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Elite intercommunal bargaining and conflict resolution: The role of the Communities Liaison Committee in Malaya, 1949–51

  • Joseph M. Fernando

Abstract

Between 1949 and 1951, the Communities Liaison Committee (CLC), an unofficial body comprising leaders from the main Malayan ethnic communities, served as a prototype for elite intercommunal conflict resolution during a very challenging period amid an ongoing communist insurgency. Drawing upon previously inaccessible primary sources, this article reassesses the CLC's work towards resolving divisive issues such as Malay economic backwardness, federal citizenship, national identity, education and language in Malaya. This article argues that the CLC played a significantly bigger role than previously recognised and influenced government policy considerably. Equally importantly, it entrenched the concept of consociationalism, which was to shape the Malayan political landscape long thereafter.

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1 The Malayan Union scheme brought together in a central administration the Federated Malay States (FMS), Unfederated Malay States (UMS) and the Straits Settlements of Penang and Melaka, and was headed by the High Commissioner. Singapore, because of its special status as a free port and important naval base, remained a separate colony. See Stockwell, A.J., British policy and Malay politics during the Malayan Union experiment (Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1979), pp. 1738.

2 See Stockwell, British policy and Malay politics, pp. 1–108. See also Lau, Albert, The Malayan Union controversy (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991).

3 Stockwell, British policy and Malay politics, pp. 93–4. The All-Malaya Council of Joint Action (AMCJA) was formed on 22 Dec. 1946. The organisations involved in the AMCJA were the Malayan Democratic Union, the Straits Chinese British Association (SCBA), the Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (PKMM; Malay Nationalist Party), the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC), and several trade unions and other non-governmental organisations.

4 Short, Anthony, In pursuit of mountain rats: The communist insurrection in Malaya (Singapore: Cultured Lotus, 2000), pp. 11149, for a discussion on the origins of the Malayan Emergency in 1948. See also Stubbs, Richard, Hearts and minds in guerrilla warfare: The Malayan Emergency, 1948–1960 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 4286; and Clutterbuck, Richard, The long, long war: The Emergency in Malaya, 1948–1960 (Singapore: Cultured Lotus, 2003), pp. 2541.

5 See Kratoska, Paul, The Japanese occupation of Malaya: A social and economic history (St Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1998), pp. 299306. See also Kheng, Cheah Boon, Red star over Malaya: Resistance and social conflict during and after the Japanese Occupation of Malaya 1941–1946 (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1983), pp. 18195.

6 See Lijphart, Arend, The politics of accommodation: Pluralism and democracy in the Netherlands (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968) and Thinking about democracy: Power sharing and majority rule in theory and practice. (London: Routledge, 2008).

7 Vorys, Karl von, Democracy without consensus: Communalism and political stability in Malaysia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), pp. 96104.

8 Koon, Heng Pek, Chinese politics in Malaysia: A history of the Malaysian Chinese Association (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 147.

9 Ibid., p. 148. ‘The racial composition of the CLC, its style of conducting business and the subject matter it treated set the trend for subsequent communal coalition politics, and prepared the ground for the UMNO–MCA partnership in the Alliance.’

10 Harper, Tim, The end of empire and the making of Malaya (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 149.

11 See Hoong, Khong Kim, British rule and the struggle for independence, 1945–1957 (Petaling Jaya: Strategic Information Research Development, 2003), pp. 251–2; and Adam, Ramlah, Kemelut politik semenanjung Tanah Melayu (Kuala Lumpur: Penerbit Universiti Malaya, 1998), p. 125.

12 The CLC did not keep official minutes of their meetings but preferred to keep ‘Notes’ of the main points of discussion at each meeting. These ‘Notes’ were then distributed to all members of the Committee and served as a source of reference for subsequent meetings. See Tan Cheng Lock Papers (hereafter TCL), TCL023.001, Minutes of CLC meeting, 9–10 Feb. 1949, Johore Bahru (this first record of the CLC deliberations was referred to as ‘minutes’).

13 See Heng, Chinese politics in Malaysia, p. 59; Ramlah, Kemelut politik, p. 125; and von Vorys, Democracy without consensus, p. 98.

