Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

All That and The Empire of Japan - Aug 21 2007

In 1994, Bapak received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts.

There are parts, in a citation for him, that I would like to highlight. I am reminded of stories that he told us of the Japanese occupation.

"Meanwhile, the political balance of power in Asia was changing rapidly.
By July 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army had entered French Indochina (with the acquiescence of French colonial officials) and from there began its conquest of the rest of Southeast Asia.
Britain's colonies fell quickly, as Japan's forces advanced through the region after 7 December 1941. Singapore was thought to have been impregnable, but Britain surrendered it to Japan on 15 February 1942. Suddenly, Singapore had new masters.

As a cub reporter at Utusan Melayu, Samad still lived at home with his family in Kampung Melayu.
The neighborhood lay athwart the route of Japan's advance into the city and fighting raged in the vicinity for three days. Samad's family huddled in trenches during the fighting; their house was damaged.
Soon afterwards, a trusted messenger arrived from Utusan Melayu with an official letter from the Japanese Imperial Army summoning Samad to work.
He was given a white armband with an inscription in Japanese, so that he could walk safely to the office.

As he did so, he saw the dead bodies of British and Indian soldiers and common people strewn about the streets and thousands of British soldiers waiting aimlessly to be processed as prisoners of war.
He witnessed Chinese men, women, and children bound with barbed wire, being led away by Japanese soldiers.
He saw, mounted on Kallang Bridge, the severed heads of Malay youths said to have killed a Japanese soldier.
At the newspaper office, he helped locate the men who could operate the printing presses and assisted in publishing the first public announcements of the Japanese Occupation in Malay: "Be calm. Do not loot or steal. Give your full cooperation to the Empire of Japan."

Samad was prepared to cooperate. He had not suffered personally under the British, he says. He had not even experienced racial discrimination.
His father, as a school headmaster, was an employee of the colonial government and, moreover, Kesatuan Melayu, the organization with which he was affiliated, was not overtly anti-British.

Nevertheless, Samad and his family circle were acutely aware that the British were foreign occupiers-foreign masters.
When the British were driven out in 1942, he remembers thinking, "OK, they're gone and we have got new masters. We'll try our best to survive."

Singapore's prewar newspapers were now reorganized to meet Japanese needs.
In 1943, Utusan Melayu and Warta Melayu were amalgamated into Berita Malai (Malay News) and moved to share offices with the island's new English-language newspaper, Syonam Shimbun, which replaced the prewar Straits Times.

For Samad and the staff of Berita Malai, this meant using modern Linotype machines for the first time and converting from the Arabic to the Roman alphabet.
This dramatic shift brought Singapore's Malay-language press in line with the larger press of the Dutch East Indies, which had long since adopted Roman letters.

The Indies, soon to be Indonesia, was also part of Japan's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and Singapore was ruled as part of a unit that included both Malaya and Sumatra.
This fact drew many Indonesians to the island during the war and quite a few of them found work at Berita Malai-where young Samad found them very good company."

Just a little bit of history as we prepare to celebrate our 50 years of Merdeka. I'm getting all sentimental, reflective and melancholic...

I know I am early but here's to all blog sisters and brothers and peace-loving Malaysians, and oh, also to those cowards and monkeys who find pleasure in calling people cowards and monkeys -- Have a happy Merdeka Day.



Rockybru said...

Being reminded of a bit of history is always good for the soul of a nation, lest it loses its bearings and becomes foolish enough to think that all will always be well.

"Singapore was thought to have been impregnable, but Britain surrendered it to Japan on 15 February 1942. Suddenly, Singapore had new masters."

Let's pray that Malaysia does not wake up tomorrow and find that we have new masters.


Anonymous said...

Selamat Menyambut Ulang Tahun ke 50, Malaysia Merdeka, Kak Aina,

Anonymous said...

Hanya anak Malaysia Merdeka yang tulin, yang tak namakan orang lain monkey yang benar benar layak meraikan Hari Merdeka. Salam damai daripada Bumi Dibawa Bayu.

A.John said...

Happy merdeka? yes, maam when we got the right to rule our nation as we wanted from the colonial masters in 1957, we were trully happy. why because we had hope for a better future planned by us for us. But, why is it after some 50 years, some feel they still under new "masters" and made to feel like 2nd class citizens in this "free" country? Thus forgive me maam, if i do not share your enthusiasm,towards Friday 31st August 2007. Please enjoy a long weekend' with your family & bapak!

zaitgha said...


Each of us will celebrate this date our own way...btw this date was also the date my husband and I got hitched and this year will be our 15th years together...

Have a good Merdeka and take care.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, i was just browsing thru how our frens over at the other sided celebrate their national day, n this got my attention;
"Detik-detik proklamasi yang dimulai tepat pukul 10.00 WIB ditandai dengan dentuman meriam sebanyak 17 kali berikut bunyi sirene, beduk masjid-masjid dan lonceng gereja selama sekitar satu menit."
Wow, speaking of religion tolarence. And also this, im not sure if this is reported in our local newspaper.

Anyway, tat issue aside, i wold like to wish a Happy National Day and, hope u'll like the card and wallpaper! Feel free to send it to frens n family!



Mior Azhar said...

Kak Ena,
Plan anything special ke during this Merdeka Day? I think this year I'll bring my kids to Dataran Merdeka to witness the parade in person. Itu pun kalau bangun pagi ler... he he

mutalib saifuddin said...

not many (Malaysian) writers have won that magsaysay right? what i know, Tun Razak was one of the recipient back in the 60s.

i think i've read that in the Ramon Magsaysay Awardee webbie. as merdeka is closer, i think it's good for bloggers (and the publics) to ponder..

Teddy said...

what's the title of the book kak aina? perhaps i can try to find it at kino or mph.. sounds very interesting!

Srikanth Siva said...

I know i can look this up but since ur born in singapore, u might know as well. Does Singapore consider its independance day, the day it left the federation of Malaysia?

. said...

Kak Ena,
You don't know what your stories of your father and your family do for younger reporters like myself. It gives us a sense of history and pride - as journos as well as malaysians, and I just thought I needed to tell you how much I truly appreciate that. I don't mean to sound all googoogaga and corny, but you truly give us a great Merdeka gift everytime you tell one of your stories. That is priceless- thank you.

Till the next time at npc (and i owe you a cigar haha!), Happy Merdeka dear kak ena xoxo

Anonymous said...

Hi Nuraina,

Pat and I were telling a new reporter about the good times at the political desk, and about how we had the greatest boss ever.

We miss you.


(Sorry, this isn't a comment, is it?)

Elly said...

Dear Nuraina,

Thanks for sharing your story with us. It's really cool and I hope it would prompt the younger generation Malaysians (and all Malaysians for that matter!) to appreciate the value of our independence. After all, it didn't come free. The blood, the tears, the sacrifices of our freedom fighters, as well as those who were living in the country prior to August 31, 1957 - I hope these will not be forgotten by all of us...

Anonymous said...

I'm currently reading your father's autobiography.The book was bought some years back as I've always been fascinated by this 'larger than life' man.Well, its part of my Merdeka Books reading on Malaysia.Yep that's the way I'm celebrating 50 years Merdeka!
I'm enjoying every bit of it...his early years as a cub reporter, his colleagues in Utusan Melayu, legendary names of the literary world in the like of Abd Rahim Kajai, Pak Sako & others, the detention .I plan to read further on his involvement in politics ..A.Samad Ismail: Journalism & Politics by C B Kheng