Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bukit Sembilan Incident - Police Killing Was Justifiable said Coroner

More on Kedah Riot 1947- The Straits Times dated 1st April 1947 reported that the Coroner who judged the Bukit Sembilan case of police brutality found the killing of a labourer during labour protest at Bukit Sembilan Estate as “justifiable killing"



Police Killing Was Justified

From Our Correspondent

Penang, Monday

Stating that there was no evidence of gross negligence on the part of the constable who struck deceased, the Coroner Mr. A.M Austin today returned a verdict of justifiable homicide on Samy, an Indian labourer, who succumbed to injuries received when a police party attempted to disperse a crowd of labourers at Bukit Sembilan Estate on the afternoon February 29.
Mr. Austin, in delivery his finding, added he was satisfied that the injuries were incurred by deceased when police took lawful measures to disperse an unlawful assembly.

The inquiry opened on Saturday, when after recording evidence from the Kedah Police Commissioner Mr. A. C Maxwell and other witness, the coroner reserved his verdicts. 

Ganapathy Threatened Malaya Wide Strike - Kedah Riot

The Thondar Padai - The Volunteer Corp played a huge role in the labour strikes in Kedah which is also known as “The Kedah Riot” in 1947. Armed police forces were used to suppress the labour uprise. The Thondar Padai, under the leadership of A.M Samy was well organised.

One of the strikes which involved Thondar Padai was the Bedong Toddy Shop Protest, where it was reported widely that some 300 labourers (including women and children) gathered in front of the toddy demanding it to cease its operation. It was a peaceful demonstration as protester did not carry any weapon with them.

Instead of resolving the matter amicably, the police forces displayed huge brutality resulting in the death of a young man, Swaminathan, who was bludgeoned to death.

Nine labourers were injured. Many were arrested and sentenced to vigorous imprisonments.

Meantime, S.A Ganapathy demanded the release of the labourers and threatened that a Malaya wide strike will be called if appeal to release the arrested labourers fails.     
Singapore Federation of Trade Union “strongly condemned the action of the Government of the Malayan Union in using armed police to break the strike and interfering with the peaceful picketing of toddy shops” and requested the Government to release the arrested workers unconditionally.  
  
Morning Tribune – 7 March 1947

Malaya Wide Strike Fear
Demand for Release of Kedah Labourers
A general strike of all labourers throughout Malaya is feared should an appeal against the conviction of 83 labourers in Kedah who have been sentenced during the pas few days to various terms of imprisonment for unlawful assembly fail.
Our Penang correspondent telegraphing just before midnight stated that a meeting of labourers’ representatives in Kedah last night decided to appeal in the case of those strikers who have been sentenced.
Should this fail, it is thought likely, says our correspondent that an appeal will be made to all labourers in Malaya to support the case. This carried the implication of general strike.
Mr. S.A. Ganapathy. Chairman of Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Union saw Mr. J.T Rea, Deputy Commissioner for Labour, Kedah yesterday. He said he was not satisfied with the latter’s opinion on the situation. He had also spoken to representative of the labourers.
Two members of Kedah Federation of Trade Union Mr. A.M Samy and Mr. Teoh Cheong Hoon asked Mt. J.T Rea yesterday whether it was legal for people to strike. Mr Rea replied that the present trouble arose from the lawless acts of youth voliunteer corps.
The United Kedah Planters’ Association yesterday issued a statement to the press in which it says: Briefly the history of the labour trouble in Kedah is one of political agitation by subversive elements coupled with intimidation and tension.”
The Association believes that three prime requirements and necessary before any attempt can be made to ameliorate the grave situation.
Firstly,  order must ne re-established and the laws of the country maintained.
Secondly, organized labour must free itself from external dictations and organise from within to elect its own legal representation.

In Singapore last night, the Singapore Federation of Trade Unions, Short Street, issue the text of resolution put before a recent meeting of president and general secretaries of branch unions of the Indian section of the SFTU, one as which “strongly condemned this action of the Government of the Malayan Union in using armed police to break the strike in Kedah, and interfering with the peaceful picketing of toddy shops” and requested the Government to release the arrested workers unconditionally.   


Monday, August 21, 2017

Broken Promises by British Labour Government

The Singapore Press on the 6th May 1949, reported that Indian Government had made a "vigorous protest" to the British government over the Ganapathy's execution. It appeared that the British Government had broken its promise made to the High Commissioner of Indian in London, V.K Krishna Menon. The execution was carried out by the British Government without informing the High Commissioner of India on an investigation result with regards to Ganapathy's case.


PM Clement Atlee - Leader of Labour Party UK
The report also mentioned that the Indian Government Representative to Malaya, John Thivy, had several times visited Ganapathy. 
In Thivy's report, Ganapathy informed that he was hiding in the jungles for about nine months (since June 1948) which most of the time he was ill. He was not aware of the Emergency law on possession of arms. He was intended to surrender his revolver which was given to him for self-protection to the nearest police station.    
High Commissioner of India - V.K Menon

Those who read this article would wonder why the British wanted to get rid of Ganapathy in a hurry. Why the British government under the Labour Party, which acted very reasonable and just in dealing with trade unions and labour issues in UK, erred in this juncture? Who was pulling the string to get rid of Ganapathy and PMFTU?   


Singapore Free Press – 6th May 1949

New Delhi Note on Ganapathy

NEW DELHI, Friday

The Indian Government, which is making a “vigorous protest” today to the British Government over the Ganapathy hanging, announced here yesterday that it felt the penalty was excessive and that it deeply deplores his execution.”
Ganapathy, 24-year-old Indian president of Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Union was executed after having been found guilty and sentenced to death by Selangor court on changes of carrion a revolver and ammunition.

