Roy H. Haas

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Parmer, J. Norman, 1925-||Thomas, M. Ladd

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


Malaya--Foreign relations--China; China--Foreign relations--Malaya


The purpose of this thesis is to examine differing Malayan Chinese conceptions of their own role in Malayan political affairs as demonstrated by a split that developed in the ranks of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) in early 1953. The MCA had been formed in 1949; from its inception to 1953, most MCA politicians had cooperated and worked well together. Indeed, until the divergent views resulted in a fight for leadership in 1953, there had been few indications of serious divisions over Association policies. In fact, until then the Chinese community in Malaya had appeared quite unified politically, except for those Chinese who supported the insurgency of the Malayan Communist Party. In 1952, the MCA agreed to cooperate with the United Malaya National Organization (UMNO) and successfully contested the municipal elections in Kuala Lumpur that year. Having found that their communal organizations could cooperate to mutual advantage, UMNO and MCA formalized the Alliance. Besides seeing the practical advantages of cooperation, Alliance leaders viewed their party as a vehicle for ameliorating communal differences. In early 1955, the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) joined the Alliance. Thereafter, the Alliance contested and won the pre-independence elections in 1955, worked out a mutually agreeable constitution and brought Malaya to independence in 1957. The principal thesis is that the assault on the leadership of MCA President Tan Cheng Lock in March 1953 constituted an attempt by younger MCA members to alter the political balance struck by Alliance leaders before Malaya became independent. This balance consisted of a series of agreements and tacit compromises between UMNO and the MCA concerning the rights and privileges of Malaya and Chinese. The essence of these compromises was that the Malays would predominate in the nation's political life while the Chinese would retain their pre-eminence in the economic life of Malaya. The younger MCA leaders who succeeded in ousting Tan Cheng Lock are seen by the author as having challenged the MCA's past policies of yielding the majority of political power to UMNO. They pressured the UMNO chieftains to allocate an increased proportion of seats to MCA candidates in the 1959 elections. In addition, the MCA new leadership hoped to secure revisions in the Alliance's language-education programs; these changes would have permitted wider use of the Chinese Language in important examinations. It is the author's contention that MCA leaders championed their position on education and the allocation of seats in a clear effort to win increased Chinese support, including the backing of the more militant Chinese guilds and associations. This would, in turn, have established the basis for claims to increased political power for the Chinese community. The author suggests that UMNO leaders were concerned lest the MCA pressures result in a backlash in which Malay voters might select the candidates of parties more communally oriented than UMNO. The UMNO leadership was clearly reluctant to yield substantially, if at all, on the questions of Chinese education and the MCA-UMNO power balance. As a result, UMNO leaders repeatedly criticised the position of the MCA leadership on these issues. On numerous occasions during the tenure of the new MCA leaders (from March 1958 to July 1959), the heads of UMNO commended the attitudes of the former MCA leaders who had disassociated themselves from the new MCA policies. The UMNO leadership was prepared to assist the former MCA heads in regaining control of their organization. Thus, it is argued that the untimely release of a letter from MCA President Dr. Lim Chong Eu to UMNO and Alliance head Tengku Abdul Rahman gave the latter the hoped for opportunity to induce hostile MCA leaders and members to resign. The Tengku assumed sole responsibility for placing Alliance candidates in the August 1959 elections. He suggested that those who had challenged the UMNO-MCA balance and thereby threatened the Alliance candidates in the August 1959 elections. He suggested that those who had challenged the UMNO-MCA balance and thereby threatened the alliance would not be given seats to contest. Seeing the MCA retreat from its demand for changes in Alliance policy and their political careers curcumscribed by the Tengku, numerous MCA leaders resigned from office and from the Association. The dispute among MCA leaders over how much pressure should be exerted for more liberal use of the Chinese Language and for a greater share of political power obviously affected UMNO-MCA relations. The new MCA leadership position and UMNO resoluteness in opposing a shift in the political balance has important implications for Malaya. The author believes that many Chinese were unwilling to wait for the Malays to grant them greater political power. At the same time, it is concluded that the UMNO leadership was not prepared to countenance a challenge to its dominance of the alliance in particular and of political life in general.


Includes bibliographical references.


vii, 196 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type