Thursday, August 23, 2012

The economic seclusion of the Native Malays in pre-Merdeka Malaya

1. Although in the Federated Malay States the British were employed by the respective Sultans, it is difficult to ignore the fact that the British were here to reap the benefits of this land without wanting to give much back to the native people, but with a degree of subtlety.

2. In order to keep the Malays from creating trouble for the British, land reservations were introduced to transform the native Malay population into permanent agriculture peasants

3. It worked for the British well in 1900 when they introduced the Punjab Alienation of Land Act to control and supervise Punjabs as agricultural tribes. This was done on the basis of protecting and preserving the native people by secluding them from the immigrants who were invited to explore the country. 

4. The Malays were asked to grow food for the immigrants. As Sir Frank Athelstane Swettenham once said:
“The longer the Malay is kept away from the influence of civilization, the better it will be for him.”
5. British brought in lots of immigrants directly for their benefit. Undeniably, they were the workforce badly needed to develop the country.

6.  The Indians were British subjects (India was a Colony, while Malaya was not). They were made to work in the estates, and as British subjects, were given basic necessities such as very basic accommodation and Tamil schools.

7. The Chinese were brought in to work the tin mines.

8.  Most were in Malaya to make money to be brought back to their families left back in the Mainland. 

9. As they had an allegiance to none, enriching themselves in order to achieve a good life once they return to China was a dream of virtually all the Chinese immigrants. Unlike the Malays, they were self-sufficient and very hard-working.

10. This was the way the British divided and ruled. Eventually, swayed by the profit they were earning from the Malay States that they forgot their promise to the Sultans which was to protect the interest and welfare of the Malays. 

11. The bulk of the Malays lived in rural areas and they had very minimal contact with the other races, the Chinese were basically in towns and tin mines, while the Indians were in rubber plantations.

12.  The effect to this was that the Malays remained backwards and were told to stay as peasants or tillers of the soil, the Chinese inherited all the tradings in the Malay States and became the richest residents, and the Indians remained as rubber-tappers without proper infrastructure. 

13. The Malays, according toChai Hon-Chan:
“…merely retreated from the tide of commercial activity and material prosperity…whereas the British, Europeans, Chinese and Indians had the lion share of the country’s wealth…”
14. EW Birch, the 8th British Resident of Perak, recognized this dire situation and quickly proposed a policy of preserving the Malay land. 

15. The only way to him to preserve the Malay race was to “free them from the clutches of those people who now remit to Indian large sums of money, which they bleed from the (Malay) people.”

This later became the Malay Reservation Land Act which spirit is preserved in the Malaysian Federal Constitution.

 16. Such was the state of the Malays in the Malay States that Dr Lennox A Mills noted:

“…when the British came, the Malay was a poor man in a poor country; when the British left, he was a poor man in a rich country.”

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