Tuesday 27 November 2007

Marginalized Malays, Chinese and Indians - A History Older Than Malaysia

At first glance, the HINDRAF (Hindu Rights Action Front) suit against the British government may seem frivolous. How else can one consider such a class-action suit; for bringing Indians to Malaysia as indentured workers, for exploiting them for 150 years, and for failing to protect their rights as a minority in the federal constitution when Malaya's independence was granted? The sum sought is STG4 trillion (RM27.7 trillion).

Certainly one cannot expect to win such a suit and obviously it was a strategy to spotlight the woes of the Indian community in Malaysia. It was a "branding" exercise at the very least and an "indirect freekick" towards its ultimate target; the Malaysian government. It gave HINDRAF an excuse to put up a show of numbers in its November 25th rally to petition Queen Elizabeth II for a Queen's Counsel to represent the Indian community in the suit, which was filed on Aug 30 in the United Kingdom. I should think this rather clever PR strategy has achieved its initial goal of highlighting to the world the plight of Malaysian Indians.

However, a closer look at history may yet reveal the extent of culpability of the British and perhaps like Japan for its WWII atrocities, Britain should be made to at least apologize. For that, this is what my friend M.N. Taib had to say when he rebuked a mutual friend for the latter's abject babble about Malaysian races. M.N. struck a nerve when he said jingoism surrounding the call for Bangsa Malaysia must be prefaced by a clear understanding of the history of component races and close examination and appreciation of the respective roles in nation building:

"Please stop your maudlin over your sexual malingering and 2nd classiness. Talk to your friends who have gone to live in white countries e.g. Australia, mate. They can never be bosses over the whites, at least in Malaysia it is made known in certain areas like MoF. But they prefer to be spat upon by the whites not the Malays. You have not been focussed with the thread of a few of my postings.

If you live in the kampungs, you compete with your own ethnicity. It is in the urban areas that Malays face the frenetic onslaught of the non-Malays. Thus, it was conceived similar to golf, they should be given handicaps. Most Malaysians do not quarrel with the NEP that was amplified after May, 13th, 1969. The bellyaching and rightly so, which includes many Malays, is over the abuse of the multiracial covenant of how the NEP should be dispensed with. It was really abused under Dr.M with hideous cronyism and blatant corruption, unfortunately things did not change with AAB. The poor leadership that we are facing exaggerates the horrible situation.

The tragedy, if you look at Selangor, the ill-gotten gainers are UMNOputras and their mendicant running dogs of all races e.g Aiyoo Samy. You must someday comprehend the Concept of Historical Injustice suffered by the Malays under colonialism. It is too long to write. I'll give you an oral briefing when we meet. Go to MU library RedSpot section, borrow Dr. Chandra Muzzafar's MA thesis, for the University of Singapore. It's in there.

In sum, when J.W.W. Birch was eliminated in Perak in November 1875 and the Perak War began, the Brits were nervous about possible expanded Malay rebellion. The Torrance Act delineated Malay lands for the first time and the Malays were Mukimized and were unable to visit the next Mukim without the approval of the Brit Resident. Chinese and Indian indentured labour were brought in under the Ticket and the Kangani sytems respectively. Actually, the Brits invented Malay Rights with the ulterior motive of keeping the Malays in the ulu planting padi. The Chinese were allowed to fill the entrepreneurial vacuum in the towns. The Malays lost mobility, thus dynamism. You have to know more beside your predestination with Joshua the Nazorean brother of James. I am a simple f..king soldier, I should not be telling you.

I cannot afford to write a dissertation - long and tedious. I'll just give you a bit of inside into South Indians in our country in view of Hindraf - a rally of mostly urban lumpen proletariat. Then I'll give the most salient in the bibliography, if you wish to pursue greater knowledge.

