Salleh Said Keruak
To understand the ‘perjuangan UMNO’ you first need to understand the struggle for Merdeka. Unlike in many other Asian countries, Malaysia’s struggle for Merdeka was a peaceful and bloodless affair that took 11 years of negotiations from 1946 to 1957. And Umno made sure that the negotiations did not just involve the Malays but included the Chinese, Indians and other ethnicities as well.
To come to what can be considered a mutually-beneficial arrangement, it first of all involved the Malays coming together. And that was how UMNO was formed, which was an alliance of scores of smaller associations, societies and movements from all over the country. Then, once Umno had been formed, it had to sit down with the Chinese, Indians and the other ethnicities to come to an alliance, which was aptly called ‘The Alliance’ or ‘Alliance Party’.
It was this Alliance that negotiated with the British for Merdeka and part of the Merdeka Agreement involved, amongst others, citizenship for the non-Malays, which brought the Malay majority down to about 50% of the population. It was a great sacrifice the Malays made but a necessary sacrifice to demonstrate to the non-Malays that they were equal partners in the struggle for Merdeka.
That was the foundation for the formation of Umno, the Alliance and an independent Malaya. It was based on a mutually-beneficial arrangement and in giving the non-Malays equal say in how Merdeka was to be achieved. And that has remained the foundation of Barisan Nasional until today. And only Umno and Barisan Nasional can offer this spirit of equality that all others just talk about but cannot deliver. For Umno to survive for 71 years and the Alliance for 65 years, now called Barisan Nasional, is something very few partnerships anywhere else in the world can emulate. And this is what has made Malaysia into what it is today.