Sunday, September 30, 2012
By Syed Akbar Ali
This is a short story. It has significance to what is going on in our country.
Ho Chi Minh was the great Vietnamese freedom fighter, liberator, statesman and hero of the oppressed peoples. Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, when I was nine years old. Also known as 'Uncle Ho', his birth name was Nguyen Sinh Cung. Ho Chi Minh who was of Chinese ancestry translates to 'He Who Enlightens'.
At that time the
US was bombing Vietnam, Laos and back to the Stone Age. It was called the Vietnam War. I clearly remember watching the ‘Dunia Di Sana Sini’ program on Television Malaysia (no RTM yet at that time) which would show black and white footage of American GIs using flamethrowers to burn attap huts belonging to Vietnamese villagers. Cambodia
Till today I cannot figure out how attap huts in Vietnam were a threat to the security and vital interests of the ‘Yewnited States of Americky’ That is one evil and adulterous generation (Matthew 14:6-8) which is still dancing around the fire in the Yewnited States.
At that time the Americans successfully brainwashed all of us into believing that the Vietnamese were bad people led by an ugly monster called Ho Chi Minh. So like the simple,
Third World, Mat Salleh wannabe bumpkins that we were (and many many still are) we all chorused the American line that our own neighbors were monsters.
The French colonials started taking control of
in the 1860s. By 1883 the entire country was a full fledged French colony. Vietnam
Under French colonial rule Vietnamese were prohibited from travelling outside their districts without identity papers. Freedom of expression and organisation were restricted. Land was alienated to French companies and the number of landless peasants grew. So people like Ho Chi Minh started fighting back.
Fastforward (because this is a short story), Ho Chi Minh kicked the butt of the French in
Dien Bien Phu in 1952 and sent them home in crates.
Way before that on 2 September 1945, half a million Vietnamese people gathered in
to hear Ho Chi Minh read the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence. The Vietnamese had thrown off the foreign invader. Hanoi
One of the first things that Ho Chi Minh did as the leader of a free and independent
Vietnam was to REPUDIATE ALL TREATIES AND AGREEMENTS which had been entered into by under French Colonial Rule. Vietnam
Not only Ho Chi Minh but in many newly independent countries (usually non British Commonwealth) an independent people refused to recognize treaties and agreements which the colonials had forced them to sign at the point of a gun or without the consent of the people. So whatever the French colonial power had signed on behalf of
was not recognized by the Vietnamese people. Vietnam
Why? Apa pasal? Because those treaties were NOT signed by a free and independent people.
I wanted to Blog about this because just a few days ago I was having breakfast with some friends who started quoting the terms of the Pangkor Treaty (! ! !) to support their side of the argument about the Perak issues.
At the time of our
, we should have taken a leaf out of Ho’s book (it is really not too late) and repudiated all the treaties and agreements which were signed under the British. Independence
For example, Stamford Raffles found disgruntled seafarers from the Riau Islands, played politics with the Dutch and got “a” Sultan to rent space on Temasek Island to the British East India Company (NOT TO THE BRITISH SOVEREIGN GOVERNMENT OK).
Raffles did not work for the British Government but he worked for the British East India Company, a company listed on the London Stock Exchange.
Stamford Raffles was just like an earlier version of a Somali pirate. And at the time of our “
” in 1957, all this had happened just over 100 years before. (Much less time than Nga and Ngeh’s 999 year leasehold titles granted recently in Perak). Independence
Then later this slick little piece of piracy by Raffles was ‘formalised’ by the British Sovereign through the Colonial Office.
And many people think that Stamford Raffles braved the seas, sailed out here from
and claimed an uncivilized, uninhabited island for the British Government. Wrong. England
First of all Raffles was already chilling his heels in
Penang. Long before he “founded” Singapore in 1819, Raffles was assistant secretary at the British East India company’s “administration” in Penang in 1805.
Then in 1818 Raffles became “lieutenant governor of Bencoolen” fighting the Dutch who were trying to grab the whole of
South East Asia. Before that Raffles was appointed “governor general” for the British India Company in Java (1811-16).
