Monday, June 13, 2011

PMFTU is Not Banned in Singapore - Edward Gent

On the 19th of June 1948, the British mouthpiece Singapore Straits Times tried to instigate the idea banning Pan Malaya Federation of Trade Union in Singapore. Singapore Federation of Trade Union was doing quite well in Singapore under the leadership of P.Veerarasenan. As PMFTU organised 89 estate strikes (an average of two strikes on weekly basis) in 1947, Straits Times started to resume the role of pressuring the British High Commissioner in Malaya, Sir Gerard Edward James Gent.
Edward Gent was much more a reasonable administrator, unlike his successor Henry Gurney who was arrogant. In a meeting with representative of British Government, Edward Gent refused at one point to a suggestion of arresting S.A Ganapathy in Singapore. According to Gent, PMFTU only banned in Federation of Malaya not in Singapore. But sad to read on the departure of Edward Gent. Gent died in plane crash on his way returning to the United Kingdom in a Avro York transport aircraft of the Royal Air Force Douglas DC-6 of Scandinavian Airlines System near Northwood, north London on the 4th July 1948 (two weeks after this article published). There are a certain unsolved mystery and unanswered questions regarding his death. After his departure, entered Henry Gurney resumed the position of British High Commissioner in Malaya on the 1st October 1948. Using main stream media, the British planters associations begun to "push" their agenda through to persuade Henry Gurney to "finish off" union struggles in Malaya.

The Straits Times
Singapore, Sat., June 19, 1948.


This week has seen the removal from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore of the headquarters officials of the Pan malayan Federation of Trade Unions, in consequences of the action of the Federation Government in declaring the P.M.F.T.U and all the State and settlement organisations illegal.

It appears that although banned everywhere else in Malaya, the P.M.F.T.U still carries on through its branch in Singapore.

This is not right. If the Federation bans an organisation, Singapore ought not to provide sanctuary for the organisation, even though it is in separate colony.

On the other hand, there is no reason why Singapore should automatically follow the Federation and ban its own S.F.T.U. In the first place, the Federation Government introduced its new legislation on federations of trade unions without prior consultation with Singapore. In the second place, the position with regard to lawlessness and violence is not nearly as bad here as it is on the mainland. When the Singapore Government banned the May Day procession and mass meeting the S.F.T.U protested strongly, but it revoked its foolish challenge to Government and there was no resort to murder squads after-wards.

A very necessary warning to the S.F.T.U on dictatorial methods is given in the Colonial Secretary's annual report, published this week, but it is to be hoped that this does not mean that the Singapore Government is thinking of banning the S.F.T.U. So far, there has been comparatively little resort to industrial or political murder on this island, although how long that will last, no man can tell.

It will be better if the Singapore Government can follow a policy with regard to labour organisations which takes account of the the different circumstances in the Colony, in the hope that the S.F.T.U in particular will be persuaded by moderate and constitutional Left-Wing elements to steer clear of the force that are responsible for the abominable murders committed on the mainland during the last two months.

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