Friday, August 12, 2016

Monument for Ganapathy in Tambikottai

A monument to remember the sacrifice of S.A Ganapathy for the working class in Malaya can be found in Tambikottai, Tanjavur Taluk in Tamil Nadu.

The monument was inaugurated on the 16th July 1986 by the members of Communist Party of India in Tamil Nadu.

The red-coloured monument which shaped similar to the pickelhaube - spiked headgear worn by nineteenth century German military consists of 3 tiers. The based and the 2nd tier are hexagonal (6-sided/faces) shaped block decorated with six white coloured sickle and hammer - the communist symbol conceived during the Russian revolution. The top part is a 6-sided shaped cone.

(The hammer stood for industrial labourers and the sickle for the peasantry; combined they stood for the worker-peasant alliance for socialism and against reactionary movements and foreign intervention -wikipedia)

The date of Ganapathy execution 4th May 1949 and the inauguration of the monument are inscription on the bottom portion.

Inscription of monument

Monument for Ganapathy 
Even though there is no evidence supporting the claim that Ganapathy was born in 1912 in Thambikkottai Keelakkadu Sundaram village in Thanjavur District, Tamil Nadu, according to a telegram from High Commissioner of Malaya, Sir Henry Gurney to Colonial Office dated 2 May 1949, stated that Ganapathy was born in 1917. 

Ganapathy and his brother Sargunan were born to Seemigu Arumugam Thevar and Vairammal (Arumugam's second wife). After losing both his parents to cholera outbreak, Ganapathy and Sargunan lived with their sister for a while before migrated to Singapore at the age of 10 with his uncle and grandfather, Subramaniam Thevar.   

Note: I am grateful to Shanmugapriyan Ganapathy sending these photos. Shanmugapriyan is one of family members of  S.A Ganapathy  

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sambasivam Case : Judge Ordered a Retrial

It is my strongest conviction that if Sambasivam was captured without injuries, he would have been the first Indian casualties of Emergency Regulation 1948, which would have saved S.A Ganapathy from the gallows. But, unfortunate for Ganapathy for he was tried first in the court of law for unlawful procession of fire arms.
Sambasivam Narayanasamy
Interesting to read that Sambasivam's case had taken many twists and turns before he was freed by the court.

The Straits Times dated 5th March 1949, reported that retrial for Sambasivam's case as the Judge was disagreed with the finding of the assessors.

Sambasivam was discharged from hospital on 28th February 1949 when he was brought to trial at the Johor Supreme Court on the 2nd and 3rd March 1949 for unlawfully carrying arms. The assessors found him not guilty but the trial judge disagreed and orders a retrial.

In the retrial which took place on 22nd March 1949, he was convicted by both assessors (a Malay and an Indian) and found guilty. He was sentenced to death.

The Straits Times - 5th March 1949

Judge Disagrees, Orders Retrial 
From Our Staff Correspondence

Johore Bahru- Narayanasamy Sambasivam. a Tamil, was at the end of an emergency trial found not guilty by the assessors of two charges. First, of carrying arms; secondly, of being in possession of ten rounds of ammunition. 
Mr. Justice Laville disagree with the assessors' verdict on the first charges and order a retrial.
His Lordship agree with the assessors' verdict on the second and acquitted the accused.  
Acoording to the evidence, the accused was in the company of two Chinese when they were met by three Malays on a kampong path at Bukit Kepong, near Muar on Sept 13 (1948)
There was a fight between the two parties. shots were fired and one was killed. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Why Kabali is not S.A Ganapathy

I am totally disgusted reading an article published in Malaysia Nanban "Yaar Antha Kabali (Who was Kabali) on the 31st July 2016 which seems to be misleading and having mixed up "Kabali" and "S.A Ganapathy" and "The Klang Strike 1941", thus giving the impression that the character Kabali was based on Ganapathy's life story. 
Yaar Antha Kabali - Malaysia Nanban 31st July 2016

Even more disgusting when some caste based quarters in Tamil Nadu started to claim that the character Kabali was based on their own caste (which Ganapathy belongs to) after reading the article, unlike as widely claimed by many and Kabali's own director Pa.Ranjith that the movie based on Dalits on struggle in Malaysia.
(I refrained from naming any community/caste names implicating Ganapathy as I believe Ganapathy was not belong to any caste. Ganapathy's ideology was based on class struggle but not caste struggle!)

Based on the article, it only managed to refer one incident in the movie which related wage issue to Ganapathy. This is a dire mistake. The editorial team gave reference of this incident to "The Klang Strike 1941", without even realizing that Ganapathy was not involved in 1941 Klang Strike!

Even though colonial records show Ganapathy already an active member of Malayan Communist Party (MCP) in 1939, but he was not involved in Klang Strike 1941. The Klang Strike was staged under leadership of R.H Nathan and Y.K Menon of CIAM - Central Indian Association Malaya. The reason behind why Ganapathy did not involve in Klang Strike was due to an "important issue" which effected almost all Indians migrants living in Malaya at that time- which I will reveal in my book. Apologies for that!

Other than that there are some factual errors in the article:

1. It was mentioned in the article that Malayan Communist Party - MCP was banned in 1947. Actually MCP was only banned in 1948. There were representatives of MCP took part in public events organised by Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions in 1946 and 47.

2. The article mentioned that Ganapathy was member of Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA). No colonial document nor historians mentioned about this. Even the one who would had a full access the colonial secret files, Anthony Short, did not mention that Ganapathy was part of MNLA in his works. This is one of the reasons why Ganapathy was caught on Waterfall Estate and not in the jungles.

3. It was mentioned in the article that Ganapathy was the person who informed Nethaji on Japan defeat in WW2. But this is yet to be proven. There could be other Ganapathy(s) in INA.

4. It was mentioned Nehru took personal interest in Ganapathy's case. But it is a bit strange to read the colonial documents that mention only one day before Ganapathy to be hanged, Indian High Commissioner to UK, V.K Krishna Menon met Lord Listowel to discuss about Ganapathy. The telegram to save Ganapathy was sent from the UK Prime Minister Atlee's office less than one hour before Ganapathy to be hanged. If Indian leaders intended to save Ganapathy, they would have taken all measures in the earlier stage. After Ganapathy's execution, Periyar criticized the Indian leaders of their inertness and failed to act in promptly.

5. The article also mentioned that The Straits Times editorial exerted pressure upon High Commissioner of Malaya Sir Edward Gent to take drastic action against strike organizers. This statement was taken directly from my blog. Of course, I have mentioned this in my blog referring to the editorial. But only those who have researched well in labours strike in Malaya would understand it was not the editorial, but the United Planters Association of Malaya (UPAM) and the Rubber Growers Association (RGA) who lobbied a huge and expensive campaign to ousted Gent from Malaya.

6. The article failed to mentioned Ganapathy's involvement in Hartal 1947. It failed to mention his speech during a meeting in Ipoh on the 15th Oct 1947, which was published in full text in many newspapers at that time including The Singapore Free Press, Indian Daily Mail and The Malaya Tribune. The essence of the man's struggle and his ideology reflected clearly in his speech that day. I have extracted the speech in my blog

It was in deed a misleading article by Malaysia Namban - who have taken 98 percent from my blog and thank Wikipedia instead (even Wikipedia made many reference to my work). I know the person responsible to circulate this rumour.

I would seek the readers' judgement to dissect the article. Stop this insult - Ganapathy was not a gangster like Kabali! Unlike Kabali, Ganapathy fought against the oppressive British capitalist regime in Malaya. Kabali, in other hand, blamed the Chinese and the Malays for the deplorable condition of the Indians in Malaysia!    

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Malaya-wide Protest Against Wage Issue - All Malayan Rubber Estate Workers' Council

One of the biggest strikes that was staged by All Malaya Rubber Workers' Council under leadership of CSV Krishna Moorthy was the national strike calling all rubber tappers to stage a one-day stop work as to show their defiant towards Planters Association.

The Straits Times dated 21st August 1047 reported that All Malaya Rubber Estate Workers' Council would call for a Malaya-wide if UPAM refused to grant them 100 percent wage increase and removal of the 20 percent which was implement in July 1947. The meeting was held between the 60 Indian representatives of Negeri Sembilan Rubber Workers Union and  President of AMRWC, CSVK Moorthi.

Other resolutions taken were:
1. AMRWC empower to negotiate wage issue with UPAM
2. A memorandum to be forwarded to UPAM urging the association to discuss wage issue with AMRWC. Failing to reach any agreement will result to one-day protest.
3. A memorandum also to be sent to the Governor of Malayan Union, Sir Edward Gent, requesting him to urge UPAM to discuss with AMRWC on wage matter. Failing to do so, the workers also issued an ultimatum that "the Government would be responsible for whatever labour dispute might arise in future"


Meanwhile, the Singapore Free Press dated 22 August 1947 stated that, a protest to be staged on the 25th August 1947 to be a token protest against the "adamant of  the UPAM" on issue related to wages.

The council also requested to seek timely and effective help from Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions for the assistance and advise.  The PMFTU was under the leadership of S.A Ganapathy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Unsung Hero - CSV Krishna Moorthy

CSV Krishna Moorthy led the All Malayan Estate Workers Council fought not only for the rights of Indian estate labourers in Malaya but for all Malayan labourers including Malays and Chinese. As All Malayan Rubber Workers Council was under Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions, AMRWC, shared the same aspiration of PMFTU.

CSV Krishna Moorthy known to many as Vincent and Jivaraj passed his 7th form in an English school. He worked as welder and fitter at Sentul Railway Workshop. After the war he played important roles in trade union movements in Malaya as he held many numerous position in many trade unions - Secretary of General Labour Union, General Secretary of Railways Workers Union, President of Selangor Estate Workers Union, President of All Malayan Rubber Workers Council, Assistance Secretary of PMFTU and Secretary of Indian Section of Malayan Communist Party.

T.N Harper in his book "The Forgotten War" mentioned unlike S.A Ganapathy, CSVK Moorthi and P.Veerasenan (President of Singapore Habour Union and Singapore Federation of Trade Unions) were not communists as claimed by the British.

Moorthy was forced to go underground and embrace communist ideology due to British staged Malayan Emergency in June 1948. In the hidings, he was in charge of party's Tamil newspaper edition. He was reported died (The Straits Time dated 29th May 1954) due to blood poising for having to eat elephant meat.

Even though being a Telugu, he died for class struggle and not for caste or communal struggle. We were so united back then as Malayan, unlike now!

ST- 29th May 1954

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hari Pekerja - Memperingati “Rengasamy, Yellumalle, Mayandy, Anggapan dan Konneri” Mangsa Mogok Kelang 1941

Perjuangan Mogok Kelang 1941 - Memperingati “Rengasamy, Yellumalle, Mayandy, Anggapan dan Konneri”

Lazimnya sambutan Hari Pekerja di negara kita sering dikaitkan dengan sejarah perjuangan golongan proletariat di Barat. Seringkali ini menjadi habuan untuk golongan anti-barat dan fundamentalis yang bertanggapan golongan pekerja di Malaysia mudah dipesongkan akidahnya kerana terlalu bergantung dan “pandang barat” terutama apabila kita berbicara topik perjuangan golongan pekerja untuk hak asasinya. Malah kita seakan-akan dilihat bagai ketandusan modal dan terpaksa mencedok inspirasi yang lahir daripada insiden-insiden perjuangan berdarah yang berlaku di Barat untuk menjustifikasikan sambutan Hari Pekerja di negara kita.

Tanggap negatif inilah yang menyebabkan saya teruja untuk membelik lembaran sejarah perjuangan pekerja di negara kita. Sayang sekali, banyak perjuangan pekerja di negara kita telah dilabelkan sebagai aktiviti-aktiviti subversif golongan komunis oleh pemerintah. Selain menyifatkan tahun 1946 and 1947 sebagai “the troubled years”, British juga melabel and mengkategorikan pemimpin-pemimpin buruh seperti P.Veerasenan and C.S.K Murthy sebagai agen komunis walaupun pada hakikatnya perjuangan mereka benar-benar berlandaskan hak asasi dan bukan untuk kepentingan Parti Komunis Malaya sama sekali.

Justera, terpaksa saya menyingkap perjuangan pekerja yang berlaku sebelum Perang Dunia Kedua yang tidak dicemari dengan tohmahan dan pengaruh komunis. Maka, hanya satu perjuangan sahajalah yang dapat saya utarakan dalam tulisan ini iaitu perjuangan pekerja ladang getah di Selangor yang berlaku pada tahun 1941 yang dikenali dengan nama “The Klang Strike 1941” – Mogok Kelang 1941. Malah British sendiri mengakui bahawa mogok ini bebas daripada sebarang pengaruh komunis setelah segala usaha untuk mengkaitkan perjuangan ini dengan elemen komunis gagal.

Walaupun ramai yang berpendapat Mogok Kelang 1941 tidak boleh dijadikan sebagai kayu pengukur untuk melahirkan aspirasi perjuangan pekerja di negara kita kerana ianya hanya melibatkan satu kaum tertentu sahaja, pengkaji sejarah Tai Yuen dalam tulisannya “Labour Unrest In Malaya, 1934 - 1941 - The Rise of the Workers' Movement", menyifatkannya mogok ini sebagai yang terbesar, terancang , tersusun dan paling militan yang pernah dilihat oleh British. British di Malaya tidak pernah menyangka kaum proletariat imigran India yang diperlakukan sebagai hamba mampu bangun menentang kezaliman. Mereka berorganisasi, membentuk kesatuan pekerja dan bermogok untuk memperjuangkan nasib mereka. Yang paling menarik, ramai antara pemimpin kesatuan ini terdiri daripada golongan muda kelahiran tempatan yang berumur antara 15 sehingga 20 tahun. Semasa perundingan dengan golongan kapitalis pemilik ladang, golongan ini amat jelas dan tidak berganjak daripada pendirian dan tuntutan mereka sehinggakan laporan polis melabelkan mereka sebagai golongan yang  “panas-baran” dalam berurusan dengan golongan majikan kerana tidak dapat lagi menanggung penderitaan di bawah rejim kapitalis pemilik ladang.

Sebelum kita berbicara terus tentang mogok ini, adalah penting untuk memahami pembentukan dan peranan Kesatuan India Daerah Kelang (Klang District Indian Union - KDIU) dalam mogok ini. KDIU ditubuhkan pada 22 Julai 1939 hasil usaha dua individu yang sering kali disebut iaitu R.H Nathan dan Y.K Menon.

R.Halashiya Nathan yang berasal dari selatan India berhijrah ke Malaya dalam tahun 1936 pada usia 24 tahun. Beliau tinggal bersama abangnya, seorang jurualih bahasa di mahkamah di Kelang. Pada tahun 1937, beliau mula berkerja sebagai kerani di Paterson & Simons di Port Swettenham (Pelabuhan Kelang). Walaupun Nathan merupakan penyokong tegar Pergerakan Dravida atau dikenali dengan Self-Respect Movement di India, Nathan meninggalkan pergerakan tersebut untuk menyertai pergerakan sosialis dalam Kongres Nasional India (India National Congress). Berikutan pemecatan R.H Nathan pada Mac 1940, dari Paterson & Simons kerana propaganda sosialisnya, Nathan menyertai akhbar "The Singapore Herald" seketika sebelum menjadi Penolong Editor dengan akhbar Tamil Nesan.

