Jan 17, 2009

Onn Jaafar, The True Nationalist

United Malays National Organization (UMNO)

Malaysian history stated that there were several attempts to create multiracial parties, only a few have survived until today. The leader like Onn Jaafar already proposed the idea of multiracial party politics in 1950s. If it was a reality, I’m confident that we don’t need to struggle with a lot of racial problems nowadays. I realised that Malaysian had awakened that racial politics are not relevant to the modern Malaysia. Even now I can ask that will race-based party survives in future? March 8 general election wondering me is there any future for race based politics in Malaysia.

Onn Jaafar formed the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) on 4th March 1946 to unite the Malays in order to oppose the Malayan Union. Once he was appointed as the President of UMNO he suggested that UMNO be opened to other races in Malaya in order to resolve the racial issue in politics. He was the one who initiated the idea of multiracial politics in our nation’s history. It’s very true if I label him as the true nationalist for all Malaysian. He split with UMNO leadership because the reason to unite all Malayan to one leadership. He wanted a multiethnic party that included representatives from the Indians and Chinese minorities who made up almost 40% of the population.

In this case, I can equalise his effort to Mahatma Gandhi in India. Mahatma Gandhi struggled solidly to unite Muslims and Hindus under the flag of India, but sadly his attempts unsuccessful which have created the India and Pakistan. He was happy to freed India from British, but he regretted that he could not unite the Muslims and Hindus under one nation. Although Dato Onn’s struggle not as solid as Mahatma Gandhi in India, but he deserve the praise for the reason of his idea.

Since UMNO membership rejected Jaafar's proposal, opting for the continuation of communal parties based along racial/ethnic lines. In 1951, Jaafar left UMNO and founded the multiethnic Independence of Malaya Party (IMP). The IMP never won a large base of popular support or was able to challenge the UMNO-led coalition's monopoly on power. He failed of his attempt to create one Malayan concept politics. The failure of Onn Jaafar in his attempts empowers the racial politics in Malaysia. The effects we can witness until today after 51 years of independent.

From the May 13 tragedy, Kampung Medan incident, Keris wave by UMNO leaders to the Ahmad Ismail racial statement. All those incidents are the consequences of the racial politics in Malaysia. The idea of Dato Onn Jaafar was totally rejected by Malayan in 1950s, now in 2008 right after March 8 political Tsunami, every Malaysian had started to kick the racial politics out of Malaysia. It’s another prove that Malaysians are now becoming matured and more united although a lot of people constantly using the racial sentiments to generate public disorders and riots.


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