History of elections, political parties: Many firsts in Perak

By Rosli Mansor

General Election (GE) fever is once again upon us, with new coalitions and various parties competing to nominate their respective candidates.

Talking about the general election, Perak is one of the states that was a pioneer in the development of the country’s politics, from the establishment of the earliest parties and including giving birth to many famous political leaders.

The secretary of the Perak Heritage Association, Nor Hisham Zulkiflee said, revealing the history of the first general election that took place in 1955, the state witnessed a unique event when Parti Islam Se-Tanah Melayu or now known as PAS, won a seat in Semanggol.

At that time, the first GE was called the Federal Legislative Council Election and from there it can be seen that Perak was the state with the most seats.

“The history of the election in Perak at that time was truly unique, especially the result when 52 seats were contested, one of which was won by PAS in Semanggol.

“The Alliance Party under the leadership of Tunku Abdul Rahman was able to capture all of Malaya except for one seat in Semanggol, Perak. At that time it could be said that PAS was the only opposition at the initial stage.

“If you look at the early history of politics, Semanggol is indeed a stronghold for religious movements in Malaya, starting from the establishment of religious schools there, they also mobilised Islamic-based politics there,” he said.

In the meantime, Nor Hisham said, the first Chairman of the Election Commission (SPR) is also a native of Perak, namely Datuk Dr Mustapha Albakri Hassan, who was also the Penyimpan Mohor Besar Raja-Raja (Keeper of the Great Seal of the Kings) during the reign of Tunku Abdul Rahman.

“He held that position for almost 10 years, from 1957 to 1967. That’s why we can see that there is a street named after this figure, which is Jalan Mustapha Albakri, near the city of Ipoh,” he said.

This historian said again, touching on the country’s early political development, Perak has its own unique history, considering that most of the current parties have their roots here.

“For example, the first Malay political party, the Malay National Party, was established in the Ipoh Town Hall at the end of 1945, but it was banned during the emergency period because the British considered it a threat.

“Fragments from that party; many of its members joined other parties such as UMNO and so on.

“In addition, the MIC party itself was established by a native of Perak named John A. Thivy, he was born in Kuala Kangsar and is the founder of MIC,” he added.

In addition, he said, the early history of the UMNO flag was also chosen in a meeting held in Ipoh.

“It is believed that the meeting took place at Madrasah Sharifah Masjid Paloh. The UMNO flag that is used today was also decided during that meeting, around 1946.

“At that time the first UMNO Secretary-General was Datuk Abdul Wahab (Commander of Bukit Gantang). That’s why many events happened here and the office of the first UMNO Secretary-General was also in Ipoh,” he said.

He also said that the existence of educational institutions in this state in the past was also related to many first things.

“Educational institutions such as Maktab Melayu Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), Maktab Perguruan Sultan Idris (now UPSI); these two institutions produced many national leaders at that time.

“If we look now, most of the main leaders such as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim himself are MCKK alumni, and many more,” he said.

He added that the first Speaker of the National Assembly was also from Perak, Datuk Bendahara C.M. Yusuf, the character’s role is also remembered and immortalised in the names of streets in Ipoh and schools in Tanjung Tualang.

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