Y. Kesava Menon pula merupakan kerani di sebuah ladang dan aktif dalam kegiatan komuniti pekerja India di Selangor. Beliau bersama Nathan juga terlibat dalam mogok kesatuan pekerja Keretapi Persekutuan Tanah Melayu pada tahun 1939. Nathan and Y.K Menon juga merupakan ahli Persatuan Pusat India Malaya atau Central Indian Association of Malaya (CIAM).

CIAM yang dibentuk pada tahun 1937 adalah organisasi induk bagi banyak kesatuan seperti KDIU dan aktif di kalangan orang India di Kelang. Sejak penubuhan, CIAM didominasi oleh golongan profesional seperti peguam, doktor, ahli perniagaan, penjawat awam dan lain-lain. Sebelum kemunculan Nathan and Menon di arena perjuangan golongan pekerja ladang, CIAM hanya dilihat sebagai satu kelab eksekutif untuk golongan profesional. Tanggapan ini berubah apabila Nathan and Menon bergiat aktif membentuk kesatuan-kesatuan pekerja di Selangor, Negeri Sembilan dan Melaka sekitar tahun 1939 dan 1940 di bawah naungan CIAM. Dengan pekerja ladang menghadapi masalah gaji, tiadaan kemudahan air bersih, ketiadaan bantuan perubatan, persekitaran yang daif dan terasing, CIAM semakin menonjol dan lantang dalam mempersoalkan keadaan orang India yang dieksplotasikan oleh golongan kapitalis. Walaupun pada lewat tahun 1940, Penguatkuasa Buruh Malaya, C.Wilson melihat CIAM sebagai orang tengah yang mampu membawa penyelesaian kepada masalah pekerja India di ladang, Kesatuan Peladang Bersatu Malaya – United Planters Association Malaya (UPAM) pula semakin rimas dengan campur tangan CIAM dalam urusan pekerja ladang.

Dari tahun 1933 hingga 1936 harga getah melonjak tinggi sebanyak 250 peratus ekoran perkembangan industri automobil di Amerika. Permintaan getah juga tinggi dalam industri berat di Eropah yang dimangkinkan oleh Perang Dunia Kedua pada tahun awal 1939an. Berikutan mogok di kalangan pekerja ladang Cina di sekitar tahun 1937, UPAM sudah mula celik terhadap pekerja yang mahukan perubahan. Pekerja ladang India juga tidak ketinggalan bermogok secara sporadik di akhir tahun 1940 dan awal tahun 1941 apabila akhbar Tamil memuatkan berita keuntungan yang berlipat ganda yang dikaut oleh kapitalis hasil jualan getah. UPAM yang hanya bermatlamat untuk mengaut keuntungan yang sebanyak mungkin terpaksa bersetuju pada Januari 1941 untuk menaikkan gaji 50 sen kepada 55 sen untuk pekerja lelaki India dan 40 sen kepada 45 sen untuk pekerja wanita India berkuatkuasa pada 1 Februari 1941.

Kenaikan ini tidak membawa sebarang makna akibat inflasi dan kenaikan harga barangan keperluaan ekoran permintaan getah tinggi. Malahan, gaji ini tidak setimpal dengan gaji yang dibayar kepada pekerja Cina iaitu sebanyak 65 sen. Rata-rata pekerja tidak berpuashati dengan kenaikan yang dicadangkan oleh UPAM.

Sedang golongan pekerja tidak berpuas hati dengan gaji, pada akhir bulan Januari 1941 seorang penoreh getah bernama Vellayan dari Ladang Midlands telah dihentikan kerja kerana enggan melakukan kerja lebih masa. Vellayan juga merupakan Setiausaha Kesatuan Pekerja Ladang Sungai Rasau yang merupakan salah satu cabang KDIU. Pada 2 Februari 1941, setelah bertemu dengan Vellayan di Ladang Midlands, R.H Nathan dan jawatankuasa KDIU memutuskan tindakan mogok sebagai membantah pemecatan Vellayan.

Pada 3 Februari 1941, Vellayan telah dipanggil untuk diberi gaji tetapi Vellayan bertegas enggan menerima gaji dan meninggalkan estet tersebut. Justeru itu pada keesokkan harinya, seramai 300 pekerja Ladang Midlands daripada West Division bermogok sebagai menyokong tindakan Vellayan. Surat protes telah dihantar kepada Agen Kerajaan India di Malaya, Penguatkuasa Buruh Malaya (Controller of Labourers) dan pihak Pengurusan Ladang Midlands. Nathan and Menon telah dilaporkan menemui pekerja pada waktu malam. R.K Thangiah, seorang lagi aktivis, membantu Nathan dan Menon untuk menguruskan bantuan kewangan untuk pekerja yang mogok. Pekerja menerima $20 daripada Klang Rubber Manufacturing Workers Association dan beras daripada pekerja ladang yang berhampiran. Walaubagaimanapun, mogok ini hanya bertahan sehingga 12 Februari 1941.

Selepas mengkaji kekuatan dan kelemahan mogok di Ladang Midlands, pada 13 Februari 1941, Nathan mengadakan perjumpaan dengan Vellayan bersama 60 pekerja ladang Midlands. Nathan berpendapat untuk melumpuhkan solidariti kapitalis, mogok perlu dilancarkan secara serentak di semua ladang. Nathan juga berpendapat setiap ladang mesti diwakili oleh satu jawatankuasa yang mempunyai kuasa untuk mengambil keputusan semasa berunding dengan pihak majikan. Pada perjumpaan itu, Nathan dan Menon memformulasikan tuntutan yang bakal dijadikan wadah perjuangan pekerja di semua ladang di Selangor.

Tuntutan itu adalah :

1. Pembayaran gaji sama dengan pekerja ladang kaum Cina

2. Penyingkiran kakitangan estet Tamil Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Malayalee yang agresif dan “brutal”. Mereka perlu diganti dengan kakitangan Tamil dari India.

3. Pendidikan untuk anak pekerja

4. Ganguan seksual kakitangan estet terhadap golongan pekerja wanita perlu dihentikan

5. Bantuan perubatan

6. Penutupan kedai todi

7. Kebebasan untuk bersuara dan berkumpul

8. Bebas bertemu dengan rakan dan saudara mara di luar kawasan ladang

9. Pekerja tidak harus turun daripada basikalnya semasa melalui di hadapan kakitangan estet

10. Pemansuhan waktu kerja 10 hingga 12 jam sehari

11. Pekerja yang mengadu tentang masalah kerja tidak harus dijadikan mangsa dan dihukum

12. Kebenaran untuk membentuk kesatuan atau persatuan untuk mewakili kepentingan pekerja

Dalam perjumpaan itu juga Nathan gusaran dan meramal mungkin ditangkap oleh kerajaan dan meminta agar pekerja terus berjuang kiranya Nathan dan Menon diberkas. Katanya,

“Menon dan saya mungkin akan ditangkap, kami pasti. Sekiranya kami ditangkap, kalian perlu teruskan mogok sehingga kami bebas”

Pada 18 Februari 1941, satu lagi perjumpaan diadakan oleh KDIU dan dihadiri oleh pekerja dari Ladang Morton, Tanah Bahru, Bukit Kamuning and Damansara. Keputusan diambil untuk menghantar 12 tuntutan tersebut kepada semua pengurus ladang di lembah Kelang. Sekiranya tuntutan ini ditolak, maka pekerja akan melancarkan mogok.

Menjelang bulan Mac 1941, kerajaan dan UPAM semakin gusar dengan aktiviti Menon dan Nathan. Pekerja ladang seakan akan diberi suntikan dan nafas baru. Mereka tidak lagi turun daripada basikal mereka apabila lalu di hadapan majikan mereka. Tindakan pekerja memboikot kedai todi di ladang menyebabkan pengurusan estet kerugian besar dalam penjualan todi. Pekerja juga dengan berani membantah kakitangan yang menganggu anak perempuan dan bini mereka. Pekerja tidak lagi rela melihat anak bini mereka menjadi habuan seks rakus kakitangan estet. UPAM dan kerajaan British semakin tertekan dengan laporan laporan pengurus ladang yang tidak menyenangkan. Pekerja imigran yang selama ini hanya dilihat sebagai “pak turut”, sudah sedar dari lenanya! Seperkara lagi, apa yang amat ditakuti selama ini oleh UPAM dan kerajaan sudah mula dikesan di kalangan pekerja ladang....Semangat Bersatu! Pekerja sudah bersatu dengan satu suara menuntut pembaharuan. Dengan nada yang seiring, mereka mahukan 12 tuntutan yang diutarakan oleh Nathan and Menon dipenuhi dengan segera oleh majikan.

Pada 2 Mac 1941, dalam satu perjumpaan pekerja di Kampung Jawa, Menon berkata,

"Sebelum pembentukan kesatuan ini, ramai yang bertanggapan kapitalis itu Tuhan dan kita sebagai hamba. Sekarang 25 peratus daripada kamu sudah sedar . Kita adalah orang India dan bukan hamba kepada sesiapa pun. Pada masa akan dating, kita harus berkerjasama dalam perjuangan sehingga majikan ladang menyedari yang kita juga insan manusia! “

Nathan pula memberi amaran bahawa golongan kapitalis akan memecahkan solidariti pekerja.

"Kebanyakan kuli sudah mula memahami perbezaan antara pekerja dan kapitalis. Solidariti adalah kata kunci perjuangan ini. Majikan di estet mula memecah-belahkan kita, tapi kita tidak harus meloloskan ini. Saya kuatir, Menon dan saya akan menghadapi masalah. Kalian perlu bersatu dan percaya dengan kami”

Pada hari yang sama pekerja Ladang Glenmarie buat pertama kali bermogok menuntut kenaikan gaji dan kondisi tempat tinggal yang baik. Nathan dan Menon dilaporkan berjumpa dengan pekerja ladang pada 28 Februari dan 1 Mac 1941. Mereka menuntut 70 sen dibayar untuk pekerja lelaki dan 60 sen untuk pekerja wanita. Bagaikan api mogok ini mula merepak ke Ladang Midlands apabila 8 pekerja estet dihentikan dan diusir daripada ladang mereka pada 4 Mac 1941. Gopal, Palaniandy, Karuppan, Periasamy, Murugesan, Gengan. Muthiah dan Samikannu diberkas kerana enggan meninggalkan ladang Midlands selepas diberi notis pengusiran 24 jam.

Ekoran kejadian ini, pada 11 Mac 1941, J.D Dalley, Pengarah Penyiasatan Jenayah (Director of Criminal Intelligence) mencadangkan Residen British Selangor, Major Kidd untuk menangkap R.H Nathan, Y.K Menon dan R.K Thangiah di bawah Peraturan Darurat. Walaupun cadangan ini mendapat sokongan daripada Pesuruhjaya Tinggi Malaya Shenton Thomas yang meluluskan waran tangkap untuk Nathan, Menon dan Thangiah, Penguatkuasa Buruh Malaya, C.Wilson berpendapat kelulusan waran tangkap ini perlu dilengahkan kerana berpendapat ianya akan mengeruhkan keadaan dan melumpuhkan usaha CIAM untuk menyelesaikan masalah pekerja. Pandangan Wilson disokong oleh Residen Selangor Major Kidd dan Penasihat Undang Undang Persekutuan Tanah Melayu, Adrian Clark. Kerana perbezaan pendapat inilah, Wilson dipaksa untuk bersara oleh Shenton Thomas selepas mogok Kelang reda.

Pada 25 Mac 1941, semasa perbicaraan lapan orang yang diberhentikan dari Ladang Midlands, 200 pekerja hadir untuk memberikan sokongan. Keadaan mahkamah menjadi kecoh apabila keputusan hukuman dua bulan penjara dijatuhkan kepada pekerja pekerja tersebut. Pekerja-pekerja yang hadir untuk memberi sokongan, memprotes dengan bertindak "duduk dan bantah" dan tidak meninggalkan ruang mahkamah ala protes seperti yang dilakukan pengikut pengikut Mahatma Gandhi di India. Melihat keadaan ini, hakim terpaksa akur dengan desakan rakyat dan membebaskan pekerja dengan wang jaminan. Kejayaan ini memberikan aspirasi dan pengertian baru kepada pekerja yang menyedari mereka mampu mengubah keadaan mereka sekiranya mereka bersatu. Agen Kerajaan India C.S Venkatachar mengkritik tindakan kerajaan British Malaya menggunakan undang-undang sebagai instrumen untuk melumpuhkan mogok.

Menyedari kerajaan British perlu melakukan sesuatu, pada 27 Mac 1941, C.Wilson mempelawa Presiden CIAM, N.Raghavan dan Timbalan Presiden K.A Neelakanda Aiyer melawat estet –estet yang terlibat. Pada keesokannya, satu perjumapaan diadakan antara N.Raghavan dengan Pengerusi Peladang Daerah Kelang yang juga Pengurus Ladang Sungai Way, T.E Upton untuk membincangkan kenaikan gaji dan memulihkan keadaan mogok.

Berikutan perjumpaan ini pada 9 April 1941, UPAM bersetuju and mengumumkan kenaikan gaji sebanyak 60 sen untuk pekerja lelaki India dan 50 sen untuk pekerja wanita India. Presiden CIAM N. Raghavan menasihatkan pekerja untuk kembali berkerja. Dengan ini berakhirlah fasa pertama Mogok Kelang. Berikutan persetujuan ini, UPAM melihat kerajaan British sudah lemah dan tidak lagi dapat mengekang tuntutan pekerja. Malah UPAM menyifatkan keputusan ini satu pengkhianatan kepada British di Malaya. Ini kerana CIAM mempunyai hubungan baik dengan Kongres Nasional India yang memboikot pengerahan sukarelawan sebagai tentera untuk membantu koloni British menghalang kemaraan Jerman. (Dalam Perang Dunia Pertama. KNI menyokong pengerahan sukarelawan India yang membantu British berperang menentang tentera Jerman. Seramai lebih kurang satu juta sukarelawan rakyat India yang terkorban dalam Perang Dunia Pertama)

Kenaikan gaji ini merupakan satu peningkatan yang dapat membantu memulihkan ekonomi pekerja tetapi terdapat sesuatu yang dinilai lebih daripada wang duit oleh pekerja...Maruah dan Jati Diri! Mereka merasai diri mereka perlu dilayan sebagai manusia. Momentum anti-kapitalis yang terjana memberi kesedaran kepada golongan pekerja. Mereka sedar hanya satu bahasa yang difahami oleh golongan kapitalis dan kerajaan British iaitu “mogok”. Mereka sedar mogok adalah satu-satunya senjata yang dapat menundukkan keangkuhan kapitalis. Semua ini mereka pelajari daripada Nathan dan Menon yang disifatkan sebagai “pengacau” oleh golongan kapitalis dan kerajaan British.