14 See Short, In pursuit of mountain rats, pp. 19–149; and Stubbs, Hearts and minds, pp. 42–86, for discussions on the origins of the Emergency.

15 Memorandum by Malcolm MacDonald to Secretary of State for the Colonies, ‘Relations between Malays and Chinese in Malaya’, 8 Feb. 1949, in University of Durham, Malcolm MacDonald Papers (hereafter MacDonald Papers), 18/2/5. Several Chinese leaders, Sir Han Hoe Lim, C.C. Tan and Tan Chin Tuan, had met MacDonald on his return from London to express their dissatisfaction with Onn's representations on Malayan issues and problems in London earlier. MacDonald noted in his memorandum: ‘When I returned from London in early November, I found that serious apprehension existed among the Chinese in the Federation and in Singapore at the apparent emergence of an aggressive Malay nationalism. Dato’ Onn's visit to London had brought their fears to a head.' See also Straits Times, 11 Feb. 1949, p. 1.

16 Memorandum by Malcolm MacDonald to Secretary of State, ‘Relations between Malays and Chinese in Malaya’, 8 Feb. 1949, MacDonald Papers, 18/2/5. MacDonald notes in the memorandum: ‘The newspaper reports concerning Dato’ Onn's discussions in London upset them all greatly. They quoted Dato' Onn's Press interview, in which he declared that in the Colonial Office he pressed [Colonial Under-secretary] Mr. Creech-Jones to agree to the appointment of a Malay Deputy High Commissioner in the Federation, to the appointment of some Malays as heads of Federal departments to a grant of £10,000,000 from U.K. funds for schemes to improve the economic position of the Malays, and to a large expansion of the Malay Regiment. My visitors said that as a counter to this Malay offensive the Chinese of Singapore and the Federation were now considering certain actions. They intended to issue a Press statement criticising Dato' Onn's proposals and urging the claims of the domiciled communities to share political influence and power with the Malays. They also contemplated sending a deputation of Chinese to London to put the Chinese point of view to the Secretary of State as forcibly as Dato' Onn had evidently put the Malay point of view. In addition, they now proposed to form a Chinese political organisation to do propaganda for the Chinese in Malaya.'

17 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 12 Jan. 1949, MacDonald Papers, 21/3/1.

18 Memorandum by Malcolm MacDonald to Secretary of State, ‘Relations between Malays and Chinese in Malaya’, 8 Feb. 1949, MacDonald Papers, 18/2/5. MacDonald noted: ‘He [Onn] said that this discussion should be held. We talked over the membership of the group which should attend, and agreed that about half-a-dozen Malays and half-a-dozen Chinese should be invited. I proposed that I should not be present, but Dato’ Onn urged that I should. He feared that otherwise the talks would be fruitless. The two sides would need a consulter and, if necessary, “an arbiter”.' MacDonald to Secretary of State, 12 Jan. 1949, MacDonald Papers, 21/3/1.

19 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 12 Jan. 1949, MacDonald Papers, 21/3/1.

20 Malcolm MacDonald to Secretary of State, 12 Jan. 1949, ‘Political Developments: Co-operation between Malays and Chinese; Communities Liaison Committee’, the National Archives (United Kingdom), Colonial Office (hereafter CO), CO 717/183/2 (94).

21 Ibid. ‘I repeat that it is too early to feel confidently optimistic about this development. Many difficulties lie ahead. But it is a beginning, and quite a good beginning.’ These leaders decided that one representative each from the Indian, Eurasian, Ceylonese and European communities should be invited for the subsequent talks in Johore Bahru to be held on 9–10 Feb. 1949, but this was then deferred till after the Johore Bahru meeting. ‘Political developments: Co-operation between Malays and Chinese; Communities Liaison Committee’, see Malcolm MacDonald to Secretary of State, 30 Jan. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (90).

