Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thondar Padai under A.M Samy Leadership Blamed for Labour Unrest


AM Samy
The Straits Times dated 3rd March 1947 reported that the Kedah Strikes had been crushed with 12 rioters were put to trial and jailed.

A special Bill also to be introduced at the Malayan Union Advisory Council meeting banning military uniforms.

It also reported several hundred labourers including women and children took part in riot and fought against police at Bedong, Kedah.

Due to the fear of wide spreading strike, the managers in rural area in Kedah had sent their wives and children to Penang.

Duty Commissioner for Labour Kedah, J.T Rea, blamed the unrest on Thodar Padai lead by A.M Samy and other union leaders. The troubled was confined to Indians estate employees who numbered at 26,000.


 
 
 
    

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Kedah Estate Riot - Thondar Padai Organised Strike - Over 1000 Indian Workers around Bedong Involved


A.M Samy
One of the important labour strikes which saw involvement of A.M Samy's Thondar Padai was the "Kedah Strike" which took place at Bedong, Kedah.


Over 1000 labourers staged their protest against appalling working and unhygienic living conditions, low wage, long working hours and operation of toddy shops under estate management.


A.M Samy, instrumental for the formation of Thodar Padai – the Volunteer Corp. The Thondar Padai members who were mainly ex-members Indian National Army (INA) had firsthand experience in seeing the defeat of the British Empire in the hands of Japanese Imperial Army during the World War II. The anti-imperialism mindset left by Bose made Thondar Padai raised with confidence against the atrocities of British planters. 

In the Forgotten Wars- The End of Britain's Asian Empire, Christopher Bayly and T N Harper :

"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 2 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. 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 editorial of The Straits Times dated 27th February 1947, gave a detail description of Kedah Estate Riots

Kedah Estate Riots
(From Our Correspondent)


Alor Star, Wednesday


Police squads are patrolling the rubber estate in central Kedah, where riots have been spreading for over a fortnight.

Parties involved in the dispute are a labor force of about 1000 and the management of four European-owned estates – Bedong, Sungai Tawar, Sungai Toh Pawang and Bukit Sembilan.

The trouble began at Bukit Sembilan estate which belongs to Rubber Trust Ltd., of Hong Kong. Labourers went on strike after rejection of demand which the management consider unreasonable.

During riots which followed, labourers ware alleged to have seized an estate lorry cutting off manager from supplies of food and water. Kedah police were summoned and escorted the manager to Penang. 

(Please refer to T N Harper's work above on reasons for seizure of estate lorry carrying water supply to manager's residence. Even K. Nadaraja in his 'Thondar Padai Reform Movement in Kedah Riots of 1947' failed to give a fair justification on the seizure the estate lorry carrying water by the labourers)

The whole estate is now under police control.

There have been several clashed between rioters and police during which sticks, stones and boiling water were thrown at the police.

At Bedong, 300 to 400 Indians and others held a procession through the town. After the arrival of police from Sungai Patani, the crowd dispersed.

Police went to the rescues of an estate conductor who was tied up for continuing to work at Sungei Tawar after others has gone on strike.

Some firms with estates in Kedah have advised managers not to bring their wives and children to Malaya.

Further research into this intriguing Bukit Sembilan incident where a young dresser who seized a lorry carrying water to the manager's residence, I came to know that the person's name was Paliah (பாலையா) from Bukit Sembilan Estate. Interestingly, the Straits Times dated 18th August 1947 (page 5) also named Paliah as the person who led the strike against oppressing estate manager who denied labourers access to clean water. Paliah was detained and sentenced two weeks of rigorous imprisonment (The Straits Times - 27th August 1947) for restraining officer J.M MacLean, OCPD of Sungai Petani in executing his duty.

The Straits Times - 18th August 1947
The Straits Times - 25th August 1947
 "Paliah..we may have forgotten your name, but not your fighting spirit"    

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Kedah Strike - Remarkable Unionist A.M Samy

As I dwell further into Ganapathy and PMFTU to get a detail view in how many strikes did PMFTU was involved with since January 1946, one particular incident repeated all over pages of history.."the serious of Kedah Strikes" and the name A.M Samy.
I managed to get some details of the strike and interesting to know that A.M Samy aka A.Munusamy started a movement called "Thondar Padai" played vital role. Thondar Padai was a self-styled para-militia group formed by remnants of members of Indian National Army (INA) which functioned under Subhas Chandra Bose during World War II. Bose had definitely breathed in a new form of revolution among indentured Indian labourers in Malaya.
A.M Samy (Photo courtesy: STS Sivam)
On 23rd August 1947, Singapore Press published the news of 26,000 estate workers to stage strike under Kedah Rubber Workers' Federation (a member union of PMFTU)

I will be writing further on A.M Samy in my future postings.



 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

From "Pan Malayan Labour Union for All Nationalities" to PMFTU

Came across this notice which was published in The Straits Times - 19th February 1947, more information of the union brought to light:

1. After the PMFTU Conference meeting on the 7th February 1947, the original name of the union was changed from "The Pan Malayan Labour Union of all Nationalities” to “The Pan Malaya Federation of Trade Unions,”

2. With effective of 22nd February 1947, new union's logo implemented with inscribed in the fours language, English, Indian, Chinese and Malay.

3. The head office in Kuala Lumpur was at No.85-C High Street and the Branch Office in Singapore was at Singapore No.56, Short Street.

The Straits Times
February 19th, 1947


NOTICES

This is to inform the public that following the close of the 2nd Session of the Pan Malayan Trade Union Conference, it was accordingly resolved to change our original designation of “The Pan Malayan Labour Union of all Nationalities” to “The Pan Malaya Federation of Trade Unions,” Thereby please take note that as from the 22nd February 1947 only those documents (with the exception of the receipts to our newspaper “The Vanguard”) endorsed with new seal, round in shape, with gears at the edge, the emblem of our Federation enclosed within and with designation inscribed in the following fours language, English, Indian, Chinese and Malay are valid.

