Saturday, November 17, 2012

Union Leaders Direct $10 Million Firm

The Straits Times 17 October 1947

A $10,000,000 shipping company with two trade union leaders among the directors has been floaated in Singapore. Its name is the India Lanka Steam Navigation Company Ltd.

The biggest company floated in Singapore since the war. An authorized capital of S10,000,000 represents 200,000 shares of $50 each.

The issued capital is $5,000.000 and 99,400 shares are offered for public subscription at par -$10 a share payable on application, S10 on allotment.
The directors are Messrs. K.A Padmanabhan, V. Kanagasabai. K Ponniah, P. Janagaram. P veerasenan, M. Sundararaju, K.P Muthukrishna, S.V Pushpalingam Mudaliar, W.Sena and K.S.P Iyer. 

Mr. Veerasenan is Vice-President of Singapore Federation of  Trade Unions and President of Trade Unions and President of Singapore Habour labour Union.

Mr. Sundararaju is President of Municipal Town Cleaning Labour Union, as SFTU affiliation.

Mr. Veerasenan recently visited Malayan Union ports with the object of organising a Pan-Malayan Waterside Workers' Federation.

The company purposes to:

Build steamers of high and low tonnage, boats, lighters, launches and steamships, promote naval engineering technique among all especially Indians.
Construct improved steamers or rebuild acquired steamers with preferential cabins or uniform cabins as may seem expected.

Purchases Recommended

"Buy, lease and acquire approved navigation steamers, lifters launches and steamships from the Naval Surplus Board and authorities, enter into agreement with any Government of "fuedatory state."

"Establish and acquire dockyard and slipways facilities where soever permitted. Navigate steamers of high and small tonnages. steamships. launches, lighters and boats throughout the length and breath of the navigate high seas subject to local and regional rules and regulations of steam navigation."

Immediate purchase recommended by the directors are of one heavy passenger-cargo ship for $2,000,000 five coastal steamers if medium size at $250,000 each and an ocean-going tug and salvage vessel for $100,00. The working capital will be $1,350.000.
The directors say they want ultimately to operate three liners at $2,000,000 each, eight coastal steamers at $100,000 each.

The company has already earmarked a tug called the Varuna which can be used to carry cargo. The promoters and managing agents of the company are Messrs. P.K.P and Co., 39 the Arcade, Singapore
The shipping agents are Messrs. T.W Harrison and Co.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Telegram to Indian High Commissioner to Britain Defending Gurney's Decision

On the day President of Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Union, Ganapathy 32, was hanged in Pudu Kuala Lumpur (4th May 1949), Lord Listowel - Secretary of State for India and Burma (April 1947 - Jan 1948) and also continued to serve under Attlee as Minister of State for Colonial Affairs from 1948 to 1950, wrote to VK Krishna Menon - Indian High Commissioner for Britain explaining and defending the decision taken by Sir Henry Gurney as  right and just. 

The telegram content:

4th May, 1949

As I indicated in my letter yesterday I informed the High Commissioner for the Federation of Malaya by a most immediate telegram that your government had requested a stay of execution pending a submission of further representation on Ganapathy case. I explained in my letter of the 21st April that the question of the exercise of the prerogative mercy or of respiting a sentence is one entirely for the Ruler of a Malay Sate in respect of the offence committed in the State. The decision of the Sultan of Selangor, supported by the unanimous vote of his State Executive Council, was reached in full knowledge of the views of the Government of India and the High Commissioner has informed me that he did not consider that there was the remotest possibility that any formal representation by the Government of India could alter the position. Further, the facts of the case, as accepted by the Jugde of first instance and his two Assessors and by the unanimous votes of the Court of Appeal gave High Commissioner no ground on which he could have advised the Sultan to intervene at the last hour to suspend sentence, even if such advise could constitutionally have been offered. The High Commissioner, therefore, after the most earnest consideration, did not feel able to take any further action in this matter. As you will be aware the sentence was carried out this morning.

