A tin mining tycoon from Ipoh had warned the British that giving special rights to the Malays would create resentment among the non-Malays.
GEORGE TOWN: During the pre-independence talks, a Chinese tin mining tycoon from Perak warned the British that giving special rights to Malays would create resentment among the non-Malays.
Lau Pak Kuan in a memorandum submitted to the Reid Commission has argued that “the perpetuation of unjust and inequitable laws breeds distrust, jealousy, resentment and hatred, and must in the end give rise to disastrous repercussions”.
This was disclosed by Hindraf Makkal Sakti leader P Waythamoorthy who said that Lau has stated clearly to the colonial government that such provisions were undemocratic features in a democratic set-up.
The memorandum to the Reid Commission was submitted on July 20, 1956, by Lau as the president of Pan-Malayan Federation of Chinese Associations (PMFCA), a coalition representing 1,179 Chinese clans. The memorandum carried the signatures of leaders of these groups.
London-based Waythamoorthy said when the Federation of Malaya Bill was tabled in the United Kingdom Parliament, Lau had even gone on an international lobby to vehemently protest it.
Lau had gone to London, consulted the Queen’s counsel and lobbied British parliamentarians to object to the discriminatory and apartheid-like provisions in Article 153 of the Malaya constitutional draft.
In the memorandum, Waythamoorthy said Lau has cautioned that erecting barriers against non-Malays in the hope of improving the (lot of the) Malays was not a sure way of obtaining the desired effect.
“Lau correctly predicted it would create class divisions among citizens,” he said.
Despite the PMFCA memorandum and protests by several ethnic-Indian based organisations to the Reid Commission, Waythamoorthy said the British betrayed non-Malays and still went on to pass the bill.
The British colonial government and Umno led by the country’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman later colluded to enact and legitimise the much-opposed Malaya Constitution.
“After more than half century, Lau’s prediction of disastrous repercussions and a dangerous breakdown in racial ties proved to be true.
“The visionary Lau was the first civil rights champion in the country. He fought social justice, equality and fairness for all under the independent Malayan umbrella,” claimed Waythamoorthy.
Waythamoorthy is scrutinising the pre-independence documents to prepare for his US$4 trillion class-action suit against the UK government.
He originally filed the class-action suit in London on Aug 31, 2007, the 50th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence, to demand compensation for Indian Malaysians, whose ancestors were brought in by the colonial government as indentured labour.
However, the suit was stalled following the Malaysian government’s clampdown on Hindraf and the arrest of several lawyers under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The suit claimed that, after granting independence to Malaya, the British had left the Indians without representation and at the mercy of the Umno government.
A two-man legal team from London will be in Malaysia today to meet local clients for consideration as co-claimants in the suit.
In the memorandum, Waythamoorthy said Lau had argued that the Federal Constitution was founded upon a policy of appeasement vis-à-vis Malay ultra nationalism.
“To grant favouritism to one community in preference to the others would be to create a superior class and an inferior class of citizens in the future Malaya.
“This would not make for inter-racial goodwill and harmony, without which Malays could not thrive.
“A multi racial society must depend on goodwill and harmony for its well-being,” Lau noted in the memorandum.
Lau contended that the Malays needed help not through legislation but through the co-operation of the more advanced communities.
While such legislation tended to make them a privileged class, he claimed that it also reduced them to a dependent and undignified community.
“Malays must not expect to be spoon-fed and be made to lose all senses of incentives. They must be trained the hard way to rely on their own efforts and initiatives for success,” Lau said in the memorandum.
He said for the good of the country, all unequal and unjust laws should be scrapped and citizens of all races should be accorded equal and just treatment.
He said voluntary inter-racial co-operation and goodwill would ensure a new era of hope for Malaya.
The memorandum urged for the new constitution to be written before independence and all existing discriminatory and unjust laws be revoked.
“Equal treatment must be extended to all citizens without distinction as to race, colour or creed,” Lau said in the memorandum.
Lau was a founder-member of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) in 1949 together with Tan Cheng Lock, Leong Yew Koh and Lee Hau Shik.
The prominent businessman quit MCA following his unsuccessful London mission.
Born in 1894, Lau came to Malaya in 1912 when he was 18. He passed away on April 16, 1971 and is survived by three wives, six sons and three daughters.
In recognition of his dedication to the people of Ipoh, the council named a one-km stretch of road as Jalan Dato’ Lau Pak Kuan in Ipoh Garden.
In 1966, Lau became the first ethnic Chinese leader to be awarded the Datuk Seri title by the Perak Sultan.