Friday, January 30, 2015

Release Balan Or...... (ST 1st June 1948)

A resolution of condemning the Federation Government "in cunningly arrested" President of Planting Labourer Union of Perak, R.G Balan, was passed at the conference of Planting Labourer Union. This is said to be done to order to frighten the labourers. Balan was arrested on the 30th May 1948 - before the declaration of Emergency in Malaya.

The delegates also agree to have a one day strike on the 4th June 1948 to demand the Government to release Balan unconditionally as he was arrested without a course.

Reported strike over the weekend (30 and 31 May 1948);

1. Kamuning Estate, Sungai Siput - 640 Chinese tappers on strike

2. Sungai Krudda Estate, Sungai Petani - 75 Chinese tappers on strike

3. Kinta Valley Estate, Batu Gajah - 98 Chinese tappers on strike

4. River View Estate - 40 Chinese tapper on strike

5. Kati Estate, Kuala Kangsar - 32 Chinese tapper on strike

6. Strathisla and Chemur Estate still at strike


R.G Balan took up job with Ministry of Interior - ST 24th Sept. 1960

After his release in June 1960, former President of Perak Estate Union, R.G Balan, took up position with the government starting on 1st October 1960 with Ministry of Interior.
(Note: Balan's age is reported as 41 instead of 39 as was reported in ST in June 1960)

Stated his job as "to screen publication for matter prejudicial to the interest of the country"

Thursday, January 29, 2015

R.G Balan Released from Sungai Petani Detention Camp After 12 Years - 23rd June 1960

R.G Balan was arrested in May 1948 when he was 27 years old. Like many other reds, only a few historians have noted him in their work. One of them was A. J Stockwell in "Malaya - Communist Insurgency 1948 - 1953" - Volume 2.
A J Stockwell
The Straits Times on 23rd June 1960, reported that Balan returned to his family in Ipoh after released from detention in Sungai Petani. According to the article, Balan joined the Malayan Communist Party during the Japanese occupation and lived in the jungle for three years. Before he joined MCP, he was a clerk on an estate in Teluk Anson (Teluk Intan).
Balan in 1960 at the age of 39
In 1947, he attended the British Empire Communist Party Conference as a representative of Malayan Communist Party. He was holding the position of Vice President of MCP. He was detained in May 1948, even before the Emergency announced. He spend his time in detention camps studying journalism and accountancy through correspondence course. He was released from Sungai Petani Detention Camp on the 23rd June 1948.
R.G Balan in 1948 at the age of 27
Balan's intention was to study law but that will not be possible as he must report the police once a week and could not go out of his house between 10am to 6am and must not leave Ipoh district. Balan expressed his gratitude to his friends who helped his release particularly his lawyer.

In midst of this, he still hope the other detained political detainees will be released soon as the Emergency is about to end.

He has a son Gunallan, 13, mother V.Sinnathayamma 55, brother Thirunoyam 24, and his sister Suppammal 25. His father passed away in 1958.

Nothing mentioned about his wife. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ganapathy in Kedah Labour Unrest

Not many scholars have written on labour unrest in Kedah which was widely known as The 1947 Kedah Riot. Beside Charles Gamba, Dr. Nadaraja Kannan gave us some descriptions of the unrest in his work that appeared in the Journal of the Malaysian History Society, No 24 (1981) pp 94-105 titled “The Thodar Padai Movement of Kedah 1945-1947” ( Dr. Nadaraja Kannan, an associate professor with Faculty of International Studies, Universiti Utara Malaysia).

In his work, Dr Nadaraja had stated that PMFTU was involved in the labour unrest as Ganapathy was reported as had visited most of the estates prior to the unrest.

I strongly criticize that Dr.Nadaraja's work does not justified the labour struggle which occurred on Bukit Sembilan in March 1947. T.N Harper in his book " The Forgotten War - The End of British Asian Empire" justified in detail events that triggered the clash between police and labourers which resulted in 66 labourers arrested. Among them,  3 were women and one of them was pregnant. There was also allegations brought forward by the Representative of Indian Government, Chettur that two of the women including a 15-year-old girl were tortured and raped in police custody. Chettur also requested full inquiry into the investigation which the British government under Edward Gent in Malaya failed to carry out.

