(This is just the first part. For the full list click here. To download, click here. )I have actually heard about Fahmi Redza’s documentary on the AMCJA-PUTERA fight for an independent Malaya for quite some time, but never found time to watch it until last week. First, over lunch ‘Abidin expressed how it was a good piece of work. Coming from someone who is not exactly an AMCJA-PUTERA admirer is certainly something. Then the next day, Azmi Sharom compared watching 10 Tahun Sebelum Merdeka with 1957 Hati Malaya in the Star.
It’s a good documentary. For people who have never bothered to read on the other side of history, it’s a must watch, as veteran members of AMCJA-PUTERA gave their account of the experience leading up to the massive Hartal of 1947.
As Azmi Sharom wrote:
The People’s Constitution was an amazingly progressive document that demanded independence, with equal political rights, a new nationality of “Melayu”, equal citizenship rights and an inter-ethnic council with the job of getting rid of all racially discriminating laws.
It was a truly Malayan document designed to create a nation consisting of Malayans.
The concept of a Bangsa Malaysia existed in 1947.
The hartal which scared the British into taking harsh measures like declaring an emergency and imprisoning and deporting the men and women involved was also an eye-opener.
It was embraced by the people of the country across ethnic lines and goes to show that ordinary Malaysians of the time were politically courageous and willing to accept the progressive, liberal and inclusive People’s Constitution…
At the end of the day, Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka is more than a simple history lesson, for the struggle of the left in 1940s Malaya has a resonance today in 21st Century Malaysia.
Some of the scenes – like the pro-British press belittling the people’s movement and their call for equality and independence; the vicious and arrogant measures taken by the colonial masters – look all too familiar.
AMCJA-PUTERA predated the UMNO-MCA-MIC Alliance (more intriguingly, MIC was a member while Tun Tan Cheng Lock, the later MCA president was heading the Malayan Democratic Union, a leading AMCJA component party). This was the first multiracial coalition in the country, and the Hartal of 1947 which was organised in protest to the Federation of Malaya Constitution involved millions of Malayans of all races. AMCJA-PUTERA proposed the People’s Constitution instead, but the British ignored it.
No wonder the British were unnerved and decided to suppress the coalition. At that time, UMNO (which contrary to their current members’ version of history, also took part in Anti Malayan Union demonstrations) could only muster Hidup Melayu as its slogan, whereas PUTERA had called for Merdeka.
As a bonus, the tracks for the movie is really impressive – from the Sex Pistols to the Clash to the Ramones. Not forgetting, Black’s Dr. Burhanuddin Al Helmy which I first heard at the Youth 4 Change Young Voters Carnival. Watching it, I can’t help but feel tiny compared to all the giants of the past. They faced not only the local cynics but also a superpower. They were poorer and did not have the Internet or handphones. Yet they dared to dream of a free Malaya.