“Broke Promise”

From information now at the Indian Government’s disposal, the announcement said, it appeared that not only did representation made on behalf of the Indian Government to the authorities in Malaya to prove unworthy, but that the execution was carried out even before the High Commissioner for India in London had been informed of the results of an examination of the case by the British Government.

This “had been promised,” the Government announcement said.

The report of the Indian Government representative in Malaya. Mr. John Thivy, to the Indian Government is understood to contain statements made to him by Ganapathy, whom he saw several times in prison.

Ganapathy told him he committed no act of violence and said he was hiding in the jungles of Malaya for about nine months during most of which time when was ill.

He had no knowledge of the severity of the Malayan regulations. He left the jungle intending to surrender the revolver in his possession at the nearest police station he said. It had been given to him for self-protection.

When arrested while resting under a rubber trees Ganapathy told Mr Thivy he did not attempts to resist - Reuter  
Last known photograph of Ganapathy taken in Pudu Prison before execution 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Chinese Newspaper Reports on S.A Ganapathy


Articles on Ganapathy published in Chinese Newspapers in May 1949
(Translation to English will be done soon) 












Monday, May 8, 2017

Dr Cheah Boon Kheng Interview with R.G Balan - Memoir of R Balan, Vice-President of the Malayan Communist Party

A few days ago I had the chance to go through an article by Dr. Cheah Boon Kheng, based oh his interviews with R.G Balan - Memoir of R. Balan, Vice-President of the Malayan Communist Party. Due to copyright issues, I am not able to reproduce the same document here.

In his paper, Cheah commented:

"In the spate of published memoirs of leaders and officials of the Malayan Communist Party that began appearing following the end of their armed struggle in 1989, the voice of R. Balan, the vice-president of the MCP, has been noticeably absent. English-educated and Chinese-speaking R. Balan was the nom-de-guerre in the party of R. Raja Gopal.

Based on Dr Cheah's interview with Balan in 1974, an article was published in the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volume 88 No.309 December 2015. I have extracted the followings from the article:

Personal Details and Family 
  • R.G Balan's actual name was Raja Gopal. He was born in Nova Scotia Estate, Teluk Intan, Perak on 22nd November 1921. His father name was K.Ramalingam, a conductor-cum-clerk on a rubber estate came from Ceylon. His mother's name was Sinnathaiammal, a housewife who came from Madras. Balan was eldest of four children (two boys and two girls).
  • Balan's father, Ramalingam, worked on Nova Scotia estate in Perak. When Balan was five months old, his father sent the whole family to India. They lived in India for seven years. They returned to Malaya in 1929, to rejoin his father at Jong Estate where his father was a manager. 
  • Balan had his primary education at the Anglo Chinese School, Teluk Intan and completed his secondary education at the Nagaratnam Memorial English School. He passed the Junior Cambridge Certificate in 1937. But unable to sit for his Senior Cambridge due to pneumonia  and was bed-ridden for nearly two months.
  • Balan left school and went out to work to support his mother, brother and sister. His father left them in Teluk Intan to work in Bertam Estate in Kepala Batas. (The family did not know that his father had a another wife)
  • Balan worked as an apprentice clerk at Selaba Estate, Teluk Intan for two years without any payment, and then as a clerk at Ulu Bernam Estate in 1940 to 1941. 
Japanese Occupation and Death Railway Labour Recruitment
  • Two months after Japanese occupation, the Japanese armed forces visited Ulu Bernam Estate. The commanding officer felt the office field staff in Ulu Bernam Estate was exorbitant, therefore decided to transfer a few of the staff to other estates where they are needed. Balan was one of the transferred to Jong Estate as officer-in-charge.
  • The Japanese started to recruit labour force from the estate to be sent to build the railway in southern Thailand -  The Death Railway
  • The Jong Estate is about 1,000 acres with 200 men and women. Balan was ordered to prepare a list of labourers who could be sent to Thailand. When the first batch of young able-bodies labourers about 150 men to be sent to Thailand, the womenfolk came to Balan's house and started crying, pleading for help and urging Balan not send their sons, husbands and fathers to their death. They had heard of the horrors of the Death Railway, had no hope of ever returning. Balan was very moved by their tears and pleas, and decided to help them
  • On the 22nd August 1942, Balan gathered all the labourers who were supposed to leave the next day and told them to leave the estate by 2 a.m. Balan was also one of the recruits to the Death Railway
  • The next day by 9 a.m, the labourers had left the estate. Meanwhile, Balan decided to join the MPAJA in the jungle.        
MPAJA Contacts
  • Balan had frequent contact with MPAJA at Jong Estate. MPAJA would visit him secretly to discuss the possibilities of joining MPAJA. Balan known to be a sympathizer, who helped the people with their problem, especially in getting rations of food. The MPAJA was anxious to have some Tamils in their propaganda bureau. Having good knowledge in Tamil language and passed Standard VII in Tamil School, Balan would be useful in running a Tamil newspaper for MPAJA. 
  • Balan was reluctant to decided at the earlier stage but it was the Death Railways issue that finally made him to make up his mind. Balan decided to take a stand when the recruiting Japanese officer told him that he would be one of the recruits to Death Railway.
Taking the Family to Safety
  • On the 22nd August, Balan contacted the MPAJA representatives to inform them that he would be entering the jungle on the 23rd August. Before joining the MPAJA, Balan needed to ensure the safety of his family. Balan decided to send his family to Kepala Batas to stay with his father. Besides his family, there were two more individuals knew about his plan - family friend Dr Chin and Moller - a Danish Inspector of Estates.
  • At 9am on the 23rd August, Balan and family were waiting for train at Tapah railway. Balan's plan was to travel on Kepala Batas and returned on the same day to Jong Estate. 
  • Balan's plan was upset when he discovered that all the trains were used to transport labourers to Thailand. As Balan was standing on platform waiting for the train to take them to Kepala Batas, the Japanese Commanding Officer of Teluk Intan and recruitment officer and accompanied by an Indian clerk approached him. 
  • The commanding officer asked Balan what he was doing at the station and what happened to the labour force that Balan promised? Balan lied that the labourers waiting at the road side for the transport and not sure why the labourers had not arrived yet. As for Balan he was there to send off his family as he was preparing to leave to Thailand. This somewhat made the Japanese Officer to lose his temper and unsheathed his sword and threatened to decapitate Balan on the spot. The Indian clerk stopped him and told him to deal Balan at the office the following day. After the Japanese replaced his sword, the officer slapped him and told him to present himself at his office at his office the next day. Balan quickly took his mother, brother and sister and left the station. They hid in one of the quarters nearby the station until 6 p.m when the train arrived.
  • By then all the labourers from other estates bound for Thailand had left in the trains. None of the labour force from Balan's estate had turned up. Balan knew his life was in grave danger and Balan had to reach Kepala Batas before too late.
  • Kepala Batas which located in Province Wellesley (Butterworth) is about 100 over miles from Tapah and Balan's family reached the place about 2 a.m. on the 24th August 1942. Balan told his father of his mission. "You are going to join these blooming people" said his father sarcastically, referring to MPAJA. But gave his blessings and Balan hurried back to Jong Estate to join the MPAJA.
Going into Jungle Joining MPAJA
  • The MPAJA representatives was waiting for Balan when he reached the estate at 3 p.m. Balan collected his clothes and met the waiting MPAJA men - 4 Chinese men dressed in civilian clothes and were armed. 
  • The first destination was a farmer's attap house on a steep of a small hill about four to five miles from Jong Estate. They stopped there for a night. They met a few MPAJA men there. A short while later they heard a commotion below the hill. Farmers' houses were being destroyed by fire by the Japanese forces. The farmer who housed Balan and the MPAJA members too frightened with the situation. Fortunately, the Japanese forces failed to locate the farmer's place as it was getting darker. On the following day, we heard the Japanese were in fact searching for Balan. As the could not find him there, they became furious and began setting up fire to the farmers' houses. The Japanese also decapitated a few farmers. 
  • The next day, Balan was further escorted to a camp near Langkap. Balan stayed there for nine months. Later shifted to another camp because they heard that the Japanese were searching for their camp.
Life in Langkap Camp
  • At the Langkap camp, there were 5 of them, where Balan met Wu Tain Wong who was later to become the top Singapore MCP representative.
  • Wu took charge of Balan explain why he was brought in. Wu spoke English and gave Balan lot of books to read. Everyone was very good to Balan. They cooked their own food and their supplies were brought in by messengers who would go in and out. They had rice, sugar and all the necessary foodstuffs. 
  • Balan was groomed by Wu who thought him communism. Six months later, Balan was asked to do translation of a script in English. Balan translated on stencils into Tamil which were taken out by the messengers for distribution. The MPAJA was happy with Balan's command of Tamil language.
  • The Langkap Camp was responsible for the publication of the party's propaganda news sheet, "The Voice of Malaya" in English and other publications in Chinese, Malay and Tamil. Wu taught Balan Mandarin and Balan mastered some 3000 over Chinese characters in the course of time.
  • Balan wrote poem in Mandarin which was published in Sin Chew Jit Poh when he came out of the Detention Camp for a hearing in Ipoh. 
  • From Langkap Camp, Balan moved to another camp with 33 members, including women, under the control of Liu Yau -a central committee member in-charge of the propaganda. 
  • Discipline was very good. There was no immoral behaviour or relationship. Both men and women would sleep together and there would be no misbehaviour. Women behaved like men. They did men's work. They wrote on stencils and did all manual work too.  
  • A normal day in the camp would begin at 6 a.m. They had physical exercise usually kung-fu. One of them would take turn to cook. The compound was very clean. They would translate on the stencils and rolled on the duplicating machinery. The printed propaganda leaflets would then taken out and distributed. 
  • According to Balan, Liu Yau was a fine gentleman, capable leader  who take criticism openly. 
  • Balan was only the person who did translation in Tamil and there were three Malays with them. Abdullah CD was one of them. 
  • Balan's camp was regarded the propaganda headquarters of MCP and Balan remained there until the war ended. The degree of understanding between the Chinese, Malays and Indians was very great. They studied Marxism-Leninism or "Ma-Le Chu-i" classes twice a month. There were also self-criticism classes. During discussion on Marxism-Leninism, the superior would be our guide and he knew his theory very well. They also discussed international affairs, current affairs and the political situation of the Japanese. Sometimes our self-criticism classes would discuss the propaganda work they had done and how they would improve our work to serve the party better. 
  • Balan edited Jayamani (Victorious Bell). The camp also published the Ren Ta Pau ( The People's Paper) in Mandarin and Voice of Malaya in English. Initially Balan's Tamil translation was described as too highbrow, and Balan was asked to make it simple.
  • Sometimes they would take break from work to go for wild boar hunt. Besides wild boar, tiger and chimpanzee too hunted. They too rear poultry. During hunting gunshots would attract unnecessary attention sometimes. There were a few cases of messengers who worked as spy for Japanese Army were tried and punished. Otherwise, there was a great deal of mutual trust and goodwill among all races in the camp. 
  • All the changes in party leadership were announced in the party newssheets. The MCP's flag with its symbols of the hammer and sickle was prominently displayed with Stalin pictures at times of ceremony in the camp. The standing of Russia was very high and Stalin was highly regarded. Mao was slightly known, though the Chinese cadres were more aware of what was happening in China
  • The MCP drew up programme for post-war Malaya. It was a programme which was discussed and agreed upon the leadership. They were all told that when the war ended, they should seize every opportunity to further interest of the party. This programme was distributed to the rank and file, but they did not discuss them in great detail. They had a vague idea of what to do in the post war Malaya, such as infiltrate into every organisation and to bring in under the influence of the party. They had a university where the best cadres were sent for political courses. They were taught tactics, strategies and political administration of the country.  but when the war ended, the MCP was not ready to take over the country. It was short of trained personnel among all three major communities, and most of all the leadership was under Lai Teck, who was later discovered to have betrayed the party by working first for the British and Japanese and then again the British.
  • Balan was not aware of what went on in the central committee until he became a member in early 1948.     
Indian National Army (INA) and MPAJA during Japanese Occupation      
  •  According to Balan, INA could not intervene on behalf of the Indians when it came to labour recruits to Death Railway. There was no possibility of exemption from labour service to the Japanese Administration. Any Indian, or for that natter anyone who disobeyed would be punished. 
  • When Bose came to Malaya in 1943, he toured the country and made speeches asking the Indians to join the INA and contribute money in support of its course. The INA was formed consisting mainly of Malayan Indians. Wealthy Indians, such as Chettiars, contributed money. The girls joined the Jhansi of Rani Regiment. But soon disillusionment set in.
  • At the ground level, the treatment of INA soldiers was not good. many deserted and joined MPAJA. Desertion and defection were common throughout 1944 when it was felt that Allied Powers were in ascendancy in the war against Japan. Many INA deserters were accepted by MPAJA as sympathizer. MPAJA appreciated the struggle of INA for the independence of India. 
  • Later MCP openly denounced the INA for its collaborationism, and urged INA elements to defect to the MPAJA.  
  • After INA failure in Imphal, many more INA members joined MPAJA. Just before the Japanese surrender, there were talks between MPAJA and INA. The talk were aimed at getting INA to team up with MPAJA to fight against the British. The British became aware of this move, and tried to sabotage it. The INA chief was contacted by the British and persuaded not to go through with the plan. Clashes resulted between the INA and the MPAJA. The reason why the MPAJA agreed to negotiate with the INA was that militarily, the INA was quite powerful and MPAJA had concealed some regards for INA
  • MPAJA felt sorry for the Indian community because they had been involved with army which was discredited by its defeat. It was also realized that when the British returned, those who had served in the INA would be punished.    

