Courtesy Reuters

Nationalism and Politics in Malaya

THE controversial issues in Malaya which came to a head in 1946 were constitutional in character, bearing on the status of the Straits Settlements and the Malay States within the British Empire. But beneath the legal aspect of the question are complex political, economic and racial problems. They involve the relationship of Chinese and Indian immigrants to the native Malay population and the relation of all these to the white man, whose prestige, here as elsewhere in the east, was damaged considerably by the events of the Second World War.

The group of territories commonly called British Malaya comprised in 1941 the crown colony of the Straits Settlements and the British-protected Malay States. The Straits Settlements include the islands of Singapore and Penang, and Malacca and Province Wellesley on the mainland. These settlements are former British, Dutch and Portuguese trading posts which came under British rule in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As in all other crown colonies, the British Crown exercised full sovereignty. The chief administrative officer was the Governor of the Straits Settlements. A person born in the Straits Settlements (as in all other crown colonies) was de jure a British subject.

There were in 1941 four Federated Malay States and six Unfederated States.[i] They were not trading communities but producers of staple raw materials, notably rubber and tin ore, coconuts and palm oil. Formally, they were British protected states, not colonies. Their political relations with the British Empire date from the second half of the nineteenth century, when British intervention in the affairs of the almost wholly undeveloped Malayan mainland took place, generally in response to appeals by participants in local quarrels. The expeditions usually ended with the conclusion of a treaty with the local ruler. These treaties were the legal basis of the relation between Great Britain and the Malay States down to 1941.

With small variations the treaties provided that the local rulers would retain legal sovereignty, but would accept the "advice" of a British officer in all matters, foreign

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