Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ganapathy was Not the First and Last Indian Sent to Gallows

During the Emergency, it is known fact that many were given death penalty for illegal possession arms. Many of them were Chinese from the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA) and labour unions front. There were a few Malays have been hanged for same offense. It has been widely spoken by many Malaysian Indians that S.A Ganapathy was the only Indian sentenced to death for arm possession and another Indian, Sambasivam, sentenced to death for the same offense has been saved by Indian government. This is to prove how determined were the Indian leaders to save every Indian subjected to death penalty in Malaya.

But only a few knew that Ganapathy was not the first and last to be hanged. Another Indian, Karrupiah, who have been active in union front and like many others joined the MNLA also sentenced to death.

The Straits Times on the 22nd February 1951, reported that an Indian, Karrupiah was sentenced to death at the Johore Assizes for being a bandit agent and collector. Attempts were made by Indian Government to save Karrupiah through Privy Council after his appeal was rejected in Federal Court of Appeal. The execution was still carried out.

No one have done any studies on Karrupiah's case nor his background.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gurney Requested to Advise Sultan to Give Full Weight on Sambasivam's Case

The Secretary of States for the Colonies, Arthur Creech Jones has written to High Commissioner of Malaya, Sir Henry Gurney on the 9th May 1949 at 2315hrs explaining situation post Ganapathy's execution in India where Nehru is being heavy criticised by the Left-wing for his policy of free association with the Commonwealth.
According to Jones, the execution of Ganapathy “came at a most inappropriate moment” and putting Nehru and his Congress in wrong limelight.

Nehru was scheduled to speak to the Parliament on the 16th May 1949 on the outcome of Prime Minister Conference, where India's participation in Commonwealth accepted despite being a republic nation. Nehru is in a dire state to prove to the parliament that efforts have been taken to save another Indian who is waiting to be hanged - Sambasivam

The Secretary of States for the Colonies requesting Gurney to look into Sambasivam’s case as Indian government has made representation to the British government through their High Commissioner in UK – Krishna Menon.
His Majesty Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim
With taking into constitutional difficulties in Malaya (where the prerogatives to pardon an accused vested with Sultan) Creech Jones requesting Gurney to advise the Sultan to give a full weight in the case of Sambasivam for the consideration of granting reprieve.

Sambasivam was a clerk of Rubber Worker Union Segamat in Johor. He was arrested on the 13th September 1948 at Bukit Kepong, Johor. At the time of his arrest he was in the company of two Chinese who were armed. In fight broke between groups of three Malays armed with knives (parangs) with the Chinese. Sambasivam was seriously wounded. One of Chinese was killed and other Chinese escaped. The arms including a revolver (the subject of the charge in his case) were recovered at the scene.

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 court of Appeal dismissed his appeal on 28th April 1948. All the three Appeal Judges (including the Chief Justice) agreed with the Trial Judge. The execution was decided to take place on the 4th June 1949.

Thivy took enormous efforts to save Sambasivam by pursuing Sambasivam in person to sign the application for leave to appeal to the Privy Council on the 3rd of June 1949 - a day before his execution.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Four Dead After Clash Between Armed Men and Military Force - Straits Times 17th May 1941

The Straits Times dated 17th May 1941 carried the news of four labourers died in a clash between estate labourers and armed forces in Banting.
It was reported that the troops fired in self-defence.  Three labourers were shot dead and two received bayonet wounds. A contingent of Malays Regiment has been sent to Negeri Sembilan to stop labourers from traveling from one estate to another estate spreading the call for strike.
124 labourers/strikers have been arrested and strikes have so far spread at 39 estates in Selangor. The situation has been so bad that the British Resident of Selangor, G.M Kidd has to declare state of emergency in Selangor. Units of Volunteer Force are standing by at Rifle Camp in case of emergency. Chief Police Officer of Selangor, H.B Langworthy is directing police operation in Klang and G.R Livett, head of Criminal Intelligence Branch directing operation from Kuala Lumpur. 
Even though, the news did not mention on shooting orders by G.M Kidd, I am sure we will find something in the colonial reports. 

1941 Klang Strike - Labourers Peddled Spearding Call for Strike - The Straits Times 14th May 1941.

One of the paramount labour struggles against oppressive planters and always been regarded as an uprising among labourers in Malaya was the 1941 Klang Strike.

I would like to pen down a few details of events which unfolded along the struggle, on the individuals who involved in the strikes and what were the pushing factors behind it. And also what was the reaction of daily mails in Malaya that time – both English and Tamil.

Interestingly many have written on Klang Strike but they were not widely discussed as many considered this as an agitation caused by Indians over poor wage issues. According to may scholars the strike is "one of the largest, best organised and most militant strike by Indians workers which Malaya had ever seen" (Tai Yuen - Labour Unrest in Malaya 1934-1942)

Around 20000 estate Indian labourers from 100 over estates involved. The government and its agencies which have been in favour of the planters decided to flex their muscles to teach the labourers a lesson - “not to ever and ever go against their master!”. Huge police force coupled with military personnel was used to curb the strikes resulted four deaths, hundreds injured, arrested and detained. Many were deported including the so called the master mind of the unrest– RH Nathan, who strike fear in the hearts of planters. 

