Friday, October 25, 2013

Ganapathy’s Execution Echo In India & British Parliament

Indian Daily Mail dated Friday 6th May 1949, reported anger and protest on Ganapathy execution in India and British Parliament.

(My apologies as the copy kept in National Library Singapore was not very clear. But I did my best to extract as much as possible from the copy)

Kamaraj - President of Tamil Nadu Congress

The first portion for the page covered the remarks given by Kamaraj Nadar President of Tamilnadu Congress over the execution of Ganapathy. This could be one of the earliest comments given by Indian leaders on Ganapathy’s death. This may one of the reasons strong protests were filed by Indian government against British administration in Malaya.

“British govt in Malaya have done a great injustice to India by ordering the execution of one of her sons in total disgraced of protest lodged by the Indian authorities in Malaya.” – Kamaraj President of TamilNad Congress.

The second portion covered the news of Philip Piratin questioning Colonial Under-secretary David Rees-Williams in the House of Common on the consequences of Ganapathy’s hanging.

The third news in the page was about shock among Indians in India over the execution of Ganapathy. Definitely the British administration in Malaya kept the Indian leaders in India through formal correspondents over the development in Ganapathy’s case. But surely, Indians in India were not kept informed of the plea for mercy made by Indian people on behalf of Ganapathy to the Sultan of Selangor.

Ganapathy’s Execution Echo In India & British Parliament

It Is A Great Injustice To India By British – Kamaraj Nadar
India Govt. Urged to Protest to Malayan Government

BOMBAY May 5- News of the executed of the Indian labour leader of Malaya A. Ganapathy, was prominently published in Indian evening newspapers yesterday under such headlines as “Ganapathy executed: Malay Sultan ignores India’s appeal”

No immediate reaction was available in the capital but in Madras, Ganapathy’s native province, Kamaraj Nadar, President of the Tamilnad Congress Committee, stated, “British govt in Malaya have done a great injustice to India by ordering the execution of one of her sons in total disgraced of protest lodged by the Indian authorities in Malaya.

Mr. Nadar who to shortly to visit Malaya in a goodwill tour, added: "It is surprising that so soon after the Commonwealth Prime Ministers Congress British agents in Malaya should have taken such precipitated action spoil the good effects of the conference”

Feelings Justified

Mr. S.R Venkataraman, member of the Servants of India Society which watches Indian interest overseas, said the execution “justified the mixed reception given in India to the London Conference decisions”

He urged the Indian Government to lodge an emphatic protest with the British military administration in Malaya –Reuter.
Phil Piratin
British Communist Party MP  

Not In Conformity With Western Way of Life – PHILIP PIRATIN

LONDON, May 5 – Colonial Under-secretary David Rees-Williams yesterday made a statement in the House of Commons on the execution in Malaya of A.Ganapathy, a 21-years old Indian former President of Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions.

(Not Clear)
When Mr. Rees-Williams ended his statement Mr.Piratin further asked, “Are you aware that the announcement you have just made will be met with widespread disapproval in the labour movements in this country as Mr.Ganapathy was a leading trade unionist in Malaya? Are you equally aware that this penalty of death for carrying arms in Malaya is something which does not conform with what the Minister has often declared as the western way of life?”

Mr. Rees-Williams made no further reply – Reuter.

David Rees-William
Secretary of States for the Colony

Hansard record between Phil Piratin and Rees Williams 
(taken from

HC Deb 04 May 1949 vol 464 cc1008-9 1008

Mr. Piratin
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the appeal by Mr. Ganapathy against sentence of death in Malaya has been heard; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Rees-Williams
On 1st March last this man, when challenged near Rawang in Selangor by a party of special constables, showed fight and grabbed a revolver which he had in his belt. After a short struggle he was overpowered, and the revolver was found to be loaded with six rounds of ammunition. Mr. Ganapathy was charged and convicted of unlawful possession of arms and ammunition under the Emergency Regulations. Both assessors (one European and one Indian) found him guilty without retiring. His appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed. The Ruler in Council has declined to exercise the prerogative of mercy in his favour, and he was executed this morning.

Mr. Piratin
Is the Minister aware that the announcement he has just made will be met with widespread disapproval in the Labour movement in this country as Mr. Ganapathy was a leading trade unionist in Malaya; and, further, is the Minister equally aware that this penalty of death for the carrying of arms in Malaya is something which does not conform with what he has often declared is the Western way of life, and will he therefore remember what he previously said in this particular matter?