Pada 11 April 1941, mogok dilaporkan di kebanyakan estet di Kelang, Kuala Langat dan Kuala Selangor. Ini menandakan sudah mulanya fasa kedua "Mogok Kelang". Pengurusan estet pula memberi tentangan dalam pelbagai rupa. Contohnya, bekalan air dipotong di Ladang Whiteareas, Damansara dan Blackareas.

Pada 15 April 1941 akhbar tempatan melaporkan mogok merebak secara sporadik di kebanyakan estet. Mogok di Ladang Highlands sebagai membantah penyingkiran empat orang pekerja. Mogok di Ladang Carey untuk menuntut satu jam sebagai waktu rehat makan yang sekian lama cuma hanya 30 minit sahaja. Di Ladang Port Swettenham pula, pekerja bermogok menuntut agar bendera Kongress Nasional Indian dikibarkan di pintu masuk estet dan gambar Gandhi digantung di semua rumah termasuk pejabat ladang.

Pada 18 April 1941 pula, pekerja Ladang North Hammock bermogok membantah tindakan penolong pengurus menghalang pekerja daripada memakai topi Gandhi.

Pada 26 April 1941, Nathan dalam satu perjumpaan dengan pekerja berkata;

" Jangan lupa semangat bersatu adalah senjata kita. Pakailah apa yang kalian mahu kerana itu adalah hak kalian. Pakailah topi Gandhi jika kalian mahu..jangan tanggalkannya. Jangan turun daripada basikal kalian sekiranya lalu depan kakitangan estet. Usah takut tempat kalian akan diambil-alih oleh orang Cina dan Jawa kerana negara kekurangan pekerja. Masa ini amat kritikal untuk memastikan tuntutan kalian dipenuhi.”

Mogok semakin merebak. Dilaporkan pada 1 Mei 1941, pekerja di sembilan ladang – Ladang Sungei Buluh, Ladang Brooklands, Ladang Bukit Chedang, Ladang Vallambrose, Ladang Bukit Panjang, Ladang Bukit Chu, Ladang Bukit Cheraka, Ladang Beveriac bermogok.

Untuk mengawal keadaan pada 6 Mei 1941, Nathan ditahan di bawah Akta Buang Negeri. Nathan dituduh melakukan aktiviti subvesif terhadap kerajaan British yang mampu melumpuhkan usaha perang kerajaan British Malaya. Menon terlepas kerana pertukaran kerja ke Singapura.

Sebagai membantah penahanan Nathan, seramai 300 pekerja berarak ke Kuala Lumpur dan berdemo di hadapan Pejabat Pesuruhjaya Buruh pada 7 Mei 1941.

Melihat perkembangan ini, UPAM semakin kritikal terhadap kelemahan kerajaan menangani mogok. UPAM menyalahkan kerajaan Malaya terutama Penguatkuasa Buruh Malaya,Wilson, kerana gagal untuk memaksa pekerja untuk kembali bekerja. UPAM juga mahu kerajaan menggunakan kuasa polis untuk membanteras mogok walaupun permintaan ini ditolak oleh Wilson. Pengerusi UPAM, S.B Palmer dalam perbincangan dengan Pesuruhjaya Tinggi Malaya, Shenton Thomas, pada 6 Mei 1941, menyelar kerajaan Malaya yang tidak lagi berupaya mengekang mogok. Palmer memberi amaran sekiranya mogok tidak dihentikan, ianya akan menular mengakibatkan kemerosotan ekonomi British yang bakal akan membawa kepada kelumpuhan usaha perang untuk memperkasakan British menghadapi kemaraan Jepun. Wilson pula terus mempertahankan CIAM dengan alasan Nathan dan Menon adalah cuma golongan prihatin yang mahukan perubahan yang munasabah untuk golongan pekerja.

Bantahan terhadap penahanan Nathan juga  berlaku di ladang-ladang. Pada 8 Mei 1941, pekerja Ladang Bukit Panjang Estate dengan bersenjatakan kayu dan batu bata menyekat cubaan pengurus estet mengeluarkan satu konsimen getah. Kerana gagal mengeluarkan konsimen tersebut, Pengurus A.J Gomm telah meminta bantuan polis. Pada keesokannya, seramai 160 orang polis telah dikerah untuk membantu pengurus. Perhimpunan pekerja yang membantah pengeluaran getah itu dileraikan dengan serangan ganas kayu belantan oleh pihak polis. Lapan pekerja cedera dalam serangan tersebut. Seramai 500 hingga 600 pekerja yang cuba menghalang empat buah lori yang membawa keluar getah tersebut bertembung dengan polis. Pekerja dikatakan bersenjatakan kayu, batu, botol, tombak dan rod besi. Dalam serangan itu dua orang pekerja dari Ladang Bukit Cheraka dan Ladang Highlands, Rengasamy dan Yellumalle terkorban.

Dalam keadaan yang semakin meruncing, pada 10 Mei 1947 Pesuruhjaya Tinggi Malaya Shenton Thomas mengambil keputusan untuk mendapatkan bantuan tentera British yang ditempatkan untuk menghadapi kemaraan tentera Jepun. Pada mulanya, Thomas telah meminta bantuan tentera Australia tetapi permintaan itu ditolak oleh tentera Australia atas dasar prinsipnya. Tentera Australia enggan bertembung dengan golongan pekerja kerana ia hanya ditugaskan untuk menentang kemaraan Jepun. Kecewa dengan reaksi tentera Australia, Thomas meminta pula bantuan tentera British India yang ditempatkan di Ipoh. Tanpa banyak soal, tentera British India yang kebanyakannya dianggotai orang India setuju dengan permintaan Thomas. Bagaikan kata pepatah, menggunakan jari sendiri untuk mencucuk mata, kaum India sendiri digunakan untuk menentang kaum India. Selain itu, Pasukan Askar Melayu dari Singapura juga dikerah untuk mengekang kebangkitan pekerja. Jelas keputusan untuk mengerah askar British India untuk menghalang kebangkitan pekerja India dibuat tanpa memikirkan implikasi dan kesannya terhadap pemerintahan British di India.

Tetapi British mengakui bukan mudah untuk mengekang mogok pekerja yang sudah menular jauh meresapi setiap pelusuk estet-estet di Selangor dan Negeri Sembilan. Pemimpin pekerja dikatakan mengayuh basikal menyebarkan berita mogok dan meminta pekerja menyokong mogok di ladang-ladang di Selangor. Pada 11 Mei 1941, seramai 150 pekerja berarak berjalan dan menaiki basikal dari Kuala Selangor ke Sepang. Sepanjang perjalanan itu, banyak kedai todi dimusnahkan termasuk sebuah sebuah kilang di Telok Merbau.

Keadaan menjadi genting di Kelang apabila sekumpulan pekerja berkumpul di Balai Polis Kelang menuntut pembebasan pemimpin pekerja pada 12 Mei 1941. Polis meleraikan kumpulan pekerja tersebut dengan menggunakan kekerasan. Ketua Polis Selangor H.B Langworthy turut tercedera bersama sepuluh orang anggota polis dan 20 orang pekerja.

Pada 13 Mei 1941, mogok dilaporkan di sepuluh estet sekitar di Kuala Lumpur. Tiga puluh pekerja disabitkan di Mahkamah Kelang dan direman atas kesalahan berkaitan dengan mogok. Juga dilaporkan talian telefon di kebanyakan kawasan Kelang diputuskan oleh pekerja yang sedang bermogok. Di Ladang Raja Muda, kereta kebal dibawa untuk membantu untuk meleraikan 300 pekerja yang bermogok.

Pada 14 Mei 1941 mogok dilaporkan di 38 ladang daripada 53 ladang di Kuala Selangor, 20 ladang daripada 24 ladang di Kuala Langat, 35 ladang daripada 43 ladang di Kelang dan 27 ladang di Kuala Lumpur. Sejumlah 120 ladang dilaporkan sedang bermogok. Antara 120 ladang yang dilaporkan adalah seperti berikut:

Ladang Beveriac, Ladang Blackacres, Ladang Brooklands, Ladang Bukit Cheedong, Ladang Bukit Cheraka, Ladang Bukit Chu, Ladang Bukit Kamuning, Ladang Bukit Panjang, Ladang Carey Island, Ladang Damansara (Batu 7), Ladang Effingham, Ladang Glenmarie, Ladang Haron, Ladang Highlands, Ladang Kundang, Ladang Mary, Ladang Batang Berjuntai, Ladang Midlands, Ladang Morton, Ladang North Hummock, Ladang Philmoor Estate, Ladang Port Swettenham, Ladang Raja Muda, Ladang Seaport, Ladang Sungai Buluh, Ladang Sungai Sedu, Ladang Sungai Tinggi, Ladang Sungai Rasau, Ladang Sungai Way, Ladang Tanah Bharu, Ladang Telok Datok, Ladang Telok Ganting, Ladang Vallembrose, Ladang Whiteacres, Ladang Wilkinson, Ladang Tremelbye, Ladang Batu Tiga, Ladang Bukit Badak dan Bukit Darah Estate.

Dianggarkan 20 ribu pekerja dari 120 ladang tersebut telah mengambil bahagian dalam mogok ini.

Pada 15 Mei 1941, di samping 3000 pekerja Ladang Kumpulan Sochin dilaporkan mogok, kemelut berdarah yang berlaku Ladang Brooklands yang melibatkan 900 pekerja dianggap paling parah dalam sejarah perjuangan pekerja. Pekerja Ladang Brooklands dan Sungai Sedu menahan Pengurus Ladang Sungai Sedu, C.B Wheeler di kediaman milik Pengurus Ladang Brooklands, P.C Fisher. Pekerja berkumpul mengelilingi kediaman pengurus menuntut pembebasan Nathan yang masih ditahan polis. Pekerja bertekad hanya akan membebaskan Wheeler and Fisher sekiranya Nathan dibebaskan.

Gagal untuk meleraikan keadaan, OCPD Forbes Wallace meminta bantuan tentera British India. Dibawah arahan Major Howes Roberts, tentera melepaskan tembakan terhadap kumpulan pekerja. Dalam serangan ini tiga pekerja terkorban – Mayandi, Angappan dan Konneri. Tujuh pekerja cedera parah dan seramai 124 orang ditahan dan dihadapkan ke mahkamah pada 3 Jun 1941.

Keadaan yang semakin merosot menyebabkan kerajaan British mengumumkan darurat di Selangor pada 16 Mei 1941. Polis dan tentera melancarkan operasi “pembersihan” yang sistematik secara besar-besaran. Dalam operasi tersebut ramai pemimpin buruh diberkas di tengah malam antara pukul 1 pagi dan 6 pagi tanpa pengetahuan pekerja pekerja lain. Mereka ditahan dan disabitkan dengan kesalahan di bawah peraturan darurat. Operasi ini dilanjutkan sehingga 24 Mei di mana 90 peratus pemimpin buruh berjaya ditahan.

Menjelang 17 Mei 1941, seramai 20 orang pemimpin buruh di Ladang Teluk Ganting di Pulau Carey ditahan. 16 lagi ditahan di Klang. Pada hari yang sama R.H Nathan telah dibuang negeri ke India. Pada 18 Mei 1941, polis menahan 21 pemimpin buruh di Ladang Damansara. Pada 19 Mei 1941, 200 polis melancarkan operasi mengejut menahan 12 pemimpin buruh di Ladang Seaport pada malam buta.

Penahanan pemimpin buruh secara besar besaran ini melumpuhkan mogok di kebanyakan estet. Menjelang 22 Mei 1941, hanya sebahagian pekerja di Ladang Carey Island keluar mogok membantah penahanan 25 pemimpin buruh. Pada keesokannya, semua pekerja dilaporkan kembali bekerja seperti biasa. Sebagai menyangkal kebangkitan pekerja, akhbar bahasa Inggeris melaporkan kegiatan memeras ugut merupakan antara faktor utama yang menyebabkan pekerja menyokong mogok selama ini.

Selain penahanan pemimpin buruh, seramai 500 pekerja Ladang Wilkinson di Kuala Lumpur dibuang kerja pada 24 Mei 1941.

Menjelang akhir Mei 1941, “Mogok Klang” seolah-olah sudah berjaya dimatikan oleh kerajaan yang bersekongkol dan akur dengan kehendak kapitalis. Mogok ini memperlihatkan nyawa enam pekerja terkorban, 21 pekerja telah dibuang negeri ke India, 95 pekerja dihantar pulang ke India atas permintaan, 300 pekerja ditahan dan dipenjara dan 186 pekerja dibebaskan dengan syarat tidak kembali ke ladang mereka. Sebagai menghukum kaum pekerja, kenaikan gaji yang dipersetujui oleh UPAM tidak ditunaikan. Gaji kekal di paras asal iaitu 50 sen untuk lelaki dan 45sen untuk wanita. Setelah Nathan dibuang negeri, dalam perutusan rasminya, kerajaan British Malaya menyifatkan R.H Nathan sebagai pengkhianat kepada empayar British dan punca kepada rusuhan pekerja di Selangor. Penguatkuasa Buruh Malaya, Wilson dipaksa untuk bersara kerana menyokong kebangkitan pekerja ladang. Walaupun kerajaan India British menekan kerajaan Malaya untuk mengadakan inkus terbuka, tetapi Shenton Thomas terus berdolah dalih. Alasan yang diberikan adalah sibuk dengan persiapan untuk menghadapi tentera Jepun. Perang Dunia Kedua yang terletus di Pasifik melenyapkan terus kebangkitan pekerja di Malaya.

Sudah lebih tujuh dekad insiden ini berlalu. Mereka yang masih ingat raut wajah Rengasamy, Yellumalle, Mayandy, Anggapan dan Konneri tidak lagi bersama kita sekarang. Wajah pejuang pekerja ini mungkin sudah dilupakan tapi nama mereka masih lagi dikenang. Bagi mereka yang menyelar dan mempersoal kita terlalu taksub dengan barat untuk menimbah inspirasi untuk Hari Pekerja, sini saya persembahkan nama pejuang pekerja ini sebagai mengganti Lingg, Spies, Fischer, Engel dan Parsons. Walaupun mereka berlainan bangsa, negara dan agama tetapi perjuangan mereka tetap sama. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Klang Strike 1941 - Trade Union Act to be Introduced - Tamil Murasu May 26, 1941

In looking at the effects and changes post Klang Strike, I would consider one of the most important changes that was implemented was the introduction of Trade Union Act in June 1941. It has been asserted that prior to 1940, the unofficial policy of the Malayan government has been "to strangle trade unionism at birth."  With increasing demands for better treatments and wages, the FMS government realized that it needed to introduce Trade Union Act in Malaya. Thus, the Klang Strike staged by plantation workers under Nathan, played important role in changing the mindset of the British in Malaya.

Tamil Murasu on 26th May 1941 reported the reasons behind the Klang Strike based on statement released by the FMS government. It reported that a movement under R.H Nathan intimidated workers in Selangor and spread elements that threatened the government.

Even though there were arrest warrants issued against Nathan and his movement, it was put on-hold as the workers' demands also involved wages of plantation workers. The statement also mentioned that the reason behind the agitation was not about labourers' dissatisfaction on their wages and living condition but it meant to disable the government.

