Saturday, September 12, 2009

P. Veerasenan

Mystery Surrounding the Death of
P. Veerasenan

After the arrest of S.A Ganapathy on March 1st, 1949 at Waterfall Estate in Rawang, P. Veerasenan who was once President of the Standing Commitee of the Singapore General Labour Union (SGLU) as well as President of the Singapore

Workers' Unions Federation (SWUF) in Singapore, and was a former vice-president of the Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU), took the lead from his predecessor, S. A Ganapathy. He was martyred in Negeri Sembilan on 3 May 1949 at the age of 22.

In Part 2. Abdullah CD's memoirs titled Penaja dan Pemimpin Rejimen Ke-10 (Petaling Jaya, SIRD, 2007), recalls that martyr P. Veerasenan, whom he first befriended in Singapore after the end of the Pacific War, was an "experienced" labour activist who was "highly influential" among the workers at that time. Martyr P. Veerasenan's death reported in Singapore Strait Times dated May 4th, 1949. I have reproduced the news report below.

The Straits Times - 4th May 1949

Ambush Gang's Camp Burned
From our Staff Correspondent

Kuala Lumpur, Wed.,

One of the bandits who ambushed five civilian vehicles and killed two men on the main trunk road 13 miles north of Kuala Lumpur on Monday night has been seriously wounded, and the gang's camp has been destroyed.
After the ambush has been reported by the survivors on Monday night, a police flying squad from Rawang was sent to the scene.
The Straits Times 4th May 1949 

They fired several very lights and then poured bullets into the undergrowth.
Early yesterday, the area was searched and in one spot police found blood stains.
With Dyak trackers and a party of the Scots Guards, a Police jungle squad followed trails into the hills east of the main road and found the bandit camp.
As they approached, they saw sentry. They fired on him as he ran, but he escaped and warned the rest of the gang.
The camp consisted of 10 huts.

Straits Times - 4th May 1949

2 Bandits Killed

Two bandits - a Chinese and a Tamil - were killed and one wounded yesterday when a large bandit camp near Pertang in the Jelebu district of Negeri Sembilan was attacked by a party from 1/7 Gurkha Rifles.

Rubber stamps and documents found in the camp revealed that it was the First Brigade HQ of the "National Liberation Army of Malaya" a military spokesman told the Strait Times Today.

15 Women

When the attack began the bandits - who included 15 woman - ran out of the camp leaving behind all their equipment. This included about 70 packs filled with clothes and other stores.
Two service rifles, two shotguns and about 700 rounds of ammunition were recovered.
The camp consisted of seven huts with accommodation for at least 70 people.
Soon after the bandits ran out the camp they open fire on the Gurkhas from the 200 yards with Bren gun, a Sten and a few rifles.
The fire was returned and a blood trail was found after-wards.

Having read this article, well as a mouthpiece of the British, one can identify the bias reporting elements existed. It was reported that there was an ambush in Rawang on the Monday night (May 2nd, 1949). The Scots Guard tracked the searched the area on the Tuesday, May 3rd, 1949 and tracked the blood trail all the way from Rawang in Selangor to Pertang in Negeri Sembilan. The guards (with Gurkhas) found a group of "bandit" in Pertang, attacked the group and killed 2 "bandits", who one of them was identified as P. Veerasenan. identification of the bandit was reported two days later on the May 6th, 1949.
Distance Between Rawang and Pertang - 121km

Discrepancies in Distance and Date of Report

According to the Google map service, distance between Rawang and Pertang is recorded as 121 km. According to the news, the Scots Guards tracked the blood trails with help of a Dayak - an indigenous native community used as head-hunters in fighting communist insurgency in Malaya. In my view, if at all the Scots Guard party to cover the distance of 121km on foot, it would have taken them a few days.

