Outgoing PM Abdullah Badawi said "it is historically true that nationalism and the struggle for independence was first started by the Malays." He added that "the country gained independence after the Malays, Chinese and Indian communities united to fight to free the country from British rule."
There are two factual points which need to be elaborated and explained. After the world war two, it was clear that the British empire had lost its invincibility. Due to the devastation of war against the Nazis in Europe, the empire had to focus on reconstruction in Europe. Many of their colonies were set free. There was a plan in London to eventually grant independence to Malaya.
However, it was the people's alliance which had successfully got together social movements from all races which pushed the British to speed up independence for Malaya. The HARTAL was a demonstration of people's power. The movement led by several social activists had called for nationalisation of all British assets and companies in Malaya.
The treat was so real that the British had to use a dirty tactic to brand them as Communist conspirators and sympathizers. Most of the movement's leaders were detained under the Internal Security Act. Their detention was able to slow the movement's momentum. At the same time, the British began to look out "friendly" parties to hand the reign of government to.
Hence, the British administration began to court the leaders of UMNO, MCA and MIC. UMNO led by Tunku Abdul Rahman was given the task to lead a delegation to London to negotiate for a peaceful handover of power with a few important caveats. The most important is the protection of colonial interests in the country. Before leaving, the British sold land and other properties in the straits states to private owners.
Hence, we got our freedom not through a nationalistic struggle but through mutual agreement to safeguard the British concessions in the country. Most of the Alliance leaders were Western educated, bourgeois and pro-British.
Second, while the fight for independence was noble it is equally important for the nation to recognise those who had helped and contributed to build the nation. Nation builders belonged to Malaysians of all ethnicity and creed. A great number of them had helped to transform this nation from an under developed agricultural nation to a successful manufacturing nation. Many of them who worked in the plantations had helped to earn hard cash for this country and put food on the table for thousands of families.
It was the Chinese community leaders and members who started the urbanisation of Malaya. They had poured in their wealth to build town centres and cities which are still visible today e.g. Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Ipoh, Taiping and others.
For UMNO, especially Abdullah, Najib and Hishammudin, to learn how to appreciate the other races they must recognise the role and contributions of these nation builders. Not just their 'keris' waving members and leaders.
UMNO leaders were not the only true independent fighters or national heroes. Normal, silent and low profile Malaysians, our forefathers, who had contributed significantly to this nation - building roads, schools, towns, economy etc. - were heroes too.