The Propensity to Distort History

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

It has become a norm or perhaps a fashion with those in power to distort history for their own convenience. Winston Churchill’s famous quote “History is written by the victors” is for an obvious reason. Great Britain was part of the allied forces that defeated Nazi Germany following the D-Day beach landings of June 6, 1944. The objective was to remove Hitler from power and to execute the coup de grâce on the crumbling Axis power. The end of World War Two in Europe became official on May 8, 1945 with the signing of an armistice between the victor and the vanquished. This came to be known as VE (Victory in Europe) Day. Incidentally, I joined the army on the same day 23 years later in 1968.

However, war in the Pacific raged on for another four months until the belligerent Japanese Imperial Army was brought to its knees after atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945. These are facts and nobody would want to deny them as peace was the ultimate aim of the battling nations. Malaya was unwittingly drawn into the conflict as we were part of the fading British Empire in the Far East.

Having said so, Napoleon Bonaparte had another theory about history. He said and I quote, “History is a set of lies that people had agreed upon”. Towards the end of Napoleon’s life, while being incarcerated on the remote island of St Helena in the Atlantic, 1870 miles from the west coast of Africa, the only weapon he had was words when he dictated his memoirs.

You may wonder why I had alluded to these two luminaries as an introduction. Well, it has much to do with events unfolding on our shores presently. I take offence when some self-proclaimed clerics professed to know more about the country’s history than you and I. Someone who knows next to nothing about wars and battles could make pronouncements that are not only frivolous but ridiculous, to begin with.

Ismail Mina Ahmad, leader of Gerakan Pembela Ummah (Ummah’s Defenders Movement) during a keynote address at the movement’s convention in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, January 13 said that those who don’t agree with the Federal Constitution to leave the country. But what really irked me was his insistence that only the Malays fought for the freedom of the country. Malays fought the Siamese, the Japanese and later the Communists Terrorists leaving the non-Malays as mere spectators. That to me is nonsense, to put it sarcastically.

Such words coming from someone who cannot differentiate a pistol from a rifle is an insult to my intelligence. He should be mindful of others whose role in the country’s independence is equally important. This is not something new as we are being frequently assailed by statements which are made at the spur of the moment or upon instigation from supporters. It is playing to the gallery of which our politicians are noted for.

Many non-Malays and Malays, especially those who had served time in the Malaysian Armed Forces had refuted Ismail’s claim as mischievous and without basis.

“We’ve participated in defending our country and some of us have scars to show we were there risking our lives,” said Major Tan Pau Son (Retired) president of the Malaysian Armed Forces Chinese Veterans Association.

Needless to say there were Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Bidayuhs and others who were killed while in harness. These non-Malays had made the ultimate sacrifices for King and Country. They did not shy away from their responsibility. And to claim that only one particular race is responsible for the country’s well-being is definitely in poor taste. And being a former serviceman with 30 years of experience battling Chin Peng and his merry men, I am certainly not amused. My good friend, Capt Chandran was posthumously awarded the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP), the nation’s highest bravery award while my college mate, Capt Shamuganathan was bestowed the Pingat Gagah Berani (PGB), the next highest. These two heroes did not die in vain.


Give credit when and where it is due. I subscribe fully to this maxim, as getting people to do something dirty and tedious is not easy. Mayor Dato’ Zamri Man’s proactive effort to keep Ipoh clean is commendable.

Effective January 18 the Council has initiated “Operasi Cari Sampah” (Operation Rubbish). At the time of reporting three such operations have been conducted. Over 500 tons of rubbish have been cleared from illegal dumpsites within the city limits. I find this most exhilarating – one persistent site near my housing estate in Taman Botani has been cleared.

Residents’ attitude is to be blamed for this anomaly. Some find it difficult to disassociate themselves from dirt, grime and filth. They are not easily cowed by threats of fines and imprisonment. They treat the whole city as one huge dumpsite at their disposal.

Let us be more caring for the environment as Ipoh belongs not only to Mayor Zamri and his men but to all of us Ipohites. Therefore, the responsibility of keeping Ipoh clean is for us to bear not Ipoh City Council alone. I rest my case.


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