Nathan was accused of spreading hatred towards the government despite being "a guest" under the immigration law in Malaya. Nathan, who had no experience working or living on plantation estates also accused involving in subversive activities against the government. Due to act of "treason", Nathan was departed and barred from entering Malaya. The agitators were reported to have been carrying on with their subversive activities in many parts of Selangor.
The statements also mentioned that since "war efforts" have been affected due to the strike and workers to be urged to resolve their grievances through talks, trade union acts shall be soon introduced.
Tamil Murasu - May 26, 1941

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Casualties of Klang Strike 1941 - Rengasamy, Yellumalle (Elumalai), Mayandi, Angappan and Keneri (Konneri)

Finally, I managed to find out those names of labourers who were killed during the Klang Strike in 1941.

On 9th May 1941, Rengasamy and Yellumalle became the first causalities during the clash on Bukit Panjang Estate. Rengasamy was from Bukit Cheraka Estate and Yellumale (Elumalai) was from Highlands Estate (refer to my article

On 15th May 1941, Mayandi, Angappan and Keneri were killed when the British Indian troops opened fire to disperse some 900 labourers protesting on Brooklands Estate (refer to my article

(With this findings, only one labourer who died of bayonet wounds remains unknown and I am determined to find his/her name soon)

Out of all these names, the name "Keneri" sounds a little bit odd due typo-error. The actual name of the person was Konneri (கோனேரி) based on report published in Tamil Murasu dated 11th July 1941. There are a few places in Tamil Nadu with reference to name "Konneri". Konneri derived from two words "Kon" which means King and "Eri" which means pond. There is "Konneri Kuppam" (Konneri Village) in Vellor. There is also a place with a similar name "Konnerirajapuram" in Kumbakonan district in Tamil Nadu, which the Temple Uma Mahewarar housed the biggest bronze Nadaraja statue in the world. In Thirupathi, there is a pond referred as "Konneri" (most probably used by the kings for ritual purposes)
Largest Nadarajar bronze statue
at Uma Maheswarar Temple in Konnerirajapuram, Kumbakonam

The Straits Times dated 9th July 1942, carried a news of the investigation findings of Brooklands Estate incident where the names of those killed in the gunfire Mayandi, Angappan and Keneri (Konneri) were mentioned. However, it did not mention about the fourth person who died due to bayonet wounds.

Raja Ayoub, the District Officer of Kuala Langat, found Major Howes Roberts of the Indian Army not guilty in ordering his men to open fire towards 900 plantation labourers in Brooklands Estate.

The Tamil Murasu reported that there were four eye-witness were called to give their statement in the inquiry. A research officer of Rubber Research Institute, J.F Dovey, Bandha Singh and Lieutenant F. Derrick and Inspector Yahaya from Klang Police Station, who identified the bodies. The Deputy Public Prosecutor, A.J Graddon also called upon 4 wounded labourers to give their statement before mentioning their crime charges for taking part in the strike on Brooklands Estate, Banting on the 15th May 1941.  

According to H.E Wilson, the author of "Labour, Planter and Politics in Pre-War Malaya: The Selangor Riot, 1941", the inquiry was held after tremendous pressure from Government of India under Victor Alexander John Hope, the 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow as the Viceroy of India.  Wilson stated the "inquiries were limited to the question of whether or not the use of force has been justified, and on the basis of the evidence presented mainly by senior police and army officers and estate-manager."

The Straits Times 9th July 1941

Tamil Murasu - 11th July 1941

Klang Strike 1941 - Four Labourers Died in Police Military Clash and Emergency Declared

The Singapore Free Press (17th May 1941) reported clash between Indian plantation labourers, police and military at Banting on 15th May 1941.

The Indian Army under orders of Major Howes Roberts opened fire killing 3 strikers and another labourer died due to bayonet injuries. A contingent of Malay Regiment from Negeri Sembilan were brought in for assistance.

Around 300 labourers armed with parang, six-foot long poles with hooks and "changkol" surrounded the residence bungalow of Manager of Brooklands Estate where the Manager of Sungai Sedu C.B Wheeler who took refuge with P.C Fisher.

Around 124 labourers has been arrested.  The Chief Officer Selangor H.B Langworthy was in-change of Klang and the Director of Criminal Intelligence G.R Livette in-charge of Kuala Lumpur area.

On 16th May 1941, the Resident of Selangor  Major G.M Kidd declared the state of emergency in Selangor and called out the Second Battalion of the Federated Malay State Volunteer Forces, the Signal Company, Armoured Car Unit, the Light Battery, Motor Transport Company, and Mobile Field Ambulance.

All those four dead labourers were not named in the newspaper.
(You may find their names in my article

The Singapore Free Press down played the number of labourers surrounded the bungalow as 300 but in a telegram of Shenton Thomas to Secretary of States for the Colonies, on 16th May 1941, "Disturbance on Klang Rubber Estates," file - CO 717/145/12 p.385 and Report on strike in Selangor by Federal Secretary, " Disturbance on Klang Rubber Estates," file - CO 717/145/12 p.88 indicated 800 to 900 labourers were involved.

The same colonial papers also indicated that the British Indian troops were involved in the clash.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Klang Strike 1941 - Indian Labourers Forced Court to Change Verdict

At the beginning of Klang Strike, seven workers and a "Kangany" from Midlands Estate were dismissed for instigating workers to strike. They were Gopal, Palaniandy, Karuppan, Periasamy, Murugesan, Gengan, Muthiah and Samikannu. They were told to get their pay and leave the estate. But when the men refused. they were changed under trespassing offence.

The Straits Times on 26th March 1941, reported that huge crowd of labourers presented in the court room and compound staged a protest when the men were sentenced to two months of vigorous imprisonment. Finally, due to the commotion the court allowed the men on bail.
ST - 26th March 1941
Trespass On Estate
Tamil Labourers Demonstrate

(From Our Own Correspondence)

Kuala Lumpur Mar., 26.
 Found guilty of trespass on Midlands Estate after having been given notice, seven Tamils labourers were yesterday sentenced to two months' rigorous imprisonment by the Klang Magistrate.
The accused were Gopal, Palaniandy, Karuppan, Periasamy, Murugesan, Gengan, Muthiah and Samikannu and with the exception of Palaniandy, who was acquitted, others were convicted. 
A large crowd of Tamils were in court to hear the proceedings.  

Refused Pay
Mr.R.M Bousfield, general manager of the estate, said he learned from Mr G.C.W Pringle, the divisional superintendent that some labourer in Pringle's division had gone on strike. He went to the estate and decided to pay off the offenders.
Mr. Beaufield said the accused refused to accept pay for the days they had worked and when the divisional superintendent called out the names of 30 labourers at the muster, the accused, who were in the number, refused answer to their names.
When they persisted in refusing to accept the money due to them it was sent to the labour office in Klang and asked to leave the estate in 24 hours.
They did not obey and it was the prosecution's allegation that the eight accused were instrumental in causing a strike on the estate. 
The accused only agreed to leave the estate if they were paid in full for march and received another month's wages in lieu of notice.
Mr. Beaufield told them that they had broken their contract under the Labour Code by going on strike. 

Constituted An Offence
In sentencing the seven accused the magistrate remarked that he was satisfied their refusal to leave the estate after notice had been given them constituted as offence.
After the accused been sentenced a large crowd of Tamils gathered at the entrance to the court house and refused to disperse in spite of advise by the police.
They created a disturbance outside the court and held up proceeding in other cases.
Eventually they dispersed at 3.30 pm and the accused were released on bail $70 each pending appeal.  

Chronology of Klang Strike 1941 - Part 3 (Final)

1st May 1941 - Workers in nine estates - Sungei Buluh Estate, Brooklands Estate, Bukit Chedang Estate, Vallambrose Estate, Bukit Panjang Estate, Bukit Chu Estate, Bukit Cheraka Estate, Beveriac Estate were on strike.

6th May 1941 - Nathan was arrested with banishment warrant. He was to be charged for offences against the state. Menon avoided the arrest as he has been transferred by his company to Singapore.

7th May 1941 - 300 workers marched to Kuala Lumpur and demonstrated in front of the Commissioner of Labour office demanding Nathan to be released.

8th May 1941 - In the Bukit Panjang Estate, strikers armed with sticks and stones stopped an attempt by the estate manager to deliver a consignment of rubber.

9th May 1941 - 160 policemen were called for re-enforcement as workers surrounded the packing shed of the Bukit Panjang Estate. Crowd only dispersed when police charged them with "lathi". Eight labourers were wounded in the lathi charge. In the afternoon, around 500 to 600 workers blocked four lorries carrying consignments of rubber. The workers were armed with bottles, sticks, spears, iron bar and bricks. Workers removed planks from bridge to stop the lorries. The lorries were forced to take another exit which was about one mile away. But the roads were blocked by fallen trees. Workers and police clashed resulted in two deaths - Rengasamy and Yelumalle (refer to my article

10th May 1941 - Shenton Thomas, the High Commissioner decided to call troops for assistance. A battalion of Indian Army which was stationed for World War 2, was brought to Klang and amoured car unit and signal company of the Malay States Volunteers Force were deployed.

11th May 1941 - 150 workers went down the Coast Road from Kuala Selangor to Sepang to spread strike. On their way, they destroyed many toddy shops and a factory at Telok Merbau.

12th May 1941 - Workers surrounded the Klang Police Station demanding arrested workers to be released. They were discharged violently with lathi charges. H.B Langworthy Chief Police Officer of Selangor was knocked down and trampled in the clash. 20 strikers and 10 policemen including Langworthy sustained injuries.
J. H Hindmarsh, OCPD of Kuala Lumpur also injured in a separate clash.
M.S Dutt, the Agent of the Government of India visited Klang and had a long conversation with the Deputy Controller of Labour E.A Ross. Strikes have been spreading to Sepang Negeri Sembilan.

13th May 1941 - 10 estates in Kuala Lumpur area were hit by strike. 30 labourers have been charged in court in Klang for offences related to strike and remanded for a week. Strikers cut of telephone lines in various are in Klang. Amoured cars have to establish wireless communication with military stations in Klang.
Near Raja Muda Estate, an amoured patrol car assisted Staithairn to disarm 300 labourers (armed with sticks)
Shenton Thomas again met up with government officials and representative of planting industry at the King's House.

14th May 1941 - 38 out of 53 estates in Kuala Selangor, 20 out of 24 estates in Kuala Langat, 35 out of 43 estates in Klang were on strike. In total 93 estates were on strike. (I managed to find out 38 out of those 93 estates which were on strike)

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. Sungai Rasau Estate
28. Sungai Way Estate
29. Tanah Bharu Estate
30. Telok Datok Estate
31. Telok Ganting Estate
32. Vallembrose Estate
33. Whiteacres Estate
34. Wilkinson Estate
35. Tremelbye Estate
36. Batu Tiga Estate
37. Bukit Badak Estate
38. Bukit Darah Estate

27 estates in Kuala Lumpur with 3500 labourers were on strike. With help of a few labourers, 16 men were detained by Bukit Darah Estate Manager D.F Hutton. One of the  Estimated around 20,000 workers within 1500 square-miles took part in the strike which also spread to some parts of Negeri Sembilan. Strike situation was dire that more troops were deployed -  Malay Regiment from Singapore was deployed.

15th May 1941 - 3000 workers of Sochin Group Estate in Klang came out to strike. Serious causalities at Brooklands Estate reported where 900 workers confined the Manager of Sungai Sedu Estate, C.B Wheeler in a bungalow belongs to the Manager of Brooklands Estate, P.C Fisher. he strikers surrounded the bungalow and intended to keep the manager confined to the bungalow until Nathan to be released.
Police and military troops under Forbes Wallace opened fire and charged workers brutally with bayonets. Three workers were shot dead. One was wounded by bayonet and died later. Seven were wounded and 124 workers were arrested. (refer to my article

The arrested labourers were charged in court on the 3rd June 1941 (refer to my article

16th May 1941 - Emergency was declared in Selangor. Police and military carried out systematic large scale round-up and arrests of labour leaders under the Emergency Regulation. Usually the arrests were carried out during wee hours from 1am to 6am without the knowledge of other workers. Raids continued till 24th May 1941. Almost 90% of the labour leaders were arrested.

17th May 1941 - 20 labour leaders from Teluk Ganting Estate on Carey Island were arrested. Another 16 more arrested in Klang under Emergency Regulation. R.H Nathan was deported to India.

18th May 1941 - Police raided and arrested 21 labourers from 7th Mile Estate along Damansara Road.

19th May 1941 - Some 200 over police carried out surprise raid on Seaport Estate and arrested 12 labourers when majority of the labourers were still asleep. The Straits Times reported only 3 out of 29 estates in Kuala Lumpur still on-strike.

22nd May 1941 - Some divisions of workers on Carey Island were on-strike to protest the arrest of 25 labourers

23rd May 1941 - The entire workforce of workers turned up to work including those who went on-strike on the May, 22nd.

24th May 1941 - 400 to 500 workers on the Wilkinson Estate near Kuala Lumpur were dismissed by the employer.  

End of May 1941 - All strikes came to an end. The uprising caused 6 deaths. 21 labourers were deported, 95 labourers were repatriated on their own-will to India, 300 labourers were arrested and imprisoned and 186 labourers were released on the condition that they should not return to Klang district.

Klang District Indian Union which was started on 22nd July 1939 was de-registered. Shenton Thomas, the High Commissioner who promised an investigation over the riot did not keep his promise. With more emphasis given to World War 2, the first ever strike that shocked the British and the most militant and best organised Indian labour movement slipped through the pages of our history.   

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Chronology of Klang Strike 1941 - Part 2

18th Feb 1941 - Another meeting was organised by Klang District Indian Union which attended by workers from Morton Estate, Tanah Bahru Estate, Bukit Kamuning Estate and Damansara Estate. The meeting was chaired by Thangiah. They decided that a series of strikes to be staged soon and copies of demand formulated by Nathan and Menon were sent to the managers of a number of estates.

2nd Mar 1941 - In a meeting of the Kampung Jawa Indian Union, Menon said:
"Before we organised this Union you all thought that the Capitalists were God and we were slaves. Now at least 25 per cent of you realise that this is not so. We are Indian and slave to nobody. In future we must co-operate and advance our Union until the estate proprietors and officials will realise that we are human beings. 
In the same meeting, Nathan said:
" A lot of coolies now understand what is the difference between labourers and capitalists. Co-operate is our watchword. The estate proprietors and agents will try to break this co-operation, but we cannot allow them to interfere with our work. Because of this, I fear Menon and I are expecting trouble. You labourers must believe in us and unite together." 

2nd Mar 1941 - Workers of Glenmarie Estate were first to go on strike demanding higher salary and better living conditions. It has been reported that Nathan and Menon had visited the estate workers on the 28th February and 1st March 1941. They demanded 70 cents for men and 60 cents for women.

