Remember the name – Fahmi Reza, the worthy winner of the Freedom Film Festival 2007. Last night I headed for the opening day’s screenings at the Actors’ Studio in Penang, mainly to see Fahmi’s “Sepuluh tahun sebelum Merdeka” – and I was not disappointed. It was the best local political documentary I had seen. The film focused on the first multi-ethnic political coalition in the country and depicted the events leading to the 1947 nationwide hartal or total national strike.
The visionary women and men behind the hartal were nine years ahead of their time in coming up with constitutional proposals for a “Melayu” citizenship covering all the major races. In fact, the term “Melayu” to describe citizenship for all was surprisingly well received even by the non-Malays.
The hartal had the backing of left-wing Malay nationalist groups, middle-class English-speaking non-Malays, even the Chinese Chambers of Commerce, women’s groups, and yes, the MIC too! It was a broad-ranging movement that was determined to seek Independence.
Of course, the British preferred to deal with Umno, which did not threaten colonial economic interests at that time, and completely ignored the Putera-AMCJA coalition’s constitutional proposals.