(sgd.) Listowel

V.K. Krishna Menon, Esq

India through her Indian High Commissioner to Britain had played her part until the 11th hour pressuring Ganapathy's case to be revisited with an Indian representation. But Malayan High Commission again and again stated that one of the two assessors in Ganapathy case was an Indian and India should not interfere with the British administration in Malaya. 
Lord Listowel with Gandhi

From the telegram, we knew that the decision to grant reprieve in Ganapathy case, was not referred to the Sultan of Selangor by Gurney. Gurney made up his mind not to approach the Sultan even though the order for respiting the sentence was from British PM Clement Atlee. 

Krishna Menon Speaking in UN - Photo: The Hindu Library
 The question is why Gurney was so determined to "put off" Ganapathy for good? Why Ganapathy was seen as a big threat to the British administration in Malaya?  


Ganapathy to be Grant Reprieve - Urged UK Prime Minister Clement Atlee

Dear Readers,

I would like to express my gratitude and thanks to Dr, Geoff Wade (Senior Fellow Researcher at Institute of Southeast Asia Studies (ISEAS)) in Singapore for his efforts getting this important telegram (which I never taught will get) from Public Record Office in Kew, London.
And also to Ms.Vani in Singapore who introduce me to this great gentlemen. They would definitely remembered as part of this discovery and biography of Ganapathy (in progress now).

This was the last telegram No.560 sent by Secretary of States for the Colonies - Rees Williams addressed to British High Commissioner for Federation of Malaya Sir Henry Gurney as a last effort to save Ganapathy from the noose. It was sent on the 3rd of May 1949 at 20.15hrs (Britain time).

The content of the telegram as follows:
En. Clair


Sent 3rd May, 1949. 20.15hrs.

No.506 Private and Personal.


Following private and personal from Rees-Williams.

Since Listowel's telegram was sent I have spoken with Prime minister who feels strongly that he must ask you to advise Sultan to grant reprieve.

The telegram itself is a monument evidence of British administration divided in execution of Ganapathy. The Prime Minister Atlee, felt that Ganapathy to be grant reprieve. But Gurney has a different plan for Ganapathy.

It also shows that orders from Prime Minister Atlee had been breached. As been pressured by India, British Prime Minister Atlee ordered that Gurney should advise the Sultan of Selangor to grant reprieve in Ganapathy's case. But Gurney went ahead with the execution to "put off" Ganapathy.

Prime Minister Clement Atlee
Why did Gurney give green light to Ganapathy's execution even after the Secretary of Colonies, Rees Williams, who tried to intervene at 11th hour? What was the role played by the Planter Association - the association of European capitalist who owned most of plantation estates in Malaya?

After the WW2, British economy was heavily depended on tins and rubber from Malaya. Without this, Brits economy will be crippled. With PMFTU, under Ganapathy, seemed to be organizing massive strikes in estates all over Malaya, rubber production was badly effected. Thus, agitated estate owners, the Planter Association, wanted to "put off" Ganapathy for good.

Gurney feared that this telegram would have been leaked by his own men and being adamant to "put-off" Ganapathy, could this lead to Gurney's assassination at Fraser Hills on the October, 6th 1951?
Sir Henry Gurney
Funeral Rites - Sir Henry Gurney 9th October 1951
In many interviews, Chin Peng denied his involvement in Gurney's assassination. He claimed that the assassination plot was staged by the local militia. Fraser Hill (where Gurney was killed) situated near Batu Arang which was a strong-hold ground of Indian unionist cum communist Ramasamy Vengadasalam who was also the vice-president of PMFTU. The act of total arrogance and folly of Gurney to see Ganapathy eliminated forever, could have stirred anger and revenge among the local unionists and militias like V. Ramasamy.   
Ramasamy Vengadasalam born in 1920 in Batu Arang, was Vice President Of Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Union in 1948, close allies of S.A Ganapathy. Ramasamy was the most wanted unionist (after Ganapathy) in late 40s. Went underground after the British declared emergency in June 1948. He was shot dead on 22nd September 1956 (Saturday). He was 36 then. He was unknown to many. Not many has written about him. Rajeswary Ambalavanar has mentioned about him in one of her research papers for PhD dissertation back in 1975. News about his death was told to be reported in Strait Times on 23 September 1956.
Strait Times - September 23rd, 1956