The strike ended with 6 workers dead, 21 deported and 95 accepting volunteer repatriation. Of the 300 arrested and imprisoned, 186 were subsequently released on condition that they did not return to the estate where they were employed once. The Klang District Indian Union was deregistered. (Tai Yuen - Labour Unrest in Malaya 1934-1942) 

John Tully in his book "The Devil's Milk" gave a detail insight of the unrest. 

The Klang Strike was said to be started when a stoppages began at the Damansara Estate, on March 17, 1941 when four laborers were arrested for allegedly intimidating the others into ceasing work.

As a Colonial Office report noted, there were actually two consecutive strike waves. The first broke out early in the year and was inspired by the desire for parity in wage rates with Chinese plantation workers and by widespread resentment that despite a vast increase in profits since the Depression, wage cuts had not been restored.

The synchronicity of the strikes with similar demands was made possible by the formation of a new illegal workers’ organization, the Klang District Indian Union, by two “agitators” called Y. S. Menon and R. H. Nathan (whom the British described as members of the Indian National Congress with “strong socialist sympathies”). Further support came from the Indian Communist R. K. Thangaiah and the CIAM’s Mr. N. Raghaven. The strikes were successful in that the Indian laborers were granted a general wage increase to sixty cents a day for men and fifty cents for women, although this still fell short of the rates paid to their Chinese counterparts.

The second wave broke on April 16 and was not directly wage-related. The Colonial Office considered the motives political and that, the underlying cause of the strikes was probably the fact that the earlier strikes had given the labourers an idea of their power and their victory had gone to their head. The workers demanded the right to wear “Gandhi hats” and fly Congress flags in their compounds, and wanted the abolition of the custom of coolies having to dismount from their bicycles if they met a planter’s car on the roads.

Such “insolence” outraged the High Commissioner, Sir Shenton Thomas, who told CIAM leaders, “the strike was a disgrace to the Indian community” and a “politically inspired . . .challenge to authority.” Nevertheless, Thomas downplayed the significance of the affair by claiming that “the men will soon get tired of the new fashion” of Gandhi caps. Sounding like the Wodehouse character Bertie Wooster, he claimed, “It is the custom of India to dismount from a bicycle when meeting a superior . . . just as we take off our hat to a lady.”

Arguably, the laborers were demanding to be treated with respect, and this collided with the racist stereotyping common among planters and British officials. Puzzled that “their” Tamils had become unruly, the British police blamed the whole situation on “agitators.” They reasoned, “if they could get rid of them, the rest of the labour force would be perfectly contented.”

High Commissioner Sir Shenton Thomas ordered the arrest of Nathan and Thangaiah, whom he blamed for leading the Tamils astray. In the monochrome world of racial stereotypes common to men of Thomas’s rank and class, it was inconceivable that “the mild Hindu” could act without outside influence. There is evidence that he had already decided to arrest the agitators before the start of the second wave of strikes but was waiting for the most opportune moment to act and thus behead the strike movement. The laborers, however, were incensed by the arrests, which added to their growing list of unresolved grievances. After his deportation to India, Nathan listed the strikers’ demands as follows:
  • Pay parity between Indian and Chinese [laborers] 
  • Removal of “brutal” Ceylonese and Malayalee staff and replacement with Tamils 
  • Proper education for children 
  • An end to the molestation of laborers’ womenfolk by Europeans and “black” Europeans 
  • Proper medical facilities 
  • Closing of toddy shops 
  • Freedom of speech and assembly 
  • Free access to estates for family and friends 
  • Laborers to remain mounted on bicycles in front of European and Asian staff 
  • Abolition of 10–12-hour days 
  • No victimizations 
  • Permission to form associations to represent their interests
(taken from Chapter 16 - Coolie Revolt - The Devil's Milk by John Tully)  

On the 14th May 1941, The Straits Times reported that the situation in estates in Selangor and around Kuala Lumpur is worsening as the wave of strikes spreading. It has been reported, agitators have peddling bicycles working their way from one estate to another estate in Kuala Lumpur resulting to 27 estates on strike.

On the 13th May, 30 labourers from Banting have been charged in Klang Court and remanded. 16 agitators have been detained at Bukit Darah Estate.

The labourers on Effingham Estate and Seventh Mile Estate on the Old Damansara Road have gone out on strike. 

A Tamil, Sithambaram was charged in court for intimidation. 

The High Commissioner, Sir Shenton Thomas had met with the government officials and UPAM's president S.B Palmer to discuss matters arsing from the labour unrest. 

The British Resident of Selangor has called out the European Company of 2nd Battalion Federated Malay State Volunteers to patrol the road in the vicinity of Kuala Lumpur.    

Please note the selection of words used by The Straits Times's editor - gangs of intimidators and agitators. Also interested that labourers have been using bicycles to mobilise their strength.  

Friday, January 30, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. River View Estate - 40 Chinese tapper on strike

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

6. Strathisla and Chemur Estate still at strike


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

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

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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

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

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

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

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

Nothing mentioned about his wife. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ganapathy in Kedah Labour Unrest - The Straits Times 9th March 1949

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting to note that "Internationale" was sang during the opening ceremony. Though, I am not sure which language it would have been sung, but I guessing it would be in Malay.
(And I have add-in our very own Malaysian as well)

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

The Straits Times – 6 April 1948

Communist View of Colony’s Role

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

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

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

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

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

Labour Condition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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