The Kedah Riot should remains important as this was one of defying acts staged by Indian labourers against their oppressive British master. In one incident which took place in Bukit Sembilan Estate, where labourers were denied access to clean water, a young dresser lead the struggle against oppressive capitalist by seizing lorry transporting clean water to the estate manager bungalow. Later, this young man was detained and following this a huge strike demanding the release of this man was staged by workers. Estate manager requested the assistance of police to break up the strike. Thus, clash broke between police and workers. The name of the young dresser who lead the strike was Paliyan (பாலையன்)

On Ganapathy's involvement in strikes in Kedah, the Straits Times dated 9th March 1947, reported that “ stream of investigators has been converging to Sungai Petani” and among them were “Union representative whom has been the Chairman of Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions, Mr. S.A Ganapathy, who has already visited many estates”

The Governor of Union Malaya, Edward Gent commented on the existence of “influences” opposing to the settlement between management and labourers on two estates – Bukit Sembilan and Sungai Toh Pawang estates as these two estates are still on strikes and these influences were resentful of the recent convictions of rioters in court.

Clearly these "influences" were made reference to PMFTU and Ganapathy as it was reported that Ganapathy has been visiting these estates and meeting held with local PMFTU representative, A.M Samy, prior to the unrest.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

PMFTU's Last General Assembly on 5th April 1948 - "Internationale" in Opening Ceremony

Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Union had their last general meeting (3rd General Assembly) on the 5th April 1948 before it was declared defunct in June 1948. Ganapathy was quoted in The Straits Times, as said;
This photo was taken at the General Assembly in April 1948

“Trade union missions and labour commissions have become common but, the living and working conditions of labourers are still the same.”

The Singapore MCP representative has indicated that Singapore will be made as an anti communist headquarters in South East Asia.

The Agent of Government of India in Malaya T.G Nataraja Pillai has openly urged trade unions “to agitate for reform in a constitutional manner.”

Interesting to note that "Internationale" was sang during the opening ceremony. Though, I am not sure which language it would have been sung, but I guessing it would be in Malay.

Also we noticed PMFTU received good wishes from the Indonesian Central Organisation Trade Union and the Siamese Labour Unions - a smart move by Ganapathy to forged alliance with regional trade unions with sovereign nations like Indonesia and Thailand.

The Straits Times – 6 April 1948

Communist View of Colony’s Role

The Singapore Representative of Malayan Communist Party (Mr. Chang Ming Ching) yesterday said there was “every indication that Singapore may be made the Anti -Communist headquarters in South East Asia”

Mr.Chang was speaking as guest at the opening of the 10-day Third General Assembly of the Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions at the Singapore Seamen’s Union in Seah Street, Singapore. He said that the Labour Government instead of leading Malaya towards self-government was leading it towards war.

“The Colonial Secretary openly called for war preparation when he spoke at an R.A F Association function recently,” said Mr. Chang.

Lately, a defence department for the Colony has been established under Mr.Hawkins.

“Today, to suggest that Malaya is threatened by foreign aggression is absurd, because any aggression could only come from American imperialism.”

Labour Condition

The president of the Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (Mr.S.A Ganapathy) said “Trade union missions and labour commissions have become common but, the living and working conditions of labourers are still the same.”

The Agent of Government of India in Malaya (Mr. T.G Nataraja Pillai) another guess speaker urged trade unions “to agitate for reform in a constitutional manner.”

He said, “Promise little and strive to achieve more.”

More than 100 trade unions representative from all over Malaya attended.

The General Assembly sessions, which will be closed to the press will begin today in the premises of the SFTU in River Valley Road.

Subjects for discussion include all aspects of labour condition in Malaya.

The meeting yesterday received telegrams of good wishes from the Indonesian Central Organisation Trade Union and the Siamese Labour Unions.

Highlight of yesterday’s opening ceremony was playing of the “Internationale.”

Speakers spoke from a platform over which hung two flags, one bearing the sign of the Hammer and Sickle and the other showing 15 stars.

