Saturday, June 13, 2015

Top 10 Uprisings That Would Have Changed Malaysia

1) 1915 Sepoy Mutiny

Also known as the Mutiny of the 5th Native Light Infantry, almost 900 Indian soldiers known as Sepoys went against the British in Singapore during World War I. Lasting almost seven days, the mutiny resulted in the deaths of almost 50 British soldiers and locals. The threat of the mutiny was finally neutralized by the involvement of the Allied forces' navy. Since there are no existing reports on the Sepoys during their trial, the cause of the mutiny still remains unknown till today.

Alternate reality: However, had it been successful, the British would have lost control over Singapore, its main colony in the region, and the uprising would have spread all across Malaya and other British colonies and protectorates in the area.

The public executions of convicted Sepoy mutineers at Outram Road, Singapore in March 1915.

2) Rise of the Johorean Royalists

Before independence, the Anglophile Sultan Ibrahim of Johor was uncomfortable with his state being part of the Federation of Malaya. He wrote to The Straits Times in 1953 voicing his doubts on Johor's future as part of an independent Malaya. He supported the continuation of Johor as an independent British protectorate with its own British Adviser.The Sultan's supporters soon formed a secessionist movement called Persatuan Kebangsaan Melayu Johor (PKMJ) with the Sultan's relative, Ungku Abdullah bin Omar as its president. However, the Alliance Party's influence under Tunku Abdul Rahman's leadership proved to be too powerful, and Sultan Ibrahim moved to London, leaving behind crown prince Tunku Ismail as regent. Ungku Abdullah urged Tunku Ismail to not sign the Malayan Federal Constitution but was ignored. Tunku Abdul Rahman then invited Sultan Ibrahim to become the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia, but the Sultan declined allegedly due to old age and his wish to spend his final years in retirement. With most of his party members crossing over to the Alliance, Ungku Abdullah disbanded his party before independence.

Alternate reality: Had Tunku Ismail not sign the Constitution, Johor would not have become part of Malaya and even Malaysia.

His Royal Highness Sultan Ibrahim of Johor

3) Indonesia Raya Sentiments

Following the end of the Japanese Occupation, the British returned and worked together with the Malay aristocracy and conservatives to form a new united Malaya which would guarantee their economic interests would be protected. Fearing that anti-colonial sentiments would inspire an open armed rebellion similar to the fight of independence against the Dutch in the East Indies, the British had to compromise with royals and conservatives to limit rights for immigrant groups while still delaying independence. Meanwhile, certain left wing organizations

Alternate reality: Had the British refused to work together with the aristocracy and conservatives to launch pro-British politics, the idea of Indonesia Raya would have caught on and Malaysia and Indonesia would have become one big country.

The concept of Indonesia Raya

4) All Malayan Hartal

After World War II, the British were ready to leave their colonies, but not without guaranteeing their local strategic and economic interests would be well protected. Therefore, they resolved to leave behind pro-British governments to succeed them. To ensure the cooperation of the Malay aristocracy and conservatives in Malaya and protect their military bases in Singapore, the British split off Chinese-dominated Singapore from the rest of Malaya and governing it as a crown colony. Many anti-colonial organizations came together to form the All Malaya Joint Council of Action and proposed their own People's Constitution, that not only called for Singapore to be part of Malaya, but for more accessible citizenship for immigrant groups and all Malayans to be called Malays. This would ensure a clearer path towards independence. The Council then organized the All Malayan Hartal to protest the British and it was a grand success both in Malaya and Singapore. However, the British did not grant any concussions to the Council when the radical Malayan Communist Party, which was a member of the Council, decided to launch an armed rebellion. With the declaration of the Malayan Emergency, the Council was dissolved and other left wing organizations banned out of fear of Communist influence. Since then, Malayan politics was dominated by conservatives and pro-British groups. Just like the Malayan Union, the Federation excluded Singapore, despite its traditional links to Malaya.

Alternate reality: Had the British taken Hartal seriously, another coalition of political parties would have been chosen to rule an independent Malaya. Also, Singapore would continue to be politically and socially similar to the rest of Malaya, allowing it to stay within the federation.

A cartoon poster of Hartal.

5) Penang Secessionist Movement 

In the 1940s, the British proposed to amend the Banishment Ordinance, which would allow the government to banish those born in the Straits Settlements to their ancestral homeland. This made many Straits Chinese in Penang unhappy as they viewed Penang as their home and not China. Furthermore, the term 'pendatang' or 'foreigners' used by Malay conservatives was particularly offensive to them who saw Penang as their one and only true home. Also, the Straits Chinese associated themselves more with the British rather than with the Malays of the mainland. All these led them to initiate a secessionist movement. However, the secessionist movement eventually died out following the Malayan Emergency when the British started to ban all left-winged movements in an attempt to combat Communism.

