Notes on Tan Malaka’s Pan-Malayan Views in his Letter to Manuel Quezon
Noted biographers of the Indonesian nationalist Tan Malaka (1897-1949) such as Helen Jarvis and Harry Poeze have described his sojourn in China from 1928 to 1932 as a lacuna since there is a dearth of direct information about his political activity. The gap is evident in his autobiography Dari Penjara ke Penjara, which Poeze claims is a deliberate attempt to cover his reconciliation with the Comintern.
Three pieces of correspondence from the Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon Papers located at the National Library of the Philippines helps to shed some light about Tan Malaka’s activity. The letters reveal that at least around April and May 1928, Tan Malaka made attempts through his Filipino contacts to re-establish direct correspondence with Quezon, who sympathized with him during the deportation proceedings. In his main letter, Malaka offers his support for Quezon’s leadership in the aftermath of the latter’s opposition against the recently-deceased American Governor-General Leonard Wood. He then presents an analysis and vision for a pan-Malayan union and explains how this can fit in with the nationalist sentiments of the colonized peoples. However, it is also notable that the ideas expressed in this communication appear to have been motivated and overshadowed by a desire to enlist Quezon’s support for his re-entry to the Philippines.
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