Journalism and Merdeka - September 18 2007
One day sometime this year in Bapak's room, Bapak and I got chatting about journalism and Merdeka which seemed to be intertwined those early years.
I know it is already September and Aug 31 is past but we are still in our 50th Merdeka anniversary. So here's the casual conversation we had.
Just reflecting on a very very distant past.
Me: What really got you into journalism? The love of writing?
Bapak: That and colonialism. My father was fighting for Merdeka. He was in Kesatuan Melayu Singapura. He was very active in the nationalist movement. He wrote anti-colonialist articles for Warta Malaya. Dia bantai orang putih. He was very much a nationalist. So was my mother, in her own way.
We were fighting for Merdeka.
Me: You went along with him?
Bapak: He expected me to follow him. I was willing-lah. It was something new. I was very young.... maybe 18.
Gaji surat khabar tak banyak so you would need the blessing of your father to be a journalist. As a nationalist, what pay did you get? Nothing. I already felt the need to fight for independence. I joined the newspaper when I was 16. I already knew what I had to do. I wrote articles... bantai orang putih.
My father was a fierce man. He was already in the nationalist movement to membela orang Melayu. He was active in education, very well-known as a religiouis scholar, a headmaster. Even the police respected him.
Me: In your youthful mind at that time, what was your perception of the orang putih?
Bapak: They wanted to keep the government in their hands. They did not want to share the wealth.
Me: How strong was the anti-colonialist movement?
Bapak: The situation was such that orang takut kena tangkap. I was called by the Special Branch. But aaah, I told them **** you.
Me: You did not fear them?
Bapak: We had the people behind us. Utusan Melayu was a popular paper. It became powerful.
In my case, I had the backing of the political parties. Tak ada takut.
We were confident because the papers were controlled by the Malays. Rahim Kajai was editor of Utusan Melayu. He was in full support of our struggle. He also happened to be a good friend of my father's.
Me: How did you raise the semangat kemerdekaan?
Bapak: We didn't just sit around and talk about it. We went around talking to people.
We knew people supported us. We had so many visitors to our office. They showed support.
Ishak Haji Muhammad (Pak Sako) all congregated at Utusan Melayu.
We felt we had to do something at whatever cost.
Without Utusan Melayu, independence can be achieved but much slower.
Kajai took a big risk --- because the owners (of Utusan Melayu) might just, right in the middle of our struggle, get cold feet.
Me: Did they?
Me: Do you consider yourself brave?
Bapak: You have to take everything in your stride. Don't panic. Do whatever you can, try to win the people's support. Win their heart and mind to be on your side.
We made use of the paper. I wrote articles and editorials.
You don't ask the Malays to fight. You raise theirs sense of nationalism, their pride.
Me: Just the Malays?
Bapak: Utusan Melayu had the support of the Chinese as well, and other races. I remember meeting people, ordinary people, students, clerks. Malays and Chinese. Others. Utusan Melayu was respected by the Chinese.
Me: You were with the Merdeka Mission to London. How was it?
Bapak: I was in London for about a month. They consulted me on stories. The British gave us due respect.
Yes, it was thrilling. We were not full of anticipation because we were confident of Merdeka. The stage was already set. The trend was there. The British were not about to go back on their word. It was as good as done.