In the light of the recent furore over history - and what is or is not history, I thought I'd repost the following article written by Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1965. As it is a very long article, it will be published in three parts. Part 2 will be posted at 12 midnight and part 3 at 6.15a.m. tomorrow.
Malaysia: Key Area in Southeast Asia (Part 1) by Tunku Abdul Rahman
If one studies the map of Southeast Asia it is clear at once that Malaysia is the natural focus of the whole region. It is the only country that is both part of mainland Asia and at the same time part of the vast archipelago stretching westward from the Philippines and New Guinea to Sumatra. Thus Malaysia is not only a bridge between continental and island Asia but also the gateway between the China Sea and the Indian Ocean. By virtue of this position Malaysia is of vital importance to both Southeast Asia and the world. Add to this the fact that although Malaysia is a small nation of only 10,000,000 people, its economic significance is out of all proportion to its size and! populat ion. It is the world's leading producer of both natural rubber and tin. For this reason, if none other, the peace and prosperity, security and stability of Malaysia are of key concern both regionally and internationally.
To understand the evolution of Malaysia as a free nation and the spirit of national unity that inspires and guides the ideals and outlook of this country of many races, creeds and cultures, we must glance briefly at postwar history. The peoples of Malaya, Singapore and Borneo endured in common privation and suffering during the Japanese Occupation. When the war ended the nine states of mainland Malaya and Sarawak were British Protectorates; the islands of Singapore and Penang and the Malacca area were Crown Colonies; and North Borneo (as Sabah was then known) was the domain of a chartered company. Constitutional changes were inevitable, especially in view of the rising wave of liberation which began to sweep across Asia. Within three years the nine Malay states together with Penang and Malacca merged into the Federation of Malaya but still under the British rule. This was the first time in the history of the Malay peninsula that all these states had achieved a common central government. In the meantime, both Sabah and Sarawak became Crown Colonies, and Singapore began to take its first step towards internal self-government.
The Federation of Malaya Agreement was signed in February 1948 in Kuala Lumpur. Within four months the Malayan Communist Party launched an armed revolt to secure power. Communist terrorism erupted all over Malaya; the country came under a state of national Emergency, which was destined to last for another 12 years. Communist terrorism reached its climax in 1951 with the assassination of the British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney. Field-Marshal Sir Gerald Templer who succeeded him managed to make considerable inroads into the Communist strength. Much, however, remained to be done, the situation being so dangerous that it seemed the Communists would b! e able t o hold out indefinitely.
With the growth of nationalism the desire for independence had already developed in Malaya to such a pitch that unless this fervor was released and expressed in terms of democracy, Communism, with its strong anticolonial overtone, would triumph and all hopes for freedom and independence would be lost.
The British Colonial Secretary, Mr. Lennox Boyd, visited Kuala Lumpur in 1955. As leader of the Alliance Party, I had talks with him and informed him that no amount of British arms would by itself ever rid Malaya of the menace of Communism. The solution could not come about by military means alone; it was essential to win the minds and hearts of the people, to satisfy their aspirations, and thus draw them away from the enticements of Communism, which uses freedom and independence as its battle cry. The people of Malaya, I said, wanted independence for their own country; if this could be achieved, they would be responsible for the fight against Communism, and they would win. Any delay in achieving independence could only benefit the Communists, as Communism thrived and flourished on colonialism.
In order to test the genuineness of the people's aspirations for independence, I said, we must have national elections on the issue; and if the Alliance Party won, immediate negotiations would be carried out with the British Government for Malaya's independence. We swept to victory, winning 51 out of 52 seats contested, and I became the Chief Minister and Minister for Home Affairs.
The first important thing I did was to arrange a talk with the Communist leader, Chin Peng, which was held on December 28, 1955, The result of that talk showed clearly that the intention of the Communists was not to liberate Malaya but to subject it completely to Communist domination. Therefore I did not hesitate to tell the people that independence could be achieved only by them and through democratic means.
It is worthy of note that from the time negotiations for independence fo! r Malaya were initiated, the support given by elements of the civilian population to the Communist terrorists rapidly began to decrease, with the result that the police and the security forces found their tasks of subduing the Communists made much easier. What had seemed to be overwhelmingly difficult for the British, the people of Malaya, inspired and encouraged by the prospect of independence, and later by its actual achievement, were able to accomplish. On July 31, 1960, the Emergency was declared over and ended. The Malayan people had now a free hand to concentrate their energies and resources on the task of nation-building.
While the Malayan people grew prosperous and happy with their nationhood, the fact could not be ignored that Communism remained the prime menace to the peace of Asia. We had successfully overcome the internal threat of Communism in Malaya, but we were only too well aware of its insidious growth in neighboring areas. I noticed particularly, with growing and grave concern, the increasing influence of Communism in the British territories of Singapore, Sabah, Brunei and Sarawak. The same pattern of Communist exploitation of anticolonial feelings that we had experienced in Malaya was taking place in those areas. I felt that time was running out, and that the Communist menace had to be swiftly met, otherwise free Malaya would once again be in danger. Therefore, in May 1961 first announced my hope that the formation of Malaysia would enable the peoples of these states to achieve the independence they desired and at the same time put an end to colonialism in their part of the world.
The announcement had electrifying results. For the next two years the prospect of Malaysia was a daily subject of debate and discussion, and during this time negotiations took place among leaders of all the states concerned and with the British. With the exception of Brunei, all the states of Malaya joined Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak in a conviction that Malaysia was their future destiny. The achieveme! nt of un ion in September 1963 was an outstanding testimony to the will and wish of the peoples of the new nation to stand united, to achieve progress and prosperity, and to resist together the Communist bid for power.
To be continued....