22 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 15 Feb. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (81). See also Minutes of CLC meeting, 9–10 Feb. 1949, TCL023.001. The other leaders who attended this meeting were Dato' Panglima Bukit Gantang (hereafter Bukit Gantang, Perak), Zainalabidin bin Haji Abas (Selangor), Mohamed Salleh bin Hakim (Selangor), Dr Mustapha bin Osman (Kedah), Khoo Teik Ee (Malacca), Leong Yew Koh (Perak), Toh Eng Hoe (Perak), C.C. Tan (Singapore), E.E.C. Thuraisingham (Selangor) and Malcolm MacDonald. Syed Abdul Kadir bin Mohamed acted as secretary for the meeting (Yong Shook Lin was appointed as Joint Secretary with Abdul Kadir at the meeting). MacDonald notes that Onn and his colleagues were as keen as the British ‘that no barrier should be drawn between Federation and Singapore’.

23 Minutes of CLC meeting, 9–10 Feb. 1949, TCL023.001. See also Straits Times, 11 Feb. 1949, p. 10. Invitations were sent to Sir Sydney Palmer, M.N. Cumarasami and Dr J.S. Goonting.

24 Minutes of CLC, 9–10 Feb. 1949, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, TCL023.001. The subsequent records of the CLC discussions were referred to as ‘Notes’ rather than ‘Minutes’.

25 Minutes of CLC meeting, 9–10 Feb. 1949, in Johore Bahru, TCL023.001. The CLC press release of 10 Feb. 1949 states: ‘At present [the] Committee is an informal body and consists of community leaders attending in their individual, personal capacities. They are a group of men of goodwill, exploring the possibility, of closer understandings and co-operation between the various communities.’ See also Straits Times, 11 Feb. 1949, p. 1.

26 Notes of CLC discussion, 18–19 Feb. 1949, TCL023.002.

27 See Notes of CLC meetings held on 18–19 Feb. 1949, 14–15 Mar., 1–2 Apr., 19–20 Apr., 12 May, 13–14 Aug., 14–16 Sept. and 29–31 Dec. in TCL023.002–TCL023.009.

28 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 15 Feb. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (81).

29 The Penang Secessionist Movement originated from a circular issued by the Penang Chamber of Commerce (PCC) in November 1948 asking the views of certain organisations in Penang on the idea of secession from the federation. The movement led by the PCC chairman, D.A. MacKay, had sought the secession of the state from the federation over economic and political grievances, including the erosion of Penang's free port status, lack of funds from the central government for budget expenditure and ‘restricted political rights of the individual’. A public meeting called by the chamber on 13 Dec. 1948 was attended by 216 people. The resolution calling for the secession of Penang from the federation was defeated by 15 votes to 10. See Straits Times, 14 Dec. 1948, p. 6, 10 Feb. 1949, p. 6 and 11 Feb. 1949, p. 1.

30 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 15 Feb. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (81). The Chinese members of the CLC, however, made it clear that they ‘strongly disapproved’, of Dr Lee's action. They pointed out that the most ardent secessionists were the Europeans in that state. After further discussions the committee resolved to send three members of the CLC (Thuraisingham, Khoo Teik Ee and C.C. Tan) to Penang to persuade the Penang Council Members to postpone the motion for secession, carrying with them a letter for MacKay from the CLC. The three-member CLC representatives after meeting members of the Penang Council reported they were confident that the motion would be postponed. Nevertheless, the motion was debated. See also Straits Times, 10 Feb. 1949, p. 1.

31 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 15 Feb. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (81).

32 Ibid. MacDonald noted: ‘The Johore Bahru Meeting of the Committee were [sic] therefore abortive so far as practical progress is concerned. On the other hand, the fact that the Committee had to take stock of this Penang incident at its very first Meeting, and that it survived, is not a bad sign.’

33 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 7 Mar. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (79). See also von Vorys, Democracy without consensus, pp. 96–104.

34 Notes of CLC discussion, 18–19 Feb. 1949, TCL023.002.

35 Ibid. Bukit Gantang also noted the loss of educational facilities for the Malays, ‘through being driven further into the kampongs and away from educational centres’. He claimed that when requests for schools were made the federal government replied that there was a lack of funds. He pointed out that the kampongs also lacked medical facilities and that squatters had encroached into Malay reservations.