Among the guests were the First Secretary to the Representative of the Government of India (Mr.V.S Swaminathan), the Agent of the Government of India in Malaya (Mr. T.G Nataraja Pillai), the president of the Malay Nationalist Party (Dr. Bhurhanuddin), an unofficial Singapore Legislative Council, Mr.Lim Yew Hock, who is General Secretary of Singapore Clerical and Administrator Workers’ Union and Messrs.Eu Chooi Yip and P.V Sharma of Malayan Democratic Union.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SFTU Calls A Protest Strike - P.Veerasenan

Veerasenan with SFTU Emblem - Thanks to Nagen PSM
The Singapore Mayday parade in 1947 saw almost 50 thousand labourers took part in a procession. The procession was more than a mile and a half long, with men and women on foot and lorries, shouting slogans demanding for more rights and fair treatments for labourers.

The main organiser of the procession was the Singapore Federation of Trade Union (SFTU). The Secretary of SFTU. Lam Swee, had pledged in 1947 that SFTU was planning to hold more bigger rally of 100,000 labourers in 1948 - a number which we would never imagine of , even today!

Fearing of enormous growth of SFTU, the authority has been conducting regular police raids on union offices, arrest of union leaders and encouragement of strike breakers. This prompted the President P.Veerasenan to call for a one day strike involving 74 SFTU's affiliated unions with 50,000 labourers in Singapore.

Being a charismatic young leader, Veerasenan, has been the forerunner of many labour struggles in Singapore. In "The End of British Empire and The Making of Malaya", the author, T.N Harper stated that unlike S.A Ganapathy, Veerasenan was neither a communist nor member of MCP. Many Indian unionists in Malaya were pushed to embrace communist ideology when the Emergency was declared in June 1948. After the declaration of Emergency, Veerasenan fled to Negeri Sembilan to joined the armed struggle of Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA) 2nd Regiment for independence of Malaya.

I am proud to present for the first time the emblem of SFTU which took me almost 4 years. The emblem was published in The Straits Times.

The Emblem of SFTU - Clenched right fist, hammer, an iron mallet, a pair of sickles, an anchor at the bottom edge. A technical angle divider in the center with a star with SFTU in four languages.

The Straits Times - 20 April 1948
SFTU Calls A Protest Strike

The Singapore Federation of Trade Unions would call a 24-hour strike of 74 affiliated unions from 5 am on Friday, the president (Mr.P. Veerasenan) said yesterday.

Mr. Veerasenan said the strike would be in protest against police raids on union offices, arrest of union officials and “police encouragement to strike-breaking.”

The SFTU claims a membership of 50,000.

Two of the biggest unions affiliated to the SFTU are the Singapore Federation of Municipal Labour Union and the Traction Company Employees’ Union.

Municipal Labour

The secretary of the SFMLU (Mr.Sundaraju) said yesterday a motion for a general strike would be put on a meeting of the general committee today or tomorrow.

Mr.Sundaraju said the federation had eight affiliated unions with a total membership of 5000. They were Town Cleaning, Health Department, Road, Water, Electric, Transport, Conservancy and Sewerage Labour Unions.

President of the STCFU(Mr.R.K Samy) told the Straits Times yesterday he had not received a request from the SFTU to call a strike but if he received one he would let his men decide for themselves.

The STCFU has more than 1000 members. If they decide to strike 200 buses and 38 trolley busses will be affected.

May Day Parade

A stoppage of work is expected in Singapore a week later on May 1, when trade unions observe “Labour Day.”

The SFTU will celebrate with a mass meeting at Farrer Park in the morning and a procession through the town in the afternoon. Last year the procession was more than a mile and a half long. Men and women went on foot and in lorries carrying banners and flags, shouting slogans and playing musical instruction.

May 1 was fixed as “Labour Day” at an international congress of Left –Wing parties in Europe in 1886. Since then it has yearly celebrate by workers throughout the world.


A Government spokesman said last night that so far Labour Day has not been declared a public holiday in Singapore.

He said that labourers in Government employ who stayed away from work on May 1 would be acting against regulations and would thus forfeit the day’s pay.

