Monday, September 12, 2011

British Malaya: Balik ke pangkal jalan

Better hit the iron on the anvil while the metal is still hot. In this instance, the hot topic is our history involving the role of the British. As with all things historical, one must approach the matter with full objectivity and free oneself as far as reasonably possible from the taint of bias.

We are fortunate to have reprints of the source documents from which the British sought and obtained a legitimate legal presence in Peninsular Malaysia. 

Among the more significant treaties entered into between the British and the Malay Rulers was the Treaty of Pangkor that was signed in 1874. The preamble to the Treaty is an interesting read-

Whereas, a state of anarchy exists in the Kingdom of Perak owing to the want of settled government in the Country, and no efficient power exists for the protection of the people and for securing to them the fruits of their industry, and,

Whereas, large numbers of Chinese are employed and large sums of money invested in Tin mining in Perak by British subjects and others residing in Her Majesty's Possessions, and the said mines and property are not adequately protected, and piracy, murder and arson are rife in the said country, whereby British trade and interests greatly suffer, and the peace and good order of the neighbouring British Settlements are sometimes menaced, and,

Whereas, certain Chiefs for the time being of the said Kingdom of Perak have stated their inability to cope with the present difficulties, and together with those interested in the industry of the country have requested assistance, and,

Whereas, Her Majesty's Government is bound by Treaty Stipulations to protect the said Kingdom and to assist its rulers, now,

His Excellency Sir Andrew Clarke, Governor of the Colony of the Straits Settlements, in compliance with the said request, and with a view of assisting the said rulers and of affecting a permanent settlement of affairs in Perak, has proposed the following Articles of arrangements as mutually beneficial to the Independent Rulers of Perak, their subjects, the subjects of Her Majesty, and others residing in or trading with Perak, that is to say:-

(I have just selected the pertinent Article for you)

VI. Sixth. - That the Sultan receive and provided a suitable residence for a British Officer to be called Resident, who shall be accredited to the Court, and whose advice must be asked and acted upon on all questions (emphasis mine) other than those touching Malay Religion and Custom.

The next extract that I offer you is the Treaty of Federation that was signed in 1895. This treaty created the Federated Malay States comprising Perak, Selangor, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan.

I reproduce two pertinent paragraphs of the Treaty-

1. In confirmation of various previous Agreements, the Sultan of Perak, the Sultan of Selangor, the Sultan of Pahang, and the Chiefs of the States which form the territory known as the Negri Sembilan, hereby severally place themselves and their States under the protection (emphasis mine) of the British Government.

4. The above-named Rulers agree to accept a British Officer, to be styled Resident-General, as the agent and representative of the British Government under the Governor of the Straits Settlements. They undertake to provide him with suitable accommodation, with such salary as is determined by Her Majesty's Government, and to follow his advice on all matters of administration (emphasis mine) other than those touching the Muhammadan religion.

Everything needs a proper context. The Treaties mentioned above and the background to which each of the Treaties were arrived at has been studied and, is being studied by historians as they should rightly be.

Does the language of the Treaties effectively make the role of the British that of a colonial master?  

What is the difference between a "Protectorate" and a "Colony"?

I have my views. But, some times it is more fun to leave rhetorical questions.


Raison D'etre said...

My thoughts are veering into very dangerous grounds here vis a vis the role of the Rulers etc throughout all these.

From the preamble, it does seems the Brits were at best de facto behind-the-scene-rulers, aren't they?

Going the extreme interpretation of the whole shebang, it seems that WE were the ones who had actually allowed the plunder and pillage of OUR own resources by the Brits.

Urmm, I digress. Actually, this was already the supposition I had learned from my years' histopry syllabus (changed much these days, sadly..).

The protectorate bit I did not realised though. Interesting to dwell on what if WE had actually said NO?

A real colony, perhaps?

Simon said...

It is dangerous to talk about rulers agenda here.

The Malaysia historian will always draft a nice history for new generation to know it and have them got a good impression of the Country and person.

Bad point will always be removed and forgotten. No one would actually wanted to dig out to find out more as there are pointless to move forward.

If Malaysia was being colonised until now, I am grateful to see our country would be par as Australia/New Zealand.

Anonymous said...

Penang, Dindings, Malacca, Labuan,British North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak were outright colonies. The other so-called "protectorates" were in fact and in law colonies - see the Federation of Malay independence agreement. The British used the local (titular) rulers for their own ends (e.g.signing Singpore away to the British). There are many other examples.

walla said...

It has been said the British sucked more money out of Malaya than what was allocated by the Americans for the post-war reconstruction of Europe under the Marshall Plan.

But history seems to be repeating itself today and here, innit?

Who could be doing that, playing the role of the British?

One wonders, puzzles, crooks an eyebrow, examines fingernails, creases the forehead, drums the fingers, looks out the window, into the crystal ball, under the depths of the last dregs of the soul of this nation....

British Malaya said...

The British took a lot of resources from Malaya and actually change the population landscape. Having said that, the British brought the Malay states in the 20th century which we are enjoying today. This include infrastructure, law & order, education etc.
Read the book British Malaya by Sir Frank Swettenham published in 1907.