Friday, July 20, 2012

GOVT.OF INDIA TO PROTEST - The Straits Times May 7th, 1949

The Saturday edition of The Straits Times dated May 7th, 1949 carried the frustration news by Indian High Commissioner to Britain V.K. Krishna Menon lodged a “vigorous protest to the British Government over the hanging in Malaya of Ganapathy”. It is clear here that Indian Government and their representative John Thivy (who was also the first President of MIC) were kept in the dark over the development in Ganapathy’s case.
Referring to accounts by Thivy John on Ganapathy admitted possessing a loaded revolver; this sounds a bit inconsistent with my findings. There are three reasons to this:

1. Account from Ganapathy’s brother S.A Sargunan on his brother denied of carrying any arms. This was informed by Ganapathy himself to his brother Sargunan when both brothers met in Pudu Prison a few days before execution.

2. Another account by Mr.Sudharman, who is currently living in Singapore, Commander of 7th Regiment of Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA). According to V. Sudharman, a high profile CPM leader like Ganapathy does not need to carry weapon as bodyguards are assigned for his safety.

(According to Mr.Sudharman, there are four main leaders in Indian section of CPM taking care of main units of CPM's operation)
1. R.G Balan – Political unit
2. C.V Kuppusamy – Information and Propaganda Unit
3. S.A Ganapathy – Union Organisations and Movements Unit
4. Guru Devan – Intelligent Unit
(I have a video of interview with Mr.Sudharman and will be publishing it in the near future)
V. Sudharman - Command of 7th Regiment
So, the next question is where were the bodyguards when Ganapathy was arrested at Waterfall Estate - 25 miles from Rawang on the 1st march 1949? Answer to this question is very much controversial at the moment, as I do not posses any evidence to this claim.

3. Ganapathy was believed to have been seeing his fiancĂ© in the estate. This information was revealed to Mr.Kathaiah by a close contact of Ganapathy who actually provided food and shelter during his “underground” period. So, my question will be why a man needs to carry a weapon when meeting his loved ones, as this will put their lives in danger as well.

Another argument will be, if in case Ganapathy wish to surrender to the police, why he needed to carry weapons with him? Isn't it easier to just throw the revolver in the jungle and surrender with empty hands?

Looking into the circumstances of Ganapathy's arrest and the evidences against Ganapathy which were enormous; of his involvement in estate strikes all over the nation (When he has captured, there were six police personnel present to give evidence against Ganapathy), so my assumption will be John Thivy would have got Ganapathy to admit to the allegation and plead guilty.

Since there was a sufficient influence by Indian Government namely Nehru and VK Krishna Menon who regarded highly by British Government and leniency in Malayan Emergency Regulation calling for pardonship for those who surrendered, John Thivy would have taken all these into consideration and convinced that Ganapathy that admitting and pleading guilty to the arms possession charges would set him off the hook.

(All these can be wrong, I am just assuming here based on my findings)
Ganapathy and his comrats - (sitting from left) R. Seeneevasan, S.A Ganapathy, Veerasenan. (Standing from left) Bharathimogan, K. Appu, Puliyakkudi Muthaiah, M.A Hamid

The Straits Times - May 7, 1949



V.K Krishna Menon
Indian High Commissioner in London
MR.V.K. Krishna Menon, Indian High Commissioner in London, will today lodge a ‘vigorous protest to the British Government over the hanging in Malaya of Ganapathy, 24-year-old Indian former president of the now-defunct Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions.

A message from New Delhi, also referring to expected London protest, quotes as Indian Government announcement as saying that the latter felt the penalty was excessive that it deeply deplored the execution.
Ganapathy was executed after having been found guilty and sentenced to death by Selangor court on charges carrying a revolver and ammunition.

In London, the attitude of Colonial Office is believed to be that under the Malayan Constitution the British Government had no rights to interfere, since Selangor us a protected State.

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

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

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 had committed no act of violence and said he was hiding in the Malayan jungle for about five months, during most of which he was ill.

Ganapathy, the report is understood to have said, 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 him “for self-protection”
When arrested while resting under a rubber tree, Ganapathy told Mr. Thivy, he did not attempt to resist.

