by V. Jegatheesan
Achieving independence from the British was a significant moment in Malaysia’s history. The three political parties, United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC), had formed the Alliance Party and won the first General Election on 27 July 1955. This was a clear mandate given by the people to the Alliance to fulfil their commitment to gain independence within four years.
On 1 January 1956, the then Chief Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, leading a large delegation, sailed to Karachi from Singapore and then flew to London. Negotiations began on 18 January 1956 and it is remarkable that the negotiations ended after just three weeks on 8 February 1956, with Britain agreeing to independence for Malaya, as it was at that time. The agreement was signed on 11 February 1956. The delegation then flew directly to Singapore arriving on 19 February 1956.
It is common knowledge that Tunku Abdul Rahman went to Melaka the next day on 20 February 1956 to announce that Malaya had been given independence. In front of a rousing crowd on Padang Bandar Hilir, recorded as 100,000, he announced that Malaya’s Independence Day would be 31 August 1957.
But why Melaka and not Kuala Lumpur, which was the Federal Capital? The average Malaysian will assume that Tunku decided on this himself. However, this just may not be the case.
Among the various images on the information boards about Malaya’s Road to Independence in Gallery D – beside the picture of Tunku with Dato’ Sir Tan Cheng Lock’s family and just above the glass cases with newspaper clippings – is a letter from UMNO Kuala Kangsar. Dated 14 January 1956, the letter is from the UMNO Secretary of the Kuala Kangsar Branch to the Secretary General of UMNO Malaya. The subject is ‘Return of the Independence Delegation from England’.
The following is a translation of the letter.
The Working Committee had an urgent meeting on Friday 13 January 1956 and an agreement was made as follows: This branch has resolved that the UMNO Malaya Headquarters urgently send a wire (telegram) to London, requesting that when the delegation headed by Y.A.M Tengku Abdul Rahman Putra brings along the date of independence of Malaya from England, they should arrive in Malacca. This resolution has been made after carefully weighing considerations and taking into account the politics in respect of the history of Malacca as follows: (a) Raise the status of the history of the Malay Empire of Malacca. (b) The statement “Never will the Malays disappear from this world” was originated in Malacca by Laxamana Hang Tuah, a gallant and mighty Malay warrior who fought for the nation and homeland. (c) It was in Malacca that western colonisation was enforced in our homeland on 11 July 1511. (d) It was on the collapse of Malacca that the soul of our independence awoke, according to a Malay leader, Dr. Burhannudin Al-Hilmy in 1946. (e) UMNO had 100% in the General Elections resulting in Y.A.M Tengku Abdul Rahman Putra to be sent to England is also the decision of the Emergency General Meeting of UMNO Malaya in Malacca (f) For these reasons, let the date of independence be brought to Malacca However, UMNO Branch Kuala Kangsar is confident that this suggestion will receive support from UMNO all over Malaya.
The letter is signed by Haji Meor Samsudin, Secretary of the UMNO Kuala Kangsar Branch.
Tunku would surely have been informed of this letter by way of that telegram. But it will never be known if Tunku made this decision based on this letter or whether he had it in his mind all along. Tunku being Tunku, we will never know!
In this Series
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