(From Our Correspondent)

MADRAS May 5 – Report of the execution of Ganapathy had been a great shock to the public here since there had been no information at all whether the Sultan of Selangor in the Council had considered the plea for mercy made by Indian people on behalf of Ganapathy and when the plea had been rejected.
His Majesty Sultan Selangor -Sultan Hisamuddin  

Bandits Have No Political Aims - Dr.B.V Keskar

The Straits Times - 9th May 1949

Statement by Indian Deputy Minister for External Affairs Dr Keskar showed Indian Government’s disappointment over information received with regards to Ganapathy’s case.

This went along with Nehru’s remarks stating folly act by the British administration for hanging Ganapathy and refused to comment over his death.

I am not very much agreeing to the statement that the unrest was just “nothing but bandits having no political aims”. I feel that it is wrong to brandish Ganapathy as bandit in the first place, and totally not agreeing with Keskar as there was a strong political aim to established a socialist soviet state in Malaya. Miners struggle in Batu Arang proved this beyond doubts:

In the vast domain of the Malayan Collieries of Batu Arang in Selangor was a "state within a state": "Here the management saw its elaborate controls over a 6,000-strong workforce as modern and enlightened. But it was… most severe. In March 1937, a soviet was established, and Malaya’s principal source of power was paralysed by strikes. It was part of a wave of protest that enveloped the mines and the rubber estates along the west coast, involving as many as 100,000 workers. The Batu Arang Soviet was crushed ruthlessly by 250 police and 200 Malay troops". But this did not prevent the rise of workers’ resistance which became, at one stage, the major base for the MCP.

There was a fall out between the CPM and Ganapathy as stated by Rajeswari Ambalavanar in her book. This was due to Ganapathy was more interested in fighting for rights of workers instead of political gains. But later years, after the emergency was declared, the struggle path changed. Ganapathy may have realized that political gains will ensure rights for workers.

Interesting also to note broadcast news over Radio Malaya where Ganapathy and Veerasenan were branded as outlaws and criminals. Also to note a photograph of light mobile tanks of Chinese Communist.

“Bandits Have No Political Aims”

DR.B.V Keskar
 Dr.B.V Keskar Indian Deputy Minister for External Affairs, who recently visited Malaya, told Reuter today that Malayan unrest could not be described a struggle for liberation.

He described the insurgents in Malaya as “nothing else but bandits, having no political objective.” He did not think the British were using a “Communist scare to suppress people’s independence.”

Referring to the execution of the former PMFTU president, A. Ganapathy for unlawful possession of arms, Dr. Keskar said,

“We are not trying to question the authorities’ right to try him. What we are concerned about is that they did not have the ordinary courtesy to consider our recommendation.

“If they did, they did not keep us informed.”

In a broadcast talk over Radio Malaya last night, Mr. Alex Josey said: “Ganapathy was a trade union leader who turned bandit. He was ganged last week, because, contrary to the law he carried a loaded revolver. He tried to use it when he was arrested.

“Veerasenan was another trade union leader who turned bandit. The day before Ganapathy was hanged Veerasenan was shot dead after a gun battle.

“Both these men were outlaws. They died because they placed themselves deliberately outside the law.”

Nehru on Anti-India Activities

New-Delhi, Wednesday.

Anti-Indian activities in British Commonwealth should “be kept separate: from India’s relationship with Britain, Pandit Nehru, India’s Prime Minister, said yesterday.

Mr. Nehru, discussing India’s recent decision to remain in the Commonwealth said:

“I think it a good augury for the future that the old conflict between India and England should be resolved in this friendly way, which is honourable to both countries.

“I know that much is being done in parts of the Commonwealth which are exceedingly distasteful to us and against which we have struggled in the past.

“That is a manner to be dealt with by us as a sovereign nation. Let us not mix up things which should be kept separate.”


Following his representations to Lord Listowel on Tuesday regarding Sambasivam, who is now under sentence of death in Malaya, High Commission for India, yesterday called on the Prime Minister Mr.Attlee.

Later he called on Mr.Creech-Jones, Colonial Secretary.

