HISTORY IS REWRITTEN EVERY day in Malaysia. Books and articles are written every day to perpetuate the myth, but the parties in the National Front was not formed for Malaysian independence. It has changed over the years as they have not now. After 50 years in power, it begins to rot, particularly in the head. It has now become an avenue for political advancement or business contracts, its aims, as it describes them, forgotten, and the people get frustrated. Today, any one offering a new political agenda that will allow the National Front in power is in danger of being turfed out of the coalition. It allows no new blood in except those acceptable to the leaders. The National Front exists for the benefit of its leaders, not the people its parties nominally represents. It, and its predecessor, the Alliance, has turned the country into two groups, the rulers and the ruled. The rulers know it, and show its concern by action that means nothing. The National Front believes it is in power and control, and the civil servants are their lackeys. The civil servants do not accept this division as the people, but neither can do anything about it yet. Today civil advice is given to the National Front minister on the basis that if it cannot do its work, it can at least do what the National Front does. So the corruption which the National Front leader, UMNO, initiated in Malay and Malaysia has spread to the civil service. It is now every man for himself in the civil and government service. There is no question of debate or discussion before a civil servant is appointed to what used to be an elective post, for instance the Mayor of Kuala Lumpur. Other civil and government servants are there to pull him down. The fallout from the sacking and jailing of the deputy prime minister opened the floodgate, as it were. From then on, those holding office, whether politician or public servant. had to be 'clean' in his personal life as well. The books written about the new Mayor of City Hall and the Mentri Besar of Selangor is a case in point. There is endless discussion, in the press, parliament, and elsewhere, about the official being harassed by his colleagues or by writers who write about their misdeeds, but we are not given the official's rebuttal of the allegations against him. Otherwise, he would have sued his detractors. It does not matter whether he is politician or public servant. The political system in this country has become moribund as the UMNO-led National Front rewrites history. What happened to the original parties in the Alliance, the predecessor of the National Front, affects Malaysia to this day.
We are told that UMNO was formed in 1946 to fight for independent. But UMNO was formed on 31 May of that year to fight against the British plan to reduce the Sultans to a digit. Dato' Onn was its first president, and he was clear in his mind why he formed UMNO. It was not independence. He walked out of UMNO in 1952 when it did not agree to his plan to invite the non-Malay into the party, and left it in 1951. He died twelve years later, as an MP but of the Malay nationalist party, Parti Negara. He was not a member of UMNO when he did, and this was the case in two of Malaysia's five prime ministers. He was elected from Trengganu, which is why his son, Tun Hussein Onn's first act as Prime Minister was to go to the state and why he had a preference for the state although like his father he is from Johore. UMNO moved with the times, and changed its goal to independence once Tengku Abdul Rahman because its president in 1951. The party formed the Alliance in 1955 because the British wanted proof that the non-Malay could co-operate with the Malay before it would consider giving independence to UMNO. After Burma left the Commonwealth on independence in 948, the colonial power wanted to make sure that all colonies and protectorates remained friendly after independence. The UMNO-led alliance got its independence because the Emergency (so named for insurance purposes) was hurting. The 1955 talks with Chin Peng was stage managed, and the Chief Minister of Singapore, Mr David Marshall, joined the talks as Britain's man and to make sure the Tengku did not give away more than he could. Malaysia became independent at the time it did because Britain wanted a government in Malaysia that was favourable to it and could take over from it the fight against the communists. It was in a sense a con job. But we are told that the UMNO-led Alliance fought for independence. Nothing could be further from the truth. But UMNO then is not the UMNO today. Dr Mahathir changed it from a nationalist movement to a political party in 1988 so that he could remain in power. The rot in UMNO set in, and continues.