PLEAS FAIL TO SAVE GANAPATHY - The Straits Times – Thursday May 5th 1940

The day after Ganapathy was execution, the Strait Times carried the news of his death with President of Malayan Indian Congress Budh Singh commenting on fail attempt to save Ganapathy.
Note the date when since the date Ganapathy was arrested to his execution. All started on the March 1st and ended in May 4th 1949 – in 2 months. This is how fast the British wanted to get rid of Ganapathy.

The Straits Times – Thursday May 5th 1940 Page 1

From Our Own Correspondent
Budh Singh- President of MIC
Several petition to the Selangor Executive Council including one from the Government of India, failed to save A Ganapathy, former president of Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions, from the gallows.
He was hanged in Pudu Goal this morning for unlawful possession of a revolver and ammunition.
“Congress circles did their best to save Ganapathy’s life, but the emergency law is rigid and so nothing could be done,” said Mr.Budh Singh, president of the Malayan Indian Congress, this afternoon.
The sentence imposed on Ganapathy on the March 15 was confirmed by the Selangor Council on Apr. 23 following the dismissal of appeal by the Court of Appeal.
Ganapathy was arrested on the March 1 on Waterfall Estate after he had refused to put up his hands and had shown fight.
A Reuter report from London said that the Colonial Under-Secretary. Mr. Arthur Rees Williams was expected to reply to a question on Ganapathy execution in the Commons tonight.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

“Justice Done In Ganapathy Case” - Chief Secretary of Federation, Alec Newboult

The Straits Times dated May 13, 1949 after eight days of Ganapathy execution, Alec Newboult, the Chief Secretary of Federation gave a press statement stressing Ganapathy was given a fair trial and justice is done in his case.

There was a general doubt on why the Ganapathy was not pardoned by the Malays rulers but in the case of Kamarulzaman Teh, the Malay ruler exercised their rights to grand pardon for Kamarulzaman for the same accusation- possession or arms. By turning the whole responsibility of pardoning to the Malay rulers, Alec wished to see the British administration acted clean with no blood in their hands.

Why Privy Council was not engaged? 

Even though Ganapathy’s appeal was brought to the attention of the Sultan of Selangor, the Malayruler was not able to act alone. Exercising his rights towards his subjects, the ruler needed to seek blessing form the Executive Councils and British administration. Things also not very clear why Privy Council was engaged for Ganapathy (Take note that Privy Council was arranged by Indian Government and its representative in the case of Sambasivam, which eventually granted his a pardon and Sambasivam was deported to India)
The Straits Times - Friday May 13, 1949 Page 3
“Justice Done In Ganapathy Case”

From Our Staff Correspondent

JUSTICE was done in Ganapathy case, declared the Chief Secretary of Federation, Alec Newboult, answering at the official press conference here this morning. The administration of law was the responsibility of the Federation Government and did not concern any other Government, he added.

“The prerogative of mercy in the Malay State is vested in the rulers, who act after consultation with the Executive Councils. The Secretary of State for Colonies has no constitutional standing in exercise of the prerogative of mercy, “he said.

“The facts of this case are clear and the Government is fully satisfied that the decision taken by the ruler was right and justice has been done.”


Replying to a question on reports that the Indian Government was alleging discourtesy by the Malayan Government, Sir Alec said: “This Government is not obliged to inform other Governments of what happens in its own courts.”

He added that the Government of Indian Representative in Malaya, Mr. J.A Thivy had been kept fully informed of the progress of the case.

“The execution of Ganapathy was an offence under the emergency regulations. It was strictly in accordance with the law, and the procedure adopted was the same as in every other case under emergency regulations.”

Statement Likely On Ganapathy - The Strait Times, Thursday May 12th, 1949

The Straits Times dated May 12, 1949 reported that editorial of two local Malay newspapers; Majlis and Warta Negara echoed the aspiration of colonial British as they labeled Ganapathy as “public enemy” and protest Indian Government intervention in Ganapathy case. Ganapathy did not receive a fair trial as he was captured on the 1st March 1949, sentenced to death on the 15th March 1949 and hanged on the 4th May 1949.

Despite international pressure to re-examine the case, British colonial government under Henry Gurney stubbornly determined to send Ganapathy to gallows as the pressure from the United Planting Association of Malaya was enormous. Malayan planters and estate owners were mostly Europeans, Scottish and Asiatics, were very much in lost since more and more strikes were organized by Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions under leadership of Ganapathy. In order to bring end to these losses, estate owners started to pressure British administration to “silence” many unionists especially their leader, Ganapathy.