It is understood that Mr. Menon conveyed to Mr.Attlee and Mr.Creech-Jones the feelings of the Government and people of India over the case of Sambasivam and pressed for staying of the execution of the death sentence pending a full re-examination of the case-Reuter

(Statement expected on Ganapathy execution – P5)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

R.G BALAN - The Political Head of Indian Section of CPM

R.G Balan was one of CPM Central Committee Members. He was arrested much earlier than Ganapathy. He was arrested on the 30th May 1948 before the declaration on Emergency in Malaya.

According to Prof Cheah Boon Kheng (taken form his unpublished work - Memoir of R. Balan, Vice-President of the Malayan Communist Party)

"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.

During the period 1946–8 Balan was a prominent trade unionist. He had organized workers on rubber estates in Perak and was a representative of the Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions. In this capacity he helped organize a series of strikes, and the authorities arrested and detained him on 30 May 1948, just before the Emergency Regulations were introduced. In The Communist Insurrection in Malaya. 1948-1960 (London: Frederick Muller, 1975), a semi-official account of the Emergency, Anthony Short describes Balan as an exceptionally skillful and successful trade union organizer who was within six hours of taking to the jungle when he was arrested.

Balan had joined the propaganda unit of the Malayan Communist Party during the Japanese Occupation, editing its Tamil news-sheets and serving as a member of the party’s central committee. After the war, he emerged into prominence as one of three MCP representatives who attended the British Empire Conference of Communist Parties in London in 1947, the other two being Wu Tien Wang and Rashid Mydin. In 1955, while still in detention, he was elected vice-president of the MCP. In 1960, after being held for 12 years, he was released under certain restrictions, one of which was that he should forthwith eschew politics. Since then many friends and scholars had urged Balan to tell his story, in particular to explain what had led him to communism, his experience of the jungle life, his relationships with MCP leaders, and his activities as a labour leader. He began recording his memories in three sessions with me in 1974, but we were unable to complete the project because shortly after those sessions he fell ill and passed away. The truncated manuscript of his memoir then got lost among my papers, and I only found it again recently.

Abdullah C.D., Suriani remember R.G. Balan

When I met them, Abdullah CD and Suriani Abdullah remembered well one of their Indian comrades R.G. Balan who worked underground in Tapah-Kampar area as a Communist Party of Malaya's Tamil publicist during Japanese occupation. After the war, R.G. Balan became a labour organiser until he was detained without trial by the colonial authority on 30 May, 1948 and not released until 1961.

In 1955, while he was under detention, R.G. Balan was appointed a vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Malaya. They first met R.G. Balan in Ipoh immediately after the war had ended and when most of the underground party members emerged as victors of the Pacific War in Malaya.

In  'Pursuit of Mountain Rats', the author Anthony Short who was a former British soldier stationed in Singapore during the early Emergency period acknowledged and attributed R G Balan as 'the great strike promoter'.

According to Short,

"By mid-may 100 police were disposed on another estate in Johore where another big strike was in progress, but the most serious development was reckoned to be in lower Perak where R. G. Balan, a skillful communist union organiser, was running government officers ragged.

Eighty-five strikes were recorded in Perak during 1948 and nearly all of them in the first six months of the year and the most serious of these were attributed to Balan, but the strikes and wholesale evictions of Klapa Bali and Lima Blas estates were reckoned to be Balan's last success when he was arrested on May 30th.
- In Pursuit of Mountain Rats, page 91-92. Published by Cultured Lotus 2000.

John Brazier, the Trade Union  Adviser to Malaya was said to face uphill task to convince the estate workers to return to negotiation table as long as R.G Balan was in-charge of the strike. The British needed to get rid of Balan in order to allow them to persuade workers to return to work.  

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

PMFTU Denies Ties With Communist - The Malay Mail -17th February 1948

I received this precious newspaper cutting of The Malay Mail dated 17th February 1948, from a friend of mine, Janarthani Arumugam. The paper carried news of 2nd anniversary meeting of Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Union which was held at Lucky World in Singapore. Ganapathy, who spoke in the meeting denied ties with communist. Calling two Singapore edited English newspapers as “author of rumours”, for unnecessarily condemning that PMFTU as “communist influenced” in their editorials.

Note: Thank you Jana, for allowing the news to be posted here

Monday, September 30, 2013

Gurney ascertaining the legal position regarding appeal to the Privy Council in Ganapathy's case

Another controversial telegram sent out by Gurney on the 2nd May 1949 that exposed the possibilities of engaging the Privy Council in Ganapathy's case. In the last paragraph of the telegram, Gurney was ascertaining the legal position regarding to the Privy Council. Who actually initiated application for leave to appeal to the Privy Council? Why Gurney was so concern on the status of the Privy Council? Was John Thivy who supposed to be the Indian Government Representative in Ganapathy's case took a softer approach in the case by leaving his countryman's faith in the hands of the British in Malaya? 