Now let me put this to an argument. Let's say, the guards started their mission of "tracking" down the bandits as early as 4 am on Tuesday, May 3rd 1949 from Rawang. The guards would found the bandits hidings in Pertang in the morning of 4th May, 1949. If this was the case, then why the attack was reported as taken place on the very same day - 3rd May, 1949?

I am assuming that the whole connection between ambush in Rawang and killing of Veerasenan was just a negative propaganda by British to tarnish the communist's struggle. The British may have fabricated the evidences by blinding the public that Veerasenan was involved in the Rawang ambush. Let's not also forget the Scots Guards were well know for their notorious behavior in military aggression. One of their aggression clearly can be seen when the Scots Guards from the G company of 7th Platoon massacred 24 rubber tappers in Batang Kali on the 12th December 1948.

Freedom Fighters labeled as "Bandits and Gang" and Tamil

Take note of the freedom fighters were labeled "bandits and gangs" and also notice the word "Tamil" was used instead of "Indian". This is an important aspect to ponder on the political relationship between Britain and India. It is my opinion that if the word "Indian" was used instead of "Tamil", this would triggered unwanted wrath from the Indian Government. The newspaper had chosen to use the word "Tamil" as to implicate that only small fractions of the Indians in Malaya were involved in CPM.

Indians in Malaya were consisted of largely of the Tamil, Telegu, Malayalee, Sikh, Ceylon Tamils, Sinhalese and North Indians. The British had brought the Tamils and Telegus from India (mostly from Madras Presidency) to work in plantations in Malaya as indentured labours -   "collies". To administrate these collies, British had brought the educated Malayalees and Ceylon Tamils.

When the British failed to register PMFTU on the ground of communist linked organisation in June 1948, a Malayalee named Palayil Pathazapurayil Narayanan (aka P.P Narayanan) was chosen to head the Indian rubber plantation workers under National Union of Plantation Workers (NUPW) - an union movement fully backed by British.

Women involvement in National Liberation Army of Malaya

Another aspect that need to be mentioned will be the women involvement in National Liberation Army of Malaya - the armed struggle movement of CPM. The arrest of 15 women during the ambush was an inevitable evidence of the influence of National Liberation Army of Malaya among Malayans regardless of age, race and sex. The liberation waves which was created after the Japanese occupation and coupled with INA Rani of Jhansi Regiments, had a great impact among Malayan women beyond the barrier of race, language, culture and religion. Their attention was focused to drive away the British from this land.

P. Veerasenan

P. Veerasenan assumed the post of President of Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions after Ganapathy was arrested on the 1st of March 1949. Ganapathy was prosecuted on the 15th of March 1949 and hanged on the 4th May 1949. All happened within less than 3 months.

On the 3rd May 1949, Tuesday, a day before Ganapathy was to be executed, the 1/7 Gurkha Rifles shot dead P.Veerasenan in an ambush near Pertang in Jelebu district Negeri Sembilan.

The article below was extracted from The Straits Times (Singapore) dated 6th May 1949. It reads  "Shot Tamil Was P.M.F.T.U Chief"

Shot Tamil Was P.M.F.T.U Chief
from our staff correspondent Kuala Lumpur, 

Thursday. Police headquarters today announced that the Tamil who was shot dead when a large bandit camp in Negeri Sembilan was attacked by the 1/7 Gurkha Rifles on Tuesday has been identified as P. Veerasenan, President of the Pan-Malayan Federation of trade Unions. The camp where he was killed was described by a military spokesman in Seremban as being First Brigade Headquarters of the "National Liberation Army of Malaya." A police spokeman said today that a rifle and a pack, in which there were documents in Tamil, were found on Veerasenan. The Tamil fled with Chinese who ran as the Gurkha party approached. He was shot, said the spokesman, as he stopped to pick up his pack.