Alternate reality: Had the secessionist movement been successful, Penang would have been a British Overseas Territory with Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch, or maybe an independent republic like Singapore.

Penang in the 1940s. 

6) Malayan Emergency

Despite being labelled an 'emergency' to allow tin mining industries and rubber plantations to claim losses, this Communist uprising was a full-fledged guerrilla war. Termed as the Anti-British National Liberation War by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), this conflict between its military arm, the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), and the Commonwealth armed forces lasted from 1948 to 1960. It ended with the Communists' defeat. This still remains the only war where the West won and the Communist lost.

Alternate reality: Had this war been won by the MNLA like the Vietnam War, Malaysia would have become the Communist People's Democratic Republic of Malaya with Singapore in it and things would have been radically different then they are now.

Malayan and New Zealand soldiers on a jungle patrol, c1957

7) Anti-cession movement of Sarawak

After the Jappanese Occupation ended, Sarawakian king, Rajah Charles Vyner Brooke ceded his kingdom to the British as a crown colony. This was a violation of a provision in the 1941 Constitution of Sarawak which specified self-rule for the kingdom if the heir apparent Anthony Brooke was not crowned the next king, which its citizens had expected to lead to independence. Without consulting the indigenous people or the consent of local leaders, the British declared Sarawak a crown colony on 1 July 1946. In retaliation, a secret organization called Rukun 13 assassinated the Sarawakian British Governor. But still, the British ruled Sarawak until it was given self-rule on the 31st of August 1963 and the subsequent formation of Malaysia on 16 September that year.

Alternate reality: Had the anti-cession movement succeeded, Sarawak would have become a British protectorate with Anthony Brooke as king. If the state still joined Malaysia, we might have had a white Agong too if that is even possible.

A demonstration in Sarawak. 

8) Brunei Revolt 

The Brunei People's Party supported joining the Federation of Malaysia. However, it feared the domination of the political influence of Malay supremacists in Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia) and the economical power of Chinese merchants in Singapore. Therefore, it had one condition; all three Borneo territories, which are Brunei, Sarawak and North Borneo (now Sabah) were to be unified to form one state - North Kalimantan under one sultan, the Sultan of Brunei. That way, the 1.5 million natives of these states will be powerful enough to resist any political or economical domination. Before elections were even held in Brunei, the Brunei People's Party formed a military wing called the North Kalimantan National Army which organized the Brunei Revolt. Once the North Kalimantan Army was defeated and the Brunei People's Party leaders exiled, the Sultan of Brunei subsequently decided to not join Malaysia.

Alternate reality: Had the Brunei Revolt not taken place, Brunei would have become another state in Malaysia. Also, there would not have been Sabah or Sarawak, but a larger state called North Kalimantan with its own Sultan.

The 50th Anniversary of the Brunei Revolt

9) Malaysian Communist Insurgency

Despite the Malayan Natonal Liberation Army's defeat in 1960 at the hands of the Commonwealth armed forces, the Malayan Communist Party's leader Chin Peng renewed the insurgency seven years later. Known as the Communist Insurgency War, this second Communist uprising also failed even though other Commonwealth forces had withdraw from Malaysia by then. The Insurgency ended in 1989 with the signing of the Peace Accord in Haadyai, Thailand and the 1990 Bintulu peace agreement.

Alternate reality: Similar to the Malayan Emergency, had this second Communist uprising been successful, there is that possibility that we would have become a Communist republic.

The National Monument being repaired after bombings by Communist Militants. 

10) Rise of Singapore

While Singapore was a state within Malaysia, it started to see that there was no economic advantage to them. The main reason why Singapore was so desperate for a merger in the first place was because it believed it could not survive with the resource-rich hinterland that is Peninsular Malaysia. The Malaysian constitution was almost rewritten, transforming Malaysia from a federation into a confederation with the federal government providing more autonomy to the state government. Singapore's state government was to have all the powers it owned during its years of self-government between 1959 and 1963 before joining Malaysia. The federal government would only be in charge of defence and foreign relations, just like the British had been. Both federal and state governments would share internal security responsibilities. Also, Singapore citizens would be disallowed to participate in politics outside the island and mainland Malaysian citizens would not be allowed to take part in the island-state. This sounded like a good idea, but the federal government still wanted Singapore to contribute its tax revenue to the federal government. This meant Singapore would almost be like another country's colony again, only this time Malaysia's and not the British's. In the end, Singapore's separation from the rest of the federation was inevitable.

Alternate reality: This means had the merger continued, Singapore would be to Malaysia what Hong Kong and Macau are to China these days.

A Straits Times headlining the expulsion of the state. 

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