Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lesson and Learn

1) I like this article in NST wrote by Syed Nadzri, about history of our nation colonization started with Portuguese conquest of Malacca in 1511, which is 499 years ago.    

2) Interestingly enough, the same script could happen in todays world. The question is, are we heading in the same direction as our ancestor did?

3) Maybe this pieces of brief history could help us to understand and learn of the past. Here we go:

Funny how history repeats itself

NEXT year marks an important milestone in the history of this country, for it will be 500 years since the fall of the Malacca sultanate and the start of colonisation.
Yes, half a millennium ago. Five centuries. Quincentennial. Twenty- five score years. Whichever way we look at it, that turn of events should not pass unnoticed for some special and most significant reasons -- the lessons from history as they all say.

It was in 1511 that the thriving port city of Malacca fell to the Portuguese, forcing its ruler, Sultan Mahmud Shah, to flee to a neighbouring state and ending more than a century of the dominion of the mighty Malay sultanate which started with Malacca's founding by Parameswara around 1400.

The invasion also marked the start of Western colonial rule in the country, at that time referred to as the Malay states or Tanah Melayu.
Malacca and, better still, the whole of Malaysia, should officially commemorate the occasion -- not to celebrate defeat but rather to reflect and learn from the past over what had contributed to the total subjugation of a flourishing Malay empire.

In fact, there were many things in the lead-up to the invasion that sounded so eerily familiar with what's going on in Malay or Malaysian politics now.

What was most glaring about the Portuguese conquest in 1511 was that it came as a revenge attack that struck the soft underbelly of Malacca, at a time when the sultan's administration and his people were so vulnerable as they were split.

There were also reports that the Western force, despite being grossly outnumbered, were aided by turncoats and double-crossers from within the local fraternity.

According to history books, the Portuguese armada which attacked Malacca that year consisted of 18 ships and more than 1,000 men led by Alfonso de Albuquerque. Launched from Goa in India, they were out to revenge the attack on a Portuguese naval and trading party two years earlier led by Francisco de Almeida. That earlier offensive on the foreigners was interestingly instigated by Gujerati and Chinese traders and others doing brisk business in Malacca at that time.

Almeida managed to escape to India in the aftermath, but some of his men were captured as prisoners in Malacca.

J. Kennedy in A History of Malaya said the Malaccans were already politically disunited by the time the second Portuguese wave came and one of the main factors was the split over the choice of Tun Mutahir as bendahara (equivalent to today's menteri besar or prime minister).

"For the Portuguese, it had not been an easy victory," Kennedy wrote. "In manpower, they were greatly outnumbered. The defenders of Malacca used a variety of weapons, from firearms to bows and arrows and poisoned darts.

"Yet, certain advantages lay on the Portuguese side. Their strategy was helped by a description of the Malacca site sent to Albuquerque earlier by one of the Portuguese prisoners through a friendly merchant (the turncoat)."

Kennedy added that many merchants in Malacca at that time just stood by, ready to support whoever that won as long as their properties were not taken away and their interests safeguarded. And this included the Chinese.

"Some merchants, especially the Chinese, had at that time positive grievances against the Malay administration," he wrote.

Sounds familiar? That's because there are traces of the same scheme of things being repeated in the present.

Five hundred years may have passed but the similarities and parallels emerging in situations in the country today is uncanny -- the political squabble over who has the power (the choice of bendahara), the split in the ranks of the common people, the low morale despite outnumbering the enemy and so on.

Then, there were the traitors and turncoats, the business people who were not patriotic at all but only interested in their own private businesses and the Chinese who had "grievances against the Malay administration".

History, as they say, has a funny way of repeating itself. But only if we allow it to. For this reason alone, the momentous 1511 should be remembered and the anniversary duly commemorated.

The initiative has to come now from either the Malacca government under Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, any of the historical societies, Umno or the Federal Government.

It is, after all, just about 100 days to 2011.   

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