36 See Notes of CLC discussion, 18–19 Feb. 1949, TCL023.002. See also von Vorys, Democracy without consensus, p. 97.

37 See Notes of CLC discussion, 18–19 Feb. 1949, TCL023.002. See also MacDonald to Secretary of State, 15 Feb. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (81).

38 See Notes of CLC discussion, 18–19 Feb. 1949, TCL023.002. MacDonald to Secretary of State, 7 Mar. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (79).

39 See Notes of CLC discussion, 18–19 Feb. 1949, TCL023.002.

41 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 15 Feb. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (81): ‘During the discussion the Malay representatives alleged that the Chinese businessmen bribed to get their business licences and while they admitted that Malay government servants were the offenders, they argued that it was Chinese businessmen who were the recipients. The CLC agreed that as an initial measure the government should be asked to strengthen legislation related to bribery and corruption.’

42 Notes of CLC discussion, 18–19 Feb. 1949, TCL023.002. The committee agreed with Bukit Gantang's formula that in future in areas where Malays predominated new permits would only be granted to Malay companies whereas in areas were non-Malays predominated, Chinese would be allocated 51 per cent of the permits and the Malays and other non-Malays, 49 per cent of the permits. See also von Vorys, Democracy without consensus, pp. 98–9.

43 ‘Our tactics are to complete the discussion of these economic problems before we consider the political aspects of relations between the communities. If the Malays feel ensured [sic], as a result of these discussions, that the Chinese and other communities are in earnest in their desire to improve the economic position of the Malays, and that practical results are likely to follow from the Committee's deliberations in this field, then I think the Malays will be ready to be fairly forthcoming in the political discussions.’ MacDonald to Secretary of State, 25 Feb. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (79).

44 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 25 Feb. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (79).

45 See Straits Times, 16 Mar. 1949, p. 1.

46 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 25 Feb. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (79).

47 Ibid. See also Notes of CLC discussion, 18–19 Feb. 1949, TCL023.002.

48 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 25 Feb. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (79).

49 Ibid. The CLC members at this stage of the meeting in Ipoh on 14–15 Mar. 1949 were: Dato' Onn Jaafar (Johore); Panglima Bukit Gantang (Perak), Zainalabidin bin Haji Abas (Selangor), Mohamed Salleh bin Hakim (Selangor), Raja Haji Kamaruzaman (Perak), Tuan Haji Mohamed Eusoff (Selangor), Tan Cheng Lock (Malacca), Sir S.S. Palmer (Selangor), E.E.C. Thuraisingham (Selangor), Leong Yew Koh (Perak), Toh Eng Hoe (Perak), Lee Kong Chian (Singapore), Dr Ong Huck Chye (Penang), M.N. Cumarasamy (Selangor), E.A. Moissionac (Perak), Yong Shook Lin (Selangor) (Joint Secretary), Tuan Syed Abdul Kadir bin Mohamed (Johore) (Joint Secretary).

50 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 15 Mar. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (68).

52 See Notes of CLC meeting, 1–2 Apr. 1949, TCL023.004.

53 Notes of CLC meeting, 1–2 Apr. 1949, TCL023.004. See also Straits Times, 4 Apr. 1949, p. 5 and 21 Apr. 1949, p. 10.

54 Notes of CLC meeting, 1–2 Apr. 1949, TCL023.004.

55 Notes of CLC meeting, 19–20 Apr. 1949, TCL023.004. The official named, Dawson, told the CLC: ‘There was a danger in giving quota to personnel who could not import. They would sell it. Since we had consulted the traders we would have to consult them again.’ See also Straits Times, 16 Apr. 1949, p. 7.

56 Notes of CLC meeting, 1–2 Apr. 1949, TCL023.004. See also Straits Times, 16 Apr. 1949, p. 7.

57 Notes of CLC meeting, 1–2 Apr. 1949, TCL023.004. See also Straits Times, 17 Apr. 1949, p. 6.

58 Notes of CLC meeting, 1–2 Apr. 1949, TCL023.005. Thuraisingham, Khoo and Palmer later met High Commissioner Sir Henry Gurney and he agreed to take up the matter with the department concerned and the resolution was soon implemented by the federal government.

