Archive for the ‘Britian’ Category


William Dalrymple’s new book, “The Anarchy: How a Corporation Replaced the Mughal Empire, 1756-1803”, will be published next year by Bloomsbury & Knopf—–

A long but very interesting excerpt………

The East India Company: The original corporate raiders

For a century, the East India Company conquered, subjugated and plundered vast tracts of south Asia. The lessons of its brutal reign have never been more relevant

William Dalrymple

One of the very first Indian words to enter the English language was the Hindustani slang for plunder: “loot”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word was rarely heard outside the plains of north India until the late 18th century, when it suddenly became a common term across Britain. To understand how and why it took root and flourished in so distant a landscape, one need only visit Powis Castle.

The last hereditary Welsh prince, Owain Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, built Powis castle as a craggy fort in the 13th century; the estate was his reward for abandoning Wales to the rule of the English monarchy. But its most spectacular treasures date from a much later period of English conquest and appropriation: Powis is simply awash with loot from India, room after room of imperial plunder, extracted by the East India Company in the 18th century.

There are more Mughal artefacts stacked in this private house in the Welsh countryside than are on display at any one place in India – even the National Museum in Delhi. The riches include hookahs of burnished gold inlaid with empurpled ebony; superbly inscribed spinels and jewelled daggers; gleaming rubies the colour of pigeon’s blood and scatterings of lizard-green emeralds. There are talwars set with yellow topaz, ornaments of jade and ivory; silken hangings, statues of Hindu gods and coats of elephant armour.

Such is the dazzle of these treasures that, as a visitor last summer, I nearly missed the huge framed canvas that explains how they came to be here. The picture hangs in the shadows at the top of a dark, oak-panelled staircase. It is not a masterpiece, but it does repay close study. An effete Indian prince, wearing cloth of gold, sits high on his throne under a silken canopy. On his left stand scimitar and spear carrying officers from his own army; to his right, a group of powdered and periwigged Georgian gentlemen. The prince is eagerly thrusting a scroll into the hands of a statesmanlike, slightly overweight Englishman in a red frock coat.

The painting shows a scene from August 1765, when the young Mughal emperor Shah Alam, exiled from Delhi and defeated by East India Company troops, was forced into what we would now call an act of involuntary privatisation. The scroll is an order to dismiss his own Mughal revenue officials in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, and replace them with a set of English traders appointed by Robert Clive – the new governor of Bengal – and the directors of the EIC, who the document describes as “the high and mighty, the noblest of exalted nobles, the chief of illustrious warriors, our faithful servants and sincere well-wishers, worthy of our royal favours, the English Company”. The collecting of Mughal taxes was henceforth subcontracted to a powerful multinational corporation – whose revenue-collecting operations were protected by its own private army.

It was at this moment that the East India Company (EIC) ceased to be a conventional corporation, trading and silks and spices, and became something much more unusual. Within a few years, 250 company clerks backed by the military force of 20,000 locally recruited Indian soldiers had become the effective rulers of Bengal. An international corporation was transforming itself into an aggressive colonial power.

Using its rapidly growing security force – its army had grown to 260,000 men by 1803 – it swiftly subdued and seized an entire subcontinent. Astonishingly, this took less than half a century. The first serious territorial conquests began in Bengal in 1756; 47 years later, the company’s reach extended as far north as the Mughal capital of Delhi, and almost all of India south of that city was by then effectively ruled from a boardroom in the City of London. “What honour is left to us?” asked a Mughal official named Narayan Singh, shortly after 1765, “when we have to take orders from a handful of traders who have not yet learned to wash their bottoms?”

It was not the British government that seized India, but a private company, run by an unstable sociopath

We still talk about the British conquering India, but that phrase disguises a more sinister reality. It was not the British government that seized India at the end of the 18th century, but a dangerously unregulated private company headquartered in one small office, five windows wide, in London, and managed in India by an unstable sociopath – Clive.

In many ways the EIC was a model of corporate efficiency: 100 years into its history, it had only 35 permanent employees in its head office. Nevertheless, that skeleton staff executed a corporate coup unparalleled in history: the military conquest, subjugation and plunder of vast tracts of southern Asia. It almost certainly remains the supreme act of corporate violence in world history. For all the power wielded today by the world’s largest corporations – whether ExxonMobil, Walmart or Google – they are tame beasts compared with the ravaging territorial appetites of the militarised East India Company. Yet if history shows anything, it is that in the intimate dance between the power of the state and that of the corporation, while the latter can be regulated, it will use all the resources in its power to resist.

When it suited, the EIC made much of its legal separation from the government. It argued forcefully, and successfully, that the document signed by Shah Alam – known as the Diwani – was the legal property of the company, not the Crown, even though the government had spent a massive sum on naval and military operations protecting the EIC’s Indian acquisitions. But the MPs who voted to uphold this legal distinction were not exactly neutral: nearly a quarter of them held company stock, which would have plummeted in value had the Crown taken over. For the same reason, the need to protect the company from foreign competition became a major aim of British foreign policy.

[Robert Clive, was an unstable sociopath who led the fearsome East India Company to its conquest of the subcontinent.Photograph: Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The transaction depicted in the painting was to have catastrophic consequences. As with all such corporations, then as now, the EIC was answerable only to its shareholders. With no stake in the just governance of the region, or its long-term wellbeing, the company’s rule quickly turned into the straightforward pillage of Bengal, and the rapid transfer westwards of its wealth.]

Before long the province, already devastated by war, was struck down by the famine of 1769, then further ruined by high taxation. Company tax collectors were guilty of what today would be described as human rights violations. A senior official of the old Mughal regime in Bengal wrote in his diaries: “Indians were tortured to disclose their treasure; cities, towns and villages ransacked; jaghires and provinces purloined: these were the ‘delights’ and ‘religions’ of the directors and their servants.”

Bengal’s wealth rapidly drained into Britain, while its prosperous weavers and artisans were coerced “like so many slaves” by their new masters, and its markets flooded with British products. A proportion of the loot of Bengal went directly into Clive’s pocket. He returned to Britain with a personal fortune – then valued at £234,000 – that made him the richest self-made man in Europe. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, a victory that owed more to treachery, forged contracts, bankers and bribes than military prowess, he transferred to the EIC treasury no less than £2.5m seized from the defeated rulers of Bengal – in today’s currency, around £23m for Clive and £250m for the company.

No great sophistication was required. The entire contents of the Bengal treasury were simply loaded into 100 boats and punted down the Ganges from the Nawab of Bengal’s palace to Fort William, the company’s Calcutta headquarters. A portion of the proceeds was later spent rebuilding Powis.

The painting at Powis that shows the granting of the Diwani is suitably deceptive: the painter, Benjamin West, had never been to India. Even at the time, a reviewer noted that the mosque in the background bore a suspiciously strong resemblance “to our venerable dome of St Paul”. In reality, there had been no grand public ceremony. The transfer took place privately, inside Clive’s tent, which had just been erected on the parade ground of the newly seized Mughal fort at Allahabad. As for Shah Alam’s silken throne, it was in fact Clive’s armchair, which for the occasion had been hoisted on to his dining room table and covered with a chintz bedspread.

