| | | Effective PR

Malaysia's desired but unexpected election result.

Peter Lee

In Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, it was shortly after 5 a.m. on 10 May. The call for prayers from the mosques in the Pudu area of the city was unusually loud and sounded somehow lighter than usual. There were car horns blasting in the city's streets. Two hours later, all is quiet. There are the usual sounds of trains running, traffic passing and birds twittering as they hunt insects high above the ground. Monkeys chatter in the trees and today has become normal. Except it isn't.

Once the surprise and even euphoria of the election result has worn off, complex realities will set in. It's a great day but as the sun came up shortly after seven o'clock, it brought with it a sense of uncertainty in what is the most momentous political statement that the country has seen since its formation 61 years ago. Then the country celebrated what it considers independence; today, arguably, the people face independence of a different kind.

Malaysia was never a British Colony. It was never "conquered" or "occupied" by the British. The British administered Malaya, as it was then, at the invitation of the Sultans. What Malaysians call Independence was, in fact, the result of a carefully orchestrated transfer of power to local politicians with a view to full democracy. Today, politicians like to vilify British administration and to talk of "the battle for independence" but, as contemporary documents prove, there was no "battle." In fact, even after the transfer of power to locals, the government of the day relied on a contingent of British, and British trained, civil servants and military. While the cry "Merdeka" was a rallying call, an essential part of the unification of a disparate nation, the word is misleading and is at the root of much misunderstanding of the country's history, a misunderstanding that has been compounded by, to be polite, statements of convenience by successive politicians.

Control was handed to a group of senior Malay politicians who were (another conveniently forgotten fact) sent to the UK where they received instruction on the essentials of running a government and other training. When they returned, the hand-over was performed and they formed the first national government.

The British did as the British did in so many places and stuffed up one fundamental thing: equality. They did not ensure that they handed over to a government that represented all the people. There were almost no Chinese, Indian or indigenous members of government. Indeed, the transfer of power took place against the continuing long-running Malayan Emergency in which mainly Chinese-backed Communists were highly active and assassinated several leading British administrators. it is not clear whether this influenced the marginalisation of the local Chinese when the government was formed.


---------------- Advertising ----------------

World Nomads
Travel Insurance