59 The Indian-based MIC, which was formed in August 1946, was critical of the 1948 Federation Agreement because of the lack of consultation with the non-Malays, particularly over the citizenship proposals, and boycotted the new constitution for a period. See Ampalavanar, R., The Indian minority and political change in Malaya, 1945–1957 (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1981), pp. 7798.

60 Notes of CLC meeting, 19–20 Apr. 1949, TCL023.004.

62 See Notes of CLC meeting, 19–20 Apr. 1949, TCL023.005. MacDonald noted that Cheng Lock's critical comments at a recent Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) meeting about the federal constitution had ‘increased Malay uneasiness’. See MacDonald to Secretary of State, 15 Mar. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (68).

63 Notes of CLC meeting, 19–20 Apr. 1949, TCL023.005. See also MacDonald to Secretary of State, 22 Apr. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (67) and 15 Mar. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (68).

64 Note by MacDonald to J.D. Higham, 31 May 1949, CO 717/183/2 (65).

65 Deputy Commissioner-General to Secretary of State, 16 May 1949, CO 717/183/2 (62).

66 The Kuala Lumpur meeting scheduled for 14–16 June 1949 was postponed to August. Sir Roland Bradell replaced Sir Sydney Palmer who had left Malaya; C.C. Tan was replaced by Lee Kong Chian of Singapore and Dato' Hamzah attended the Kuala Lumpur meeting, replacing Bukit Gantang, who was ill.

67 Notes of CLC meeting, 13–14 Aug. 1949, TCL023.007.

69 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 19 Aug. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (58). See also Notes of CLC meeting, 13–14 Aug. 1949, TCL023.007. Onn had wanted to include the word ‘early’ before the phrase ‘establishment of self-government’, but this was strongly resisted by MacDonald. Onn had stated during the meeting that he felt Malaya would be ready for self-government within 15 to 20 years.

70 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 19 Aug. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (58). Onn himself expressed the hope that elections to the Johore State Council would be introduced in 1950.

71 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 19 Aug. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (59). An important agreement reached at this meeting was that all federal citizens, ‘without distinction of sex and without the application of any property or literary tests’, who registered as voters should be qualified to vote in the State and Settlement elections. This essentially allowed for a more liberal qualification for the voters.

72 Under Article 125 of the 1948 Federation of Malaya Agreement a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, wherever born, shall be citizen of the federation by operation of law if his father had been resident in the country for 15 years prior to the coming into force of the agreement. Under Article 126, a person who is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies and who has resided in the federation for a period of 10 years preceding the application is entitled to be registered as a citizen in the federation. Under Article 131, a person who is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies is entitled to apply to become a citizen of the federation by naturalisation if he has resided in the federation for a period of 10 years out of the preceding 12 years. See Federation of Malaya, Federation of Malaya Agreement 1948 (Kuala Lumpur: Government Printers, 1948). See also Heng, Chinese Politics in Malaysia, pp. 147–56.

73 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 19 Aug. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (59).

74 Ibid. Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies born in the Settlements of Penang and Malacca automatically became federal citizens by operation of law with the coming into force of the Federation of Malaya Agreement on 1 Feb. 1948.

75 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 19 Aug. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (59). See also Heng, Chinese politics in Malaysia, pp. 147–55. The Cheeseman committee had been set up to obtain non-Malay opinion on the federation proposals.

76 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 19 Aug. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (59). MacDonald notes that he raised the matter with Gurney who agreed to examine the memorandum on citizenship prepared by Braddell and to provide MacDonald with their views.

77 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 19 Aug. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (60). The committee felt that Malay would be the appropriate medium of education in Malay schools and English in the urban areas. A small deputation from the committee was appointed to meet the High Commissioner and the Director of Education to discuss the matter further.

78 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 19 Aug. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (60).

79 Straits Times, 18 Sept. 1949, p. 8. See also Manchester Guardian, 24 Sept. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (44) and Glasgow Herald, 20 Sept. 1949, CO 717/183 (55).