Later, the British dignified the document by calling it the Treaty of Allahabad, though Clive had dictated the terms and a terrified Shah Alam had simply waved them through. As the contemporary Mughal historian Sayyid Ghulam Husain Khan put it: “A business of such magnitude, as left neither pretence nor subterfuge, and which at any other time would have required the sending of wise ambassadors and able negotiators, as well as much parley and conference with the East India Company and the King of England, and much negotiation and contention with the ministers, was done and finished in less time than would usually have been taken up for the sale of a jack-ass, or a beast of burden, or a head of cattle.”

By the time the original painting was shown at the Royal Academy in 1795, however, no Englishman who had witnessed the scene was alive to point this out. Clive, hounded by envious parliamentary colleagues and widely reviled for corruption, committed suicide in 1774 by slitting his own throat with a paperknife some months before the canvas was completed. He was buried in secret, on a frosty November night, in an unmarked vault in the Shropshire village of Morton Say. Many years ago, workmen digging up the parquet floor came across Clive’s bones, and after some discussion it was decided to quietly put them to rest again where they lay. Here they remain, marked today by a small, discreet wall plaque inscribed: “PRIMUS IN INDIS.”

Today, as the company’s most articulate recent critic, Nick Robins, has pointed out, the site of the company’s headquarters in Leadenhall Street lies underneath Richard Rogers’s glass and metal Lloyd’s building. Unlike Clive’s burial place, no blue plaque marks the site of what Macaulay called “the greatest corporation in the world”, and certainly the only one to equal the Mughals by seizing political power across wide swaths of south Asia. But anyone seeking a monument to the company’s legacy need only look around. No contemporary corporation could duplicate its brutality, but many have attempted to match its success at bending state power to their own ends.

The people of Allahabad have also chosen to forget this episode in their history. The red sandstone Mughal fort where the treaty was extracted from Shah Alam – a much larger fort than those visited by tourists in Lahore, Agra or Delhi – is still a closed-off military zone and, when I visited it late last year, neither the guards at the gate nor their officers knew anything of the events that had taken place there; none of the sentries had even heard of the company whose cannons still dot the parade ground where Clive’s tent was erected.

Instead, all their conversation was focused firmly on the future, and the reception India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, had just received on his trip to America. One of the guards proudly showed me the headlines in the local edition of the Times of India, announcing that Allahabad had been among the subjects discussed in the White House by Modi and President Obama. The sentries were optimistic. India was finally coming back into its own, they said, “after 800 years of slavery”. The Mughals, the EIC and the Raj had all receded into memory and Allahabad was now going to be part of India’s resurrection. “Soon we will be a great country,” said one of the sentries, “and our Allahabad also will be a great city.”

***

At the height of the Victorian period there was a strong sense of embarrassment about the shady mercantile way the British had founded the Raj. The Victorians thought the real stuff of history was the politics of the nation state. This, not the economics of corrupt corporations, they believed was the fundamental unit of analysis and the major driver of change in human affairs. Moreover, they liked to think of the empire as a mission civilisatrice: a benign national transfer of knowledge, railways and the arts of civilisation from west to east, and there was a calculated and deliberate amnesia about the corporate looting that opened British rule in India.

A second picture, this one commissioned to hang in the House of Commons, shows how the official memory of this process was spun and subtly reworked. It hangs now in St Stephen’s Hall, the echoing reception area of parliament. I came across it by chance late this summer, while waiting there to see an MP.

The painting was part of a series of murals entitled the Building of Britain. It features what the hanging committee at the time regarded as the highlights and turning points of British history: King Alfred defeating the Danes in 877, the parliamentary union of England and Scotland in 1707, and so on. The image in this series which deals with India does not, however, show the handing over of the Diwani but an earlier scene, where again a Mughal prince is sitting on a raised dais, under a canopy. Again, we are in a court setting, with bowing attendants on all sides and trumpets blowing, and again an Englishman is standing in front of the Mughal. But this time the balance of power is very different.

Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador sent by James I to the Mughal court, is shown appearing before the Emperor Jahangir in 1614 – at a time when the Mughal empire was still at its richest and most powerful. Jahangir inherited from his father Akbar one of the two wealthiest polities in the world, rivalled only by Ming China. His lands stretched through most of India, all of what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh, and most of Afghanistan. He ruled over five times the population commanded by the Ottomans – roughly 100 million people. His capitals were the megacities of their day.

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the great Mughal cities of Jahangir’s India are shown to Adam as future marvels of divine design. This was no understatement: Agra, with a population approaching 700,000, dwarfed all of the cities of Europe, while Lahore was larger than London, Paris, Lisbon, Madrid and Rome combined. This was a time when India accounted for around a quarter of all global manufacturing. In contrast, Britain then contributed less than 2% to global GDP, and the East India Company was so small that it was still operating from the home of its governor, Sir Thomas Smythe, with a permanent staff of only six. It did, however, already possess 30 tall ships and own its own dockyard at Deptford on the Thames.

Jahangir’s father Akbar had flirted with a project to civilise India’s European immigrants, whom he described as “an assemblage of savages”, but later dropped the plan as unworkable. Jahangir, who had a taste for exotica and wild beasts, welcomed Sir Thomas Roe with the same enthusiasm he had shown for the arrival of the first turkey in India, and questioned Roe closely on the distant, foggy island he came from, and the strange things that went on there.

For the committee who planned the House of Commons paintings, this marked the beginning of British engagement with India: two nation states coming into direct contact for the first time. Yet, in reality, British relations with India began not with diplomacy and the meeting of envoys, but with trade. On 24 September, 1599, 80 merchants and adventurers met at the Founders Hall in the City of London and agreed to petition Queen Elizabeth I to start up a company. A year later, the Governor and Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies, a group of 218 men, received a royal charter, giving them a monopoly for 15 years over “trade to the East”.

The charter authorised the setting up of what was then a radical new type of business: not a family partnership – until then the norm over most of the globe – but a joint-stock company that could issue tradeable shares on the open market to any number of investors, a mechanism capable of realising much larger amounts of capital. The first chartered joint-stock company was the Muscovy Company, which received its charter in 1555. The East India Company was founded 44 years later. No mention was made in the charter of the EIC holding overseas territory, but it did give the company the right “to wage war” where necessary.

Six years before Roe’s expedition, on 28 August 1608, William Hawkins had landed at Surat, the first commander of a company vessel to set foot on Indian soil. Hawkins, a bibulous sea dog, made his way to Agra, where he accepted a wife offered to him by the emperor, and brought her back to England. This was a version of history the House of Commons hanging committee chose to forget.