D. 2nd May, 1949
R. 2nd May, 1949 11.05 hrs

No. 510 Confidential

Your telegram No.491


Execution is fixed to take place at dawn on Wednesday 4th May. Suggest statement might be in the following terms. Begins.

On the 1st March this year Ganapathy was found on a rubber estate near Rawang Selangor by the Manager of the estate and party of special constables. When challenged he showed fight and grabbed a revolver which he had in his belt. After a short struggle he was overpowered and the revolver was found to be loaded with six rounds of ammunition. He was subsequently charged and convicted of unlawful possession of arms and ammunition under the Regulations. Both assessors (one European and one Indian) found him guilty without retiring. His appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed and sentence of death has been confirmed by the Ruler in Council. He was represented by Counsel both at the trial and before the Court of Appeal. I have already informed the House of the reasons which have necessitated the enactment of regulation under which this man was convicted, and I am informed there were in this case no special circumstances nor reasons why the law should not take its course. Ends

2. In his defence Ganapathy admitted to have gone into hiding at the beginning of the emergency and alleged that the revolver had been given to him by an unknown Chinese friend and that he intended to surrender it to the authorities. His story was not believed either by the Judge or the Assessors.

3. Further facts concerning Ganapathy are that he was born in 1917 in the Madras District and came to Malaya in 1929. He subsequently obtained employment in Singapore and joined the Communist Party in 1939. From 1943 to 1945 he was an instructor in the Indian National Army. After the liberation he resumed work for the Communist Party in organizing the Indian Section of the General Labour Union of which he was appointed Secretary in November, 1945. During 1946 and 1947 he worked actively to extend the control of the General Labour Union and promote labour unrest. He was reported to be a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Malayan Communist Party. In January, 1947 he was appointed President of the Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions and in March that year attended Asian Relations Conference at Delhi as delegate from Malaya. He returned to Malaya in September, 1947 and disappeared on the outbreak of the emergency.

4. Your paragraph 2, I could not agree with the second sentences of your proposed reply. I am advised that it is very doubtful whether the British Adviser can exercise his constitutional power of advice under Clause 4 of the Selangor Agreement on the exercise by the Ruler of his prerogative (repeat prerogative) of pardon. Relevant provisions in the Federation Agreement are at Clause 15 (2) and at item No.12 of the second schedule. I would also refer you to paragraph 100 of the Constitutional Working Committee Report dated December, 1946 and Governor‘s M.V telegram No.1086 of the 4th November, 1946 particularly with reference to the fact that a Ruler is not permitted under Muslim Law to delegate the prerogative of pardon and mercy. The right of the British Adviser exercise his power of advice in the matter would certainly never be admitted and it would be argued that prerogative is bound up with Islam law and religion and as such is expressly excluded from the scope of such advise. Any suggestion that this prerogative is limited by or subject to the exercise of power of advice would certainly create a political storm here and I must ask that that it should be avoided.

5. If you are pressed to explain that constitutional position, I recommend that you reply as in the first sentence of your proposed reply in your paragraph 3.

6. I am ascertaining the legal position regarding appeal to the Privy Council and will telegraph further within the next 24 hours.

Gurney wrote this letter to Rees Williams (Secretary of State for the Colonies) on 2nd May 1949, two days before Ganapathy to be hanged.

In the letter, Gurney reconfirmed the status of the case where the date 4th May 1949 would be the execution date for Ganapathy. Further, he re-established a brief history of Ganapathy and his involvement in CPM and his representation to the Asian Relations Conference at Delhi in March 1947. It is quite interesting to know that he had only returned to Malaya in September 1947. There was an account by Abdullah CD in his memoir that he and Ganapathy had toured India especially Tamil Nadu meeting local leaders. Abdullah stated that there was warm welcome for Ganapathy who was celebrated as a national hero especially in Tamil Nadu. This visit would have created an impact among the Indian leaders in India. Upon learning Ganapathy was hanged, may Indian leaders were furious and disappointed with British administration in Malaya. Example, the Indian Socialist Party went to the extent to pressure Indian Government to stop their aid to Malaya (reported in Daily Indian Mail- 7th May 1949)

Another interesting point is the prerogative rights of the Ruler to pardon. Gurney stated that “Ruler is only permitted under Muslim Law to delegate the prerogative of pardon and mercy” with reference made to Federation Agreement Clause 15 (2) and item No.12 of the second schedule, Paragraph 100 of the Constitutional Working Committee Report dated December, 1946 and Governor‘s M.V telegram No.1086 of the 4th November, 1946.

