Hartal: Untold Merdeka StoryHartal: Untold Merdeka Storyby Dinesweri PuspanadanThis nation and its people stand out proudly on the Independence platform for almost 53years. Every citizen of current generation is fed through the education system andreminded constantly on our leaders struggle in the past to fight for Merdeka. In fact,many tend to brag that Malaya(that time) achieved its Independence from British in apeaceful manner without dropping a single blood. Every ordinary and educated(even noteducated) people of this land is aware of this cliche or fact. However, the concern is howmuch truth is lingering in this structured piece of Malaysian History? Many, in the nameof trust,accept the presented history blatantly without posting any doubts or question itsvalidity.Today, at this date, every single element of past history is re casting which paves way todig out the buried history of the real Independence struggle which many heroes wouldavoid to talk about it and what more to reveal about it. The writer who is inspired byFahmi Rezas documentary; 10 tahun Sebelum Merdeka presenting to you Hartal:UntoldMerdeka Story. What is hidden beneath the Pro British History? Time to unlock thehidden history of this land.As many believe(or told to believe that), UMNO(United Malaya Nation Organization)started the ball rolling on initiating the thought of Merdeka. However, as stated by certainsources, the Alliance PUTERA-AMCJA was the first to initiate the thought of Merdeka.When British wanted to implement Malayan Union, many raised to project theirrejection. Undeniably, UMNO was one of many in the agenda. After demonstrations andpressure from all corner, British then decided to form a team to sketch structure forFederation.One event that should be highlighted here is before British agreed to terminate theirthought to go ahead with Malayan Union and form the team to discuss about Federation,Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya(PKMM) which was formed on 17 October 1945 whichjoined UMNO earlier pulled out on 29 June 1946 and refused to cooperate with British tobe part of the team to plan the Federation.
PKMM came out with a plan to form an alliance with parties of other races. AT thispoint, Malaysian Indian Congress(MIC) formed with 600 members in August 1946 underthe leadership of the first President, John A. Thivy. On 14 December 1946,Council of Joint Action (CJA); a joint effort from PKMM,Malayan DemocraticUnion(MDU), Singapore Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU), MIC, Clerical Union,Straits Chinese British Association (SBCA), Indian Chamber of Commerce dan CeylonTamil Association which worked one collaborative effort to draft out a new constitutionfor Malaya. Below is the summarized chronology of events which illustrates theformation of PUTERA-AMCJA* On 22 December 1946, this council expanded with new members; PMFTU, danMalayan Peoples Anti-Japanese Ex-Service Comrades Association and renamed as Pan-Malayan Council of Joint Action (PMCJA) where Tan Cheng Lock was appointed as thefirst President.* On 22 February 1947,Pusat Tenaga Ra’ayat (PUTERA) formed at Kuala Lumpur with 29 Malay associationsincluding PKMM, API, Angkatan Wanita Sedar (AWAS), Barisan Tani Se-Malaya(BATAS), Gerakan Angkatan Muda (GERAM) and other associations.* In March 1947, PMCJA dan PUTERA formed PUTERA-PMCJA which later known asPUTERA- AMCJA which focused on 10 peoples principlesPUTERA-AMCJA was the first multiracial Alliance which included three main races,Malay, Chinese, and Indians and also was the first to spread the thought of Merdekaamong people. In this context, UMNO was silent about Merdeka for almost 10 years.While UMNO was busy sketching draft of the Federation, PUTERA-AMCJA collectedall the voices to fight for Independence and structured a new constitution after somebrainstorming sessions with all the main races and this constitution was known asPeoples Constitution. While that, this alliance protested and expressed their rejection tothe Federation as they felt the Federation was again paved way for Britishs full power onMalaya which would make the process towards Independence difficult. UMNOswillingness to cooperate with British angered PUTERA-AMCJA as they believed UMNOwas a traitor for jeopardizing peoples welfare by nodding their head to Britishs demands.Below is an article from;The Malaya Tribune dated 15 February 1947on PKMM admonishing Dato Onn Jaafar