The rapid rise of the East India Company was made possible by the catastrophically rapid decline of the Mughals during the 18th century. As late as 1739, when Clive was only 14 years old, the Mughals still ruled a vast empire that stretched from Kabul to Madras. But in that year, the Persian adventurer Nadir Shah descended the Khyber Pass with 150,000 of his cavalry and defeated a Mughal army of 1.5 million men. Three months later, Nadir Shah returned to Persia carrying the pick of the treasures the Mughal empire had amassed in its 200 years of conquest: a caravan of riches that included Shah Jahan’s magnificent peacock throne, the Koh-i-Noor, the largest diamond in the world, as well as its “sister”, the Darya Nur, and “700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses carrying wagons all laden with gold, silver and precious stones”, worth an estimated £87.5m in the currency of the time. This haul was many times more valuable than that later extracted by Clive from the peripheral province of Bengal.

The destruction of Mughal power by Nadir Shah, and his removal of the funds that had financed it, quickly led to the disintegration of the empire. That same year, the French Compagnie des Indes began minting its own coins, and soon, without anyone to stop them, both the French and the English were drilling their own sepoys and militarising their operations. Before long the EIC was straddling the globe. Almost single-handedly, it reversed the balance of trade, which from Roman times on had led to a continual drain of western bullion eastwards. The EIC ferried opium to China, and in due course fought the opium wars in order to seize an offshore base at Hong Kong and safeguard its profitable monopoly in narcotics. To the west it shipped Chinese tea to Massachusetts, where its dumping in Boston harbour triggered the American war of independence.

By 1803, when the EIC captured the Mughal capital of Delhi, it had trained up a private security force of around 260,000- twice the size of the British army – and marshalled more firepower than any nation state in Asia. It was “an empire within an empire”, as one of its directors admitted. It had also by this stage created a vast and sophisticated administration and civil service, built much of London’s docklands and come close to generating nearly half of Britain’s trade. No wonder that the EIC now referred to itself as “the grandest society of merchants in the Universe”.

Yet, like more recent mega-corporations, the EIC proved at once hugely powerful and oddly vulnerable to economic uncertainty. Only seven years after the granting of the Diwani, when the company’s share price had doubled overnight after it acquired the wealth of the treasury of Bengal, the East India bubble burst after plunder and famine in Bengal led to massive shortfalls in expected land revenues. The EIC was left with debts of £1.5m and a bill of £1m unpaid tax owed to the Crown. When knowledge of this became public, 30 banks collapsed like dominoes across Europe, bringing trade to a standstill.

In a scene that seems horribly familiar to us today, this hyper-aggressive corporation had to come clean and ask for a massive government bailout. On 15 July 1772, the directors of the East India Company applied to the Bank of England for a loan of £400,000. A fortnight later, they returned, asking for an additional £300,000. The bank raised only £200,000. By August, the directors were whispering to the government that they would actually need an unprecedented sum of a further £1m. The official report the following year, written by Edmund Burke, foresaw that the EIC’s financial problems could potentially “like a mill-stone, drag [the government] down into an unfathomable abyss … This cursed Company would, at last, like a viper, be the destruction of the country which fostered it at its bosom.”

The East India Company really was too big to fail. So it was that in 1773 it was saved by history’s first mega-bailout

But unlike Lehman Brothers, the East India Company really was too big to fail. So it was that in 1773, the world’s first aggressive multinational corporation was saved by history’s first mega-bailout – the first example of a nation state extracting, as its price for saving a failing corporation, the right to regulate and severely rein it in.

***

In Allahabad, I hired a small dinghy from beneath the fort’s walls and asked the boatman to row me upstream. It was that beautiful moment, an hour before sunset, that north Indians call godhulibela – cow-dust time – and the Yamuna glittered in the evening light as brightly as any of the gems of Powis. Egrets picked their way along the banks, past pilgrims taking a dip near the auspicious point of confluence, where the Yamuna meets the Ganges. Ranks of little boys with fishing lines stood among the holy men and the pilgrims, engaged in the less mystical task of trying to hook catfish. Parakeets swooped out of cavities in the battlements, mynahs called to roost.

For 40 minutes we drifted slowly, the water gently lapping against the sides of the boat, past the mile-long succession of mighty towers and projecting bastions of the fort, each decorated with superb Mughal kiosks, lattices and finials. It seemed impossible that a single London corporation, however ruthless and aggressive, could have conquered an empire that was so magnificently strong, so confident in its own strength and brilliance and effortless sense of beauty.

Historians propose many reasons: the fracturing of Mughal India into tiny, competing states; the military edge that the industrial revolution had given the European powers. But perhaps most crucial was the support that the East India Company enjoyed from the British parliament. The relationship between them grew steadily more symbiotic throughout the 18th century. Returned nabobs like Clive used their wealth to buy both MPs and parliamentary seats – the famous Rotten Boroughs. In turn, parliament backed the company with state power: the ships and soldiers that were needed when the French and British East India Companies trained their guns on each other.

As I drifted on past the fort walls, I thought about the nexus between corporations and politicians in India today – which has delivered individual fortunes to rival those amassed by Clive and his fellow company directors. The country today has 6.9% of the world’s thousand or so billionaires, though its gross domestic product is only 2.1% of world GDP. The total wealth of India’s billionaires is equivalent to around 10% of the nation’s GDP – while the comparable ratio for China’s billionaires is less than 3%. More importantly, many of these fortunes have been created by manipulating state power – using political influence to secure rights to land and minerals, “flexibility” in regulation, and protection from foreign competition.

Multinationals still have villainous reputations in India, and with good reason; the many thousands of dead and injured in the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984 cannot be easily forgotten; the gas plant’s owner, the American multinational, Union Carbide, has managed to avoid prosecution or the payment of any meaningful compensation in the 30 years since. But the biggest Indian corporations, such as Reliance, Tata, DLF and Adani have shown themselves far more skilled than their foreign competitors in influencing Indian policymakers and the media. Reliance is now India’s biggest media company, as well as its biggest conglomerate; its owner, Mukesh Ambani, has unprecedented political access and power.

The last five years of India’s Congress party government were marked by a succession of corruption scandals that ranged from land and mineral giveaways to the corrupt sale of mobile phone spectrum at a fraction of its value. The consequent public disgust was the principal reason for the Congress party’s catastrophic defeat in the general election last May, though the country’s crony capitalists are unlikely to suffer as a result.

Estimated to have cost $4.9bn – perhaps the second most expensive ballot in democratic history after the US presidential election in 2012 – it brought Narendra Modi to power on a tidal wave of corporate donations. Exact figures are hard to come by, but Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), is estimated to have spent at least $1bn on print and broadcast advertising alone. Of these donations, around 90% comes from unlisted corporate sources, given in return for who knows what undeclared promises of access and favours. The sheer strength of Modi’s new government means that those corporate backers may not be able to extract all they had hoped for, but there will certainly be rewards for the money donated.

