form of government intended to consolidate the rule of British colonialism over Malaya. You may remember beginning from the the 3rd quarter of the 19th century, the British gradually expanded their occupation over Malaya. The Malayan Union was to effectively placed Malaya under direct British Rule by the office of the Governor General. The GG would in fact become the emperor of Malaya. In fact, the GG would replace all the Malay rulers and rule Malaya through a network of British residents. and what role would the Malay rulers play? The traditional Malay rulers were to become hired midwifes endorsing the birth of any legislation and rules. Duped, coerced or forced by any means necessary, Malay rulers could offer only meek resistance. In private, some of them actually welcomed direct British rule.
The two main aspects of the Malayan union that spurred intense revulsion were the diminution of the power of the Malay rulers. The second was the erosion of Malay preeminence in this country. The Malayan Union can indeed be seen an extension and the culmination of the British Residential system. The British Resident System was, in the words of Frank Swettenham, that extraordinary device of running another people's affairs by tendering advice which must be acted upon.
Malays mourned Malayan Union.
one of the symbolic gestures taken by the Malays who convened at the sultan sulaiman club was to wear a white band around their songkoks. wearing a white ringed songkok was a symbol of mourning. and indeed, the Malays were mourning the loss of everything dear and close to them. in fact they lost their country.
in a bizarre twist of events, the Malays are now mourning the demise of UMNO.
when people confront a catastrophe, they immediately fall into two groups. as pointed out by the historian Bernard Lewis, a group will ask who does this to us? this group of people will start shooting at other people, blaming outsiders or external factors causing grief to them. This description fits very well with the majority of UMNO leaders and members. immediately after the results of the general elections were out, UMNO leaders are trampling over one another offering reasons for UMNO's dismal performance. One can only react with dismay at the simplistic explanation of UMNO's losses. the other group will ask what factors caused this catastrophe. usually this group examines the true causes rather than faulting other persons.
applying the second approach, blame can only be attributed to weak, inept and incompetent leadership. this is the main and principal issue. it is not about what Mahathir left us or did or did not do during his tenure in office of 22 years. Mahathir made a mistake by choosing Pak Lah and is ready to admit it and even do something about it. this is a mark of a true leader. like Tun Mahathir, we the majority of the people, admit privately and quietly that, we also made the mistake of being taken in by Pak Lah's pompous piety, humility and loyalty. Unlike Tun Mahathir, we are slow to do something about it. only the retinue of his closest supporters, his immediately family and parasitic hangers on believed Pak Lah is doing ok. theirs is a misplaced and ill afforded optimism.
While conceding that yes, its true- its devastatingly true that people blame Pak Lah as the principal cause for UMNO's Pak Lah is personally responsible for UMNO's debacle, on must not forget the role played by a pliant and submissive leadership led by Najib Tun Razak. yes sir, Najib is equally to blame for UMNO's losses despite his victory in Pekan. that victory is nothing to shout about. it was a Pyrrhic victory. the biggest cost of that victory, is the destruction of an independent spirit of the Pekan people. its sad but my fellow Pekanites are turning into pitiful supplicants for handouts from Najib Tun Razak. certainly this is not the Malay UMNO had envisaged to emerge.
in the next few months, the long awaited party elections will take place. all levels of UMNO, from branch levels to the supreme council will undergo party elections. that will be time to change or consolidate party positions. i hope party members will take the opportunity to do something in order to save UMNO. it was hilarious to observe various political yobos coming out with a laundry list detailing the litanies causing injury to UMNO. although comical, it is worth recounting.
among the causes that was disastrous to UMNO was the broom award episode. in malay beliefs, giving a broom to someone is an act of desecration and very ill foreboding. the episode in point was a decision by the then menteri besar of selangor to award a broom to a very incompetent and inept civil servant. this was 'sial' according to party wise men. in china such an official would probably be lined up and shot. or in Malaysia, he would probably be C4-ored. perhaps our party wise men thought it would be better and less of a political liability to have that poor civil servant shot. the decision to demolish a hindu temple was also viewed as another reason hurting UMNO.
it does not take the mind of a rocket scientist to rebut these arguments. pray tell, why is it that in states where no such incident took place, UMNO lost? or why is it, in states where no temple demolition had taken place or even when there is no substantial number of Malaysian Indians, UMNO still lost the state government. the biggest fool is the UMNO Information Chief who relished in offering these banal reasons.