TO respond to Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim’s letter, “Welding 1Malaysia via history” (The Star, Oct 10), where he expressed unhappiness that our history books had “political aims” and that “factuality” is supposedly ignored, and called for an “inclusive” history, I say there is only one approach to the discipline of history – objectivity and factuality.
There cannot be other approaches, such as “inclusiveness” or “welding” a country, or even to “cultivate patriotism”, precisely because history cannot be an instrument of the government to achieve political aims. History is simply a discipline of knowledge.
Teachers teaching history objectively/factually cannot be accused of “not teaching real history”. On the other hand, it is precisely the call for “inclusiveness” and “welding” the country that would result in not teaching real history because such a call reflects a frame of mind that is exactly political.
Additionally, proponents of such a call are not exactly precise, objective or factual in their own statements. For example, Mohd Sheriff’s statement that “during the early period of our development, immigrant races played a big role working in the rubber plantations and tin mines as labourers and assistants for their European bosses” is a fair statement.
But adding further that they did so in order “to create a better future for their families in their new homeland” is not being factual because the immigrants arrived not with the aim of settling in a new homeland but to eventually return to their respective native homelands – and that explained the existence of vernacular schools, established to prepare their children to return to their native homelands.
And saying that “Malays who were well educated were sent to Britain for further training (for) the administrative service” is a fair statement. But adding further that “the elites among them” became part of the “ruling class” is far fetched. I do not believe we have a “ruling class” in Malaysia.
To say further that racial partnership to defeat the communists and to make merdeka a success “has not been properly dealt with in school textbooks” is unfair, as the textbooks cannot afford to be lengthy.
What we need is to be measured and fair in our own statements to avoid misrepresentations and promoting wrong judgments and extremist discourses.
For instance, terms like “racial supremacist policies” and “racists” and “Malay oppression” to refer to Malays whether in history matters or others are overboard. If Malays are racists, Malaya would not have been the only country in the world to have accepted millions of other communities to become citizens, these populations outnumbering the Malays.
And on any matter since independence, the Malay community is the only one with varied opinions, thus displaying their cultural open-mindedness and recognition of the interests of others. In truth, therefore, Malaysia has always had inclusive policies in all matters, a fact not given due recognition because there is the unrealistic expectation that every individual in the non-Malay communities must be fully satisfied for policies to be recognised as truly multiracial and fair.
Meanwhile, those who stand by policies associated with the special position of Malays/natives cannot be labelled “racial supremacists” because this is about a right not borne out of citizenship but one issuing out of the historical place and cotermity of the native civilization and the land.
To achieve what Mohd Sheriff calls “a country at peace with ourselves”, we must emphasise the need for non-Malays to integrate with the historical native civilization and norms.