Voices For Freedom and Change -- November 13 2007
I know that I was always told that our neighbour Indonesia "bertumpah darah" to achieve their independence from their ruthless Dutch colonialists.
Malaya, on the other hand, had it quite easy. On a silver platter.
I can't remember who told this to me.
Now, that's how legends are made.
Not this one. Before long, the bubble burst for me.
"Siapa bilang?", roared Bapak when I asked him one day, a long time ago. I think I was doing a term paper on Malaysian politics in college.
His "siapa bilang?" did not mean that there was absolutely no truth in the Indonesian bloody struggle for independence.
I shan't go into details of Indonesian politics and the background except to say that it is true that their struggle was bloody. If they stand proud as a nation today, then they should because they fought tooth and nail for their independence.
Well, so did we. Though not as bloody as they did. But, we shed tears and blood too.
Historians would know better the story of Maria Hertogh or Natra, the Dutch girl at the centre of a custody battle (between her natural parents and adopted mother).
The fight to gain her custody sparked riots in Singapore (in the early 50s).
It was at the same time that Malaya was fighting for independence from the British.
Now, you can say that Natra's predicament had nothing to do with the independence struggle in Singapore.
Perhaps not. But it certainly coincided with what was going on in the island.
Bapak was in the thick of it all.
He took part in the protests, and the riots.
I think his role has been documented.
"I think I burnt a car belonging to a high-level British officer," he remarked, in a tone that has kept me guessing until today whether or not he actually did that.
I remember feeling shocked. I was aghast.
What? My father did all that?
You know....what's the blooming difference, right?
When I was in UiTM (then ITM), way back in 1973/74 for my pre-University studies, I took part in a protest. Rather a WALK. A MARCH.
Yes.... all the way to Parliament to demand for ITM to be given university status.
But..er..I wish it was that easy.
The truth is, we never got anywhere near Parliament. The FRU were waiting for the students outside campus and near the federal highway. Many were hit by batons and tear gas.
Many escaped into the bushes and secondary forest along the highway and into the kampungs.
Just remember that more than 30 years ago, the federal highway was nothing like what it is today.
I remember the night we were going for the march.
LISTEN UP IBRAHIM ALI AND ZAID IBRAHIM!!!!
(They were our student leaders. Yes, they were.)
The students were asked to gather at the square infront of the Hostel 2 dining hall after dinner (or was it "maghrib".)
Student leaders "dengan semangat berkobar2" spoke and gave a moral boost to the students.
Then, (ok...so this was a Malay-based institution), some students shouted "Allahuakbar".
The march was to begin. The students started singing this song : "Ini lah barisan kita, yang ........"
Whoa! The semangat was tangible.
It was going to be a peaceful march. Everyone went in a single file towards the exit gates.
By the time, we were about to leave campus, some students began turning back, saying "FRU FRU .... budak2 dah kena...".
Our thoughts were for our "fallen comrades" among whom were very important people in government now.
That night, the rest of us remained in campus. In darkness. Water and electricity supply was cut.
The next morning, we were told that the students "had taken over" the admin building. The "pak guards" were powerless.
The "gestapo" (from among our students) were manning the entrance and exit gates.
I saw no point in remaining so my room-mate and I decided to leave.
We must have convinced the "gestapo" on guard that morning to let us leave as I remember heading for the hilly path that led to the federal highway where we hitched a ride to Petaling Jaya.
On reaching PJ State (PJ new town), we took a taxi to my house.
The next evening, ITM director Arshad Ayub (who lived just a few hundred metres from our house) came over to visit Bapak.
He was there to discuss with Bapak the "ITM students" problem.
Did the protest and march change things for ITM?
You tell me...