I REFER to the letter “Narration of history of nations” by Arof Ishak (The Star, March 5).
To put it bluntly, his definition of history; civilisational narrative as narrated by the natives of a particular nation does not hold water; neither does his assertion that the Chinese and Indian communities do not make up this diverse nation of ours and its history.
History generally has two meanings. One, as stated by Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Dr. Khoo Kay Kim “History is past everything” (The Star, March 11).
Second, history is a factual account of past significant events that have shaped present day society and nations. It is a scholarly pursuit based upon facts and concrete evidence, and not an activity undertaken by the “natives of a particular nation” which can be biased and geared towards meeting a hidden agenda.
History enables us to understand how present day society and nations evolved. Hence, in explaining the origin and current state of our nation and its plural society, one cannot ignore the role played by the Chinese and Indian communities.
How can one explain the New Economic Policy without drawing reference to the economic development of Malaya under British rule? Similarly, how can one account for the rapid economic development of Malaya before independence without taking into account the security provided by the British Government and the significant contributions of the Chinese and Indian communities?
Make no mistake about it. Without British rule and the significant contributions of the Chinese and Indian communities, Malaysia would not be what it is today. The Chinese and Indian communities are an integral part of our nation’s history.
The Chinese community played a crucial role in the development of the tin mining industry and towns. Virtually all the towns in what were then the Federated Malay States and the Straits Settlements developed primarily due to the enterprise of the Chinese.
For example, Kuala Lumpur in 1891 had a population of 43,786 with 79% being Chinese. In the words of Margaret Shennan, “The impact of the Chinese upon Malaya was decisive”.
It was through them that urban life developed in much of the peninsula. Alongside their mining villages they set up shops and workshops, and from these beginnings grew the main towns of the “protected” states’.
Similarly, Gerald Hawkins of the Malayan Civil Service wrote in 1948 that it was the Chinese capital, labour and skills that had made Malaya one of the richest countries in the world.
It was Indian labour (mainly South Indians) that was the backbone of the rubber industry and primarily responsible for opening up much of what is today peninsular Malaysia with their sweat, blood and tears.
Rubber was the chief export of Malaya for several decades beginning from 1916. In 1957, rubber constituted 59% of the total exports of Malaya.
Indian labour was also primarily responsible for building the roads, railways and bridges besides constructing ports, airports and government buildings.
Virtually every mile of railway track which totalled over 1,000 miles and about 6,000 miles of metalled main roads and several hundred miles of tertiary roads by 1957 were built by Indian labour.
Let us not deny historical reality. We must be proud of our rich multi-religious and multi-cultural heritage and build upon it positively to ensure continued progress and harmony of our beloved nation. DR. RANJIT SINGH MALHI Kuala Lumpur The STAR Home News Opinion Letters 17 Mar 2015