Any other disciplinary action taken would depend on the terms of contract under they were employed.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

All Malayan Hartal - 20th October 1947

As PMFTU teamed up with AMCJA-PUTERA alliance to push of independence of Malaya, it is important to observe reports which been reported in local daily mails on HARTAL and its impact towards the British's Malayan Union. The Straits Times dated 21st October stated that most of rubber estates and tin mines in Selangor were not operating.

In Batu Arang, over 2000 labourers reported had told their management that they would not turn up for work. Port Swettenham was crippled. Ships were docked and cargoes were not able to be moved due to lack of manpower. Interesting to know that the men had many reasons for not working as the press would like to portray that the organiser of the HARTAL had deceived the real meaning of HARTAL. The government employees seemed to be royal to their masters.

Getting food seemed to be a problem in town, where the Chinese business men closed their business and even the black market hawkers in Petaling Street supported the HARTAL unlike the Indian Muslim eating shops owners.

The Mail Mail was the only local English press to publish their newspaper in Kuala Lumpur even though some of their printing staff “felt bound to obey an order from their union not to work though none had expressed a desire voluntarily to absent themselves in observance of the hartal.”

The Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce supported the HARTAL by closing their shops as the Indians were not engaged in the Revised Constitutional Proposal which to be tabled and debated.

The Straits Times – 21st October 1947


In Selangor, every rubber estate contacted by the Straits Times said that Indian and Chinese labourers were not tapping.

Tin dredges were idle and on some tin mines only essential work was being done.
The state was dominated by fear. Opinion among most small tradesmen, both in countryside and in Kuala Lumpur, was that retribution for “breaking” the hartal would not be immediate but would be sudden and damaging both to person and property.

At Batu Arang, the main coalfield Malayan Collieries reported that over 2000 labourers had taken a holiday after having previously informed the management of their intention.

Dockers Absent

At Port Swettenham, principal port for Central Malaya, the absence of 200 stevedores and 700 shore workmen saw no handling of cargo on the five ocean going ships.

In one ship, the Kamuning, 2800 tons of rice were waiting to be discharged.

The Russian ship, the Admiral Ushikov, is waiting to be loaded with 1500 tons of rubber.

An American vessel, the Alphamooi, would have left with 208 tons of latex but the hold-up in labour.

General cargoes were to be discharged at from the Lycaon and Diomedes.

In addition, the absence of labour at Port Swettenham meant delay in unloading of 80 wagon-loads of rubber from the interior for foreign ports.

The complete ignorance of the meaning of hartal was never better illustrated than by the news of a responsible observer in Port Swettenham, who in the course of ten minutes was given three different answers by three men for not working today.

The answers were – “It is a public holiday,” “It is Princess Elizabeth’s wedding day” and “It is in protest against income tax.”

In Kuala Lumpur very nearly all Government employees, both daily-paid and monthly wage earners, reported for duty and P.W.D., however and essential services were able to call it a normal day

Food Problems

European department stores and business houses said that clerks business houses said that clerks and assistants had turned up for work, but with the closing of the usual Chinese eating shops a feeding problem was created, and for the first time for many months queues were to be seen at public canteens.

Indian Muslim eating shops defied the “hartal” order and reaped a harvest, while the Malay market in Kampong Bahru was packed with people at all hours.

The fear of intimidation extended even to itinerant black market hawkers in the Petaling Street area, for not single one was “on parade” with the usual pile of cigarettes, milk and tinned goods.

Shopkeepers refused even backdoor sales to regular customers.

Bakeries were closed, the Singapore Cold Storage was devoid of nearly all its assistants and on duty with Mr.W.Y Semple, the manager, were his wife and daughter.

The Malay Mail was the only local English-language newspaper to be published in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, but it came out in attenuated form owing the facts, it said, that some men of the printing staff had “felt bound to obey an order from their union not to work though none had expressed a desire voluntarily to absent themselves in observance of the hartal.”

The Strait Times was the only morning newspaper on sale yesterday morning.

All the news vendors and news agent collected their consignments of the Straits Times and delivered them to subscribers and customers.

The Selangor Indian Chamber of Commerce, after a debate on which it was urged that the constitutional question was no concern of Indians, decided that “in order that the peace of Kuala Lumpur shall not be disturbed we Indians who are trading in Selangor, after due deliberation, resolve that all the Indians shops shall be closed.”

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...