In September, the governor of India’s central bank, Raghuram Rajan, made a speech in Mumbai expressing his anxieties about corporate money eroding the integrity of parliament: “Even as our democracy and our economy have become more vibrant,” he said, “an important issue in the recent election was whether we had substituted the crony socialism of the past with crony capitalism, where the rich and the influential are alleged to have received land, natural resources and spectrum in return for payoffs to venal politicians. By killing transparency and competition, crony capitalism is harmful to free enterprise, and economic growth. And by substituting special interests for the public interest, it is harmful to democratic expression.”

His anxieties were remarkably like those expressed in Britain more than 200 years earlier, when the East India Company had become synonymous with ostentatious wealth and political corruption: “What is England now?” fumed the Whig litterateur Horace Walpole, “A sink of Indian wealth.” In 1767 the company bought off parliamentary opposition by donating £400,000 to the Crown in return for its continued right to govern Bengal. But the anger against it finally reached ignition point on 13 February 1788, at the impeachment, for looting and corruption, of Clive’s successor as governor of Bengal, Warren Hastings. It was the nearest the British ever got to putting the EIC on trial, and they did so with one of their greatest orators at the helm – Edmund Burke.

Burke, leading the prosecution, railed against the way the returned company “nabobs” (or “nobs”, both corruptions of the Urdu word “Nawab”) were buying parliamentary influence, not just by bribing MPs to vote for their interests, but by corruptly using their Indian plunder to bribe their way into parliamentary office: “To-day the Commons of Great Britain prosecutes the delinquents of India,” thundered Burke, referring to the returned nabobs. “Tomorrow these delinquents of India may be the Commons of Great Britain.”

Burke thus correctly identified what remains today one of the great anxieties of modern liberal democracies: the ability of a ruthless corporation corruptly to buy a legislature. And just as corporations now recruit retired politicians in order to exploit their establishment contacts and use their influence, so did the East India Company. So it was, for example, that Lord Cornwallis, the man who oversaw the loss of the American colonies to Washington, was recruited by the EIC to oversee its Indian territories. As one observer wrote: “Of all human conditions, perhaps the most brilliant and at the same time the most anomalous, is that of the Governor General of British India. A private English gentleman, and the servant of a joint-stock company, during the brief period of his government he is the deputed sovereign of the greatest empire in the world; the ruler of a hundred million men; while dependant kings and princes bow down to him with a deferential awe and submission. There is nothing in history analogous to this position …”

Hastings survived his impeachment, but parliament did finally remove the EIC from power following the great Indian Uprising of 1857, some 90 years after the granting of the Diwani and 60 years after Hastings’s own trial. On 10 May 1857, the EIC’s own security forces rose up against their employer and on successfully crushing the insurgency, after nine uncertain months, the company distinguished itself for a final time by hanging and murdering tens of thousands of suspected rebels in the bazaar towns that lined the Ganges – probably the most bloody episode in the entire history of British colonialism.

Enough was enough. The same parliament that had done so much to enable the EIC to rise to unprecedented power, finally gobbled up its own baby. The British state, alerted to the dangers posed by corporate greed and incompetence, successfully tamed history’s most voracious corporation. In 1859, it was again within the walls of Allahabad Fort that the governor general, Lord Canning, formally announced that the company’s Indian possessions would be nationalised and pass into the control of the British Crown. Queen Victoria, rather than the directors of the EIC would henceforth be ruler of India.

The East India Company limped on in its amputated form for another 15 years, finally shutting down in 1874. Its brand name is now owned by a Gujarati businessman who uses it to sell “condiments and fine foods” from a showroom in London’s West End. Meanwhile, in a nice piece of historical and karmic symmetry, the current occupant of Powis Castle is married to a Bengali woman and photographs of a very Indian wedding were proudly on show in the Powis tearoom. This means that Clive’s descendants and inheritors will be half-Indian.

***

Today we are back to a world that would be familiar to Sir Thomas Roe, where the wealth of the west has begun again to drain eastwards, in the way it did from Roman times until the birth of the East India Company. When a British prime minister (or French president) visits India, he no longer comes as Clive did, to dictate terms. In fact, negotiation of any kind has passed from the agenda. Like Roe, he comes as a supplicant begging for business, and with him come the CEOs of his country’s biggest corporations.

The idea of the joint-stock company is arguably one of Britain’s most important exports to India

For the corporation – a revolutionary European invention contemporaneous with the beginnings of European colonialism, and which helped give Europe its competitive edge – has continued to thrive long after the collapse of European imperialism. When historians discuss the legacy of British colonialism in India, they usually mention democracy, the rule of law, railways, tea and cricket. Yet the idea of the joint-stock company is arguably one of Britain’s most important exports to India, and the one that has for better or worse changed South Asia as much any other European idea. Its influence certainly outweighs that of communism and Protestant Christianity, and possibly even that of democracy.

Companies and corporations now occupy the time and energy of more Indians than any institution other than the family. This should come as no surprise: as Ira Jackson, the former director of Harvard’s Centre for Business and Government, recently noted, corporations and their leaders have today “displaced politics and politicians as … the new high priests and oligarchs of our system”. Covertly, companies still govern the lives of a significant proportion of the human race.

The 300-year-old question of how to cope with the power and perils of large multinational corporations remains today without a clear answer: it is not clear how a nation state can adequately protect itself and its citizens from corporate excess. As the international subprime bubble and bank collapses of 2007-2009 have so recently demonstrated, just as corporations can shape the destiny of nations, they can also drag down their economies. In all, US and European banks lost more than $1tn on toxic assets from January 2007 to September 2009. What Burke feared the East India Company would do to England in 1772 actually happened to Iceland in 2008-11, when the systemic collapse of all three of the country’s major privately owned commercial banks brought the country to the brink of complete bankruptcy. A powerful corporation can still overwhelm or subvert a state every bit as effectively as the East India Company did in Bengal in 1765.

Corporate influence, with its fatal mix of power, money and unaccountability, is particularly potent and dangerous in frail states where corporations are insufficiently or ineffectually regulated, and where the purchasing power of a large company can outbid or overwhelm an underfunded government. This would seem to have been the case under the Congress government that ruled India until last year. Yet as we have seen in London, media organisations can still bend under the influence of corporations such as HSBC – while Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s boast about opening British embassies for the benefit of Chinese firms shows that the nexus between business and politics is as tight as it has ever been.

The East India Company no longer exists, and it has, thankfully, no exact modern equivalent. Walmart, which is the world’s largest corporation in revenue terms, does not number among its assets a fleet of nuclear submarines; neither Facebook nor Shell possesses regiments of infantry. Yet the East India Company – the first great multinational corporation, and the first to run amok – was the ultimate model for many of today’s joint-stock corporations. The most powerful among them do not need their own armies: they can rely on governments to protect their interests and bail them out. The East India Company remains history’s most terrifying warning about the potential for the abuse of corporate power – and the insidious means by which the interests of shareholders become those of the state. Three hundred and fifteen years after its founding, its story has never been more current.