4th Mar 1941 - At Midland Estate 7 workers and a Kangany (Gopal, Palaniandy, Karuppan, Periasamy, Murugesan, Gengan. Muthiah and Samikannu) and were arrested for instigating labour disputes. Earlier they were dismissed and ordered to leave the estate within 24 hours. When they refused, they were prosecuted for illegal trespassing.

11 Mar 1941 - J.D Dalley, the Director of Criminal Intelligence suggested to British Resident of Selangor, Major Kidd to take action against R.H Nathan, Y.K Menon and R.K Thangiah under Emergency Regulation.

18th Mar 1941 - The High Commissioner Shenton Thomas approved the issuance of arrest warrant for R.H Nathan, Y.K Menon and R.K Thangiah. But the Controller of Labour, C Wilson, thought the arrest might aggravate situation and hamper CIAM's efforts of peaceful solution. Wilson's view was supported by Major Kidd and Legal adviser of Federated Malay States, Adrian Clark. For Wilson's tardiness in approving the arrest Nathan and Menon, he was removed from the office by Shenton Thomas after Klang Strike was subdued.

25th Mar 1941 - 200 workers attended court hearing where 7 those arrested were sentenced to 2 months of rigorous imprisonment. Workers caused up-roar when refused to vacate the court-room and compound. Workers only dispersed after the accused were granted bail. (Refer to my article

27 Mar 1941 - Agent of the Government of India C.S Venkatachari criticized the use of court and law as an instrument to break strike.

C.S Venkatachari
Agent of Government of India to Malaya 1939 to 1941
28th Mar 1941 - C. Wilson arranged meeting between President of CIAM Nadyan Raghavan, Secretary K.A Neelakanda Aiyer, the Agent of the Government of India, Venkatachar and T.E Upton who was the Manager of Sungei Way Estate, Chairman of Klang District Planter Association and Secretary of UPAM. In the meeting it was decided and announced that the wages to be increased for 60 cents for males and 50 cents for females with effective of 9th April 1941. Yet, the members of the UPAM expressed bitter resentment over the settlement and viewed it as a betrayal of UPAM interests.
N. Rahgavan
President of CIAM 
9th April 1941 - Following meeting with CIAM, the United Planter Association of Malaya (UPAM) agreed and announced increase in wages from 55 cents to 60 cents for men and 45 cents to 50 cents for women. N. Raghavan advised the workers to return to work thus bringing to end of first phase of strike. Even though the increase in wages was seen as improvement, Nathan and Menon argued that that the new wages will not satisfied the workers' needs thus determined to press for full demands through further strikes. It was not only the wages issue triggered a second waves of strike, there was some very subtle seems to be knitted in the labour struggle. For centuries the Indians were treated as less than human being and slaves. in all estates, they labourers were forces to alight from their bicycles when they met their British masters. Indian labourers wanted to be treated with dignity. Thus, the workers started to realise that only one language understood by the capitalist planters ...STRIKE! Only through strike the basic demands shall be met!

11th April 1941 - Strike resumed in many estates. Water supplies to workers in Whiteareas, Damansara and Blackarea Estates were cut off.

15th April 1941 - Sporadic strikes occurred again. Highlands Estate was in protest over dismissal of four workers. In Carey Estate workers demanded an hour for their lunch break instead of the usual 30 minutes. In Port Swettenham Estate, workers demanded that flag of Indian National Congress to be flown at the entrance of estate and picture of Gandhi to be hung in homes of estate workers in the estate.

18 April 1941 - At North Hammock Estate, workers staged strike due to an attempt by the an assistant manager to remove the Gandhi cap worn by workers.

26th April 1941 - Nathan in addressing the gathering of workers said;
" I am glad to see such unity in this district. Continue united until you get required results. Unity is strength. In future, make your demands to the Management two weeks before you stop work. When you strike, seethe essential services are maintained, such as Line Sweepers, postman and etc. During strike, do not ask for the summary dismissal of your superiors. If any of you are paid off as a result if taking parts in a strike, all of you must immediately strike again for his account. Do not forget, unity is strength. Dress any way you wish, it is your privilege. Wear Gandhi hats if you like, and do not remove them. In the same way, do not get off your bicycles on public road. Do not fear that your place will be taken by Chinese or Javanese. The country is short of labour, and there is no immigration at present. These are critical times and for this reason your demands will met. For the first time the Europeans realise that you are human beings; now your opportunity."

( be continued) 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Chronology of Klang Strike 1941 - How "the Largest, Best Organised and Most Militant Strike" was Brought to an End!

The most prominent Indian leaders who led the Klang Strike 1941 were R.H Nathan and Y.K Menon. Not much has been written about both these leaders. I have extracted here some of Tai Yuen's work from his  "Labour Unrest In Malaya, 1934 - 1941 - The Rise of the Workers' Movement", who described the strike as "the largest, best organised and most militant strike ever staged by Indian plantation workers in Malaya."

R. Halashiya Nathan was a South Indian Brahmin who came to Malaya in 1936 at the age of  24 and stayed with his brother, a police court interpreter in Klang. His first employment was in 1937 as a clerk at Paterson & Simons in Port Swettenham. He was a supporter of the Self-Respect Movement but left the movement and became an ardent supporter of The Socialist Party of the Indian National Congress. In March 1940, he was dismissed from Paterson & Simons and for a while was working for the Singapore Herald. He also became a reporter for Tamil Nesan and later its assistant editor.

Y. Kesava Menon was an estate clerk who was active in the Indian community and labour activities. He was involved in the F.M.S Railway Central Workshop strike in 1939 along with R.H Nathan. His uncle Y.S Menon was a member of the Coastal Indian Association in Klang and founding member of Central Indian Association of Malaya (CIAM).

A.K Gopalan, the foremost socialist of Indian National Congress visited Malaya in 1939. In a reception organised by R.H Nathan and Y.K Menon, Gopalan urged the Indians in Malaya to support the Indian National Congress and the Independence Movement.

Image source:

Chronology of Klang Strike 1941    

July 1939 - Nathan and Menon instrumental to establish Klang District Indian Union (even though legislation provision for the recognition of trade unions did not come into effect until June 1941. It was the unofficial policy of the Malayan government "to strangle trade unionism at birth".
The President of the union was Y.K Menon. He was replaced by R.H Nathan in May 1941 when Menon was transferred to Singapore by his employer.  

29th Jan 1941 - Vellayan was ordered to do overtime. Vellayan refused and promptly he was dismissed on 1st Feb 1941. Vellayan, who was a rubber tapper in Midlands Estate was elected as Secretary of Sungei Rasau Estate Union (a branch of Klang District Indian Union).

2nd Feb 1941 - R.H Nathan met Vellayan on the estate and ordered a meeting of Klang District Indian Union committee in the evening. Vellayan, two representatives from Midlands Estate and two representatives from Sungei Rasau Estate attended the meeting. It was decided that a strike should be called in support of Vellayan.

3rd Feb 1941 - The manager of Midlands Estate called Vellayan to pay him off, but Vellayan refused to accept the one month's payment in-lieu of notice.

4th Feb 1941 - 300 workers of the West Division of Midlands Estate stopped work. Letters by Klang District Indian Union were sent to the Agent of the Indian Government, Controller of Labourers and management of Midlands Estate. Nathan and Menon were reported to have visited the labourers at night on 2nd February 1941. R.K Thangiah had assisted Nathan and Menon to find financial support for the strikers. The strikers received $20 from the Klang Rubber Manufacturing Workers Association and rice from other estate workers.

12th Feb 1941 - Strike ended. Workers returned to work.

13th Feb 1941- Vellayan, two representatives of Sg. Rasau, two representatives of Midlands Estate and 60 labourers attended meeting of Klang District Indian Union. In the end it was decided that the strikes will be staged simultaneously on six estates. The demands were higher wages and better living conditions. Nathan emphasized that each estate must have a strike committee with absolute power to negotiate with estate management and decide on the outcome.
In the meeting Nathan and Menon formulated a list of demands (as follows)

1. Parity of pay for Indian and Chinese workers
2. Removal of “brutal” Ceylon Tamil and Malayalee staff and replacement with Indian Tamils
3. Proper education for children
4. An end to the molestation of labourers’ womenfolk by Europeans and “Black Europeans"
5. Proper medical facilities
6. Closing of toddy shops
7. Freedom of speech and assembly
8. Free access to estates for family and friends
9. Labourers to remain mounted on bicycles in front of Europeans planters and Asian staff
10. Abolition of 10–12 hour daily working hours
11. No victimisation of those presenting grievances
12. Permission to form associations to represent their interests and to put forward their grievances

In the meeting, Nathan concluded:
"Menon and I will be arrested soon, we feel sure. When we have been arrested, you people must go on strike and agitate for our release" 

 ...(to be continued)       

S.A Ganapathy - From Social Reformist to Independence Fighter

On the 20th of March 2016, I presented a paper in forum titled "Tribute to S. A. Ganapathy and Lim Chin Siong: Develop the selfless devotion spirit of these eminent leaders of the Malaya labour movement". (The link to the article:

I was truly honoured to present this paper and sharing the same stage with the most prominent historian C. C Chin, who have dedicated more than 50 years in researching on leftist movement in Malaya and Singapore.
Selfie with CC Chin 
In remembering S.A Ganapathy’s selfless service for the labour class in Malaya, the Adviser of Trade Union to Malaya, John Brazier, paid tribute to Ganapathy in a key note speech at a conference of moderate trade unions in Malaya. In his tribute, to the dismay of the British authority, Brazier said;
"I cannot but mention a word about Mr. S.A Ganapathy who has been condemned to death for breaking the laws. Though Mr. Ganapathy has wrong political conviction, his sincere services to the workers for a long time cannot be forgotten. In appreciation of these service it is, but right to express our sympathy to him in his dark days. We hope that those responsible would recognize his service to the ignorant and poor workers and appreciate the amount of sympathy that has been kindled in the minds of those who have greatly benefitted by his service." [1]

The World Federation of Trade Union has protested to the United Nations Organization against the assassination in Malaya of Mr. A. Ganapathy, Chairman of the Pan Malaya Federation of Trade Unions and Mr.P.Veerasenan, his successor. WFTU also paid tribute to S.A Ganapathy. 

“Paying tribute to the memory of Mr.Ganapathy and Veerasenan, the WFTU officially informs the United Nation of this fresh violation of trade union liberties and of these attacks on the life and rights of man. The WFTU energetically protests also to the British Government.” [2]

In US, the International Longshoremen and Warehousemen Union protested in the strongest tone criticizing British government in Malaya. Condemning Ganapathy’s execution[3] to British Embassy in Washington, the President of the union, Harry R. Bridges stated: 

“The act can be called only British Imperialist murder and one of last desperate stabs of the dying imperialist system. More than 15,000 innocent Malayans have been jailed flogged tortured or killed by the British authority for the past year for no other crime but that of belonging to unions and advocating that British get out of their country and leave it to the people who truly own it”The crime of your government becomes all more shocking when we consider that in part it was carried out with weapon and money produced and furnished by the people and the trade union members of United States”

Meanwhile in India, the British owned newspaper Calcutta Statesman conceded the execution was draconian punishment and that death sentence for carrying arms should be tempered in particular by tact and leniency. The newspaper added that in the interest of Indo-British goodwill, Malayan authorities responsible for this ill-timed, unstateman-like handling of affair - which from the nature necessarily had international significance-, should be removed by Whitehall[4]. The newspaper wanted the responsible authorities in Malaya who mishandled this case to be removed.

The Indian Daily Mail also reported reactions from various Indian leaders. One of them was the General Secretary of Indian National Congress, Kala Venkatarao, who was the compared Ganapathy's prosecution with that of Cardinal Mindszenty[5].

The Nagpur Socialist Party observed 15th May 1949 as "Saheed (Martyr) Ganapathy Day". In an appeal to Indian Government, Secretary of the party, Suresh Gangga commented that execution of Ganapathy and the shooting of P.Veerasenan by the Malaya authorities compelled realization that the life of an Indian was very cheap in the eyes of foreigners[6].

Printed Booklet 
Another India’s prominent socialist and trade union leader, Asoka Metha regarded Ganapathy’s execution like a pendant in the Commonwealth chain recently forged in London[7].

So much have been reported on Ganapathy’s execution yet very little has been written about him. The British colonial masters and capitalists, in pursuing their ambition to continue their influence over Malaya, went out to extreme extents to paint many genuine trade unionists as reds. Many of the trade unionists’ records were kept from public hence for many years their personalities and the values that they stood for were not discussed in public domain. Only in recent years when the Public Office Records released some of the files on Ganapathy[8], we are able to look into Ganapathy’s personalities and derived the ideology of his struggles were based upon.

Brief History of Ganapathy

S.A Ganapathy was born in 1917 in Madras District Tamil Nadu[9]. In 1929, he came to Singapore and subsequently obtained employment[10]. He joined the Malayan Communist Party in 1939[11]. During Japanese occupation from 1943 to 1945 he was an instructor in the Indian National Army[12]. After the liberation, he resumed work for the Malayan Communist Party in organizing the Indian Section of the General Labour Union of which he was appointed Secretary in November, 1945[13]. During 1946 and 1947 he worked actively to extend the control of the General Labour Union[14]. He was reported to be a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Malayan Communist Party[15].

Organising Committee - Sahabat Rakyat 
Ganapathy was elected as President of Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions in February 1947[16]. The union believed to be controlling more than sixty percent of workforce in Malaya with 400,000 members[17]. From 25th March to 2nd April 1947, Ganapathy represented Malaya to Asian Relationship Conference in Delhi[18]. In 1947, under Ganapathy’s leadership, SFTU organized a massive May Day parade of 50,000 members. The following year when STFU pledged that 100,000 labourers shall be taking part in the May Day parade, Singapore government banned all procession and rallies. Cheng Lu, the General Secretary of PMFTU, appealed all labourers to abandon their plans for celebration “in view of Government’s threat to use military force to suppress them”[19]. If the rally would have been approved, this could have been the largest May Day parade in the history of labour movement in this country.

Ganapathy disappeared from public when Emergency was announced in June 1948 before he was caught when he was in hiding in rubber estate (Waterfall Estate, Rawang Selangor) on March 1st, 1949[20]. He was arrested by the acting manager of the estate, J.W.W Simons with a group of special constables[21]. It is said that Ganapathy refused to surrender and put up a struggle and tried to draw his revolver from his belt. But he was over powered and handed to OCPD of Rawang[22].

On 15th March 1949, Ganapathy was tried and sentenced to death by hanging for unlawful possession of a .45 revolver and carrying six rounds of ammunition[23]. In the trial, two of the special constables and the OCPD of Rawang gave evidence against Ganapathy[24]. Ganapathy’s case was further appealed in Supreme Court but was dismissed on the 1st April, 1949[25]. On April 23rd, The Selangor State Executive confirmed Ganapathy’s sentence[26].

Was Ganapathy A Communist? Gurudevan – Ganapathy’s Mentor

Even though many debated the kind of ideologies that Ganapathy would have embraced in his struggle, T.N Harper in his work, "The End of British Empire and the Making of Malaya" stated that S.A Ganapathy was a communist. This point further strengthened by claims made by a former Special Branch Officer Ahmad Khan in an interview with Singapore National Archive[27]. Another person who confirmed the same point was former member of Indian National Army (INA) and Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), V. Sudarman[28] in an interviewed who strongly believed that Ganapathy’s communist ideology would have come from enigmatic person called Gurudevan[29].