80 Statement by CLC, 18 Sept. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (48).

82 See Straits Times, 22 Sept. 1949, p. 10. The Utusan Melayu editorial noted: ‘We cannot but feel surprised to see the time taken if not wasted, by the Communities Liaison Committee to bring forward proposals which are nothing new. The novel thing in these matters is that they are now proposed by a body of persons who are known to be the favourites of the Colonial Office and who will still not admit that conservative ideas must give way to new ones.’

83 See Gurney to J.J. Paskin, 25 August 1949, CO 537/4741 (74).

84 Manchester Guardian, 24 Sept. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (44).

85 Statement by CLC, 18 Sept. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (48).

87 Statement by CLC, 18 Sept. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (51). ‘The Eurasian of the settled community appears to have exactly the same claim to a special position that a Malay has, since this is his only home and as a rule he is a true Malayan. The old-established Chinese, Indian and Ceylonese families are so self-evidently Malayan that they could not be ignored. The very genuine desire for the preservation of Malay life and civilisation that is so abundantly clear amongst all races in Malaya should surely remove by now most of the fears that existed when the Federation Agreement was being worked out.’

88 MacDonald to Creech-Jones, 16 Sept. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (35). MacDonald was confident that the committee would be able to overcome their previous difficulties: ‘I feel greatly encouraged by the last two meetings of the Committee, and believe that we are coming in sight of complete agreements between the Malay, Chinese and other leaders.’

89 Creech-Jones to MacDonald, 24 Oct. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (35).

90 Extract from Pan-Malayan Monthly Intelligence Report, 9 Nov. 1949, CO 717/183/2 (15). Abdul Hadi Noor, President of Persaudaraan Islam Malaya said that the committee comprised mainly of government servants not elected by the people and had no authority to make decisions regarding a single Malayan nationality. The Kedah Peasants Union warned that a section of ‘high Malay officials’ would rise in protest if the UMNO agreed to a single nationality and possibly establish another party.

91 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 7 Jan. 1950, Macdonald Papers 21/3/20.

92 Straits Times, 22 Sept. 1949, p. 10. See also Notes of CLC meeting, 29–31 Dec. 1949, TCL023.009.

93 MacDonald to Secretary of State, 7 Jan. 1950, MacDonald Papers 21/3/20. See also Notes of CLC meeting, 29–31 Dec. 1949, TCL023.009. A Malay officer would head the agency which would enjoy direct access to the High Commissioner and local Malay Development Boards would be set up in each state.

94 MacDonald to the Secretary of State, 16 Feb. 1950, CO 537/6018 (228).

95 Ibid. It was agreed that the citizenship clauses of the federation constitution should be amended to admit as citizens: ‘i. British citizens permanently resident in the Federation; ii. Subjects of any Malay Ruler who are permanently resident in the Federation; and iii. Anyone who has become a citizen by application under the present constitution before the date when the registration lists are closed.’

96 MacDonald to the Secretary of State, 16 Feb. 1950, CO 537/6018 (229).

97 MacDonald to the Secretary of State, 16 Feb. 1950, CO 537/6018 (228).

98 Straits Times, 19 May 1950, p. 8. The Perak UMNO, after a four-hour meeting, said the time was not right to consider any alteration to federal citizenship.

99 Straits Times, 19 May 1950, p. 6. Malay graduates from the University of Malaya issued a statement saying that the CLC proposals would be detrimental to Malay interests.

100 Gurney to British Advisers, 3 June 1950, CO 537/6018 (39). In this letter Gurney notes that there was considerable Malay opposition to the extension of the federal citizenship: ‘There are in fact growing signs of Malay reluctance to accept these proposals and it is probable that but for Dato’ Onn's leadership they would be rejected by Malay opinion.'

101 Onn to Gurney, 16 May 1950, CO 537/6018 (24). Onn told Gurney: ‘I am sure, however, the UMNO Assembly will accept the principle of establishing State Nationality, although the categories of persons to be eligible will undoubtedly be much more restricted than the Committee's proposals or even the Government's suggested amendments to them. Malay distrust and suspicion is very strong at the moment. They are mistrustful of Government's policy — or more correctly of British policy — and they are deeply suspicious of the Chinese, whose sincerity, except for a small minority, they doubt in the extreme.’ See also Gurney to Higham, 19 May 1950, CO 537/6020 (8).