William Dalrymple’s new book, The Anarchy: How a Corporation Replaced the Mughal Empire, 1756-1803, will be published next year by Bloomsbury & Knopf

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The Partition of India

Posted: January 30, 2017 in Britian, India, WH Auden
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British barrister Sir Cyril Radcliffe arrived in British India for the first time on July 8, 1947. He had exactly five weeks to draw the borders between an independent India and the newly created Pakistan. He chaired two boundary commissions, one for Punjab and one for Bengal, consisting of two Muslims and two non-Muslims.

The resulting boundary award was announced on August 17. Partition along the Radcliffe Line ended in violence that killed one million people and displaced 12 million. Radcliffe burnt his papers, refused his Rs 40,000 fee, and left once and for all.

While drawing the border, Radcliffe was faced with unyielding demands on both sides, communal tensions, doubtful census numbers, tough economic, administrative and defence considerations and some say even interference from Viceroy Mountbatten. Was Radcliffe biased? Was he ill-informed?

Here’s one of the best criticisms of Radcliffe and his 1947 job by the poet WH Auden in Partition.

“Unbiased at least he was when he arrived on his mission,
Having never set eyes on this land he was called to partition
Between two peoples fanatically at odds,
With their different diets and incompatible gods.
‘Time,’ they had briefed him in London, ‘is short. It’s too late
For mutual reconciliation or rational debate:
The only solution now lies in separation.
The Viceroy thinks, as you will see from his letter,
That the less you are seen in his company the better,
So we’ve arranged to provide you with other accommodation.
We can give you four judges, two Moslem and two Hindu,
To consult with, but the final decision must rest with you.’

Shut up in a lonely mansion, with police night and day
Patrolling the gardens to keep assassins away,
He got down to work, to the task of settling the fate
Of millions. The maps at his disposal were out of date
And the Census Returns almost certainly incorrect,
But there was no time to check them, no time to inspect
Contested areas. The weather was frightfully hot,
And a bout of dysentery kept him constantly on the trot,
But in seven weeks it was done, the frontiers decided,
A continent for better or worse divided.

The next day he sailed for England, where he quickly forgot
The case, as a good lawyer must. Return he would not,
Afraid, as he told his Club, that he might get shot.”

Partition, 1966 by WH Auden


The ascendance of separatists is a crisis not only for the Hong Kong government and Beijing, which already faces independence movements in Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan. It also threatens the political power of aging leaders of Hong Kong’s democratic camp, who have been advocating political reform for decades and now find themselves outflanked by young radicals with little patience for Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian ways.

The New York Times says it all…..

HONG KONG — Two years after China’s leadership slammed the door on political reform for Hong Kong, six young candidates running on separatist platforms won seats in the Sept. 4 election for the territory’s legislature. The rapid rise of a youthful political movement intent on gaining more independence for Hong Kong is a direct result of Beijing’s tightening grip on this former British colony.

The ascendance of separatists is a crisis not only for the Hong Kong government and Beijing, which already faces independence movements in Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan. It also threatens the political power of aging leaders of Hong Kong’s democratic camp, who have been advocating political reform for decades and now find themselves outflanked by young radicals with little patience for Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian ways.

The six new separatist legislators, all under the age of 40, were inspired by the 2014 Umbrella Movement, the 79-day mass sit-in protesting Beijing’s refusal to allow democratic reforms in Hong Kong.

The Legislative Council has restricted powers, but it can block government initiatives. Thirty of the 70 LegCo seats are heavily stacked in favor of Beijing and picked by interest groups, while 40 are chosen by the general public from designated districts.

A gain of six seats by separatists, who didn’t run in every district, is remarkable in such a controlled election, considering that two years ago few Hong Kongers publicly advocated breaking from the mainland. The separatists have become a potent third force in the city’s political landscape, where the battles have long been fought between pan-democratic parties and the pro-Beijing government.

For all of their consistent calls for political reform, the territory’s older generation of democrats have been patriotic and willing to work with the mainland, an approach that is not popular among younger Hong Kongers. The youth, frustrated with Beijing and the failure of the Umbrella Movement, are pessimistic about the city’s long-term prospects and Beijing’s creeping influence. They look to the future with trepidation, despair and anger.

When the British handed Hong Kong over to the Chinese in 1997, China committed to 50 years of a “high-degree of autonomy” for the territory, where free speech and a vibrant civic culture have flourished until recently. No one knows what Beijing will do in 2047, but the fear is that Hong Kong will be completely absorbed into China.

Although the separatists are divided into distinct groups with different goals — among them, making Hong Kong a completely autonomous city-state or outright independence — they all want the post-2047 political arrangement put up for public debate. Most of them are aiming to build enough popular support to force Beijing to allow Hong Kongers to vote on a binding referendum on the city’s post-2047 future.

By contrast, the older pan-democratic parties have had little new to offer. The Democratic Party’s political centerpiece in the recent election amounted to asking Beijing to reopen the door to electoral reform. The pan-democratic leaders, in sticking to what is widely viewed by the youth as a depleted strategy, have lost the trust and respect of younger people.

China’s leaders appear to think that taking a hard line against the separatist movement can contain it. A stern postelection statement from Beijing said the Hong Kong government should punish independence activists.

This strategy will backfire. It was the heavy-handed behavior of Leung Chun-ying, the pro-Beijing Hong Kong chief executive, that has fueled the separatist movement’s growth in the last two years. Mr. Leung singled out a separatist publication for public reprimand last year, angering Hong Kongers with what they saw as an implicit threat to free speech. He banned a student leader who supported independence from attending his university’s council meetings.

Direct interference from Beijing in local affairs has made matters worse. Last year, five workers at a Hong Kong publisher of provocative political books were kidnapped and brought to the mainland where they were detained.

It may be too late for China to convince the hard-core separatists to back down, but there are steps the leadership could take to stem the growth of the movement.

Beijing should remove its central government staff from Hong Kong. The Central Liaison Office has been blamed for many of Beijing’s illegal interventions in Hong Kong affairs. Pro-Beijing politicians are regularly seen visiting the office, giving the impression they take orders directly from the mainland. Shuttering it is an easy gesture that would remove a source of conflict.

The process of appointing top officials to the city’s anticorruption commission and to university governing bodies should be reformed. The power to appoint these officials now lies with the chief executive, but Mr. Leung has shown that he lets his personal interests influence his choices. A deputy head of the office of the Independent Commission Against Corruption appeared to be forced to resign this year after she allegedly insisted on investigating financial irregularities involving Mr. Leung.

All mainland funding of politicians and unfair efforts to gain votes should be stopped. In recent elections, busloads of elderly people were brought to voting booths by pro-government supporters with the names of their preferred candidates written on their palms. After voting, they were often bused to restaurants.

But even if China’s leaders choose a policy of détente with the people of Hong Kong, Mr. Leung is not the right person to carry it out. His positions have been too overtly pro-Beijing, rankling much of the population. Replacing Mr. Leung when his term ends in March would help mend ties between Beijing and the separatists.

Without a change of the chief executive, we can expect the separatists to make more gains in the next election four years from now.


Oliver Cromwell – Dissolution of the Long Parliament speech given to the House of Commons, 20 April 1653.