In an oral history interview[30], another former Special Branch officer, Richard Corridon who was responsible to capture and interrogated Gurudevan claimed even the name “Gurudevan” could not have been the person’s actual name. “Gurudevan” which means “Teacher of the Gods” would have been given to Gurudevan in Indian Independence League and INA in view of Gurudevan’s in-depth knowledge in communism and his role in teaching and propagating communist ideology to many known leftist in Singapore including of those English-educated like John Eber.

Ahmad Khan[31], former Special Branch officer assigned to assist Corridon to curb communist movement among Indians in Malaya regarded Gurudevan as “a very intelligent man”[32] and known for his skills in disguising. Gurudevan also said to hold a “very senior rank” in CPM and ran his operation from a small room in a telephone company while being a small office-bearer with Telephone Company Employee Union in Singapore. Ahmad Khan also revealed that Ganapathy was known to be prominent Indian communist leader even before the Second World War[33].

Relating Ganapathy’s involvement in communist activities during Japanese occupation, it has been reported that Ganapathy was detained and tortured by Japanese Kempeitai prior to arrival of Bose to Singapore. Ganapathy was detained between March and April 1942. In the custody of Japanese Kempeitai, Ganapathy was beaten with leather straps to extract confession of being a communist[34].

Self-Respect Movement and Periyar in Singapore 

Self -Respect Movement (later commonly known as Dravidian movement) which was started by E.V Ramasamy influenced and brought many social changes among Indians in Malaya and Singapore. E.V Ramasamy visits to Malaya in 1929 and 1931 to preach eradication of caste practices received many supports among South Indians in Malaya. According to S. Veerapandian, an ardent follower of E.V.Ramasamy and B.R.Ambedkar, in a serious of lectures[35] made a reference to Ganapathy who had great admiration for E.V Ramasamy and his reformation in Tamil Nadu. According to Veerapandian, during the anti-Hindi protest in Tamil Nadu in 1937, Ganapathy was said to have sent three representatives[36] from Singapore to participate in the protest. In a letter to E.V Ramasamy, Ganapathy stated that he was not able participate in the protest as he was occupied with movement to eradicate caste discrimination in Malaya.

It is interesting to know that Dravidian nationalists were first organized in the Ahampadiyar Sangam (society) of Singapore, a depressed-caste uplift society, and then the Tamil Reform Society formed in the 1930s[37]. It is been speculated that Ganapathy could have been closely associated with Ahampadiyar Sangam as Ganapathy belonged to Ahampadiyar caste. The idea of Tamil reformation was given effective expression with a spate of journalistic activity, beginning at the end of the 1920s: Munnetram (Progress or Uplift) was begun in 1929, Sreethirutham (Reform) in 1931 and Tamil Murasu in 1935. Beside extensive reports of Dravidians movement in South India, they too propagate reformist ideology of Ahampadiyar Sangam and Tamil Reform Association which includes the evils of caste system, domination of Brahmanism, the need for temperance, improved education and health, the eradication of religious rituals such as fire-walk or kavadi, support monogamous Hindu marriage and emancipation of women[38]. All these exposures would have not only shaped Ganapathy’s personality but also many South Indian youths in Malaya. The popularity of Tamil reform message is attested by the wide circulation of the Tamil Murasu which came to the main rival of the Tamil Nesan in the mid-1930s[39].

The Self-Respect Movement itself was very much influenced by communist ideology. Malayapuram Singaravelu Chettiar[40], a pioneer in trade union struggles in Tamil Nadu, felt that Self Respect Movement and the communist movement in Tamil Nadu should work together to save Tamil labourer from the clutches of religion and economic exploitation. Singaravelu’s contribution published in Kudiyarasu, the official mouth-piece of Self-Respect Movement. The significance of Singaravelar's association with the Self-Respect movement is brought out by Karthigesu Sivathamby, a prominent Tamil scholar from Sri Lanka who has closely studied the social movements in Madras province;
"By this time the rationalist movement, through its association with the world socialist movement, was becoming more scientific. It was not merely rationalism in the Ingersolian sense. It was becoming more and more scientific... promotion of socialism, and so on. And this is seen in the immediate tie-up of M. Singaravelu Chettiar and Periyar"[41]

As most of articles and views published in Kudiyarasu constantly re-published in Tamil daily in Singapore, this may have shaped Ganapathy’s perspective in his truggle against capitalist class.

Social Reformist: Caste Discrimination in Malaya (1936 – 1938)

It is said that the higher caste South Indians living in Singapore remanded higher caste and lower caste not to be treated equally as this would have violate the “Varnasharama Dharma”. Thus, lower caste were who generally working as municipality workers were discriminated especially in coffee shops where they were only allowed to have their coffee in tinned cans and sit down on the floor and not benches. It nearly took two years for Ganapathy to eradicate this discriminating practices and bring about social reforms among Indians in Singapore.

Indian Labourers, Indian National Army and Malaya Communist Party.

During the Japanese occupation, the most potent political force in Malaya was Malayan Communist Party (CPM) which let by Malayan People’s Anti Japanese Army (MPAJA) and its civilian support movement, the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Union (MPAJU). An estimated twenty-five or more Indians had been linked with CPM or related groups in trade unions or Anti-Imperial League joined MPAJA[42]. Many Indian estate workers supported MPAJA course against oppressive Japanese Army, even though in general Indians in Malaya were supportive of Indian National Army (INA)[43]. It is the known fact that Central Indian Association of Malaya (CIAM) and the Indian Independence League (IIL) collaborated with oppressive Japanese Army in Malaya. Usually the League led by local level English-educated “Keranis”, who has been most directly responsible for controlling and disciplining the labourers during pre-occupation[44]. The eruption among Indians of pent-up resentment against the “Black European” in the chaotic days after the departure of the European managers was intensified by the reassertion of Asian managerial authority during Japanese occupation, and by the Asian staff’s co-operation with the Japanese in the recruitment of labour for the Siam-Burma “Death” Railway. To many labourers, IIL offered no protection against Japanese atrocities. For the younger Malayan-born labourers, the ideology of IIL and INA did not seem to be realistic. In contrast, the MPAJA which aimed to over throw both European and Japanese, in its attacks on Japanese and local collaborators, including Asian estate staffs, exerted the Robin-Hood-like attraction to the Indian labourers. In urban area, MPAJA were linked with Chinese labourers who bargained in collaboration with their Indian counterparts for higher and better living conditions. In the views of Indian labourers, IIL seen as an arm working and attempted to round up Indians for Japanese and MPAJA encouraged them to demand for more rice and better pay.

MPAJA began exerting their influence upon the INA in early stage. Ganapathy who was a known communist joined INA as an instructor. They soon gathered together sympathizers who were already interested in socialist ideas and to co-operate with Anti-Japanese movement. There was also considerable growing tension between North Indian regulars and local Tamil volunteers. [45]Instead of being sent on a glorious campaign for the liberation of India, local volunteers were allocated defensive positions in support of Japanese imperialism against Allied invasion. For many Tamils who cooped up in INA camps in frustration deserted their camps to join MPAJA as the alternative of liberating Malaya seen to be more attractive. Connection between local recruits in INA and MPAJA grew despite Bose efforts to restore the cohesion and purpose with met with very little success. Squeezed dry by Bose’s fund collectors, the community was unable to raise significant for emergency welfare services for impoverished and starving sections of the Indians community. Nationalistic enthusiasm brought by Bose faded away failing to raise positive response from the mass of the Indian population.

At the end of the war, knowing that Japanese had surrendered, Ganapathy sent a letter through Sudarman to his comrades in INA camp at Majidee, Johor Bahru to desert the INA camp, being concerned about their safety upon the return of the British to Malaya.

Revolt against Discrimination in Indian National Army (INA)

According to V.Sudarman, there have been a wide spread domination of North Indian regulars over locally recruited Tamil volunteers. The local Indians who joined as junior officers and recruits were discriminated in INA[46]. In the INA training camp where Ganapathy was appointed as an instructor, in an act of defiance (what Sudarman termed as “Chapati[47] Protest”) was staged[48]. Ganapathy instructed the local Tamil volunteers not to eat their regular servings of “Chapati” instead to hang the bread all around the dinner mess as a protest against INA officers who deliberately refused the local volunteers servings of rice[49].Subsequently, Ganapathy and his comrades were court-martialed. Only with interference of Subhas Chandra Bose at the end of the trial saved Ganapathy from further punished and expulsion from INA[50]. Sudarman also informed that during the trial there were allegations that Ganapathy tried to propagate communist ideology among INA recruits[51].

Common Aspiration between Ganapathy and Lim Chin Siong

Free Education
If finding parallel similarities in both Lim Chin Siong and Ganapathy’s struggles and visions for the working class, many to be found. For example, Lim Chin Siong who believed in providing free education and financial assistance to schools of various communities[52], Ganapathy too propagated the importance of education to the working class. Singapore Federation of Trade Union[53] (SFTU) up to the time of Emergency ran and provided free education for over 40 schools with attendance of 1700 students in Singapore[54]. These schools usually situated where government or other type of schools were not available[55]. Like Lim Chin Siong, Ganapathy has been constantly thirsty for knowledge and shared his views on labour issue in Munnani, CPM sponsored communication tool with Ganapathy as the editor.

Struggle for Unification under PMFTU and Minimum Wage
Due lack of records of Ganapathy’s involvement in unions, it is only possible to review roles and proposition taken by Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU) under his leadership in order to get a better understanding of Ganapathy . Ganapathy was elected as President of PMFTU on 7th February 1947[56] in a conference which was held in Kuala Lumpur. Among the 22 resolutions which were passed, provision of basic salary was one of the resolutions. As Lim Chin Siong aspired to enact a “Workers’ Charter’[57] that emphasized minimum wages and 40 working hours-a-week (to name a few), the 1947 conference has approved to call for 44 working hours –a-week and forty seven Central Managing Council members and 13 substitutes were elected to look into setting minimum wage.

As Lim Chin Siong wanted workers to be united to fight for their legitimate rights, in 1947, Ganapathy emphasized that communal and racial differences need to be overcome and pledged to work for working class to promote unification of trade union organisations. In order to widen PMFTU leaders’ knowledge and experience in union movement, the leaders were told to assist all ethnic groups to organise trade union and to take part actively in union disputes.

Fight for a Democratic Constitution is a Fight for Better Food and Clothing

Realizing that only political will would able to resolve the suffering of the working class, PMFTU forged alliance with PUTERA-AMCJA to campaign for a democratic constitution. An often quoted speech of S.A Ganapathy by historians was made in Ipoh on the 15th October 1947. Addressing the Executive Bureau of PMFTU, Ganapathy pointed out that a democratic constitution was most vital to the promotion of the standard of living of the workers[58]. Understanding that large masses were illiterate and still in the stage of struggling for basic needs in life, Ganapathy choose to relate basic human needs to political ideology. He said;
“If the economic and the finance of the country is to be improved so as to place industries in a position to pay higher wages, if we are to have better social services, if there is to be equitable distribution of income and resources, these can only be secured by influencing the legislation of the country” [59].

It is interesting how Ganapathy related food and clothing to a political ideology as he repeatedly said “A fight for democratic constitution is a fight for better food and clothing” in galvanizing the working class mass to support for PUTERA-AMCJA’s Hartal 1947[60] .

Apart from basic needs Ganapathy also touched on inflation, balanced economy and guaranteed civil rights.

In speaking on curtailment in civil liberties, Ganapathy condemned the usage of Societies’ Ordinance, the House to House Collections Ordinance, which requirement of 10 days’ notice to the police for calling a mass meeting, trespassing restrictions in plantations and the Banishment Ordinance.

Ganapathy also condemned the trespassing restrictions imposed by planter while the government professing trade union rights. Trespassing restriction deprives the workers his right and dignity as a human being and reduces his status to that is a serf[61] and an insult to the working class. By lifting these restrictions would lay stable foundations to the development of democracy in Malaya.

Ganapathy also hit out on the not very modernized[62] planting methods practiced in plantation and criticized the inertness of Malayan Government to take steps to place Malayan economy on a sound basis by working out a plan of balancing economic development[63]. 

“If the economy of Malaya is balanced, if the civil liberties are guaranteed and if there is democratic constitution through which the will of the people could influence Legislation it would be much easier to promote the standard of living of the workers and alleviated his sufferings” [64]

In upholding the class struggle, Ganapathy hit out on Trade Union Ordinance that prohibits Government employees to join the non-government employees unions. Ganapathy said that workers belong to a single class with no radical, national or any other barriers. For the healthy democratic development of any country it is essential that the workers should be united[65].

In touching wage issue, Ganapathy warned the authority that it was vital to fix minimum wage to ensure rehabilitation of working class and preservation of law and order in Malaya 
“Today when real wages have shrunken to an alarmingly low level at a time when the working class is awakening in realize their rights the fixing of a minimum wage is now vital for the quick rehabilitation of the country. I stress most strongly the needs for fixing a minimum wage because it is vital for the preservation of law and order in Malaya”.

Ganapathy also conscripted the qualities of a “leader of the people” who empathic toward labourers’ hardship. Understanding that each ethnic group has its own traditional diet, Ganapathy went further into taking into consideration of ethnic dietary elements in fixing minimum wage for labours. 

“When the diet expenditure of the workers is calculated it should be done not on the minimum calories essential for his existence but on the minimum calories of his traditional diet that are necessary to keep him fit”.

Ganapathy made the connection between unfair wages and the rise in crime. He pointed out that the Malayan government was responsible for the rise in crime rates due to the suppressed wages of the labourers. 

‘His Excellency the Governor in his talk over Radio Malaya pointed out, “The state of crime whether serious crime or petty, is generally found to have some relation with employment.” But His Excellency went on to say there was full employment in Malaya. Then what is the economic cause for the rise in crime except the inadequate in wages. I wonder why His Excellency did not push his argument to its logical conclusion.’

In the meeting, Ganapathy ensured that PMFTU would give its whole-hearted support to the Malaya-wide campaign carried out by the Putera-AMCJA against the acceptance of Revised Constitutional Proposals[66]. 

“A democratic constitution is most vital to the struggle for the improvement of our standard of living. If the economic and financial situation of the country is to be so improved so as to place industries in a position to pay higher wages, if we are to have better social services, if there is to be equitable distribution of income these can only be secured by influencing legislation in the country. This cannot be done without a democratic constitution through which the will of the people can be expressed. Therefore the fight for a democratic constitution is a fight for better food and clothing.”

Even though many would argue that Ganapathy did not have any political aspiration towards independence[67] as his approaches and views were only revolved around trade union movements, his efforts to agitate for workers’ right underpinned democratic principles which is vital to the forming of a nation. Ganapathy’s involvement in propelling PUTERA-AMCJA’s aspiration for an independent democratic nation revealed that Ganapathy actively supported freedom movement.

