We celebrate this year's 48th Merdeka with the usual rituals of flag waving, multicultural dances and all sorts of patriotic gestures. What is unusual are the blows traded between our politicians on who were the real fighters of independence. What have Malaysians gained from the slugfest? Nothing constructive, not even a good history lesson.
Although the armed struggle by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) would have contributed indirectly to the acceleration of the independence process, The argument by DAP's Ronnie Liu that "the struggle and sacrifice made by these freedom fighters and the pressure mounted by the MCP led by Chin Peng, the British would certainly be not willing to cooperate and negotiate with the Alliance leaders for an independence without bloodshed,"was far from accurate.
There were other contributing factors. The defeats inflicted by the Japanese armies on the British Empire shattered the aura of invincibility enjoyed by the colonial power before the war. Soon after the surrender of the Japanese, the British knew that the era of colonialism was soon approaching an end. The colonies no longer trust the British as their protector and many felt that they should pursue self-rule.
Second, there was an initial reluctance from the British to grant independence to these colonies but the emergence of the Cold War blocs and the growing contestations between communism and Western liberal ideologies resulted in their change of mind. Many of the newly independent colonies, especially in Southeast Asia, supported the Western bloc and rejected communism. This decision was also motivated by their experience of brutal communist insurgency.
Third, suffering from the devastating destruction of war, many Western powers, including the British, had to focus on consolidation and political reconstruction in Europe. As a result, the European Union was established to manage the healing and to ensure peace in Europe. Continuation of colonialism was no longer a sound political direction especially when these former powers needed to focus on their own fragile socio-economic reconstruction and political development.
If Liu was accused by Umno Youth for murdering history, he does not lack an accomplice. Umno Youth is equally guilty of misinterpreting historical facts and distorting the process of history by insisting on the promotion of a dogmatic version of history the understanding of the social contract.
Other communities were told to inherit and adopt Umno's version of social contract where their entitlement of a citizenship is premised on the acceptance of the Malay political dominance and their special rights. Why? The independence of this country was chiefly achieved by the leaders of Umno.
Umno Youth committed two gross mistakes here. First, the refusal to accept the fact that leaders of other communities Chinese and Indian played an instrumental role in the independence process. The establishment of MCA and MIC and the formation of the Alliance which won its first elections in 1955 was a solid sign of self-determination and a broad cooperation between the major communities in Malaya.
Second, the contributions and sacrifices made by all communities towards the development of a modern Malaysia are equally as important as the sacrifices made to gain us independence. The process of our nation's history must build on these contributions and sacrifices.
In fact, are we really free of colonialism? Our race-centric political model is a colonial construct or artifact. The Barisan Nasional remains a fragile union with a substantial internal racial tension. The coalition hasn't been successful in promoting inter-ethnic and multicultural understanding and mutual appreciation.
A true national patriot, Dato' Onn bin Jaafar, was a man ahead of his time but possessed a great vision of a statesman. If he was alive today, he will still be a man ahead of his time in Umno. Dato' Onn envisioned and pursued his political dream of a multiracial party and was prematurely eliminated from the helm of Umno. His grandson, Umno Youth chief Hishammudin Hussein, said that an Umno that serves and accepts all Malaysians will not happen in the next 100 years.
Dato' Onn believed in multiculturalism and was willing to risk his political accession for his belief. He could have been the first prime minister of Malaysia. Dato' Onn's place in history was limited to only a brief mention as the founder of Umno but in the heart of all Malaysians he should be celebrated and remembered as the 'Father of Bangsa Malaysia'.
There are three lessons to be learned from the DAP-Umno Youth slugfest . First, two wrongs do not make a right. Second, our nation-building project continues to be undermined by acts of contempt against the actual facts and process of history. Third, it is becoming clear that the people cannot trust the formation of a truly Bangsa Malaysia and national unity in the hand of unscrupulous politicians.