“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil’d this sacred place, and turn’d the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!”



According to a research conducted by BBC, people often lie about the books they’ve read. The most lied about book is George Orwell’s Ninteen Eighty Four, followed by James Joyce’s Ulysses, Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace and Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s children. I happen to have read Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s children, or at least am in the process – stuck with Ulysses!

According to BBC of the hundred books listed below an average individual would not have read more than six.

Place a mark next to the ones you’ve read.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen #
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien #
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee #
6 The Bible #
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell#
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens #
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller#
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien #
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulkner
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll #
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens #
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini #
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres #
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden #
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell #
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown #
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy #
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth #
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens#
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley#
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie #
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker #
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce(Reading)#
76 The Inferno – Dante#
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom #
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle #
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton #
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad#
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

26 Books! I am better read than an average Briton!

What’s your score?


KOTA KINABALU: The polemics on Putrajaya’s internal colonization policies in Sabah and Sarawak appears to be getting increasingly shrill and out of hand and needs to be brought to a swift end and buried for good. Instead, it’s felt that it’s best to let bygones be bygones and “focus on regaining self-determination along the lines of 31 Aug 1963” for Sabah and Sarawak.

Self-determination in this form for Sabah and Sarawak would be “the best way forward and out from internal colonization”. Self-determination, in international law, “has come to mean the free choice of one’s own acts without external compulsion”.

This is the growing consensus within the State Reform Party (Star), a Borneo-based national party which initiated, formed and leads the United Borneo Alliance (UBA) to work towards a 3rd Force in the Malaysian Parliament.

“We feel it’s pointless, indeed counter-productive, to engage in further polemics on the issue of internal colonization in Sabah and Sarawak,” said Star deputy chairman Daniel John Jambun in a press statement. “We should stop participating in further polemics on the issue. It serves little purpose to debate anyone on internal colonization.”

He was commenting on a statement on Wed this week in the local media by the Yayasan Islam Sabah (YIS) virtually denying the basis on which Sabah and Sarawak formed Malaysia. The welfare body also claimed, “in defiance of international law”, that Sabah does not have the right to leave Malaysia.

Former Sabah Chief Minister Harris Salleh heads the YIS and recently challenged Star chairman Jeffrey Kitingan to a public debate on internal colonization. Jeffrey accepted the dare subject to Harris proving locus standi and “something more than hot air coming out of the debate”. Harris, in turn, called Jeffrey “chicken”, a label which the latter threw back at the former.

Daniel explained that UBA had hoped that a public debate on internal colonization would not be about scoring points or turning heroes into zeros or vice versa but instead facilitate the process of reversing the phenomenon in the two Borneo states in Malaysia.

“We feel that this – reversing internal colonization — is not going to happen now given denials and counter denials being issued daily by Putrajaya’s proxies in Sabah and Sarawak,” said Daniel. “These proxies have any number of stooges with them who are willing to sell their souls to the devil himself.”

Asked for the basis on which the party is in consensus on regaining self-determination, he replied that “it would facilitate us getting out of the quicksand being created by others on the issue of internal colonization”.

“International law is clear,” he said. “We have the right to get back our self-determination of 31 Aug 1963 and any number of traitors among us is not going to derail the process.”

Again, he reiterated that Sabah and Sarawak exercised the right of self-determination and won independence on 31 Aug 1963. Self-determination, explained Daniel, is the principle in international law that “nations have the right to freely choose their sovereignty and international political status with no external compulsion – think Malayan, British — or external interference”.

However, this freedom was taken away 16 days later by “a bad British idea called Malaysia”, he added. “We were blackmailed into Malaysia by claims that Indonesia and the Philippines are like crocodiles waiting to swallow us once the British leave. No one swallowed Brunei.”

“Sabah and Sarawak should go back to 31 Aug 1963 and reclaim the independence that we won that day,” said Daniel. “That’s our right to self-determination.”

Malaysia, according to Daniel, is not working out at all for Sabah and Sarawak just as it did not work out for Singapore and was a non-starter for Brunei.

“Brunei stayed out from Malaysia at the 11th hour and Singapore left two years later,” noted Daniel. “Look, where they are now! Meanwhile, Sabah and Sarawak are the poorest states in Malaysia. This is not what we bargained for when we were literally blackmailed by Malaya and Britain into Malaysia.”

Malaysia, claimed Daniel, had in retrospect nothing to do with the welfare of the people of Sabah and Sarawak and was mooted purely to protect the British commercial empire in the wake of decolonization. It was a time of the Cold War and communism terrorism raging in the region, he noted.

He lamented that the security promised Sabah by Malaysia did not materialize and instead it had been seriously compromised by the influx of illegal immigrants continuing to enter the electoral rolls, the changing demographic make-up and character and the increasing disenfranchisement and marginalisation of the local people.

“We can’t continue to live in a state of denial,” said Daniel. “It’s time to call a spade and spade so that we can move into the future that we all want for our children and grandchildren.”

Sabah, reiterated Daniel, needs to forge its own destiny in the community of nations instead of being tied to an unhappy relationship with Peninsular Malaysia on the other side of the South China Sea, several thousand kilometers away.

The Star deputy chief conceded that his state chapter had yet to discuss re-gaining self-determination with the Sarawak chapter of the party and their allies in UBA.

Besides Star, UBA includes the Sarawak National Party (Snap), the Borneo Heritage Foundation, Borneo Forum, Common Interest Group Malaysia (CigMA), KoKaKoBa, the Oil For Future Foundation and various NGOs who are on the verge of signing up with the alliance.

“We will first finalize the consensus within Star Sabah before reaching out to Star Sabah and our other allies in UBA,” disclosed Daniel. “We can only make an official announcement once we are ready.”

It’s crystal clear, said Daniel in citing various reactions so far, that Putrajaya will not play ball on the issue of complying with the four constitutional documents and/or conventions on Malaysia.

He cited the four documents/conventions as the 1963 Malaysia Agreement (MA63); the 20/18 Points (20/18 P); the Inter Governmental Committee Report (IGCR); and the Cobbold Commission Report (CCR).

Putrajaya’s non-compliance of the four constitutional documents/conventions, claimed Daniel, rendered the Malaysian Constitution and Malaysia inoperable to the extent of the non-compliance and placed Sabah and Sarawak’s participation in the Federation as “non-existent”.

“The issue of whether we are in or out of Malaysia no longer arises,” said Daniel. “We are out and have been out since Putrajaya has been in non-compliance. This means we have gone back to the status we had on 31 Aug 1963.”

Constitutional lawyers familiar with the issue of compliance are in broad agreement that there’s no law on compliance and no mechanisms on compliance and therefore the Federal Government cannot be said to be acting unlawfully by being in non-compliance.

The other side of the coin is that the Federal Government can be said to be acting unconstitutionally by being in non-compliance, and by extrapolation and logical deduction, not acting lawfully on the issue of the participation of Sabah and Sarawak in the Federation of Malaysia.