Kamarulzaman Teh
If the Sultan would only exercise his rights in accordance of the Islamic law in the country, then why Kamarulzaman Teh has committed the offense - arms possession - was granted pardon from his royal majesty of Pahang? (Remember that the constitution only permits Sultan to interfere in the customary Malay rules and Islamic Law. Accusation of possessing arms or ammunition is a criminal offense not related to Malay customary rules and Islamic Law)

In the case of Sambasivam, for the same offence, why matter was referred to the Sultan of Johor to grant reprieve?
Please note also Gurney’s ultimatum that there shall be a serious repercussion of “political storm” if British Adviser would go out of his “scope” in advising the Sultan in the case of Ganapathy.

And in the last para, Gurney ascertained that he will be looking into “legal position regarding appeal to the Privy Council” which sounds very fishy as it was coming from a person who determined to "put off" Ganapathy and unrest among labours in Malaya. Or this could be also a sincere intention from a gentle man or could be another eye-wash attempt to prove that all possible aspects and ways of legality to save Ganapathy were carried out (in case the matter to be dig-out for investigation in future). This phrase sounded like crocodile tears to me rather than a sincere effort from a High Commissioner to save a prominent unionist.

Based on my previous findings, John Thivy was involved in Ganapathy’s appeal. But still remains a puzzle why Privy Council was not engaged. Why Thivy was not involved in engaging the Privy Council as in Sambasivam's case? Why the fate of Ganapathy was left in hands of British who determined to put him off?

Did the British trick Thivy? Or Thivy could make to believe that fair justice will be served in Ganapathy case as the Brits were known for upholding justice?

Under any of these circumstances, Thivy could have learned his lesson that putting his countrymen’s faith in hands of Brits could prove fatal. Therefore, Thivy took enormous efforts to save Sambasivam’s life by pursuing Sambasivam in person to sign the application for leave to appeal to the Privy Council on the 3rd of June 1949 (one day before his was about to be hanged). The Straits Budgets reported this under headline “Sambasivam Case - Move to Appeal to Privy Council” – dated June 1949.
The Strait Budget - June 1949

(Extracted from The Straits Times - June 1949


Move to Appeal To Privy Council

From Our Staff Correspondent

Kuala Lumpur, June 3

The execution of Sambasivam, former secretary , it is understood, of the Rubber Workers’ Union in Segamat which was to have taken place at Johor Bahru prison tomorrow morning, has been stayed by his action in giving notice of an application for leave to appeal to the Privy Council.

Sambasivam is under sentence of death imposed under the Emergency Regulation for carrying arms.

The stay of the action was granted automatically last night after Sambasivam had signed the application for leave to appeal presented to him in the prison by Mr. John Thivy, the Representative of the Government of Indian in Malaya.

The notice was immediately served on the Mentri Besar of Johore, Dato Onn bin Ja’afar. The superintendent of the prison, the Legal Advisor and the Registrar of Supreme Court here and copies were sent to the High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney and the Chief Secretary Sir Alec Newboult.

Tired Out

Mr. Thivy, who appeared tired out this morning, told the straits Times that he had not seen the High Commissioner since middle of last month although there had been frequent telephoned calls and correspondence.

He was in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday finalising documents that then went down to Johore.

He said that the Indian government had taken the cost of Sambasivam appeal and had engage solicitors locally and in London.

Within three weeks Mr. Thivy said, Sambasivam must have filed the necessary papers in London, deposited the necessary fund engage solicitors.

The Indian High Commissioner in London would watch the case there. There was no indication as to how long it would take before the Privy Council heard the application for leave to appeal.

Appeal On Law

Mr.Thivy said that the appeal was beads on points of law. When he saw him in prison Sambasivam was still weak from wounds received in the skirmish at the time of his arrest.

The case of Sambasivam gained further publicity last month after the execution of Ganapathy former President of PMFTU and the representation made by the Indian Government through Mr.Thivy to secure reprieve.

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...