On 10 August, PUTERA-AMCJA officially approved the Peoples Constitution. Below isan article from;The Malaya Tribune(11 September 1947)
One question that should strike right now is what are the differences between PeoplesConstitution and Federation?. There are certain sections from both; Peoples Constitutionand Federation should be highlighted. (Please take note that the information actuallycontrast with information in History Text Books which are used at Malaysian schools.You can do your own verification and validation by accessing to both PeoplesConstitution and Federation through the links below.)Fahmi Rezas 10 Tahun Sebelum Perjuangan(A short Documentary on Hartal)Proposal of People Constitution by PUTERA-AMCJA
Proposal of Federation by British+UMNO+KingsPUTERA-AMCJA started to reach the people and spread the idea of Merdeka andestablishing own government;peoples government while that UMNO with British,despite all the protest by PUTERA-AMCJA, they worked on Federation and refused togive ear to PUTERA-AMCJA. Below are some newspaper articles on Hartal;The Straits Echo on 6 October 1947
Utusan Melayu Newspaper 6 October 2010 -- Announcement on Hartal
During that time, with newspaper as the mainstream media, UMNO also did not fail tospread its message about Federation to gain peoples support. One of PUTERA-AMCJAsstrengths was the unity. As mentioned earlier, the collaboration stood proudly withcooperation from 3 main ethnics; Malay, Indian, and Chinese. If UMNO could break thisunity, the task to defeat PUTERA-AMCJA should appear easy. One of the ways(surprisingly used until today) was media; newspaper. Majlis known as UMNOsmainstream media while Utusan Melayu was PUTERA-AMCJAs loyal mainstreammedia. One of the political cartoons created and used in Majlis to break the unity amongthe people and spread racial slurs was Ah Chong-Ramasamy cartoon.
One of the cartoons could be found in Majlis newspaper dated 6 September 1947. Thetitle was Malaya Hak Melayu(Malaya is Malays rights). Below is the political cartoon;Majlis newspaper dated 6 September 1947The character wearing tie was Edward Gent, Gabenor of Malayan Union who was tellingthat;Malaya hak Melayu! Melayu tak ada negeri lain. Negeri China hak Cina. Negeri Indiahak Indian. Kamu orang dagang bila² suka ada negeri tempat kamu pindah.Translated:Malaya is Malays rights. Malays do not have other countries. China belongs to Chinese.India belongs to Indians. You are traders. When ever you like, you can go back since youhave your own countries.
Three cartoon characters near the bridge were Chinese at the front, Indian, and the onelabeled as DR was Dr. Burhanuddin Al-Helmy.The Chinese cartoon character was saying;Gua tak suka Fedelesyen. Fedelesyen atak, tentu Melayu sinang.Translated:I do not like Federation. Federation will definitely benefit MalaysAt the right a Malay farmer character was holding UMNOs flag with a smile on his face.This political cartoon was enclosed with 2 stanzas of Pantun which read;Apabila Federation hampir terserlah,Melayu nampaknya mendapat faedah,Pekemam Putera mengapa gelisah?Dengkikan Melayu mendapat tuah!Negeri Melayu hak Melayu,Ikan senohong bukannya yu,Ah Chong tak boleh bertukar bulu,Ramasamy tetap bercorak Hindu.Translated:First stanza:With Federation, Malays are gaining benefits, PUTERA seems to get worried as it isjealous when Malays are gaining more benefitsSecond Stanza:Malaya belongs to Malay. No matter what, Ah Ching(Chinese) and Ramasamy(Indian)could not be MalaysWithout giving up, after the approval of Peoples Constitution, PUTERA-AMCJAannounced Hartal . Hartal, which was held on 20 October, 1947, carved in Malayashistory where it portrayed the greatest political demonstration which never been seen upin Malaya. This political protest was against Federation which was worked on by UMNOand British together with Kings. PUTERA-AMCJA united with all the different races andmoved forward to spread the word about Hartal.They preached people about the PeoplesConstitution and explained how Federation actually would continue to push them intoslavery under British. They used media like Utusan Melayu, went from one village toanother and plowed into peoples mind the urge to be freed from British and establishtheir own government. People from different background, especially different ethnics andraces began to move to one common thought. With that, Hartal emerged as a giganticwave which shook British and its crony, UMNO.
