It is astonishing to hear some professors suggesting we were never actually colonised.
In their haste to demonise Mat Sabu and to uphold Umno’s version of history, they have interpreted history in a most peculiar way.
Many of you have already retorted with the obvious question: If Malaya was not colonised, then what are we celebrating on 31 August every year? Why did we lower the Union Jack on 31 August 1957?
The Straits Settlements – Penang, Dindings, Malacca and Singapore – were obviously colonised as they became a British crown colony under a British Governor reporting to the Colonial Office in London.
But what about the federated and unfederated Malay states under the sultans? Colonies or protectorates?
Historian Farish Noor responds in a text message:
To argue whether the kingdoms of the Malayan peninsula were “colonies” or “protectorates” is splitting hairs in my opinion. The fact is that the sultans were unfairly treated by the British, who opposed the independent-minded sultans (like Sultan Abu Bakar) and they also supported pro-British ones.
Ultimately, they (the British) robbed the Malay rulers of their rights as sovereigns which is why the kingdoms could no longer have independent bilateral links with other states. They also monopolised trade while taxing the natives. Is this no different from outright colonisation?
Any historian should look closer at the unfair treaties the British imposed on the native kingdoms.