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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mat Sabu’s historical revisionism

Posted by admin on September 3rd, 2011

Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz

Is Umno running on depleting reserves? It doesn’t seem to have the principles, the weltanschauung, it’s not driven and it doesn’t have leadership. The last was mentioned by Tun Dr Mahathir. He says Umno hasn’t got leadership. My take is, that is the damnest indictment on Najib Razak’s leadership. In not so many words and in so uncharacteristic Mahathir Uzi machine-gun style.

It’s now reduced to the stature of a beggar — scrounging at the supposed faux pas committed by PAS’s Mat Sabu. What has Mat Sabu actually said that caused so much consternation? We heard excerpts of it when mainstream TV stations aired condemnations on PAS. Of course, the normally dim-witted NST, led by its not-so-energetic managing editor sprung to the defence of don’t know who, posted the rhetorical statement that history is best left to professional historians. That was probably his finest hour in an otherwise nondescript journalistic existence.

One writer, writing in one of the online portals, says Umno gets a reprieve. Reprieved from what may we ask? You can only show you are better on the misstep of your rival? What intrinsic value can you show us? Nothing?

The axiom that history is written by the victor is no longer true. The losers and the oppressed are fighting back. Mat Sabu is doing his own historical revisionism. It’s a trend observable even at a more universal level. So Mat Sabu isn’t actually doing something out of the ordinary. For example, the historical record of America being “discovered” by Europeans is now sometimes presented as a history of invasion, exploitation and dominance of a people who had been there before the Europeans. This reinterpretation of the historical record is called historical revisionism, which can take the form of negationism, which is the denial of genocides and crimes against humanity. In Mat Sabu’s case, it takes the form of a rejection and denial of the falsification of history.

Mat Sabu has unwittingly started a revision of history possibly incurring the ire of revered busybody historians such as Khoo Kay Kim. The revision of previously accepted historical accounts is a constant process in which “today’s winners are tomorrow’s losers”, and the rise and fall of present institutions and movements influence the way historians see the past.

We haven’t heard what Mat Sabu said. I don’t think Professor Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim has heard the video clip. Khoo Kay Kim is now indulging in a favourite pastime of people who refuse to acknowledge their own inconsequentiality. As a professor of history he is history himself. Making his views a commodity and a-dime-a-dozen opinion, he has, as one commentator says, become an intellectual whore. He answers to the entreaties of any paying passerby customer as the fictional ghostbusters do when called to ferret out ghostly entities.

If we don’t affirm what Mat Sabu said, we are ourselves guilty at historical debauchery. Mat Sabu mentioned the name of Mat Indera, the Batu Pahat Malay-born in Peserai who led the attack on the police barracks at Bukit Kepong. The barracks wee commanded by an Englishman representing the colonial government then.

I think we are missing the point here. Mat Sabu wasn’t glorifying the communists or communism. He didn’t even say anything about communism. He was asking his audience to take a relook at the treatment of history on the role of Mat Indera. To Mat Sabu, history has unjustly treated Mat Indera and we, the public, have accepted the official version of history, hook, line and sinker. Was Mat Indera a simple terrorist sans a greater purpose and therefore deserving the description of a villain and terrorist?

It now seems the preferred version of revised history is to see and value Mat Indera as a freedom fighter bent on kicking out the British imperialists. Certainly, the people in Mat Indera’s kampung in Batu Pahat refuse to accept the vilification of Mat Indera’s memory. The criminalisation of Mat Indera is part of the indoctrination and propaganda carried out by British imperialism.

Mat Indera joins the list of so many other freedom fighters who dared rise up to challenge British hegemony. The Malayan people could no longer accept nor tolerate the infamy enforced on people like Pandak Endut, Tok Janggut and Mat KIlau and so many others. Mat Indera certainly doesn’t deserve to be dumped into the dustbin of history as just “one of those” terrorists.

Why is Umno concerned? I have touched on this slightly in my preceding article when I mentioned that PKMM was formed in 1945, one year earlier than Umno. PKMM was the first Malay political party to clearly state independence as its main vocation and raison detre.

What is then alarming about Mat Sabu’s faux pas is the fear that it may lead to a widespread revision of history. If it snowballs into a widespread revision of history, then Umno’s actual role MAY itself be diminished and it will no longer enjoy an unchallenged and monopolistic place in our nation’s history. Politically it will also mean that Umno will find it increasingly difficult to claim absolute legitimacy as the nation’s only political force to have fought for Merdeka. Its own heroes will be brought down to size.

* Sakmongkol AK47 is the nom de plume of Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz. He was Pulau Manis assemblyman (2004-2008).

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