In 1818 Raffles sailed hurriedly from Bencoolen to
India, and convinced Lord Hastings of the need for the British to open a port on . He had already identified Temasek Island . (It was NOT some unknown, uninhabited, alien island that fell out of the Matrix movie). Temasek Island
But more importantly why did Raffles suddenly panic in 1818? He was the East India Company’s “secretary” in
Penang in 1805, made it to Company “governor” in Java in 1811, became Company “lieutenant governor” for Bencoolen in 1816-1818. Why panic in 1818 to open another port?
In 1818 the Dutch occupied Riau. The
were also the domain of the Sultan of Johore. The Dutch then claimed that ALL theterritories of the Sultan of Johore ( Riau Islands Riau Islands, the , mainland Johor, Temasek, parts of Negeri Sembilan, parts of Pahang) were all within their sphere of influence. Karimun Islands
This was the cause of Raffles panic.
And coincidentally, Raffles was in
Penang at this relevant time, chilling his heels possibly at his favorite plantation bungalow (not exactly braving the wild oceans for King and Country).
Penang, Raffles dispatched Colonel William Farquhar to Temasek. Disregarding orders to await further instructions from the British East India Company in Calcutta, Raffles slipped out of Penang around 20th January, 1819 aboard a private trading ship and caught up with Farquhar.
On January 28, 1819, Raffles and Farquhar anchored near the mouth of the
. There was no dramatic arrival on a wild and exotic, uninhabited island that had just fallen out of the Matrix movie. Singapore River
The following day, the two men went ashore on
to meet Temenggong Abdu'r Rahman, who granted provisional permission for the British East India Company to establish a trading post on the island, subject to the approval of Hussein. Hussein ? Who was Hussein? Read on. Temasek Island
( I hope you can see me laughing here – what in heaven’s name is”granted provisional permission” – did the Speaker of the Temasek Assembly meet under a tree too, on the uninhabited, exotic, wild and mysterious Temasek island?)
Well the kiasu Raffles, began immediately to unload Bengalisepoys, set up tents and hoist the British flag. The first British meal prepared on “wild, exotic, undiscovered, uninhabited” Temasek was probably chappati and fried ikan kembong supplied by the ever friendly local Malays.
Raffles then told Temenggong Abdu'r Rahman to send for “Hussein” in Riau, who (not having much else to do ) arrived within a few days. Then the next event that happened was a classic example of British piracy which makes the pirates in present day
look like incompetent sea urchins. Somalia
“Acknowledging Hussein” as the rightful Sultan of Johore, on February 6, 1819 Raffles signed a treaty with him and thetemenggong confirming the right of the British East India Companyto establish a trading post in return for an annual rent (in Spanish dollars, the common currency of the region at the time) of Sp$5,000 to Hussein and Sp$3,000 to the temenggong.
Read carefully. The annual rent was for “a” trading post. Not for the whole island.
Fastforward to 1857. After the Indian Mutiny of that year, the British Government took over the assets of the British East India Company, including
Malaya and went on to “acknowledge” more Sultans and sign more treaties.
The “as long as there are moon and stars in the sky” type Water Supply Agreements and such (signed in the early 20th century) are just carryovers of British piracy.
Fastforward to 1963. “
Singapore” joins . Two “Acts” of Parliament were passed. The British Parliament passed an Act ceding all British claims to ‘sovereignty’ over Malaysia Singapore to . Over in Malaysia Malaysia an Act of Parliament was passed noting that Singapore was now part of (again). Malaysia
Fastforward to 1965 :
Singapore was “expelled” from . It was a unilateral decision by Tunku Abdul Rahman the Prime Minister. It had not been debated and approved by the Malaysian Cabinet. More importantly no specific Act of Parliament was passed in Malaysia Malaysia acknowledging that was no more part of the country. Legally then, under an Act of Parliament, passed by an Independent people, Singapore is still part of Malaysia. Singapore
Back to Ho Chi Minh. ALL treaties and agreements forced upon us under the force of Colonial guns and cannons have no moral standing. We should have just repudiated them.
As an independent nation we must create space and opportunity for all under the realm. But we must do it in our own fashion to suit our people.
Pangkor Treaty ? ? Did they smoke pipes too ? Selagi ada bulan dan bintang . . .