Monday, December 19, 2016

Brief History of C.V Kuppusamy - The Social Reformist


As I have promised in my last postings that I will be writing about the Tamil Social Reformist, C.V Kuppusamy (CVK), this is my second posting on CVK. Very little information is available CVK in English. I managed to get some information on him from two Tamil articles written by blogger Bala Baskaran from Singapore.
C.V Kuppusamy
According to the article, CVK was born in Sentul on April 10th, 1915 to C.Veerapan and M. Pappammal. At the age of five, CVK started his primary education at Tamboosamy Pillai Tamil School in Sentul, but later completing his third standard in Tamil Medium, the parents decided to transfer him to the English medium school in Kuala Lumpur – Maxwell Primary School. in Kuala Lumpur. He continued his secondary education to Victoria Institution (VI) in Kuala Lumpur and completed his Senior Cambridge Examination in 1932 with flying colors as a 1st Grader.

SRJK (T) Thamboosamy, Sentul 
Victoria Institute - Kuala Lumpur 
Maxwell School - know as SMK Maxwell
Kuala Lumpur

Beside English literature, CVK also was keen in mastering Tamil literature and was tutored under the well-known Tamil scholars like “Kalainyayiru Pandithar” M.B Sivaramadasar and Swamy Manonmani. In 1941, CVK continued his love for Tamil language under tutelage of S.S Sinnappan in Singapore. Later, to equip himself with skills in journalism, CVK took up classes to learn Malay and Hindi as well.
Thamboosamy Pillai - Founder of
SRJK (T) Thambosamy Pillai and
Victoria Institute 
Between 1935 to 1941, CVK was employed as a Station Master under Federated Malay State Railways.

CVK’s flair for journalism can be traced as early as 1930 when his articles were published in a Tamil monthly publication in Kuala Lumpur – MalaiNadu. The monthly publication was run by Young Men Indian Association (YMIA) led by M.K Ramachandran. Its editor was A. Chandra Rajan who also ran a few other publications in Singapore and Malaya. At the same period, CVK’s articles too were published on weekly basis in Tamil daily in Tamil Nadu. He had his own column titled “Letter from Malaya” in the daily along with other prominent writer and social reformist like M.P Sivanyanam (aka MaPoSi) and Indian Independence fighter T.S Sokkalingam.

CVK’s articles in English also regularly published in the VI’s monthly publication “The Victorian” during 1931 to 1933. “Munnetram” published in Singapore, “Thesa Nesan” and “Janavarthamani” published in Penang, “Tamilan” published in Ipoh too carried his articles as well.

CVK’s articles on criticizing social illness were too favoured for publication in Periyar's Self-Respect Movement mouthpieces in Tamil Nadu such as Kudiyaarasu, Pagutharivu, Puratchi and Samarasam.

From 1934 to 1942, many of CVK’s works both in English and Tamil were published in Singapore’s - Reform (English). Tamil Murasu (Tamil), Seerthiruttam (Tamil) and Vaaliba Sakti (Tamil).

During the Japanese occupation, like many other enthusiastic Indians in Malaya to see a liberated India, CVK joined Bose led Azad Hind Provisional Government as editor for its Tamil publications – Suthanthira India (Tamil), Yugabharatham (Tamil) and Suthanthirothayam (Tamil). 

CVK also continued to contribute to the provisional government's English publication – Azad Hind and New Light while holding the position as Deputy Director for the Press and Publicity Department under Bose administration.