The history of the coming of Indians and Chinese to the Peninsular is not taught in our schools. Most Malaysians grow up not knowing how sad and fascinating it is. If you say you're keen on Bangsa Malaysia or "plural society" you have to know the component parts and examine their impacts on the political economy of West Malaysia as a whole.

The influx of Indian labour became a flood with the rubber boom after 1905. From the view of their European employers, the main virtue of South Indian labourers as compared to the hard-working Chinese was their docility. Recruited largely from the untouchable (or adi-dravida) castes of South Indian society, the Tamil and Telegu labourers were probably the most obedient, indeed, servile labourers then available in the colonial world.

K.S. Sandhu has written: "The relegation of these classes to the level of animals in a caste-ridden society naturally tended to deprive them of initiative and self-respect and made them a cringingly servile group."

A European planter commented with regard to the period beginning about 1911: ".........The blind admiration for the white man by these Tamils is really rather pathetic."

By the end of 1940, there were a shortage of labour. Each labourer was paid 55 cents per day and Chinese at 85 cents. There were intermittent strikes by Indian labourers in demand of equality with Chinese labourers. Indian leaders encouraged strikes in the Klang District of Selangor in Feb 1941.

The High Commissioner's view was that all the strikes between Feb and May 1941 were subversive and violent, and that the strikers demands were ridiculous. In reality, the first series of strikes between Feb and Apr were conducted in an orderly manner, with few allegations of intimidation and little or no damage to property. Strike committees were formed on each estate and a petition presented setting out the strikers common demands. The European managers refused to negotiate and tried the strikers back to work. In Feb, the European managers had requested that the Klang District Indian Union be banned. It was alleged that some managers agreed to pay off male strikers, but refused to pay off their wives and children. The men were then prosecuted for trespass and when they remained in the estate lines with their families.

Control of rice rations was in the hands of the managers and in some cases rations were withheld. In one case, the manager cut off the estate water supply for 24 hours and in another case, a manager pulled off a labourer's Gandhi cap and trampled it on the ground. It was alleged that sympathizers from the towns were often denied entry to the estates with food and other relief supplies.

The strike fever spread to the nearby Batu Arang coal-mine, where Indian labourers struck in April 1941 in a demand for higher wages. After the intervention of the High Commissioner they were forced to work with a five cents increase after a lock-out and a dawn raid by the police. But intermittent strikes began again on the estates.

The Commissioner of Police believed that organized "civil disobedience on rubber estates" was "a possibility that must be envisaged".

Two months later, the High Commissioner alarmed by the evidence of continuing agitation and brief strikes on individual estates, was prepared to wait no longer and ordered the arrest of the Indian leader - Nathan - on May 5th.

The arrest provoked a second wave of protest strikes, called by labourers who regarded Nathan as a hero for his work with the Klang District Indian Union, and especially for his success in gaining the five cents allowance in Apr. Within 10 days bicycle-riding activists had spread the strike call as far south as Negri Sembilan and had called out an estimated 20,000 workers. The main demand of the strikers, large numbers of whom demonstrated outside the Kuala Lumpur Labour Office on 7 May and the Klang Police Station three days later, was for the release of Nathan.

Other of their demands were termed "frivolous" by Major Kidd, the Brit Resident of Selangor, who also claimed that the labourers refused to allow negotiations "save with themselves in a body". However, it seems clear that on the one hand, the labourers repeated as best as they could the essence of the demands outlined by Nathan in March, while on the other hand, the employers and government had no intention of negotiating.

The police were called in to disperse demonstrators, to arrest bicycle-riding "agitators" and to exclude "outsiders" from estates. Whether coz of already inflamed tempers or police and planter provocation, these strikes and demonstrations soon became more violent. Some toddy shops (nationalized by the Brits) were attacked and burned, as were some estate buildings. Members of a crowd of four hundred demonstrators calling for Nathan's release at Klang Police Station on 10 May were reported to be carrying sticks and other weapons.This gave the government the excuse to force the strikers back to work.

