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Unofficial contentions: The postcoloniality of Straits Chinese political discourse in the Straits Settlements Legislative Council

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 September 2010

Abstract

This paper reads the debates of the Straits Settlements Legislative Council to trace the political contentions over policies affecting the Chinese community in Malaya. These contentions brought the Straits Chinese unofficials to engage the racial ambivalence of British rule in Malaya, in which the Straits Chinese was located as both a liberal subject and an object of colonial difference. Contrary to conventional historiography which portrays Straits Chinese political identity as one of conservative loyalty to the Empire, I show that the Straits Chinese developed multiple and hybrid political identities that were postcolonial in character, which would later influence the politics of decolonisation and nation-building after the war.

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Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The National University of Singapore 2010

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30 Other than Whampoa, the colonial government sought the assistance of Tan Seng Poh, an Anglicised opium farm merchant, and Chua Moh Choon, leader of the Ghee Hok Kongsi or secret society and naturalised British subject, during the 1872 and 1876 riots in Singapore and for the 1873 Chinese policemen and 1876 Chinese labour commissions. Proceedings, 19 Sept. 1872, p. 97, LCPP 1872; Chinese police force commission report, Council paper no. 27, 16 June 1873, LCPP 1873, CO 275/16; Chinese labour condition committee report, Council paper no. 22, 3 Nov. 1876; 1876 riots report by Protector William Pickering, Council paper no. 31, 29 Dec. 1876, LCPP 1876, CO 275/19.

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62 Note on conference at the Colonial Office, 16 Mar. 1931, CO 717, file 76/7. Sri Lankan nationalists had vigorously campaigned in the early 1920s for greater local representation in government and democratisation leading towards eventual self-rule. In 1924, when Clementi was Colonial Secretary of the British Ceylonese colonial government, the nationalists achieved the concession of majority representation in the legislature and a limited franchise to elect the representatives. A subsequent British commission in 1927 conceded universal adult franchise and executive control to the Sri Lankans.

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