On 20 October 1947, the Protest Day, where British would debate on the constitutionalissue in Malaya, those who regard Malaya as their real home and who supported thePeople’s Constitutional Proposals issued by PUTERA and the All-Malaya Council ofJoint Action, were asked not to carry out their usual occupations, but to remain indoorsthroughout the day and night.Sending a strong message, every Malayan(Malay, Chinese, and Indian) stood togetherwithout any fear by protesting towards Britishs undemocratic and unconstitutional ruling.Hartal turned out as a big success as the main cities were deserted and only few peoplecould be seen on the street. This was something very unnatural for British and UMNOwho thought Malayans (Malay, Chinese, and Indians) were weak and would bow to theirorders. Hartal received wide coverage not only form local mainstream but alsoInternational media. It was estimated that around 140,000 participated in Hartal(A bigquantum if we consider the population at that time with some limitations to spread thenews). Below are news excerpts on Hartal;Sunday Tribune(26 October 1947) which estimated the number of workers took part inthis political demonstration;
An article from Majalah Kenchana, Bilangan 12, 1 November 1947 on HartalHartal resulted in many outcomes. Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Malayasent a proposal to British on 25 October 1947 to revise the Federation as the people wereagainst it and supported Hartal. Below is the official letter;
An excerpt from the letter;Indicative of the widespread dissatisfaction, there was an almost complete cessation ofwork and business throughout the length and breadth of Malaya from dawn to midnighton that day. Malays, Chinese, Indians and others participated in the move, showing thatthe opposition to the present Proposals is neither sectional nor communal, nor the resultof simply party demands but of the upward surge of a widespread desire for a new idealof Malayan unity in which all can work together without any communal emphasis.However, British still proceeded with Federation as UMNO was channeling its fullsupport to the implementation of Federation and officially Federation was officiallyformed on 1 February 1948.
Even though PUTERA-AMCJA failed in its Peace Demonstration to stop British andUMNO from implementing Federation, they proved to both British and UMNO thatpeople at Malaya at that time despite the different ethnics able to unite and fight forfreedom. It actually created a very strong impact where people started to realize about theimportance to fight for Merdeka. Hartal is the basic foundation for a continuous andtragic struggle to free Malaya from colonization.The fact that Malaya gained its Independence without dropping a single blood is a blatantlie! UMNO was not involved in the war and struggle to free the nation but behind theIndependence enjoyed by every Malaysian today for almost 53 years(Looking at currentsituation, it is not fair to call it as a freedom), there are untold sacrifices, unappreciatedwarriors who swept out all the differences and united to free Malaya. Some questions forus to reflect on;1. If our grandparents could be united those time to fight for Independence, why todayare we tarnishing the unity in the name of championing our race and religion?2. Who is/are the culprit(s) spreading racial slurs from the day one to divide us ?3. Are we too dumb or naive to still believe the facts that our Independence is genuine?4. Why is this piece of history is not emphasized (Perhaps mentioned but notemphasized)?5. This part of history is only until 1947. What happened from 1948 to 1957?Writers note: History repeats itself if we fail to learn from it. Our generation failed tolearn. Thus, every single event in the past is repeating now. Look around you. Read thenews! Can you identify the newspaper which spreads racial slurs like Majlis (Politicalcartoon-Ah Chong Ramasamy). Can you see freedom is restricted? If today we do notlearn, our future generation will suffer. Failed struggle and bastardized Independence inthe past are the reasons for todays conditions. Our grandparents did their best yet theydid not manage to continue the struggle. We are still colonized by restricted freedom,corrupted judiciary, racist leaders, ..you name it.... Transformatin is needed. If you stillbelieve we are fine, then the choice is yours. I am awake for the betterment of my futuregeneration! I am speaking up against inequality subjected to Malaysians!! Kick out theracists leaders, Use your Vote, let us move towards a clean government. Let us unite andWE ARE NOT DIFFERENT. Let us continue the struggle of our grandparents until wesee the desired changes!!!