At the beginning of the war, CVK's association with English educated Indian communist personalities like Saminathan Amalu (for further details please refer to M. Stenson’s Class, Race, and Colonialism in West Malaysia) caused CVK to be arrested and tortured by Japanese Kempetai. He had written his ordeal in his book – “Jappaniya Lakapil Ezhu Thinanggal" (Seven Days in Japanese Lock-up) where he described that he was tortured on daily basis. The torture shall start with canning and end up with waterboarding (described as the “Tokyo Wine”). Many captured communist sympathizer had gone through similar kind of tortures including S.A Ganapathy. (http://www.malaya-ganapathy.com/2015/12/vellu-pillai-sentenced-to-two-months.html)

Upon the return of the British to Malaya, CVK’s movement had been closely monitored by the British administration. But this did not deter CVK's movement in multi racial League Against Imperialism and further agitate Indians for independence of Malaya when he took up the position of Chief Editor of Jananaayagam – a Tamil newspaper sponsored by Malayan Communist Party (CPM). Eventually the Malayan British government clamped down Janaayanagam and detaining CVK under Emergency Regulation in June 1948. CVK was detained for one and half years and was released in December 1949. 

Upon his release, without many resources for his journalism in Malaya, CVK returned to Singapore to work for Tamil Murasu. In 1951, he was appointed as the Assistant Chief Editor of Tamil Murasu and its English publication The Indian Daily Mail. He also became the Singapore correspondence to National Union Plantation Workers weekly newsletter Sangamani.

In 1957, CVK left Singapore to join the newly established Malayan broadcasting and publication department and started to serve the Malayan government. Realizing his huge influence over Tamil educated labourers and proficiency in Malay and English, CVK was appointed as the Chief Editor for Warta Malaya (Malay), Pembena (Malay), Vetri (Tamil), Janobagari (Tamil) and Valarchi (Tamil). He retired from the government in 1971.

In July 1971, post retirement, CVK joined the Tamil Murasu Daily of KL Chapter as Editorial Team and served the newspaper until September 1971.

Apart from journalism, CVK also had written two books – Varungkaala Navayugam (Tamil) – 1937, Periyaar E.V Ramasamy (1939). He had also written a narrative for Tamil drama titled – Kaanthamani.

Throughout his life, CVK remained as a true follower of Periyar and his teachings. Friendship that CVK forged with K.Sarangabani benefited and unified the Dravidian (South Indian) community in Malaya through propagating self-respect ideology in their writings and articles.

CVK played huge part as a central committee member of Self Respect Movement in eradicating caste discrimination among Indians in Singapore.

CVK’s ability to communicate in four languages (Tamil. English, Malay and Hindi) enabled not only the South Indians labourers to appreciate his reformist idea but also the non-Tamil speaking groups too attracted to his reformist thoughts.

His greatest legacy would be remembered for his contribution for Tamil language and journalism in this country as he organized the first conference for Malayan Tamil Writers’ Association in October 1955.

Reference: http://balabaskaran24.blogspot.sg/2010/12/1967.html

Thursday, November 3, 2016

First Plantation Labour Protest in Malaya Staged by the Telugus in 1912

As we look into the records of first Indian plantation labour strikes in Malaya, we shall come across an incident which took place in December 1912, where 1500 Telugu labourers of the Rantau Panjang – Sungai Tinggi Estate stopped work and marched toward Klang.   


Rubber Plantation Labourers - 1913 (source http://www.malaysiahistory.net)

Most Telugus were Vaishanavites as depicted clearly of their "Thiruman" marks on their foreheads. Many temples for deity Lord Rama and Telugu schools in Malaya were established by Telugu plantation labourers. 

The main causes of the desertion were due non-payment of wages for six months and harsh treatment of the labourers. The Singapore Free Press dated 19 December 1912 reported that 400 Telegu workers were absconded from their estates – Rantau Panjang and Siginting. They were reported refused to return to their estates and subsequently 250 of them had been detailed.

The Singapore Free Press -  19 December 1912
The management of the estates felt that there have been instigation agents among the workers. The managers convinced the Assistant Commissioner of Labour for Klang that these Telegu labourers were source of the trouble. The Telegus were judged “an exceptionally bad class of labourers.” The Assistant Commissioner felt that there were a few ring leaders responsible for the unrest and advised the District Officers to take appropriate action against them. The District Officer in turn ordered the ring leaders to be arrested and detain the labourers. Over a hundred labourers detained and charged for breaching their contracts under section 229/30 of the Labour Code.

However, the Deputy Controller of Labour was not pleased with this action because the alleged offences were committed before the Labour Code 1912 came into force! He sorted the Resident of Selangor to intervene to release the labourers. But the Resident refused. Later, when the labourers about to be released, the Assistant Commissioner of Labour for Klang approached the labourers to return to their former estates, the labourer refused. They told the Assistant Commissioner that they would prefer to stay in the jail or “even walk into the sea and be drowned.” One could imagine the harsh treatment that they have gone through living in those estates! 

Like the Chinese labourers, the Indian labourers were more confrontation in nature in the 1930s and onward. Factors like severe effects of depression on the Indian labour force, more domiciled nature and restrictions on movement between estates contributed a situation where Indian workers developed more confrontation type of collective resistance.   

(Most information provided in the article was taken from Prof.P. Ramasamy's work - Labour Control and Resistance in Colonial Malaya published in Plantations, Proletarians, and Peasants in Colonial Asia edited by E. Valentine Daniel, Henry Bernstein, Tom Brass - Frank Cass and Co., 1992)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Kedah Riot - AM Samy Wanted Labourers to be Repatriated to India

As the clash between labourers and police intensified in Kedah during the infamous Kedah Riot in March 1947, The Straits Times dated 7th March 1947 reported that the Representative of Government of India to Malaya, S.K Chettur, and other prominent Indians arrived in Sungai Petani for inquiry into the Kedah troubles. 

