Wednesday, August 10, 2011

‘Non-Malays saved Malaya from ruin’

If not for the economic contributions of the Chinese and Indians, Hindraf leader P Waythamoorthy says, the newly-born nation would have gone bankrupt.

GEORGE TOWN: The Federation of Malaya would have gone bankrupt if ethnic Indians and Chinese had not adopted the fledgling independent nation as their home, said Hindraf Makkal Sakti chief P Waythamoorthy.

“We should be grateful to Indians and Chinese who sacrificed their rights to save the newly-born Malaya from economic ruin,” he said when revealing findings of his research into thousands of documents pertaining to Malaya’s pre-independence talks.

He said the then auditor-general HM Watson’s report on the accounts of Federation of Malaya as of Dec 31, 1957 revealed that rubber and tin export constituted the top two contributors of export duty for the country.

Rubber contributions made up 68% of tax revenue at $124.4 million in 1957 and $143.9 in 1956. Tin contributions came in second at 28%, generating tax revenue of $54.2 million in 1957 and $60.2 million in 1956.

The workers in the rubber industry were predominantly Indians while the Chinese dominated tin mining.
“If the British deported the Indians and Chinese out of the Federation following independence, obviously Malaya would be bankrupt instantly,” he said.

His studies also revealed that Malaya would not have survived if the Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca stayed out of an independent Malaya and remained British crown states.

He said Penangites and Malaccans were British subjects then entitled to United Kingdom citizenships and the Malay rulers had no powers over these two states.

“But the non-Malays sacrificed their rights to make Malaya their home,” he disclosed.

He said ethnic Indians and Chinese were dominant communities in the Straits Settlements then, numbering some 1.3 million. The difference in population and property ownership between the two communities was razor thin.

The total population of both Malays and non-Malays in the other states was about four million then.

‘Special position only for 15 years’

During constitutional talks and submissions to the Reid commission, Waythamoorthy said document revealed that the Tunku Abdul Rahman-led Umno delegation wanted the Straits Settlements to be part of the federation in return for citizenship and equality for non-Malays.

At the same time, Waythamoorthy said Tunku and Abdul Razak Hussein requested and assured the Reid Commission that the Malay special position would be implemented “only for 15 years, between 1957 and 1972, and after that all citizens shall be treated with equal status.”

He claimed that Umno later manipulated and colluded with the British to make the provisions in Article 153, which governs the Malay special position, a permanent feature against their submissions and undertakings to the Reid Commission.

Based on his findings, Waythamoorthy said the notion that Indians and Chinese were immigrants and should be thankful for the opportunity given to prosper here “should stop once and for all.”

“The country would have been impoverished should the Indians and Chinese decided to stay out of the Federation while Penang and Malacca remained as British colonies.

“Should the two states have remained under the British, the ethnic Indian and Chinese populations would be entitled to equality under the British laws. They would have prospered.

“It would have encouraged Indians and Chinese in other states to migrate to the Crown Straits Settlements and they would not be subjected to a racist system and be treated as second-class citizens like today,” argued the London-based Hindraf chairman.

Waythamoorthy is scrutinising the pre-independence documents to prepare for his US$4 trillion class action suit against the former colonial master, the British 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 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.

Hindraf’s London-based lawyers would be in Malaysia for several days from Thursday onwards to meet potential ethnic Indian clients to become co-claimants in the suit.

‘Built on their sweat, blood and tears’

Waythamoorthy said his findings proved that the newly-born Malaya was “over-dependent” on the economic contributions of the Indian and Chinese communities.

He said the rubber and tin industries generated other parallel revenues and development for the country such as infrastructure, transport and taxes.

He believes that the socio-economic factor compelled the British to keep the Indians and Chinese in Malaya.

He said the British wanted to protect the interests of their business and that of Malay rulers, who were direct beneficiaries of the contributions of the so-called “pendatangs”.

“Non-Malays adopted Malaya as their new home as they were encouraged and welcomed by the British and Malay Rulers then. Truth is, this country was built on the blood, sweat and tears of ethnic Indians and Chinese,” he said. - FMT