It is so with the other parties in the Alliance. The Malayan Indian Congress was formed in 1946 to fight for Indian independence. When India did become independent the following year, the MIC president became India's ambassador to Rome and the Vatican while several committee members became the first ambassadors to other countries. It reoriented itself to Malayan independence only after the next president, a KL lawyer named K. Devasar, took office. In 1952, Malaysia ceased to be an immigrant nation, and those who had come before 30 April of that year was allowed to become Malayans. Those living in the country were allowed to become subjects of the ruler and automatically became Federal citizens. My father became a Johore subject that way. He had included my name in his citizenship as I was 13 at that time. I could use that in 1956 to get my federal citizenship. He was not an MIC member because the prevailing rules then gave preference to the North Indians as it is the Tamils today. He was a Dato' Onn supporter, partly because he knew the man, and hosted him in our house when he stood for what is now four constituencies in the 1955 federal elections. The MIC took a downturn with the third president, Tun V.T. Sambanthan, who took office in 1954, was in the Alliance team which went to London to negotiate for Malaysia's independence, and was in the cabinet on independence, but remained 20 years as MIC president till 1974, when he was forced out. The next president, Tan Sri V. Manickavasagam, in office for about five years, drew up plans to uplift the Indian community, the Blue Book, but he reasoned rightly that it had no money. He died in office, and his successor, Dato' Seri S. Samy Vellu, in office since 1979, implements the ideas contained in the Blue Book to his benefit and to the detriment of the Indian community he leads. He is hostile to those who wrote the Blue Book. Which is why he did not have a good word for either the late S. Pathmanaban or the current deputy, Dato' S. Subramaniam. He now takes a leaf out of UMNO by not wanting his deputy, and has his own choice in this year's election. He is in the cabinet where he could ask for the Indian community to be helped. But he dare not if it means his position in it is affected. So he goes along with UMNO, and the Indian community must fend for itself. The People's Progressive Front, formed by the Seenivasagam brothers in the 1960s, and a Indian party with multiracial members was brought in to keep the Indians within the National Front. But it does not work.
The Malaysian Chinese Association was formed in 1949 by the Koumintang members as an opposition to the Malayan Communist Party, also with British help for the Emergency was the direct result of Britain ignoring communists after the Second World War after it had sought its aid in defeating the Japanese during Second World War. Chin Peng after all got the OBE (later withdrawn) and would have marched in the Victory Parade in London after the War. Chin Peng was born in Dindings, a British territory and therefore a British subject, and would be Malaysian once he steps foot in Malaysia. That is his present case all about. The Malaysian government is preventing him from attending the law case. Having built the case that it is they who brought independence to this country, they want to remove those who had a better claim. But that is another story. The first leaders of the MCA were Koumintang Army leaders. A cabinet minister who later became governor of Malacca, Mr Leong Yew Koh, was a major general; its first minister of finance, Tun H.S. Lee, was a colonel; Dr Ling Chong Eu, the leader of the Radical Party, and joined the MCA in 1952, was a colonel doctor in the Koumintang and was doctor-in- attendance to Mr Chou En-law during the peace talks in China in 1946. But the MCA then was divided by states according to when the members came from. Tun Tan Cheng Lock, who was a member of the Malayan Anti- Japanese Leage, was its first president, but did not enter the cabinet on independence because his rival,Tun H.S. Lee, from Selangor, was in. As it is today though by personalities not states. The MCA had no independence in mind, and it did not prevent Tun Tan from being a member of the Independence of Malaya Party which Dato' Onn formed. His son, Tun Tan Siew Sin, joined the Malaysian cabinet first as minister of trade and industry and later as finance minister. MCA was a party of money, and UMNO owed it so much money that it was allowed to run a lottery and collect the money, which it did. It does not run a lottery now. The licence was revoked, whatever the official reason, once the MCA got back its loan. Its members clung on to power so that the Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, a Chinese party nominally with multiracial members, was invited in to the National Front in 1973; it was in the opposition then and had won Penang in the 1969 general elections.
Until the 1969 racial riots and the National Economic Policy, the non- Malay parties had their say in the
Alliance. The MCA president, Tun Tan Sew Sin, abruptly resigned on the mistaken assumption the party did badly in the 1969 general election. But MCA did not remain out. It allowed itself to remain in the cabinet of Tun Abdul Razak, father of the deputy prime minister, and that ensured the disappearance of the non-Malay ministers in policy making ministries. They are happy at this turn of events for it allowed them to remain in the cabinet, nominally representing their constituents, but in reality not. It is probably too late now. The new prime minister, Pak Lah, has made it clear that losing a party election does not mean the person must leave his government. He has taken the view that they are appointed by the government, and that takes precedence. What the UMNO-led Alliance was is not the National Front today. It is UMNO which is in the top now. The MCA and MIC ministers have agreed to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state because UMNO wanted it to defeat PAS at its own game. MCA and MIC ministers have pontificated on the UMNO Islam being better than PAS Islam though they might not know what Islam is. For them, and that includes UMNO, Islam is a political fight as it is not to PAS. The MCA and MIC ministers, deputy prime ministers, and parliamentary secretaries remain in the government not for helping their respective communities but for what they can get individually from agreeing to UMNO's dictates.