A.M Samy
The 60-year old leader of 26,000 estate Indian labourers, A.M Samy told the reporter that the labourers wanted to be repatriated to India where they would be better off. Samy was the President of Indian section of Rubber Workers General Labour Union (RWGLU) and Vice President of Kedah Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Union (PMFTU). Kedah PMFTU had an affiliation of 54 unions.
The President of the Kedah PMFTU, Chong Woon and Samy met Deputy Commissioner of Labour, J.T Rea seeking explanation why two mass arrests were made and whether the labourers have the rights to strike.

Rea replied that two men that resisted the police in the exercising their power had nothing to do with labour conditions. Samy was told that the present troubles arose through the activities of the Youth-Corps which had been going around beating up conductors, tying workers up for drinking toddy and trespassing on estates against the wishes and often without permission of the managers. 

Meanwhile The United Kedah Planters blamed subversive elements using political agitation coupled with intimidation and extortion were behind the grave situation in Kedah. The association alluded to "external dictation" to estate labourers - an obvious accusation against PMFTU. The planter association too blamed the situation further deteriorated the government as little had been done to formulated mechanism to allow legal contact to be achieved between labourers and employers. 

The planter association stated three requirements necessary to resolve the situation - law and order to be re-established and maintained, labour union must realised their part in rehabilitation of the industry and country (after war) and labour must be free itself from external dictation.

It was reported that according to J.T Rea, that "agitators" were active in Tonghurst Estate in South Kedah which may go on strike again. But the Union men said Rea was forcing them to continue with the strike and attempting to engineer strikes on other five more estates - Dublin, Kuala Dingin, Batu Lintang, Somme and Ghim Khoon. 

Rea said the Indian workers on Sungai Toh Pawang Estate wanted to return to work but prevented by local union secretary for working or leaving the estate.

At Bukit Sembilan Estate, workers were reported willing to return to work. The police have been maintaining a guard. The ringleader (named as Samy in other reports) was killed in the clash in Bedong on 28th February.

(Note: The so-called "ringleader" of Bukit Sembilan Estate who was killed in the Bedong Toddy shop protest was known as Saminathan. During the protest, it is reported that Saminathan stood up in the crowd and told the police that the Indians were not against the government but against the toddy shop operation in Bedong. This prompted a British policeman (of a Punjabi origin) to strike a blow to Saminathan's head who later succumbed to his injuries at Penang Hospital)

Extracted from Christopher Bayly's "The Forgotten War"

""In February 1947, a crowd of a thousand or so Thondar Padai descended on Bedong, only to be confronted by police. A labourer came forward: We are not anti government,' he cried, 'We are only against the drinking of toddy." He was clubbed to the ground and later died in hospital. The coroner recorded a death of 'justifiable homicide.' A series of protest strikes erupted in the area. At Bukit Sembilan estate on 3rd March 1947 trouble was triggered by dismissal of a woman activist, and police faced orchestrated resistance."Women were to be forefront armed with pepper." it was reported; "boiling water was kept ready; men were to be armed with sticks, stones and bottle full of sand, trees were to be cut down make road blocks." Sixty-six people were arrested, and all but two women of them sent to jail after a trial that lasted only a day. Fearing a rescue attempt, the police closed hearing to public. An investigation by the Malayan Indian Congress revealed collusion and premeditation on the part of local planters and police, S.K Chettur claimed that women were beaten and there were allegations that two young girls were raped in custody.



Friday, October 14, 2016

Kedah Riot - Bukit Sembilan Estate Incident on 17th Feb. 1947 - Women Took Front Row in the Fight Against Police

In a fierce clash between police force and Indian labourers on Bukit Sembilan Estate on the 17th February 1947, resulted in 66 labourers arrested and 21 were injured. Among the arrested were several women.   

In the fight, the Chief of Police of Kedah A.C Maxwell  received a long cut on the scalp when a women hit him with a stick. Two constables received minor injuries.

The clash was reported due to a visit to Bukit Sembilan Estate by a strong party of police headed by Maxwell and five European officers.

The police went to the estate to bring in an estate labourer (Dresser Paliah/Balaiah) on warrant for alleged criminal intimidation. Apparently, the police who wanted to search the labourers' line were stop by the labourers. The labourers refused to give permission and brandished sticks - some with iron and nails at the end. Even reported that one labourer had a brass weighted "tongkat".

The Chief Police gave repeated warning and waited for an hour before started to move in clearing five-foot way of the labourer line. The police met with Tamil men, women and children who retaliated with sticks and packets of chili pepper. The women and children armed themselves with chili powder took the front row of the fight.
  
Cans of boiling water which the women had prepared during the hour wait were prepared for the fight, but were said to be kicked over by the police and not used.

Police said the man (Balaiah) who to be arrested had presumably escaped. The police also covered a lorry which was seized by the labourers on the estate last month. 

(My Observation) Well, this was what has been reported in The Straits Times on the 4th March 1947, with regards to police and labourer clash on Bukit Sembilan Estate, that saw not only men but women labourers too participated.

It is obvious the news was siding the law enforcement and the estate owners, but we need to look into what actually happened to these labourers of Bukit Sembilan Estate.

It all started when a estate dresser (very much like a Medical Assistant but without holding any medical qualification or properly trained) named Paliah or Balaiah stopped a lorry carrying fresh water to the manager's bungalow. The Malay driver who accompanied by the manager were stopped by the a group of workers headed by Paliah. Now, the next question is - why the workers stopped the lorry carrying water to the manager's bungalow? 