102 Gurney to Onn, 18 May 1950, CO 537/6018 (24). See also Onn to Gurney, 16 May 1950, CO 537/6018 (24).

103 Gurney to Onn, 18 May 1950, CO 537/6018 (24). Other government plans to assist the Malays economically included the building of a rice mill in Tanjong Karang, Selangor, in which the government provided $320,000 of the capital; the government rice mill in Arau, Perlis, in which a partnership between a government and a Federation of Cooperative Societies would help the society purchase the rice crop from the farmers; provision of new planting material to assist Malay rubber smallholders (to establish 50,000 acres a year); education reforms as recommended by the Central Advisory Committee on Education; and the increase in Malay enrolment in English and Malay schools.

104 Straits Times, 28 May 1950, p. 13. The Singapore Malay Union headed by Sardon Jubir, for example, felt that the CLC citizenship proposals were ‘too loose’.

105 Minutes of meeting at MacDonald's residence on 7 June 1950 at Bukit Serene, Johore Bahru, CO 537/6018 (131). See also Straits Budget, 1 June 1950, abstract in CO 537/6018. When the CLC proposals were criticised by Sardon Jubir at the UMNO General Assembly in Kuala Lumpur in May 1950, Onn told Sardon to ‘go back to Singapore and formulate a plan for Singapore Malays as was being done in the Federation’.

106 See Straits Times, 10 May 1950, p. 1. See also draft of Onn's speech at a special session of the UMNO General Assembly, 9 May 1950, MacDonald Papers, 18/2/19.

107 See also Extract of Pan-Malayan Political Report, May 1950, CO 537/6020 (13). See Straits Times, 10 May 1950, p. 1.

108 See Extract of Pan-Malayan Political Report, May 1950, CO 537/6020 (13). See also Straits Times, 15 May 1949, p. 8.

109 Straits Times, 20 May 1950, p. 1 and 21 May 1950, p. 13. The changes sought by UMNO included a Malay language test for applicants for citizenship, 10 years of continued residence out of 12 years preceding the application, a declaration of intention to stay in Malaya, and renouncing allegiance to any other state. (The MCA had sought a five-year period of residence to qualify for federal citizenship through naturalisation.)

110 Straits Times, 13 June 1950, p. 6.

111 A note by J.D. Higham clearly reflects this mood: ‘… the Secretary of State's view is that there must be some liberalisation of the citizenship laws; but because of the very delicate situation obtaining at the moment we have not made the letter as strong in its terms as we should otherwise have wished to do. It is all very well saying that the only satisfactory solution of the citizenship matters is a solution arrived at by agreement between the communities but if that agreement cannot be obtained then the matter can clearly not be allowed to drift.’ See minute by J.D. Higham, 1 Sept. 1950, CO 537/6018.

112 Extract of Minutes of 12th Meeting of Conference of Rulers, 31 Aug. 1950, CO 537/6018 (52). The Mentri Besar of Selangor pointed out that the CLC's proposals were to be explained to the Chief Secretary, the Attorney-General and the Registrar of Federal Citizens and a fresh memorandum resulting from the discussion was to be forwarded to the Rulers for consideration. This, he said, had not been done and with the resignation of Onn from UMNO the memorandum had not reached their Highnesses. See also Extract of minutes of 12th Meeting of Conference of Rulers, 31 Aug. 1950, CO 537/6018 (53).