The End of Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Union

It took quite a long time to re-construct the emblem of PMFTU based on newspaper
reports and other articles. Despite missing Mandarin annotation for "General Labour Unions",
 I would say that the accuracy of emblem stands at 90%  
Toward end of 1947, when all other measures to stop PMFTU advancement failed, the government and capitalist turned to legislation. Using the provision of the Trade Union Enactment 1940, the Registrar pressurized trade unions to align in line and away from PMFTU. Further to the existing enactment that stopped union funds for political use and refused contribution of 20 percent to federation of trade union, more regulation were introduced when amendments to Trade Union Ordinance were passed in May 1948. The workers advocating for rights was proving to be very successful. Thus, John Brazier was sent into disenfranchise independent unions which were well organized and able to achieve their demands. The laws regulating trade unions were caused union busting by the authorities.

Even though PMFTU took very early initiative to seek official recognition in November 1946, the government did not give any indication that PMFTU and its alliance were about to be banned. Since the Government of Singapore had already registered SFTU in August 1946 and exempted it from Trade Union Ordinance, PMFTU hoped that it could be registered as well. Moreover, Brazier made PMFTU to believe that similar arrangement could have been made. But in July 1948, the Registrar of Trade Union struck off 95 unions and by end of September 1948 the membership of PMFTU had decreased from 154,434 (in April 1948) to 75,564[68]. It took more than 20 months for the government to reply on PMFTU’s application for registration. On the 12th June 1948 PMFTU was officially notified that its application for registration was rejected. Subsequently, on the 13th June 1948, PMFTU, the largest and powerful labour organization in Malaya was banned. Radical unionists were arrested and effectively eliminated from trade unions. By 1949, the number of registered unionists was down to 41,305 or about one-fifth the level of 1947. By September 1949, a total of over 800 Indians had been detained for suspected assistance to communist[69].


Even though the trajectory of trade union struggle in this country had taken many dramatic turns over the years, the core issues of the working class still remain the same. Wage issues, health care assistance and social security are some of the core issues which continue to be manipulated by employers. The influx of migrant labour to Malaysia to take up unskilled, low paid and harmful work reveals capitalism is truly entrenched in our economy. Malaysia is keen to embrace neoliberal policies in becoming party to corrosive trade agreements like the TPPA and RCEP. Thus, raising the awareness of the labouring class would be very critical to ensure that labourers are not manipulated for the benefit of the capitalists.

Being illiterate or with a little education and without financial influence, it would have taken sheer determinations and hard work for individuals like S.A Ganapathy and Lim Chin Siong influence and take over the leadership of powerful trade unions such as the PMFTU like PMFTU. Constant thoughts on the social welfare and economic development of labour class are reflected in their actions, words and legacy of struggle. The aspirations of these two legends to realize solidarity of workers is yet to become a reality.

"In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another is put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end" – Karl Marx

Same article translated into Mandarin

为纪念甘纳巴迪(S.A Ganapathy)为马来亚劳工阶级所付出无私的服务,马来亚职工会顾问约翰·布雷热( John Brazier) 先生在其为马来亚中型职工会的研讨会上的主题演讲中,向甘纳巴迪致敬。言词中,也表达了对英国政府的不满:
 “我无法不提及因为触犯法令而被判处死刑的甘纳巴迪先生。虽然其政治理念有所偏差,但他真诚的为劳动者们服务,让我们久久无法忘却。感激他的服务与付出,我们对其那段黑暗低潮的日子表示同情。我们真心希望有关当局能正视他对贫穷和不知晓本身权益的劳动者们的付出,体会他所受到来自于这群受惠工友们的怜悯。”  [1]
在美国,国际港口与仓库雇员联合会也对马来亚英殖民政府的所为提出最为强烈的批评。该组织主席哈里·布里奇斯(Harry R. Bridges) 先生针对甘纳巴迪遭处刑[3],向位于华盛顿的英国大使馆表达谴责:
同一时间在印度,一份由英国人所持有的《加尔各答政治家》(Calcutta Statesman)报章承认这次处刑是极其严厉残酷的,并认为当局应当更睿智和从宽处理拥有枪械等武器的刑法。该报章也宣称,为了印度和英国的良好关系,马来亚英殖民当局应当为此不合时宜,不人道处理的事件负起全责。他们引发国际震荡,理应被白厅(白厅是英国伦敦市内的一条街。多个英国重要政府机关设在这里,因此人们用白厅作为英国行政部门的代称——编者注)除名。 [4]该份报纸也要求将涉案的马来亚官员开除。

印度每日邮报也报导了几位印度领袖的对此事件的看法。其中一人便是印度国民大会党的总秘书卡拉文卡塔饶先生(Kala Venkararao),他将此案与敏真谛红衣主教(Cardinal Mindszenty,匈牙利天主教红衣主教——编者注)[5]相提并论。

纳布尔社会主义党称 1949年的5月15日为"甘纳巴迪烈士日“(Saheed Ganapathy Day)。在他们向印度政府提呈的申诉中,该党秘书长苏雷斯(Suresh Gangga) 提及甘纳巴迪和威拉圣南遭到马来亚英殖民政府处刑和枪击一案显示,众多印度同胞的生命在外国人眼里是多么的不值一提[6]。

另外一位印度著名社会主义者及工会领袖阿育王梅塔(Asoka Metha) 称甘纳巴迪的处刑就如同在伦敦伪造的共和联邦链里的一颗吊坠一般[7]。



甘纳巴迪出生于1917年,出生地为马德拉省淡米尔纳德邦[9]。1929年,辗转来到新加坡工作 [10]。他于1939年加入了马来亚共产党[11]。1943 至 1945年日治时期他在印度国民军(Indian National Army,INA)里担任教官[12]。独立后,他继续为马来亚共产党效力,筹办了普通工友联合会(General Labour Union)印裔部门,并在1945 年升任为秘书[13]。他在1946至1947年间活跃于扩展普通工友联合会的势力[14]。同时根据报道,他也曾担任马来亚共产党中央委员职[15]。

甘纳巴迪在1947年2月被推选为泛马职工会联合总会的主席[16]。该工会实际拥有约40万名会员,相当于当时60%的劳动力[17]。1947年3月25日至4月2日期间,甘纳巴迪代表马来亚参加在印度德里举行的亚裔关系研讨会[18]。1947年,在甘纳巴迪的领导组织下,新加坡职工会联合会(Singapore Federation of Trade Union,简称SFTU)举办了一场空前盛大的劳动节游行,总计5万人参与。次年新加坡职工会联合会宣布将号召10万名劳动者参与劳动节游行,然而时任新加坡政府下令禁止所有游行集会活动。时任泛马职工会联合总会秘书长Cheng Lu先生呼吁工人们放弃上街游行庆祝活动,“因为政府恫言将以军队来镇压参与游行者”。[19]如果当时这场游行获批准,将会是这国家有史以来最大型的劳动节街头游行活动。

1948年6月紧急法令颁布后,甘纳巴迪从公众视野消失。他藏匿在雪兰莪万绕 一个橡胶园内(Waterfall Estate),并于1949年3月1日被逮捕[20]。他是被有关橡胶园的代经理西蒙斯(J.W.W Simons) 和一组特警所逮捕[21]。据说当时甘纳巴迪拒绝投降,挣扎期间他尝试从其腰带拔出左轮手枪。但最后被特警制服,并送往万绕警察总部[22]。



尽管许多人针对甘纳巴迪在他的斗争中究竟拥护什么意识形态争论不休,T.N哈珀(TN Harper)在他的著作《大英帝国的终结与马来亚的形成》(The End of British Empire and the Making of Malaya)中说明甘纳巴迪是一个共产党人。前政治部官员阿末汗(Ahmad Khan)在接受新加坡国家档案局的访谈进一步加强了此说法[27]。另一位确认此说法的是印度国民军(Indian National Army , 简称INA)和马来亚民族解放军(Malayan National Liberation Army , 简称MNLA)前战士,V. Sudarman[28]。他在一项访谈中表示他深信甘纳巴迪的共产主义思想是源自一位名为Gurudevan[29]的谜一般的人物。

另一位负责逮捕及审讯Gurudevan的前政治部官员理查德(Richard  Corridon),在一项口述历史的访谈中声称[30],“Gurudevan”很可能不是一个人的真名。“Gurudevan”的意思是“神的导师”,这或许是在印度独立同盟和印度国民军中,对那些深入理解共产主义并向新加坡知名左翼人士(包括受英文教育者如约翰伊巴John Eber)宣传共产主义思想的人,都称为“Gurudevan”即“神的导师”。

阿末汗(Ahmad Khan,)[31]是一名受委协助理查德遏制共产主义运动在马来亚印裔族群中发展的前政治部官员,他认为,Gurudevan是“一个非常有才智的人” [32],也以伪装技巧著称。据说Gurudevan在马来亚共产党有着“资深的地位”,当他作为新加坡电话公司雇员联合会的一名小理事之时,他在一家电话公司的一个小房间里执行任务。阿末汗也揭露甘纳巴迪在二战前便已经是有名的杰出的印裔共产党领袖[33]。

关于甘纳巴迪在日军占领期间参与的共产主义活动,曾有报导指出甘纳巴迪在詹达拉博斯(Subhas Chandra Bose是一名印度国民军最高领袖——编者注)抵达新加坡前已遭日本宪兵逮捕和拷打。甘纳巴迪在1942年3月至4月间被扣留。在扣留期间,甘纳巴迪被日本宪兵用皮带拷打,逼他招认是共产党员[34]。

自我尊重运动和E.V.拉玛沙米(E.V Ramasamy) (Periyar)

由E.V拉玛沙米发起的“自我尊重运动”(后来通称为“达罗毗荼运动”)给马来亚和新加坡的印裔族群带来许多社会变革的作用。1929和1931年间,E.V拉玛沙米到访马来亚宣扬废除种姓制度受到许多在马来亚来自印度南部的印裔的支持。E.V拉玛沙米和B.R安贝德卡(B.R.Ambedkar) 的热烈追随者维拉帕迪安(S. Veerapandian)在一系列讲座[35]提及甘纳巴迪。甘纳巴迪非常敬仰E.V拉玛沙米及他在印度淡米尔纳德邦推动的改革。据维拉帕迪安的说法,1937年在淡米尔纳德邦发生反印地文抗议行动(anti-Hindi protest),甘纳巴迪委派了三位代表[36]从新加坡到印度参加该行动。甘纳巴迪在写给E.V拉玛沙米的一封信中说明他本身由于正忙于在马来亚推动废除种姓歧视运动而无法参与在印度的抗议行动。

有趣的是,达罗毗荼民族主义者首先是在新加坡“不可招惹者协会”(Ahampadiyar Sangam),一个要求提升低种姓地位的民间团体,而后是在成立于1930年代的淡米尔改革协会组织起来 [37]。据推测,由于甘纳巴迪属于Ahampadiyar种姓,他很可能与“不可招惹者协会”有着密切关系。1920代末起,一连串的新闻活动有效地传达了淡米尔改革的信息,如:创立于1929年的《前进》(Munnetram) , 1931年的《改革》(Sreethirutham) 及1935年的《淡米尔之声》(Tamil Murasu)。

除了广泛报道印度南部达罗毗荼运动,他们也宣传“不可招惹者协会”和淡米尔改革协会的改革理念,其中包括宣传种姓制度的邪恶、婆罗门教的统治、节制克己的需要、改善教育和医疗卫生、废除某些宗教仪规如过火炕仪式(Kavadi)、支持一夫一妻制及妇女解放[38]。上述思想改革活动,不仅塑造了甘纳巴迪的个性,也塑造了无数从南印度来到马来亚的青年的个性。鼓吹淡米尔改革的消息是经由《淡米尔之声》的传播而广泛流传的。《淡米尔之声》在1930年代[39]中期是《淡米尔尼申报》(Tamil Nesan)的主要竞争对手。

“自我尊重运动”(Self-Respect Movement)本身受到共产主义思想的深刻影响。一个名为Malayapuram Singaravelu Chettiar[40]的人,他是在淡米尔纳德邦工会斗争的先锋人物,他认为,淡米尔纳德邦的共产主义运动和“自我尊重运动”应该合作,携手把淡米尔工人从宗教和经济剥削的魔掌中拯救出来。 Singaravelu的意见发表在“自我尊重运动”的官方喉舌——Kudiyarasu。一名来自斯里兰卡的杰出的淡米尔学者Karthigesu Sivathamby,他深入研究了马德拉斯省的社会运动,提出Singaravelar与“自我尊重运动”相结合的意义如下: 
在这个时候,理性主义运动,通过与世界社会主义运动的结合,变得更加科学。这不是英格索尔式的不可知论理性主义。它变得越来越科学...¬¬推广社会主义,等等。这点由M. Singaravelu Chettiar和Periyar的即时结合表现出来。[41] 


有人说,居住在新加坡的高种姓南方印度人不断控诉,高种姓者与低种姓者不应平等对待,因为若是平等对待就违反了“种姓论”(Varnasharama Shastra)。因此,那些通常成为市政工人的低种姓印度人常遭遇歧视,尤其是在咖啡店,他们只被允许用铁罐喝咖啡,并只可以坐在地上而不是长凳上。甘纳巴迪几乎花了两年时间来消除这种歧视性做法,在新加坡的印度人之中带来社会改革。


在日治时期,马来亚共产党(CPM是马来亚的最强大的政治力量。它领导马来亚人民抗日军(Malayan People’s Anti Japanese Army , 简称MPAJA)及其民运组织马来亚人民抗日联盟(Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Union, 简称MPAJU)。估计有25位或更多与马共或与其相关的工会组织或者是“反帝大同盟”(Anti-Imperial League)有联系的印度人加入了马来亚人民抗日军[42]。虽然在马来亚的印度人普遍上是支持印度国民军(INA)的[43],许多印裔园丘工人仍然支持马来亚人民抗日军对抗日本军的方针。马来亚印度人中央协会(Central Indian Association of Malaya, 简称CIAM)和印度独立联盟(Indian Independence League ,简称IIL)在马来亚与残暴的日本军队合作是众所周知的事实。该联盟通常由各地方受英语教育的“书记”组成的集团所领导。在日军占领前,“书记集团”直接控制和管教印裔工人[44]。在欧裔经理离开后,本地印裔劳工对“黑肤色欧洲人”(即作为资方爪牙的印裔书记集团——编者注)压抑已久的不满终于爆发。而日治时期确立的亚裔管理权威以及这些亚裔职员勾结日本人招聘泰缅“死亡铁路” 劳工等事情,更加剧了事态的严重性。对许多工人而言,印度独立联盟根本没有保护人民免受日军暴行的伤害。而对年轻一代在马来亚出生的劳动者而言,印度独立联盟和印度国民军的理念并不实际。相反地,旨在赶走欧洲和日本殖民者的马来亚人民抗日军所发动的,针对日本军和他的本地爪牙们(包括那些亚裔种植园职员)的攻击,发挥了罗宾汉劫富济贫式的作用,成功吸引到印裔劳工。在市区,马来亚人民抗日军则与那些联合印裔劳工争取提高生活条件的华裔劳工有联系。在印裔劳工的眼里,印度独立联盟更像是帮助日军围捕印度人的鹰犬,而马来亚人民抗日军则鼓舞他们争取更多的米饭和更高的工资。

