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YOURSAY | Culture war – it’s open season on historical facts

YOURSAY | ‘Historical negationism is falsification or distortion of historical records.’

COMMENT | Distorting our history is an intellectual crime

MS: My late friend, the legendary Dr Shahrom Yub, who until 1991 was Ketua Pengarah Jabatan Muzium Malaysia, used to periodically lament about the deliberate and purposeful distortion of history by politicians masquerading as academics.

When we started to trace the time this "intellectual crime" first began to be committed without consequences (or corrections), we narrowed it down to the period which saw the ascendance of one former prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, buoyed by the corrosive ‘ketuanan’ politics of ‘bangsa’ dan ‘agama’.

It was (and perhaps still is) open season on historical facts. The distortions and lies noted by independent historian Ranjit Singh Malhi serve to prop up the intellectual pygmies much like platform shoes worn by the abnormally short, the congenitally stunted.

But this phenomenon is not unique to Malaysia. As the entry in Google Arts & Culture explains, "historical negationism, also called denialism, is falsification or distortion of the historical record. It should not be conflated with historical revisionism, a broader term that extends to newly evidenced, fairly reasoned academic reinterpretations of history.

“In attempting to revise the past, illegitimate historical revisionism may use techniques inadmissible in proper historical discourse, such as presenting known forged documents as genuine, inventing ingenious but implausible reasons for distrusting genuine documents, attributing conclusions to books and sources that report the opposite, manipulating statistical series to support the given point of view, and deliberately mistranslating texts.

“Some countries, such as Germany, have criminalised the negationist revision of certain historical events, while others take a more cautious position for various reasons, such as protection of free speech; others mandate negationist views, such as California and Japan, where schoolchildren are explicitly prevented from learning about the California genocide and Japanese war crimes, respectively."

Falcon: I don't think distorting our history is just a historical crime, it is a historical genocide. Where a community of perverse, malicious and fascist policymakers go out of their way to deny, omit or falsify the contributions of other citizens in a nation's journey pre- and post-independence.

It has created so much polarisation in our country and robbed the dignity of those who made what Malaysia is today.

Before the current entry of foreigners, economic migrants from failed and challenged states with their brand of religion destroyed the foundation of what built Malaysia. So much so, an analysis of the comments columns of Malay online media shows a shocking revelation that 'Keluarga Malaysia' is fake. We have lost it.

Social and historical re-engineering at all tiers of Malaysian society is now complete. May the Almighty help our future generations.

BobbyO: Can history be distorted? As long as you have books, manuals or any written evidence of what happened in the past, written by those writers that existed during their time, history can never be distorted. You can retard the intellectual minds of future citizens by feeding them false or distorted history. But actual history can never be distorted.

Today, there is enough written evidence not only scattered in our archives but also in many other nations about our own nation's journey or history. It will be embarrassing to watch our students standing in a world forum debating on the subject of Malaysian or even Malayan history.

They would be lost as their minds would have been impregnated with a false version of their nation's history.

Anon25: It is a sense of inferiority complex and politics that makes people distort historical facts. Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng tried dextrously to explain the facts in his writings and his speeches. It was always an uphill struggle.

Trying to tell the truth about the true history of how Malaya evolved and changed, about the significant contributions of the Chinese and Indian immigrants, will be opposed by ignorant, poorly educated firebrand nationalists.

History must be a narrative of the truth. And it must be so recorded and told. But in politics and even in religion, truth has simply become a point of view.

So Ranjit, for the true history to reach our history books, I think you should get Unesco to request a true study of Malayan history... for whatever reasons. Say the Japanese want it. And the Portuguese (whose descendants still live in Malacca) want it. Get yourself to be nominated as the chief author of that "commission". Then, I think it will work. You will at least get paid for the work.

Apanama is Back: Ranjit wrote, “Truth is the soul of history," because ultimately truth will triumph in any era. This is what we call reality. However, the real root cause we are facing in this country is inferiority complex.

This is the actual reason why we observe acrobatics now and then in the history of this nation to portray a particular race and religion as superior to others.

As far as the history of our nation is concerned, the contributions of the Chinese and Indians are relegated to about two to three sentences in our history books. However, these two ethnic groups are among the highest taxpayers who support the teachers and the academicians who are performing aerobatics in history, the publishers of the distorted history books, and not to forget, the members of the National Council of Professors.

Ranjit, a big thank you for your real history. These are the histories that I learned long back when I was in school, and they are real history as is and as seen.

BrownOtter5875: Ranjit, thank you so much for your sincere effort to unearth the buried truths of the history of this nation.

All of us old students from the old generation are aware of the selective erosion of our forefathers' contributions to this land. We are not historians by profession like you, remaining silent was our only option.

I have with me a 1961 publication of the ‘History of Malaya (1400-1959)’ which I will pass down to my future generations. I believe there are no distortions in this book as we used to buy second-hand books from our senior students back in those days.

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