113 Gurney to Secretary of State, 5 Feb. 1951, CO 537/7296 (7).

114 Gurney to Secretary of State, 5 Feb. 1951, CO 537/7296 (3). Writing to the Secretary of State on 5 Feb. 1951, he noted: ‘Since Colonel [H.S.] Lee's letter was received, copies of the Federal and State Bills relating to citizenship have been sent to all members of the Communities Liaison Committee, which is due to meet this month. The Bills are also to be discussed by myself with the Conference of Rulers on the 15th February and have been under consideration by the State Executive Council during the past few weeks. It is therefore premature to say that the efforts of the Communities Liaison Committee have proved fruitless.’ Selangor MCA chairman, H.S. Lee, wrote to the Chief Secretary of the Federation government urging the government to set up a royal commission to examine the federation constitution including the citizenship provisions. Lee said that although the UMNO leaders in the CLC had agreed to the changes to the federal citizenship provisions, UMNO had rejected it and hence a royal commission should be introduced. See also H.S. Lee to the Chief Secretary, Federation government, 16 Jan. 1951, CO 537/7296 (30).

115 Gurney to Secretary of State, 5 Feb. 1951, CO 537/7296 (5).

116 Gurney to Secretary of State, 7 May 1951, CO 537/7296 (7). He hoped to have the Federal Bill ready by July 1951.

117 Gurney to Secretary of State, 5 Feb. 1951, CO 537/7296 (9). The state representatives were to meet on 17 and 18 Oct. 1951 to discuss the Bill by which time it was hoped that the new UMNO leadership would be able to give its views as Dato' Onn was planning to leave UMNO.

118 Gurney to Secretary of State, 22 June 1951, CO 537/7303 (3). Onn left UMNO in August and formed the Independence of Malaya Party (IMP) on 16 Sept. 1951.

119 Gurney to Secretary of State, 20 Aug. 1951, CO 537/7296 (15). See also Minute by A.S. Melville, 26 Feb. 1952, CO 1022/174.

120 Report of Select Committee to amend Federation of Malaya Agreement 1948 to provide for state nationalities, CO 1022/174 (235). The Committee chaired by the Attorney-General included the following members: Member of Home Affairs Dato' Onn Jaafar; Raja Uda bin Raja Muhammad (President of Council of State of Selangor), Yong Shook Lin (with H.S. Lee as alternate), R. Ramani, Khoo Teik Ee, Tan Siew Sin, Tuan Sheikh Ahmad bin Mohamed Hashim, Lim Khye Seng, Dato Hamzah bin Abdullah, G. Shelley, Abdul Aziz bin Ishak and A.E. Duraisamy.

121 Ibid. Four Chinese members of the Select Committee issued a caveat with the report stating that by signing the report they had not abandoned the principle of jus soli. The two Indian members of the Select Committee issued a separate statement expressing their dissatisfaction on several aspects of the draft bill. See statement by R. Ramani and A.E. Duraisamy, 14 Mar. 1952, CO 1022/174 (14). Their statement noted: ‘On signing the Select Committee Report on the Bill to amend the Federation Agreement, we would like to draw attention to the fact that while we have readily subscribed to all other matters set out in the report, we regret that on a matter which ultimately affects the very large majority of the Indian and Ceylonese communities, the Bill in the form in which it has emerged from the Select Committee has not taken adequate note of the position of these two communities.’ Ramani and Duraisamy argued that Indians born in the Federation should be federal citizens by right of birth because they were citizens of the United Kingdom and the Colonies by descent, that is, British subjects, similar to those born in the Straits Settlements. See Straits Times, 24 Mar. 1952, p. 6.

122 Note on citizenship by A.S. Melville, 3 June 1952, CO 1022/174 (25). In a minute to this, Melville commented: ‘While the new legislation may not be altogether as liberal as might have been hoped (c.f. the Malayan Union proposal) it does represent a very important step forward, and also a most notable achievement in reaching a substantial compromise between widely divergent views.’

Joseph M. Fernando is Associate Professor at the Department of History, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. Correspondence in connection with this paper should be addressed to: . The author would like to thank the National Archives of the United Kingdom for providing access to documents related to the Communities Liaison Committee, the University of Durham for allowing him to refer to the MacDonald Papers and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore for enabling him to consult the Tan Cheng Lock Papers. He would also like to thank the University of Malaya for providing a research grant to enable him to conduct research at these archives.

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Elite intercommunal bargaining and conflict resolution: The role of the Communities Liaison Committee in Malaya, 1949–51

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