马来亚人民抗日军很早就开始在印度国民军里发挥影响力。 知名共产党人甘纳巴迪加入印度国民军成为一名指挥官。他们很快就把原已倾向社会主义思想的同情者们聚集在一起,并与抗日运动合作。当时来自北印度的兵士和本地的淡米尔志愿者之间的关系日益紧张[45]。本地的志愿者并不获指派参与解放印度的光荣宣传运动,反而被派往协助日本帝国主义者抵抗盟军的进攻。许多深陷这种困境的淡米尔人觉得解放马来亚这个选项更具吸引力,因此选择离开印度国民军转而加入马来亚人民抗日军。印度国民军的本地新兵和马来亚人民抗日军之间的联系不断加强,而詹达拉博斯(印度国民军领袖)企图恢复凝聚力和共同目的的努力却成效甚微。由于受到詹达拉博斯筹款活动的影响,本地印裔社群再也没有多余的能力为本社群里那些家徒四壁、食不果腹的贫困者提供紧急救济了。詹达拉博斯带来的民族主义热情也因此未能获得印裔社群的正面响应就这样烟消云散了。





林清祥和甘纳巴迪为工人阶级利益的斗争和愿景有许多共同点。比如,林清祥认为应该提供免费教育及财务援助给各个社区的学校[52];甘纳巴迪也宣扬教育对工人阶级的重要。在英殖民政府实施紧急状态之前,新加坡职工会联合会(SFTU)[53],在新加坡经营超过40间学校,为1700学生提供免费教育[54]。这些学校通常坐落在没有政府学校或其他类型学校的地方 [55]。甘纳巴迪像林清祥一样,不断保持对知识的渴望。他作为马共主办的宣传工具《工人报》(Munnani)的主编,经常在工人课题上发表他的意见。

由于缺乏甘纳巴迪在工会活动的材料,想要更好地了解甘纳巴迪,就只能通过回顾在他领导时期的泛马职工会联合总会(Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions,简称PMFTU)所曾扮演的角色和采取的主张了。甘纳巴迪于1947年2月7日[56]在吉隆坡举行的一次大会上当选为泛马职工会联合总会主席。该大会通过了22项决议,其中包括提供基本工资。林清祥曾经推动强调制定最低薪酬、每周工作40小时的《劳工宪章》[57],1947年的那场大会同样通过了每周工作44小时的决议,也选出了47名中央管理委员和13名替代成员(即后补委员——编者注)来研究最低工资的制定。



认识到只有政治决心才能够将工人阶级从痛苦中解放出来,泛马职工会联合总会融入到泛马行动委员会(All-Malayan Council of Joint Action,简称AMCJA)与人民力量中心(Pusat Tenaga Ra`ayat,简称PUTERA)所组成的联合阵线,开展争取一个民主宪法的宣传活动。1947年10月15日,甘纳巴迪在怡保发表了一篇常被历史学家引述的讲话。在对泛马职工会联合总会执行部人员的讲话中,他指出:一部民主的宪法对提升工人生活水平,是最重要的、不可少的工具[58]。了解到广大群众目不识丁而且仍然处在为基本生活需求上苦苦挣扎的阶段,甘纳巴迪选择将人们的基本需求同政治理念联系起来。他这么说:
 “只有对国家立法施加影响力,才得以确保国家经济和财富改善和提高而使各行业有条件支付更高工资,才能确保我们享有更好的公共服务,才能确保国家的收入与资源的公平分配。”  [59]
有趣的是,在激发工人阶级和人民群众响应PUTERA-AMCJA 发动的1947年的大罢业行动上[60],他不断发表“争取民主宪法的斗争即是为争取温饱的斗争”的谈话,把人们的温饱和政治理念相联系起来。




甘纳巴迪也抨击园丘业者使用“极不先进” [62]的种植方法,他批评马来亚政府懈怠于“采取步骤制定平衡经济发展计划以巩固马来亚的经济基础” [63]。

“尊敬的总督通过马来亚广播电台发表讲话指出, ‘犯罪案无论处于严重或者轻微的程度,一般上都和就业有一定的关系。 ’但是他进一步说马来亚有充分的就业。那么除了工资不足,没有其他经济原因导致犯罪案增加。我不知道为什么总督没有为他的观点做出逻辑性的结论。”
“一部民主的宪法对于提升工人生活水平的斗争而言是最重要的。“只有对国家立法施加影响力,才得以确保国家经济和财富改善和提高而使各行业有条件支付更高工资,才能确保我们享有更好的公共服务,才能确保国家的收入与资源的公平分配。” 没有能够反映人民意志的民主宪法,这些愿望无法得到实现。所以说,争取民主宪法的斗争就是为争取温饱的斗争。”
尽管有人提出争论说, 甘纳巴迪的做法和观点只是围绕在职工会运动,甘纳巴迪没有争取国家独立的政治志向[67],但是,他鼓吹以工人权益为基础的民主原则的努力和贡献对一个民族国家的形成是至关重要的。他参与推动PUTERA-AMCJA建立一个独立民主国家的运动显示甘纳巴迪积极支持民族解放运动。



尽管泛马职工会联合总会早于1946年11月就主动寻求官方的认可,也没有任何迹象显示政府将取缔泛马职工会联合总会及其联盟。由于新加坡政府于1946年8月已经登记新加坡职工会联合会并豁免其受工会法令的制约,因此泛马职工会联合总会也希望它可以注册成功。此外,当时约翰·布雷热也使得泛马职工会联合总会相信类似安排是可行的。但在1948年7月, 95个工会被工会注册局除名,泛马职工会联合总会的会员人数则从1948年4月的154,434人下降到同年9月的75,564人。[68]政府花上了20个月以上来答复泛马职工会联合总会的注册申请,并在1948年6月12日正式通知泛马职工会联合总会驳回它的注册申请。随后,在1948年6月13日,马来亚最大的和最有影响力的工人组织——泛马职工会联合总会正式被取缔。工会领袖和干部被逮捕,并从工会里彻底地剔除。到1949年,工会会员的注册人数下降到41,305或1947年大约五分之一的水平。1949年9月,总数超过800个印度人因涉嫌协助共产党人而被关押。[69]



一旦个人对个人的剥削终结,民族对民族的剥削就会随之终结。一旦民族内部的阶级对立消失,民族之间的敌对关系就会随之消失——卡尔·马克思 语录

Foot Note:
  1. Charles Gamba, The origin of trade unionism in Malaya (Singapore 1960) p. 417. Brazier’s statement was released by the Public Relation Office, Singapore Press Release MY 49/2, May 1st 1949, and immediately called for an explanation by Singapore Government from Brazier. 
  2. Indian Daily Mail (Singapore) 9th May 1949 - UN to Discuss Ganapathy’s Case: WFTU Protest to Peace Body against Assassination in Malaya
  3. Telegram dated 22nd June 1949
  4. Indian Daily Mail (Singapore) 9th May 1949 - UN to Discuss Ganapathy’s Case: WFTU Protest to Peace Body against Assassination in Malaya
  5. Ibid, On 26 December 1948, Cardinal Mindszenty was arrested and accused of treason, conspiracy, and other offences against the new People's Republic of Hungary. While he was imprisoned by the communist government, Mindszenty was repeatedly hit with rubber truncheons and subjected to other forms of torture until he agreed to confess. Cardinal Mindszenty's forced confession included orchestrating the theft of the Crown of Saint Stephen for the sole purpose of crowning Crown Prince Otto von Hapsburg as King of Hungary, scheming to overthrow the Party and reestablish Capitalism, planning a third World War and assuming supreme political power himself
  6. Indian Daily Mail (Singapore) 9th May 1949- UN to Discuss Ganapathy’s Case: WFTU Protest to Peace Body against Assassination in Malaya
  7. Indian Daily Mail (Singapore) 7th May 1949 - It is Cold Blooded Murder Of A Working Class Labourer
  8. Out of five files on S.A Ganapathy, one file CO 537/4769 Case of Mr. S A Ganapathy is still withheld by Foreign and Commonwealth Department, UK. Details of release files for public:  DO 142/405 Death sentences in Malaya on Mr. S A Ganapathy and Mr. Sambasivan, PREM 8/967 High Commissioner for India sought reprieves for Ganapathy and Samba Sivam who were found to be carrying arms and ammunition in Malaya, CO 537/4770 Case of Mr. S A Ganapathy and CO 717/179/1 Mr. S A Ganapathy: Public reactions.
  9. Telegram No.510 from High Commissioner of Malaya to the Secretary of State of Colonies dated 2nd May 1949
  10. Ibid.,
  11. Ibid.,
  12. Ibid.,
  13. Ibid.,
  14. Ibid.,
  15. Ibid.,
  16. The Singapore Free Press – 8th February 1947, Labour Want 44-hr Week
  17. Charles Gamba, The origin of trade unionism in Malaya (Singapore 1960)
  18. The Singapore Press – 12th March 1947
  19. Charles Gamba, The origin of trade unionism in Malaya (Singapore 1960) p. 330. See also The Straits Times – 29th April 1948. 
  20. The Malay Mail 4th May 1949 – “Former Trade Unions President Hanged”
  21. Ibid.,
  22. Ibid.,
  23. The Straits Times 2nd April 1949 – Lawyer K.C Chia appearing for Ganapathy said that he had gone through the records and could find nothing to urge on behalf of the appellant.
  24. The Malay Mail  4th May 1949 – “Former Trade Unions President Hanged”
  25. Ibid.,
  26. Ibid.,
  27. Ahmad Khan – Oral History Accession Number 000150, Reel/Disc 7 – National Achieve Singapore
  28. V. Sutharman authored his autobiography – A Tamil Revolutionary in the Independent Struggle in Asia (1989, in Tamil) 
  29. According to Sutharman (interview 2012), Gurudevan also headed the Intelligence Bureau of Indian Section in Malayan Communist Party would have many influences over Ganapathy. Gurudevan was arrested by R.Corrindon on a plantation estate in Negeri Sembilan in December 1949. In a telegram (17th December 1949), which Gurney wrote to Secretary of State of Colonies with reference made on the arrest of Gurudevan as the number one Indian Communist in the country 
  30. Richard Corridon - Oral History Accession Number 000044, Reel/Disc 4 - National Achieve Singapore 
  31. Ahmad Khan – Oral History Accession Number 000150, Reel/Disc 7 – National Achieve Singapore. Khan was working as Japanese Police claimed that he saved Ganapathy from being tortured and killed by Japanese Kempeitai - Oral History Accession Number 000150, Reel/Disc 6 – National Achieve Singapore.
  32. Ibid.,
  33. Ahmad Khan, Oral History Accession Number 000150, Reel/Disc 6 – National Achieve Singapore. Khan who worked for Japanese Police claimed that he saved Ganapathy from being tortured and killed by Japanese Kempeitai.
  34. The Straits Times – 9th May 1946 – Allegations against Police Officer
  35. Prof. Suba Veerapandian – ‘Ulaga Viduthalai Porigalin Varisayil Malaya  Ganapathy” (International Freedom Fighters - Malaya Ganapathy) (Nov. 2011, in Tamil) 
  36. Ibid., Three representatives identified as Letchuman, Nadarajan and Samy. After spending one and half years in prison due to their involvement in Anti-Hindi Protest they returned to Malaya.
  37. Stenson, Class, Race and Colonialism, 1980 (University of Queensland Press). See also Rajeswary Ambalavanar, Tamil Journalism and the Indian Community in Malaya, 1920-1941
  38. Stenson, Class, Race and Colonialism, 1980 (University of Queensland Press) p78
  39. Ibid.,
  40. Singaravelu founded the first trade union in India, the Madras Labor Union. On 1 May 1923 he organized the first ever celebration of May Day in the country. Singaravelar was a prominent leader of the Indian independence movement, initially under the leadership of Gandhi, but later, joining the budding communist movement. In 1925, he became one of the founding fathers of the Communist Party of India. 
  41. Frontline, Chennai (Oct.-Nov 2002) - De-ideologisation of politics is the tragedy of Tamil Nadu Interview with Karthigesu Sivathamby by R. Vijaya Sankar 
  42. Stenson, Class, Race and Colonialism, 1980 (University of Queensland Press) p 100. See also major R.J Issac – Indian Daily Mail dated 7th April 1955 
  43. Stenson, Class, Race and Colonialism, 1980 (University of Queensland Press)
  44. Ibid.,
  45. Ibid., (interview with K.Gurupatham and C.V Kuppusamy,1972)
  46. Interview with author (2012)
  47. Chapati is an unleavened flatbread from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka
  48. Interview with author (2012). The incident took place in INA camp at Rasah, Seremban where Sudarman recruited as volunteer. 
  49. Ibid.,
  50. Ibid.,
  51. Ibid.,
  52. PAP election manifesto 1955, where Lim Chin Siong contested and won Bukit Timah constituency. 
  53. An affiliation of PMFTU
  54. Charles Gamba, The origin of trade unionism in Malaya (Singapore 1960) p. 356. Once the unions were disbanded and the officials were arrested, detained and deported, these schools ceased their function.
  55. Ibid
  56. The Singapore Free Press – 8th February 1947, Labour Want 44-hr Week. Along with Ganapathy, Lam Swee and Abdullah C.D were elected as Vice Presidents, Cheng Lu as General Secretary, B. Ahmad and Krishna Murthy as Assistant Secretaries, Yap Meow Siew as Treasurer and R. Ramasamy, Chen Chong,  P.Veerasenan, Sze Tong, Fuang Soon Lai and Bahar as committee members. See Appendix B
  57. PAP election manifesto 1955, where Lim Chin Siong contested and won Bukit Timah constituency
  58. The Malayan Tribune – 16th Oct.1947, Politics Is A Struggle For Food, Clothing Argues President of PMFTU 
  59. Ibid.,
  60. Despite the success of the All Malaya Hartal, the government granted no concessions and differences began to emerge between PUTERA-AMCJA. A second Hartal was planned for 1 February 1948 but was aborted when financial support and was reduced to isolated strikes by the PMFTU
  61. Ibid.,
  62. Ibid.,
  63. Ibid.,
  64. Ibid.,
  65. The Malayan Tribune – 16th Oct.1947
  66. The Malayan Tribune – 16th Oct.1947
  67. Indian Deputy Minister for External Affairs Dr Keskar during his visit to Malaya in 1949 regarded unrest in Malayan could not be described a struggle for liberation. Keskar regarded that Ganapathy and Veerasenan as “nothing else but bandits, having no political objective.” 
  68. Charles Gamba, The origin of trade unionism in Malaya (Singapore 1960) p. 355
  69. U.Mahajani, The Role of Indian Minorities in Burma and Malaya (Bombay:Vora, 1960) p.203
CC Chin receiving token of appreciation form Silvaraja - PSM Johor 

Receiving token of appreciation form Mohan- Chairperson of Hindraf Johor