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 (Former Senior Fellow Researcher at Institute of Southeast Asia Studies (ISEAS)) in Singapore for his efforts getting this important telegram (which I never taught existed) 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:

OUTWARD TELEGRAM
FROM THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES
En. Clair

TO FEDERATION OF MALAYA (Sir H. Gurney)

Sent 3rd May, 1949. 20.15hrs.

EMERGENCY
No.506 Private and Personal.

Ganapathy.

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 was divided in execution of Ganapathy. The Prime Minister Atlee, felt that Ganapathy to be granted reprieve. But Gurney had 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 for good.

Prime Minister Clement Atlee
Why did Gurney give green light to Ganapathy's execution even after the Secretary of Colonies, Rees Williams, whose attempted to intervene at 11th hour failed? What was the role played by the United Planter Association of Malaya and Rubber Growers Association in Britain?

After the WW2, British economy was heavily depended on tins and rubber exports from Malaya. Without these two commodities, Britain's economy would be crippled. With PMFTU, under Ganapathy, seemed to be organising massive strikes in estates and tin mines all over Malaya, tin and rubber production were badly effected.

Interesting to note that in a reply telegram to the Prime Minister, Gurney feared that this telegram would have been leaked by his own men as it was sent without encryption.

And for 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 unionists like Ramasamy Vengadasalam. Ramasamy was the Vice-President of PMFTU under Ganapathy. The act of total arrogance and folly of Gurney to see Ganapathy eliminated, could have stirred anger and revenge among the local unionist militias like Ramasamy.  
Ramasamy Vengadasalam (photo source : Malaysiakini)

Note on V. Ramasamy

Ramasamy Vengadasalam born in 1920 in Batu Arang, was the 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. Like many trade unionists, he went underground after the emergency declared in June 1948. He was shot dead on 22nd September 1956 (Saturday). He was 36 then. He was not known to many and 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 reported in The Strait Times on 23 September 1956.
The Strait Times - September 23rd, 1956
 

Newpapers in Tamil Nadu Protested Against Ganapathy's Sentence

The Singapore Free Press 19th April 1949 The Singapore Free Press dated 19th April 1949, (around two weeks before Ganapathy to be execu...