The Punjab Regiment and other troops were called in on the same day. Police and troops forcefully dispersed demonstrations, arrested large numbers of "agitators" and confiscated bicycles.

On 11th May, Major Kidd termed the "disturbances" "a direct challenge to the authority of the government" as a result of the coercion "by a small and violent minority". When the strikes continued to spread, a state of emergency was declared in Selangor State on 16 May, the troops were reinforced and four strikers were killed after a confrontation arising from the arrest of two men on the Sg. Sedu estate.

By the end of May, the labourers were back at work after the arrest of more than 300. At least five were dead and many others injured. 21 were deported, 95 accepted voluntary repatriation, 49 were detained and 186 were released on condition that they did not return to the district where they were employed before the strike.

Meanwhile, planters set about a systematic "weeding out" of known and suspected "agitators". Although wages for Chinese estate workers rose yet further in response to increased demand, Indian wages were held down to 60 cents.

Please look at the attachment of the 1941 Hindraf. Has the bloody scenario changed very much today?

The BERSIH gathering was absolutely brilliant, The enforcers were outwitted by the clever maneuvers of RPK when he diverted the focus of the Police to the empty padang in Merdeka Square while the Bersih crowds were deployed using SMSes to other strategic parts of downtown KL. It was a great success.

The Hindraf movement had a flimsy rationale. Mr. Uthayakumar knew from the start that his claim of trillions was BS. But, he achieved a monumental PR coup and it showed the festering anger of the Indian "have-little".

Johari Baharum and Bt. Aman have not paid attention to Sun Tze, "Art of War". They were on a fagged out SOP developed by their Brit Colonial masters. Bloody pathetic.

I have 50% respect for Uthayakumar after his callow and spurious letter to Gordon Brown. It was ridiculous and stupid. You read it in Rocky Bru.

It is my firm belief that we must now help the Indians and other have nots, across the board, to be part of the NEP. There are so many poor Chinese and Malays. If the BN wants to protect their fiefdom with arrogance, hubris and corruption, it does it at its own peril.

The Malaysian Police does not understand Conflict Resolution (there is no such thing as Resolution, you can only regulate it). If you ask a police officer if he knows the conflict between the Walloons and the Flemish in Belgium; the Ibos vs the rest in Nigeria; the Moronite RC vs the Muslims in Lebanon, the RC Quebecois vs the Protestants in Canada or the Indians vs the indigenous Fijians in Fiji, he knows crap. He has never been well educated. That's why the Police does know that the Rakyat is paying their gaji and not the politicians. They fcuk the rakyat at every eventuality as running dogs from what they learnt from the Brit system.

If you read about Indian history in Malaysia, mutatis mutandis, you will learn about the coming of the Chinese. For both the communities, it was diseases, suffering, blood and sweat. I am convinced they did and do more than others - that's why I am what I am, a strange Malaysian.

Now, if I may, I wish you to look at the following:
Sandhu,K.S., Indians in Malaysia: Some aspects of their Immigration and Settlement, 1786-1957 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1969) Stenson, M.R., Industrial Conflict in Malaya: Prelude to Communist Revolt of 1948 (London: Oxford University Press,1970).Stenson, M.R., Class, Race & Colonialism in West Malaysia ( Uni of Queensland Press, 1980)Arasaratnam, S., Indians in Malaysia and Singapore (London: Oxford University Press, 1970)

Unpublished Theses:
Khoo Kay Kim, "The Beginning of Political Extremism in Malaya, 1915-1935" ( PhD, MU, 1973) Available in MU Lib red spot section. Lim Teck Ghie, " Peasant Agriculture in Colonial Malaya: Its development in Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Pahang, 1874-1941"(PhD., ANU, 1971) Available in MU Lib red spot section.Onreat, R.H.de S., Singapore: A Police Background (London: Crisp, 1947) Available in MU Lib. This book will give the mindset of our Police force and also read J.J. Raj's book on the Malaysian Police."

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