Thursday, June 11, 2015

Klang Strikes' Casualities - Rengasamy and Yellamalle in Bukit Panjang Estate Strike

Many of us knew that Klang Strikes 1941, was one of the earliest strikes organised by plantation workers in Malaya.

Tai Yuen in his work "Labour Unrest in Malaya 1934 to 1942" stated that Klang strikes as

“One of the largest, best organised and most militant strike by Indian workers which Malaya had ever seen”

Rajeshwari Ambalavanar, in her book "The Indian Minority and Political Change in Malaya 1945-1957" remarked the event as an event that gave birth to political consciousness among Indian labourers

“The strike, though quickly crushed by vigorous police action, lasted long enough to establish clear political consciousness among labourers. Vernacular educated radicals, working with Kanganies and Tamil teachers in estate schools, successfully encouraged the tappers the question the basis cause of their depressed economic and social position”

Though much were discussed on the overall and outcome of the strikes among labourers, not many reference are made to give us exactly on details of the strikes such as where it occurred, who were responsible, those who died etc.

Taking efforts to seek for some of the details, there were 39 estates involved and I managed to find out names of some of the estates involved based on reports in newspapers.

1. Beveriac Estate

2. Blackacres Estate

3. Brooklands Estate

4. Bukit Cheedong Estate

5. Bukit Cheraka Estate

6. Bukit Chu Estate

7. Bukit Kamuning Estate

8. Bukit Panjang Estate

9. Carey Island Estate

10. Damansara Estate (7th Mile)

11. Effingham Estate

12. Glenmarie Estate

13. Haron Estate

14. Highlands Estate

15. Kundang Estate

16. Mary Estate, Batang Berjuntai

17. Midlands Estate

18. Morton Estate

19. North Hummock Estate

20. Philmoor Estate Petaling

21. Port Swettenham Estate

22. Raja Muda Estate

23. Seaport Estate

24. Sungai Buluh Estate

25. Sungai Sedu Estate

26. Sungai Tinggi Estate

27. Sungei Rasak Estate

28. Sungei Way Estate

29. Tanah Bharu Estate

30. Telok Datok Estate

31. Telok Ganting Estate

32. Vallembrose Estate

33. Whiteacres Estate

34. Wilkinson Estate

The Straits Times reported on the 18th June 1941, that District Officer of Kuala Selangor A.D York who sat as a coroner in the Kuala Selangor Court postponed two inquires into the death of two Tamil labourers in Klang Strike.

They were Rengasamy from Bukit Cheraka Estate, Jeram and Yellamalle from Highlands Estate.

From the article, we understood from the accounts given by a witness named Menon, Rengasamy succumbed to head injuries that he received during a clash with police at Bukit Panjang Estate, Jeram. Menon who treated Rengasamy told the coroner that Rengasamy appeared drowsy and vomited blood the next day due to concussion of brain.

According to A.J Gomm, the manager of Bukit Panjang Estate, the labourers went on strike on the 21st April and remained out until 16th May. There were some rubber packs kept in the packing shed. His attempt to remove them failed as the labourers did not permitted the removal of the rubber packs. On the 8th May 1941, Gromm consulted the Chief Police of Selangor, H. B Langworthy, to assist him. The police came with a party of 160 strong . They were confronted by 75 labourers who armed themselves with sticks.

A group of teenage boys around 16 years old claimed to pelt the police with stone. All hell broke loose! Eight labourers injured during the clash including Rengasamy and Yellamalle. Later, the labourers regrouped at around 5 pm and this time it was 600 to 700 and demanded that the injured labourers to be sent to Klang Hospital.

Refused to heed orders of the CPO to disperse, the CPO order another “lathi” charge towards the crowd.

The Straits Times - 18th June 1941

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