Well, it was known fact in the estate that the management had told the workers to seek for their own source of water - from the rivers and ponds. It is said that the estate management was not responsible to provide clean drinking water for the workers - refer to work by Christopher Bayly and T N Harper - Forgotten Wars- The End of Britain's Asian Empire) . The workers had no choice to depend of ravines and ponds which they shared with their cattle. The labourers needed to seek their own source of water for survival.

Being neglected without clean drinking water and with increasing cases of disease related unhygienic conditions  among labourers and their children, prompted the young dresser and the workers to seize the lorry which brought clean water the manager's bungalow.   

What follow next was mayhem. In the process of arresting Paliah, the labourers stood against the police. Clash broke out between police and workers. Among those arrested were women, two of them have been raped in police custody. 
    
Note: In the Forgotten Wars- The End of Britain's Asian Empire, Christopher Bayly and T N Harper :

 "Condition at Bukit Sembilan estate were particularly dire: the only supply of water came from ravines and labourers shared it with their cattle; the manager has their water brought from town lorry. The strikers' demand focused on wages and family needs, such as creches (day care centres), better housing and equal pay for women. But the real source of anger was the summary dismissal of workers: "Managers feel that because we reside on the estate we are as much as their property as rubber tress."

The Strait Times - March 4th, 1947




Thursday, October 13, 2016

Kedah Riot 1947: Malayan Indian Female Labour Unionist - Annathayee and Manidammal

The Kedah Riot which was considered to be another uprise of Indian labourers in Malaya - after the infamous Klang Strike 1941, did not only see men standing up against oppressive regime and capitalists, but also recorded involvement of Indian women as labour leaders in organizing labour strikes. 

Not many articles described these women's specific roles and responsibilities and their organisation structure, but their activities were related to the "Youth-Corps" also known as the "Thondar Padai". The Thondar Padai was an informal organisation formed by ex-INA members after WWII. They were easily to be identified by their "khaki" military outfits and would be caring long staffs. Even though, the Thondar-Padai movement existed in many states in Malaya, but their prominent involvements were recorded and associated with The Kedah Riot in 1947. 

Charles Gamba in his work - The Origins of Trade Unionism in Malaya: A Study in Colonial Labour Unrest mentioned the roles played by the Thondar Padai in social reforms among estate workers in Kedah. It has been noted that Thondar Padai not only played roles in volunteering in "Thaipusam" festival in Sungai Petani but also demolishing toddy shops in estates, punishing those patronizing toddy shops and organizing labour strikes demanding better salary and living conditions. Their leaders would also meted out judgement for small family disputes including punishing abusing and alcoholic husbands. One of the known punishments would be tying up to poles or trees (refer to records in Gamba's work on punishment meted out to drunk workers by AM Samy of Harvard Estate Sungai Petani)  

In the Kedah Riot which saw labourers of Bukit Sembilan Estate stood up demanding clean water, the police force was deployed to suppress the strike. Clashed between labourers and police erupted which resulted to one death. 66 labourers were detained and two of them were women leaders. The Thondar Padai was outlawed after this incident. A series of allegations and criminal proceedings were brought against these 66 labourers. One of the cases was against a group of five workers including two women from Bukit Sembilan Estate. I assumed that these women mentioned in the news (reported in The Straits Times dated 21st April 1947) could be the same women leaders. The report mentioned five workers - Govindarajoo, Kuppusamy, Suppiah and two women labourers named Ananthayn and Manidammal. (Ananthayn - could be misspelt for Annathayee).     
           
If these were the same women leaders, then it is assured that women could have been recruited to form part of Thondar Padai's movement. As the Rani of Jhansi Women Regiment under INA saw many dedicated participation of estate women, I presume that these radicalized women would have continued their struggle against British Raj in Thondar Padai movement and participated in labour strikes. 
  

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sambasivam Case Set A Precedent for Right of Appeal to Privy Council in Malay States

The Straits Times dated 24th March 1949 reported the Sambasivam Narayanasamy was sentenced to death for possession of illegal arms. The former Secretary of the Segamat Rubber Workers Union, was sentenced to death by Justice Storr after former had been found of carrying arms.

Sambasivam Narayanasamy
It also stated that Sambasivam pulled out an automatic revolver during a struggle in which he and two Chinese companions fought with three Malays at Bukit Kepong.

Sambasivam was represented by P.V Chary. Chary who served as the Honorary Secretary of Johor Bar Council in 1949 and the first Indian to be appointed to Johore Council of State in 1949.

In his defence, Sambasivam said he did not know where the automatic revolver came from nor the reason why he was attacked by the Malays.

But almost a year later, the same daily carried the news on Sambasivam's release. This was due to the efforts taken by John Thivy who filed an appeal for Privy Council in June 1949. Sambasivam's case should be considered important as it set a precedent for the Malay States which had no right of appeal to the Privy Council in criminal proceedings prior to WW2.

In the case, the judges took a unusual step of retiring to discuss the case privately for an hour and half before delivering judgement in London.

Sambasivam was sentenced to death for illegal possession of an automatic revolver by the Johor Bahru High Court in March 1949.

In the first trial, Sambasivam was acquitted of possessing unauthorized ammunition, but a second retrial was ordered on the possession of revolver. He was convicted and his appeal was dismissed. Interesting to notice that Privy Council noted that there was no certificate from Public Prosecutor authorizing the second trial.

Another point to concern is the admissibility of a statement said to have made by Sambasivam within a few hours of being gravely wounded in the fight.

The news also stated that the Malays involved in the fight described the affair as an unprovoked attack upon them by these three "Communists" . They handed over a revolver which they alleged had been captured from Sambasivam to the local headman.  