The bottomline, it’s acknowledged, is that it’s difficult to argue with the consensus that non-compliance has meant that Sabah and Sarawak are not in Malaysia, and therefore, the two countries have the same status that they had on 31 Aug 1963 i.e. before Malaysia on 16 Sept 1963. In short, Putrajaya’s non-compliance has meant that the status of 31 Aug 1963 has never been taken away from Sabah and Sarawak or ceased to exist and has continued and continues to this day.

Daniel John Jambun
Deputy Chairman, State Reform Party (Star)
Contact: 012-834 0972

Wed 30 May, 2012


by Joe Fernandez
Guest Columnist

COMMENT The United Nations Security Council, acting through its previous 24-nation Decolonization Committee, would be the right body to resolve the renewed controversy in Sabah on whether it and Sarawak, the neighbouring sister state in Borneo, have been effectively colonised by the Federal Government in Putrajaya and/or Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia) since Malaysia on 16 Sept 1963.

The controversy reached its zenith when former Sabah Chief Minister Harris Salleh, a one-time blue-eyed boy of the Federal Government, challenged United Borneo Alliance (UBA) chairman Jeffrey Kitingan in recent days to a public debate on the issue.

Harris feels compelled to come forward “to defend the state and Federal governments on the issue of colonization” and feels that Jeffrey should not “chicken out” by laying down impossible conditions for the proposed debate to take place.

Jeffrey thinks that it’s not a question of being a chicken, as alleged by Harris, or a hero.

He wants something more than hot air to come out of the debate. He feels the debate should not be about scoring points on the issue or turning heroes into zeros or vice versa.

He wants the state and Federal governments to formally appoint Harris to represent them in the proposed debate.

Otherwise, Jeffrey & Co see the long retired Harris, “with due respects to him as a former Sabah Chief Minister”, getting involved unilaterally in the proposed debate for no rhyme or reason on behalf of the said parties and without proving locus standi.  Jeffrey & Co, however, are more than gratified that Harris has taken a keen interest in the issue and would prefer him to be on their side as a moral supporter  with a clear conscience but only after studying it (the issue) in depth on his own based on the various statements emanating from UBA in the local and alternative media.

Therein the matter lies. Jeffrey has since proposed June 17 for the debate to take place in Kota Kinabalu. This was after Harris said anytime, any place.

Enter the UN idea from Jeffrey’s camp, according to State Reform Party (Star) deputy chairman Daniel John Jambun. Harris agreed as well, in a statement on Tues 29 May in the local media, that the issue of colonization “is a UN case if true (Jeffrey’s allegations)”.

The starting point for the UN intervention, if any, on a point of history, ethics, morality, law, constitution, justice, diplomacy and politics could be why Sabah and Sarawak were not allowed self-determination as free states and were instead rushed into Federation with Malaya and Singapore on 16 Sept, 1963 after enjoying just 16 days of independence i.e. from Aug 31, 1963 to 16 Sept 1963.

History books were sanctioned by the Federal Government, and glossing over the 31 Aug 1963 date, even disingenuously claim that “Sabah and Sarawak became independent through Malaysia on 16 Sept 1963”.

Indonesia objected to the renewed loss of independence by Sabah and Sarawak.

The Philippines objected as well but for different reasons. It pointed out that its Sulu Archipelago was at one time together as one with the eastern and northern parts of Sabah, under the defunct non-territorial Sulu Sultanate, for the purpose of toll collection along the waterways. Hence, Manila raised its claim to Sabah.

No one paid any heed to them. Those were the days of the Cold War and the threat of communism terrorism raging in the region. The United Nations Security Council was firmly in the pockets of China (Taiwan), the United States, Britain and France with the USSR being the lone ranger among the five permanent members.

Hence, the sneaking suspicion that Sabah and Sarawak were re-colonised after 16 days of freedom and this time by the London-backed Malaya which went on to dominate and monopolize the Federal Government of Malaysia.

Britain had to give up its colonies in Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Singapore in line with the dictates, demands and recommendations of the then 24-nation UN Decolonization Committee in which India under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru played a sterling role.

Any UN intervention should also cover why Brunei stayed out from Malaysia at the 11th hour, why Singapore was expelled from the Federation two years later, and more importantly, why Sabah and Sarawak were not allowed to review their position in the Federation of Malaysia in the wake of the city state’s departure.

They had even demanded this right. In retaliation, Kuala Lumpur ousted Sabah Chief Minister Donald Stephens from power and dispatched into political exile as High Commissioner to Australia, a favourite dumping ground along with New Zealand for politicians in the two Borneo states who incurred the wrath of the Federal Government.

This Stephens was the same man, now as Chief Minister Muhamad Fuad Stephens, who died inconveniently – conveniently for Kuala Lumpur — in a tragic air crash in mid-1976 shortly after he refused to sign over Sabah’s oil and gas resources in perpetuity to the Federal Government-owned Petronas, or Petroliam Nasional, the National Oil Corporation.

Harris coincidentally, Stephens’s deputy, succeeded him as Chief Minister and appeared to have dutifully done what the Federal Government demanded.

Jeffrey’s elder brother Joseph Pairin Kitingan – currently demoted to Deputy Chief Minister — was the witness.

It’s this same Harris who’s now eager for a debate with Jeffrey probably because the latter keeps harping on the loss of the oil and gas resources – and recently Oil Blocks L & M to Brunei — as a major evidence of internal colonization.  So, partially at least, Harris has locus standi to debate Jeffrey.

Jeffrey has plenty of other evidence as well on internal colonization, besides oil and gas and Stephen’s untimely death, all of which Harris appears keen to “demolish” when presented at a debate.

Harris could have chosen to demolish them as and when they appeared in the local media from time to time. So far, he has chosen to keep a discreet silence on Jeffrey’s allegations in the local media on Sabah and Sarawak being internally colonised by Putrajaya. It’s difficult for Harris for anyone else sometimes to know whether Jeffrey is coming or going and hence some confusion for everyone.

If and when the Debate does take place, it will allow a re-visitation of several major aspects of the internal colonization allegations.

For starters, besides the mystery over the 16 days, Brunei, Singapore, Stephens, oil and gas, the Debate can hear evidence on the Federal Government being in non-compliance on four key constitutional documents and /or conventions which govern the participation of Sabah and Sarawak in the Federation of Malaysia.

The documents/conventions: the 1963 Malaysia Agreement; the 20/18 Points; the Inter Governmental Committee Report; and the Cobbold Commission report.

UBA has been making the case public that the Federal Government’s “non-compliance has rendered the Federation of Malaysia inoperable to the extent of the non-compliance” and thereby the question that arises is whether Sabah and Sarawak are in the Federation of Malaysia or out like Singapore in 1965.

If out, why is the Federal Government carrying on as if the two states are still in Malaysia? This means, the argument goes, that they are effectively colonies of Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia).

If the two states are still in Malaysia, why is the Federal Government in non-compliance? It (non-compliance) cannot be reconciled with the continued participation of Sabah and Sarawak in the Federation.

