During the pre-Independence period, some Straits Chinese began taking an active interest in local politics, especially in Penang, where there was an active Chinese secessionist movement. They identified themselves more with the British than the Malays and were especially angered by references to them as pendatang asing ("aliens"). They avoided both the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), believing that while UMNO and the Malay extremists were intent on extending Malay privileges and restricting Chinese rights, the MCA was too "selfish", and could not be relied on to protect their interests.
They had already raised their ire in the late 1940s, when the government proposed to amend the Banishment Ordinance — which allowed for the exile of Malayans "implicated in acts of violence" — to permit those born in the Straits Settlements to be banished to their ancestral homeland. This was a revolting idea for most of the Straits Chinese.
They were also uncomfortable about the merger of the Straits Settlements with Malaya, as they did not feel a sense of belonging to what they considered a "Malaya for the Malays", where they were not considered bumiputra ("sons of the soil"). One Straits Chinese leader indignantly declared, "I can claim to be more anak Pulau Pinang than 99 per cent of the Malays living here today." The secessionist movement eventually petered out, however, because of the government's stout refusal to entertain the idea of Penang seceding from the Federation.
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