A heartwarming post by Tan Sri Sulaiman Mahbob, Chairman of MIDA:
TAN SRI SULAIMAN MAHBOB: Let's take pride in our history
WE have already ushered in the new year, 2011. We also ushered in the new Muslim year, the Hijrah, three weeks ago, with the selected Tokoh Maal Hijrah being a woman for the first time. She was Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Bank Negara Malaysia Governor. With the new year, as usual, we will be assessing ourselves, whether we have achieved our resolutions we set a year ago.
Lest we forget, it was exactly 500 years ago, in 1511, that Malacca was conquered by the Portuguese led by Alfonso D'Albuquerque. With the conquest, Malacca slowly lost its trading supremacy in the region.
The Portuguese sought to seek "glory, gospel and gold".
The Malay rulers after that ran away from Malacca and set up other settlements (Johor, Perak, Siak and others) but the centres never grew up to the scale that Malacca once was. I must thank my History teacher, Datuk Anthony Reynolds Peter, who made me appreciate history.
Now Malacca has been declared a developed state with poverty completely eradicated. It is also a popular tourist destination, especially among Singaporeans.
At its height of glory, the Malacca port received traders from over 80 trading nations, each with its own currency and produces to be traded. The two trade winds could have made Malacca port a centre of bustling trading activities. At that time, there was no electronic equipment to assist in transactions and money conversions.
Imagine the different weights and measures as well as the many currencies that were used to facilitate trade then. And, of course, the many trade agreements which could have been concluded in the course of its history. All of them could have been written in Malay (Jawi) and based on Malacca trade laws.
The Bendahara must have been a brilliant international trader. It was said by a historian that at its zenith of power, Malacca had its fingers at the throat of Venice, the only other trading centre of comparable importance then.
Those who study development from the perspective of world systems, will come across Malacca as a centre of world trade in those days.
It was, therefore, not surprising that it was in Malacca that globalisation could perhaps begin. It was said that there were no poor natives then and that every native had a ship (perhaps a boat). Having a boat then is like owning a car now. And the natives then, who were Malays, were seafarers and traders, not peasant farmers as colonialists led most of us to believe.
However, many of us have forgotten this fact about Malacca because many of us associate Malacca with stories of the five famous warriors and their exploits and the infamous duel between the brothers, Tuah and Jebat, as well as the famous story of Puteri Gunung Ledang, now made popular by Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina.
Indeed, re-appraising the situation then and using our current looking glass, Malacca was more than that. Indeed the Bendahara, Tun Perak, was an intelligent minister, diplomat, administrator and, above all, a liberal international trader.
However, we have now forgotten history. History is, according to one scholar, a "study of human folly". Perhaps it is so. If it is, then History is often taught but not learned. Perhaps that is why there is a phrase saying that history repeats itself.
We are now talking of re-emphasising the subject of History and that our history needs to be rewritten. This is good as we tend to forget our own history in the quest for knowledge on science and technology, or tend to look at history from the colonial master's perspective.
Let the new attempt to rewrite history put our history in the right perspective. Let our rich history and the many contributions made by our founding fathers, including the Portuguese descendents who have made Malacca their motherland, be a source of pride for us.
Let Malacca serve as a lesson to be learned by us all. We could not afford the folly of the Malacca rulers then, as is reflected by the duel between Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat, which in the present context is seen as the fight for justice.
In that light, may this year bring good luck and prosperity to all of us.
NB: The writer is the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority chairman
Read in full at the NST here.