Malaya Peninsula – 4


The Japanese invaded Malaya in the year 1942 had a tremendous effect on the country. During this period the Japanese like the British favoured the Malayas and intentionally tried to aggravate the racial atmosphere between them and the Chinese. Besides increasing hostility between these two ethnic groups, resulted their sharpening of national consciousness. The Indians benefited from lenient treatment as Japanese military authorities sought a popular base for the contemplated attack on British India. The Chinese on the other hand suspected the Japanese eyes because of their long affiliation with China. As for the Malay majority, it was brought little change by the Japanese conquest, aside from the impact of economic deterioration. Government continued as much as usual because the Japanese in the manner of the British, choose to rule through native leaders.

The Japanese who started to rule with bright promises soon started to exploit the country ruthlessly. This brought disillusion among the Malays as well. Japan’s misrule created a wider audience for those anxious to preach the doctrine of self-determination. The British were unable to asses properly the changed that had occurred during the war and the Japanese invasion. The British plan for a reorganized colonial administration. This called for the simplification and modernization of the cumbersome machinery of indirect government. Separate states under British rule was to be ended; various constitutional entities were to be incorporated into a tightly knit, centralized Malaya union, equal rights of citizenship were to be granted by all the three races –Malays, Chinese and Indian. However the British have to abandon this scheme, as the people of Malays protested since this would give the hated Chinese decisive control in Malay politics. Western educated Malays organized the United Malayan National Organization (U.M.N.O) to oppose giving equal rights to other races. An extreme pro- Indonesian Malay Nationalist organization (PUTERA) equally hostile to the British rule and the Sultans were also formed. It wanted an independent Malaya composed of both the Malay union and Singapore.

The British dropped the original proposal and in its place set up a Federation of Malay in February 1948. In the new federation, the British regained complete control over defense and foreign policy. Separate entity for Singapore was maintain. The right of citizenship was also modified to some extent in favor of the Malayas and the Chinese came into existence. The new Federation of Malayas was greeted with a violent Communist outbreak in the Country. Communist organized a Malayan National Army and declared their aim of establishing an independent Malayan People’s Democratic Republic with equality foe all races.

Malaya could not keep under the British for long, so the Britain through gradual stages proceeded towards giving Malaya full independence which finally came in 1957. In August that same year Malaya Federation received formal independence and Tengku (prince) Abdul Rahman became its premier. It was decided that the newly Independent Federation would be consisted of 9 states and 2 settlements and was to be headed by a paramount ruler elected by the Sultans of different states. A parliament responsible to an elected parliament would rule the country. After the independent influence of the communists declined considerably.

In 1957, Singapore became a self- governing colony. In 1959 she received Independence. Lee kuan yew the leader of the people’s action party, became its first Prime Minister. Both newly independent Singapore and Malaya realized that a closer political and economic union would be helpful to avert future dangers.