Counter Attack

A Chinese bandit was also killed in the attack. As the Gurkha were examining the camp-which had seven huts for about 70 people-they were strongly counter-attacked, but drove off the bandits.
Veerasenan succeed A. Ganapathy as president of the Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions in April last year. Ganapathy was hanged in Kuala Lumpur yesterday morning for unlawful possession of arms and ammunition. Veerasenan, who was about 30 years of age, was formerly President of the Singapore federation of Trade Unions and the Singapore Harbour Labourers Union. As president of the Harbour Labourers Union, he was one of leaders responsible for repeated port strikes in Singapore.

Was it a sheer coincidence for the both unionists to die at almost same time or was there any conspiracy to "finish them off" in a blow? As ST being a mouth-piece for British colonial master, almost all their articles published portrayed as British troops as heroes and with their bravery saved the nation from the so called "communist bandits". We should realized how our people have been deceived and fooled by the British government. One example to quote shall be "The Batang Kali Massacre". A cowardly act of the British troops killing innocent rubber tappers in Batang Kali has been concealed from the people for more than 50 years.

Some sources (which I am not able to verify at this moment) said that Veerasenan was only 22 years old when he was killed. It also said that he was shot when he tried to retrieve his belongings especially his diary in which vital information with regards Malayan National Liberation Army's (MNLA) movements were recorded. His last attempt to destroy those documents was to soak the pages of his diary with his blood so that the British troop would only get hold of, but not to read those vital information. Such was his dedication towards his movement and belief.

Knowing that 70 people have been with him during the attack, we could image how effective the MNLA was. Completely contradicting account from what we have learned from our history books that mentioned no arm struggles took place against the British to liberate this country!

Also notice that title of the article which mentioned "Tamil" instead of "Indian". One should wonder why the word Tamil used and Indian? Was the British government intended to play a low key by addressing Veerasenan as Tamil and not as Indian. Was the word "Tamil" intended to portray that a small minority group of Indians living in Malaya was against the British?    

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ganapathy: Strong Protest By India - 5th May 1949 Straits Times

Hanged: A. Ganapathy, who was hanged this week for illegal possession of arms
As I do not know where to start form, let me start with a news which was reported in The Strait Times (based in Singapore) on Thursday, 5th May 1949, the very next day after S.A Ganapathy was executed. It reads, " Ganapathy: Strong Protest By India"

New Delhi, Thursday.

The Indian Government has asked its London high Commissioner to lodge a "vigorous protest" with the British Government against the execution of A. Ganapathy, a former trade union leader in Malaya, according to official circles in new Delhi.

Ganapathy was hanged in Kuala Lumpur yesterday for possession of arms.

The Under-Secretary of State for Colonies, Mr David Rees - Williams, yesterday made a statement in the House of Commons on the execution of A. Ganapathy, a former trade union leader in Malaya.

Mr. Rees Williams said:

" Both assessors, one European and one Indian, found him guilty without retiring" he said.

The statement was made in reply to a question by Mr Philip Piratin (Comm.) who asked whether Ganapathy's appeal against the death sentence had been heard.

Mr. Piratin further asked, " Are you aware that the announcement you have just made will be met with widespread disapproval in the Labour movement in this country as 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 reply.

News of the hanging of Ganapathy has aroused considerable comments in India. - Reuters

Now having read this article, it is pretty sure that harsh decisions have been made in Ganapathy's case. His appeal against his sentence had never been heard. Why there were unrest in India? What were the roles that Nehru and Indian government played in this case? Did Nehru failed to convince the British to grand reprieve or even to grand maximum imprisonment? Or was Ganapathy could have been a mere scape goat in Indo-British political controversy as India was also struggling to cope up with her domestic racial riots between Muslims and Hindus, unrest in Kashmir and possible military offensives from Pakistan or the membership of India in the Commonwealth Nation. India was very much vulnerable then and she needed military support from Britain.

But I am also very curious to know details of the Indian assessor who found Ganapathy guilty for illegal arm possession. And talking about arm, the white estate owners are allowed to carry arms in Malaya in those days which was described as western way of life in Malaya.

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