Well, unsurprisingly, closer to home, there's plenty of revisionism in our local history taught in our secondary schools as well. This issue was raised no less than in our very own Parliament, and by a member of the Barisan Nasional government.
As reported by the Malay Mail as well as Malaysiakini.com, the member of parliament (MP) for Kelana Jaya, Sdr Loh Seng Kok complained about “imbalanced” historical textbooks.
Loh said the syllabus of history textbooks ignored the contribution of non-bumiputeras and only emphasised on the Islamic civilisation. Terming it as "incomplete and imbalanced", he said the syllabus does not encourage critical thinking among the students.
"For instance, the fight against the Japanese Occupation during World War II is portrayed as only the effort of the Malays but ignored the role of Chinese and Indian Malaysians," he added. Furthermore, he said the syllabus from Form One to Form Five does not provide a deeper understanding of other civilisations.
Sdr Loh also called for “balance” for "five out of the 10 chapters in the Form Four history textbook only focused on the Islamic civilisation... In the school curriculum for Form One up to Form Five, Chinese and Indian civilisations are given casual treatment."
There should be a balance, so that the younger generation would be able to learn about other faiths and cultures." Loh felt that exposure to cultures and religious traditions, other than Islam, would open the minds of the younger generation to new ideas.
However, his call has not been treated kindly by some of his fellow members of the government parties, which unfortunately serves to point out why the revisionism is present in the first place. Outspoken UMNO politician, Mohamed Aziz of Sri Gading issued a caution to Loh, saying his words could be interpreted in a ‘dangerous’ way, although this has probably got more to do with the other half of Sdr Loh's speech whereby he also called for guidelines on prayer recitals and greater inter-faith discussions.
And as if on cue, the party that seems to attract plenty of members with way too much hot air, sent a team from Sdr Loh's own parliamentary constituency to present a show cause letter to their MP. 50 Umno Youth members, led by Kelana Jaya division chief Abdul Halim Samad, paid Sdr Loh a visit with the letter.
The MP was also purportedly told that Umno Youth would “take action” if he failed to respond to the letter within several days. Some in the group had brought along video cameras to record the brief meeting.
The Kelana Jaya division had apparently held a meeting to discuss the speech and concluded that Loh’s proposal had hurt the feelings of Malay Malaysians, who make up the majority of voters in the parliamentary constituency of the same name.
I half expect these idiots to bang down the doors of Sdr Loh's office with kris and parangs should he not “apologise” in due course. No wonder history needs to be revised to feed the egos of these dim-witted imbeciles.
But this blog isn't meant to comment on the sensibilities of politicians from UMNO Youth. What was interesting for me was this raised another conversation thread in BeritaMalaysia, a news and discussion mailing list – which potentially highlighted the extent of revisionism in our textbooks. These was an on-going debate as to whether Maharaja Lela, the famous person who assasinated JWW Birch, the first resident of Perak, was a freedom fighter and hence a hero (as depicted in today's textbooks), or a self-interested murderer, and hence a zero.
Well, it appears that back in 1964, when this scribe wasn't yet born and Uncle Yap, moderator and owner of BeritaMalaysia was sitting for his MCE examinations using Joginder Singh's book, history tells a different story. According to Uncle Yap, who himself is an avid collector of historical facts and often lodged at our National Archives,
...Maharaja Lela was a minor chieftain who was involved with the slave trade (yes, the smaller sized Orang Asli was then known as slave or 'sakai' in Malay); making a living catching escaped slaves and/or trading in slaves.
One of the first thing that Birch did on assuming his position as the First Resident of Perak (following th Pangkor Treaty) was to outlaw slavery; thereby shattering the rice-bowls of royal hangers-on like Maharaja Lela. One evening, some of the slave-traders plotted to kill Birch by spearing him when he was taking his bath in the river.
Today, Pasir Salak, the site of the murder is touted as the birthplace of Malay nationalism. The road in KL by the Merdeka Stadium, Birch Road was renamed Jalan Maharaja Lela, replacing the slayer with the slain. Villain becomes hero. The act of vengeance by someone who was deprived of his livelihood became a heroic act of anti-imperialism.
To quote Uncle Yap, “we have completely re-written history”. We aren't too different from the Japanese with regards to their own atrocities during World War II, aren't we?