As to leverage the situation here in Malaya, local newspaper editorial were summoned to echo the aspiration of the British administration.
The Straits Times - Thursday May 12, 1949. Page 5

Statement Likely On Ganapathy

From Our Staff Correspondent
KUALA LUMPUR, Wednesday.

A STATEMENT on the execution of A Ganapathy former President of the Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions, last week will be made at the official Press conference here tomorrow by the Chief Secretary, Sir Alec Newboult, the Strait Times understands.

Ganapathy was executed after being convicted of possession of a revolver and six rounds of ammunition.

The Indian Government has made protest in London regarding the execution.

Meanwhile, two Malay newspapers have made strong editorial comments on the protest of the Indian Government and Press.

Majlis, the Kuala Lumpur paper said that the protest over the execution of Ganapathy means that the Indian Government was trying to interfere with administration of justice and the internal affairs of Malaya.

Warta Negara, the Penang paper said Indian criticism of the Ganapathy case were unwarranted.

It added that even the Indian Government would not tolerate the existence of a public enemy, such as Ganapathy was, within its borders.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

UN To Discuss Ganapathy’s Case - A Protest Move by WFTU.

UN To Discuss Ganapathy’s Case? A protest move by WFTU

K. Sarangapani
Another prominent English daily publication in Singapore back in the 40s was Indian Daily Mail who ran by K.Sarangabani. Sarangabani also owned the Tamil Murasu (Tamil daily) in Singapore.
(My apologies to the readers as the print which obtained from the National Library of Singapore microfilm was not very clear)

If we are to think that Ganapathy was just a local union leader fighting for a bunch of Indians workers in estates, then this news surely proves us wrong.

It was reported that World Federation of Trade Unions staged a protest note to the United Nation on the assassination of Ganapathy and Veerasenan.  

Note the strong language used as a condemnation over the act of the British administration in Malaya as was seen that union leaders literally were “hunted down”.
Last know photograph of Ganapathy taken in prison
Tamil Murasu dated 5th May 1949

Indian Daily Mail – Monday May 9, 1949 Page 1

UN To Discuss Ganapathy’s Case?

WFTU Protest to Peace Body against Assassination In Malaya

PARIS, May 8 - The World Federation of Trade Union has protested to the United Nations Organisation against the assassination in Malaya of Mr. A. Ganapathy chairman of the Pan Malaya Federation of Trade Unions and Mr.P.Veerasenan, his successor, in a communique published here today.

The communique state:“The WFTU has learned through the press the assassination by the British authorities of the Chairman of Pan Malaya Federation of Trade Unions, Mr.Ganapathy, hanged on May 4th in prison of Kuala Lumpur and of his successor Mr. Veerasenan, slaughtered by a patrol.”

(Mr. Veerasenan, according to a police statement, was killed last week by a Gurkha patrol as he was fleeing with Chinese from a guerrilla camp in Negri Sembilan.

The communique added: The WFTU had already been informed by the Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions of the inhumane measures taken by the British authorities and the persecution ordered by them on the occasion of the colonial war in Malaya against the Malayan workers and the representative trade union organization.

The fact that these measures and persecutions have been officially notified to us by the Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions - the suspension of this organization by the British authorities on June 12, 1948; the mass arrest, and the proceedings taken against trade union leaders – all this confirms the veracity of latest press reports.”

Flagrant Violation of Human Rights

“The WFTU therefore protests against these barbarian acts, these fragrant violations of the most elementary rights of man, rights universally recognized by all governments including the British.

“Paying tribute to the memory of Mr.Ganapathy and Veerasenan, the WFTU officially informs the United Nation of this fresh violation of trade union liberties and of these attacks on the life and rights of man. The WFTU energetically protests also to the British Government." Reuters
Ganapathy and Veerasenan

Jananayagam - 5th May 1945 - Ganapathy's Short History

Jananayagam (Democracy) published on the 5th May 1949 carried the life story of Ganapathy on its first page - "Thukkilidapatta Ganapath...