The Singapore Free Press publication dated 31st March 1950, further revealed that there was no reasons given why the judges retired and discussed the case in privately for 90 minutes, which considered unusual for the Privy Council. The appeal before the council was done by Counsel D.A Scott Cairns. The Counsel made five points during the appeal:

1. No certification from PP authorizing a second trial
2. Admissibility of a statement given by Sambasivam within a few hours after the attack
3. The Malays who attacked him described the affair as an unprovoked attack by three "Communists"
4. The Malays handed over an automatic revolver to the headman which they alleged captured from Sambasivam
5. Acquitted from charges of possessing illegal ammunition

(I would consider all these points would spelled out some degrees of doubts whether the automatic revolver was indeed in Sambasivam's possession)

Rt. Hon. Sir David Arnold Scott Cairns (5 March 1902 – 8 September 1987)
Privy Council who represented Sambasivam (Source: Wikipedia) 

Lord Simonds, upon releasing Sambasivam announced that their Lordships' reasons would be given in due course.

(Note: 1st January 1985 marks the end of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Malaysia. Prior to 1946, litigants in some of the 11 states in Malaya had the right to appeal to the councils in the respect of civil matter only. Sambasivam's case set a precedent for the Malay States which had no right of appeal to the Privy Council in criminal proceedings prior to WW2. Later, from 1st January 1978 to 31st December 1984, again the Privy council's jurisdiction was limited to civil appeals only)
Strait Times - 24th March 1949

Straits Times - 1st April 1950
Singapore Free Press - 31st March 1950

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Contempt of Court - Tamil Nesan was fined $ 1750 for defending Sambasivam

The Straits Times dated 20th August 1949 reported that a Malayan Tamil daily, Tamil Nesan, was fined for contempt of court for publishing article related to Ganapathy and Sambasivam. The proprietor of Tamil Nesan, Mayandy Chettiar was fined $750 and the editor cum publisher of the newspaper, Athi Nahappan, was fined $1000 in the Supreme Court, Kuala Lumpur.

Both of them ordered to pay half the cost of the case $250. The case was due to an article published in Tamil Nesan titled "Save Sambasivam."

In giving the judgement, Justice Spencer Wilkinson said that the article deliberately attacked the course of justice administered by the court. The article too contained unfounded attack upon the judge sentenced.

Sambasivam Narayanasamy
According to the news, Sambasivam Narayanasamy was charged for illegal arms possession on the 2nd and 3rd March before the Johor Bahru High Court. At the end of the trial, the assessors found Sambasivam was not guilty but the judge, Justice Laville disagreed and order a re-trial. (Also note here that S.A Ganapathy was arrested around the same time - 1st March 1949)

The re-trial of Sambasivam was held in Johor Bahru High Court on the 21 and 22nd March before a different judge (Justice Paul Storr of Ipoh) and different assessors. The judge and the assessors found him guilty as charged and was sentenced to death. His appeal to appeal court was rejected on 28th April 1949 (based on telegram from Lord Listowel -http://www.malaya-ganapathy.com/2014/06/why-more-efforts-were-taken-place-to.html)

The Straits Times - 23rd March 1949

Interesting to note here that that a week earlier to this, S.A Ganapathy was tried and sentenced on the 15th March 1949. Ganapathy was sentenced be to hanged on 4th May 1949 and Sambasivam on the 4th June 1949.  

The judge also commented that the article "Save Sambasivam" suggested that Government of India should take political action in London to prevent Sambasivam's execution without awaiting the result of appeal to the Privy Council. The article further commented that owing to lack of experience to the newly introduced illegal arms possession procedure which resulted Ganapathy's death. For this, the article suggest that the government of India have to interfere to ensure justice is done in Sambasivam's case.

Background of Sambasivam:

Sambasivam was a Secretary of Rubber Worker Union Segamat in Johor. He was arrested on the 13th September 1948 at Bukit Kepong, Johor. At the time of his arrest, he was in the company of two plain clothed Chinese who were allegedly armed. Three Malays armed with knives (parangs) tried to arrest him and it was reported Sambasivam was wounded in the fight. One of the two Chinese was killed and other escaped. An automatic revolver and 10 rounds of ammunition found on Sambasivam during his arrest. Due to his injuries he was hospitalised for more than 5 months and was discharged on 28th February 1949.

Sambasivam was tried at the Johor Bahru High Court on the 2nd and 3rd March 1949 for unlawfully carrying arms. The assessors found him not guilty but the trial judge disagreed and orders a retrial.

A retrial took place on 22nd March 1949 where Sambasivam was found guilty by both assessors (a Malay and an Indian). Sambasivam further appeal at the Court of Appeal.

The court of Appeal dismissed his appeal on 28th April 1948. All the three Appeal Judges (including the Chief Justice) agreed with the Trial Judge. He was sentenced to death. The execution was scheduled to take place on the 4th June 1949. But John Thivy took enormous efforts to save Sambasivam by pursuing latter in person to sign the application for leave to appeal to the Privy Council on the 3rd of June 1949 - a day before his scheduled execution.

Eventually on 31st March 1950, Sambasivam was found not guilty by the Privy Council and he was released and deported to India. He returned to his village, Vanakkampaadi in Arcot Taluk in Tamil Nadu. He was actively involved in social reformation by setting up schools for poor children in his village. This eventually invited unwanted animosity with a few individuals who attacked and killed him. He left behind his wife and four daughters and three sons.

Athi Nahappan with wife Janaki Thevar 


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Sambasivam Not to Die Yet - Singapore Free Press 18th May 1949

SFP - 18th May 1949
The Singapore Free Press dated 18th May 1949, confirmed that Sambasivam was not hanged. The Sultan of Johor had not yet to confirmed the death sentence passed on Sambasivam.
N. Sambasivam
The Representative of the Government of India, John Thivy had made a plea but the final decision does not rest with the government but the Sultan-in Council.
All India Radio reported on 17th May 1949, that the execution of Sambasivam which was scheduled for 9th May 1949, had been stayed as the Sultan was "reconsidering the case"