Henceforth all communication should be directed to the General Secretary of Head Office at Kuala Lumpur No.85-C High Street or the Branch Office at Singapore No.56, Short Street where all business shall be dealt with similarly.

We take this opportunity to thank the Selangor Public Market Association and other Organization for the loan of their premises and all those who contributed to the success of the Conference.

CHENG LU
General Secretary
Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions

Paper Cutting February 19th , 1947


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Minimun Wage - Resolution of PMFTU when Ganapathy was Elected as President

In a recent public forum on Remembering S.A Ganapathy and Veerasenan , one of the participants asked me whether I am able to provide him details on when S.A Ganapathy was elected as PMFTU's president and on the committee members of the union. Even though I had some information on that but reluctant to share them without proper supportive evidences.

Since there has been many contradicting information floating on Ganapathy such as his age, his activities in union and etc., I think it is in my best interest to present these information (or even allegations) with evidences.

Therefore, it was reported in Singapore Free Press dated 8th February 1947 on Conference of PMFTU held in Kuala Lumpur. Ganapathy was elected to be the President of PMFTU on 7th February 1947.

Followings are detail of the Central Executive Bureau of the Federation

President: S. A Ganapathy
Vice President: Lam Swee and Abdullah C.D
General Secretary: Cheng Lu
Asst. General Secretary : B.Ahmad and Krishna Murthy
Treasurer : Yap Meow Siew
Members: R. Ramasamy, Chen Chong and P.Veerasenan.
Substitutes: Sze Tong, Fuang Soon Lai and Bahar.

There were 22 resolutions taken and one of them was on basic salary (which we are still battling until today). Interesting to note that it was stated as basic salary and not as minimum salary!

Other resolutions were:

To overcome communal or racial differences and inclinations; to work for working class as main abject to promote the unification of trade union organisations - This is very much against of British divide and rule policy

To see to it that organisations of various trades and industries are well established;
- Well established workers unions mean more demands for workers in terms of wage and benefits

To encourage trade union organizations to organize on a Pan-Malayan single industry on trade basis;
- If there would be a trouble in one of the estates in Kedah, all the estates in Malaya (from Kedah to Johor) shall observe strike. This was probably to press the Planter Association, estate owners and government to come to settlement as soon as possible.

To assist other races to organise their trade union organizations, and to hold joint meeting to exchange opinions and experiences.
- Sharing experience between races viewed important by PMFTU as Chinese were considered to be more experienced in union activities. Chinese migrants were first to start trade union among labourers in Malaya.

Officers of federation should carry out their duties to take part in any settlement of dispute;

To extend for another two months period for the collection of Vanguard Press Funds; the organ paper will be first printed in Chinese and Malay if the fund allows; the Tamil papers will be taken over when possible;

To remain a member in the Pan-Malayan Council of Joint Action and give all necessary supports to it; - PMFTU was not just an entity that fight for the rights of the workers but also there was an inspiration for independence of Malaya. This resolution proofs wrong of claim by Deputy External Minister of India that "Bandits do not have Political Aim". They were aspiration to liberate this country from the British.

To send a cable in the name of this reference to Republican Government of Annam to support the independence movement and to express sympathy - Very important resolution that shows PMFTU supportive of independence struggle of Vietnam.

Paper cutting as follows:

 
 


February 8th, 1947
Singapore Free Press
LABOUR WANT 44-hr WEEK

Free Press Staff Reporter

Among the 22 resolution adopted at the annual conference of the Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions at Kuala Lumpur is one which calls for a 44-hour week in Malaya. The conference also decides to ask the Government to publish the Labour Code in various vernacular languages.

The Central Executive Bureau of the Federation is getting down to the task of organizing a sub-committee to work our scale of basic wages. Forty-seven Central managing Council members and 13 substitutes were elected at the Conference. The General Secretary is Mr. Cheng Lu, and Messrs. B. Ahmad, Krishna Murthy are his assistants.

The Elected Central Executive Bureau members are: General Secretary Mr. Cheng Lu, Asst. General Secretary Mr. B. Ahmad, Asst. General Secretary Mr. Krishna Murthy, Chairman Mr. S.A Ganapathy, Vice-Chairman Mr.Lan Swee and Mr.Abdullah C.D Treasurer Mr.Yap Meow Siew, Members Messrs. R. Ramasamy, Chen Chong and P.Veerasenan. Substitutes: Messr. Sze Tong, Fuang Soon Lai and Bahar.

The other resolutions adopted by the conference are:

To overcome communal or racial differences and inclinations; to work for working class as main abject to promote the unification of trade union organisations

To see to it that organisations of various trades and industries are well established;

To encourage trade union organizations to organize on a Pan-Malayan single industry on trade basis;

To assist other races to organise their trade union organizations, and to hold joint meeting to exchange opinions and experiences.

Officers of federation should carry out their duties to take part in any settlement of dispute;

To extend for another two months period for the collection of Vanguard Press Funds; the organ paper will be first printed in Chinese and Malay if the fund allows; the Tamil papers will be taken over when possible;

To remain a member in the Pan-Malayan Council of Joint Action and give all necessary supports to it;

To send a cable in the name of this reference to Republican Government of Annam to support the independence movement and to express sympathy;

May Day: Rise and Fall of Red Unions - May 1st, 1949

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

British mouthpiece "The Straits Times" demonising Singapore Federation of Trade Unions and telling the story of its downfall.  



Newpapers in Tamil Nadu Protested Against Ganapathy's Sentence

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