IN the 1930s, the
British administration faced fierce opposition from the
working class, largely made up of Chinese at the time, says
Dr Kua Kia Soong, director of Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram),
a human rights organisation.
In one of the first
shots at inter-ethnic political alliance, Pusat Tenaga
Rakyat (Putera), a left-wing coalition of militant and
moderate Malays, partnered with the Chinese-dominated All
Malaya Council of Joint Action. In October 1947, the
coalition organised a general strike -- a "hartal" -- that
brought the country to an economic standstill to put
pressure on the British government.
The Japanese Occupation in 1941 was met with fierce
resistance from local nationalists. The British had supplied
arms to the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) --
in effect, the CPM -- making it the most potent
anti-Japanese guerilla movement and well-organised military
group in the country, writes Wong Tze Ken, associate
professor in the Department of History, Faculty of Arts and
Social Sciences at the University of Malaya, in the first
volume of the book, Malaysian Chinese and Nation Building.
The move gave MPAJA an edge, and the means, to wage war
against the British after the Japanese surrender in 1945.
"The CPM ideology and struggle had no place in the
nation-building agenda as it eventually became irrelevant as
the country moved ahead after independence," says Wong.
Prof Tan Sri Khoo Kay Kim agrees, as the
vision of communism was one of classlessness and
Under the gaze of a different generation, the joining of
forces between the Malayan Chinese Association and the
United Malays National Organisation -- the Alliance Party --
for the 1952 Kuala Lumpur municipal elections spearheaded
the country's seminal independence movement. The Alliance
scored a landslide victory, winning nine of the 12 seats
That solidarity was a turning point, says Khoo. For the
first time, the Alliance convinced the British that
independence might actually work.
Dr Voon Phin Keong, director of the Centre for Malaysian
Chinese Studies, thinks the subject of history is best left
to the historians or specialists in the area. "It should not
be left to just anyone. School history textbooks should be
written by a panel of historians and subjected to review by
a different panel."
Kua thinks textbooks are not needed in the age of the
Internet. Instead, students should learn to access all
available resources with the teacher acting as the
facilitator in the classroom. "History in education is about
uncovering the truth," says Kua.
And truth, as we all know, is subject to interpretation. --