If the case can be made that the Federal Government has not been acting unlawfully on compliance – there being no mechanism on compliance and no law – it’s seems to be a kamikaze argument on the surface, as it cannot be said that it has not been acting unconstitutionally, and if so, it has not been acting lawfully at all by being in non-compliance.

UBA also points out that Malaysia is not functioning as an equal partnership of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak – for example the Prime Minister of Sabah is not allowed to call himself Prime Minister; Malaya is not sharing the Federal Government with Sabah and Sarawak; Malaysia is not functioning as a two-tier Federation i.e. one at a lower level among the states in Malaya, and another at the higher level as a Federation of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak.

UBA also alleges that Malaysia has been getting away from the concept of being a Federation and more towards a unitary state.

It’s alleged that the grinding poverty of Sabah and Sarawak, the poorest and second poorest in the country, is a direct result of internal colonization which includes taking away most or all of the revenue of the two states to Putrajaya and returning only a pittance to them “to keep them perpetually poor and unable to forge their own destiny in the community of nations”.

Other issues on internal colonization: statelessness; the Federal imposition of proxy state governments in Sabah and Sarawak; illegal immigration and disenfranchisement and as reflected in the electoral rolls, among other.

Last, but not least, UBA points out that Sabah and Sarawak were promised autonomy in Malaysia with the two states – unlike the states in Malaya — surrendering only defence, foreign affairs and national economic planning to the Federal Government.

The bottomline on internal colonization appears to be that Sabah and Sarawak see no need or reason to be in the Federation of Malaysia, tied to a peninsula on the other side of the South China Sea and virtually unable to even breathe without permission from their political masters, when they can quite easily make and pay their own way like Brunei, Singapore, South Sudan and Timor Leste, among others, as independent member states of the United Nations.


LATEST


The Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) is a legal entity now. It was officially launched yesterday in London. The officer bearers are as follows:

Chairman: Raja Petra Kamarudin

President: Haris Ibrahim

Secretary: Yolanda Augustine

Treasurer: Natalie Sylvia Chow

Legal Adviser: Gilbert Jacobs

3 Committee Members: Farouk A. Peru, Jeff Tan and Sam Chong

3 Board of Trustees: Amarjit Singh Sidhu, Lee Wai Siang and Paramjeet Singh Karam Singh

2 cheque signatories: Legal adviser and Treasurer

Bank account: HSBC

The MCLM website is in the process of being set up (http://mclm.org.uk/). Once the MCLM website is launched the movement’s mission and vision statement will be available for all to read and the signing up as member will be made possible. Will keep everyone updated of the progress once we hear word from Raja Petra Kamarudin.

Come, lets participate in the Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement and help push Malaysia towards seeing that change that we want so badly.


The Federation of Malaya is 53 years old today and we have come a long way since independence.

Tunku Abdul Rahman, the prime minister-elect, who led the negotiations with the British for handover of power to the Malayans said in his speech on that day August 31st 1957, that, it was the greatest moment in the life of the Malayan people as a new star had risen in the eastern sky – a star of freedom for yet another Asian people.

Meanwhile the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan who was representing the Queen during the handing over of power also on that day August 31st, said in his speech, that he hoped 31 August would long be remembered as a great and happy day in the continuing development of Malaya and the Commonwealth of Nations.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to all my leaders and fellow Malayans, past and present, specially Tunku Abdul Rahman who made it possible for us all, to live in peace and harmony and prosperity until UMNO under Mahathir came along and actually split the nation with its version of their Independence struggles.

That’s why I’m not eager to celebrate Hari Merdeka. I’m fed up with UMNO’s ranting about its “independence struggles” year in and year out for the last 52 years claiming that UMNO had solely liberated the country “MALAYSIA” and the rest of the citizens were just “passengers” in this struggle.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Malaya!


Chief Minister of Sarawak Taib Mahmud is in UK to promote ‘Green Development’ in Sarawak. During this visit he will give a lecture in University of Oxford at the Said Business School, Park End Street, Oxford at 9.30 am Monday 26th July 2010

My contact in Oxford said that Professor Andrew Hamilton, the august Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, who was speaking at the soft opening earlier had some words of praise for the CM of Sarawak. To me its so funny but don’t want to say too much as I may jeopardise some people. I hope you guys know what I meant. Lets see what happens tomorrow London time 9.30 morning.

Anyway, read here what Survival International has to say….

One of Asia’s greatest kleptocrats and single-handedly one of the most destructive forces against the environment, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, East Malaysia, Abdul Taib Mahmud, has been invited to present the opening address at the Said Business School’s inaugural Islamic Branding and Marketing Forum, Monday 26th July.

During his 30 years of iron grip over Malaysia’s Christian State, Taib Mahmud has systematically plundered a country once rich in natural resources, oil and timber. He and his family are now multi-billionaires, while indigenous tribes such as the legendary jungle nomads, the Penan, have been left destitute and robbed of their rightful hunting grounds.

Abdul Taib Mahmud has destroyed all but 3% of the Borneo jungle in the state, which had been handed all but intact into the care of his uncle, his predecessor. Numerous species, including the Orang Utan, proboscis monkey and a plethora of unique plant and animal life have been virtually wiped out by his rapacious and unsustainable plunder of the jungle.

The Penan are struggling to keep his loggers out of the last corners of their jungle, one of the most precious remaining areas of bio-diversity left on earth. Recent reports have revealed shocking evidence of their treatment at the hands of state-backed loggers, including the systematic rape and abuse of their women, an outrage that Taib Mahmud has refused to acknowledge or investigate.

Taib Mahmud’s ‘business interests’ are notorious. The whole state of Sarawak has been illegally absorbed into the possession of his cronies and family members through ‘privatisations’ and the handing out of palm oil and timber concessions, via arbitrary state acquisitions of native lands. He now runs the State as a family business, maintained through systematic electoral intimidation and fraud.

Taib Mahmud has laughably advertised his UK visit as a promotion of ‘Green Development’ in Sarawak and will be focussing on the promotion of Islamic and Halal products, his latest venture, during his visit to Oxford.

It is a standing disgrace that Oxford University should be extending a hand of welcome and supporting the status of such a man. His wealth and ability to endow is not in doubt, however there is no possible basis of legitimacy for such wealth, as can only be plainly apparent to all his hosts.

The people of Sarawak are struggling to rid themselves of this man and his parasitical family and to preserve their unique environmental heritage from his further ‘business ventures’. Please lend your support to their struggle and to the campaign to preserve what is left of the Book of Life and the Borneo Jungle’s natural wealth. Help fight for the survival of the Orang Utan and fellow creatures of the Asian Rainforest.

Be there to receive him and protest at the disgraceful invitation that has been extended to him by Oxford University and the Said Business School.

Contacts – Survival: Sophie Grig – sg@survivalinternational.org This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

For further details on Taib Mahmud see http://www.sarawakreport.org

For background on the problems in Sarawak see Times articles

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article5908207.ece

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6814891.ece