Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesdays With Bapak

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?

Bapak: No.

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.


Mat Salo said...

Kak Ena,

I do not mean to triviliaze at all your Bapak's contribution to Merdeka, and so too the likes of TAR, AR Kajai, Burhanuddin Helmi, Leong You Koh, Onn Jaffar and so on. Yes, he and the rest plus the grassroot movement that started in B.Pahat/Muar in Johor prior to Merdeka all helped to expedite Merdeka.

But we must imagine the context of the times then: the British Empire in the 50's was already fast waning. They were going bankrupt. They needed to get Malaya off their hands (between '57 - 16 Sep '63 Sabah was still part of the British Empire - British North Borneo). And they had had experience doing the "handover" thing by then - with India and former colonies in Africa. So the whole affair was quite civil.

Your Bapak sums it up very well in the last paragraph, Kak Ena - A done deal, and the British were not going back on their word.

Your Bapak's main contribution in my opinion, was what happened next: the very difficult task of nation building. As you and your family had discovered first hand, Nation Building was a more difficult and arduos task - and he had paid dearly for for his dissenting views. Not with orang putih, mind you- but of our kind like LKY in Sing and our former PM's in Malaysia. This is the part where he has my highest respect - and Malaysians should never forget your Bapak's contribution to Nation Building.

Shanghai Fish said...

my dear,
I'm missing something this week after reading "Tuesdays with Bapak"....aahhh... I know yes...the mee rebus at Maria's!....sigh !

Alliedmartster said...

Hi Kak,
"The situation was such that orang takut kena tangkap. I was called by the Special Branch. But aaah, I told them **** you."
This is still the same I guess, just like what my mum told me, about getting on the 'wrong' side of the law by being vocal...
"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."
Hmmm, signs?
"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."
More signs?
I think that most people right now have this feeling of regret, regret that they are being taken for granted by the present admin. Being marginalised, all of US MALAYSIANS!
hmmm, from reading your post, I see signs, and also directions!


mat salo: no, bro.. you are not trivializing. not at all.
yes...i do agree. i know what you mean.
thank you..

stephen: i am dreaming of Kak Ton's mee rebus....
we have to plan a makan/buka puasa...mee rebus on the menu.

alliedmarster: we can relate to the situation.
some things just dont change...

zaitgha said...


When i read this posting i thought i was watching Hard Talk or Larry King shows....love it...

baru mkn my version of mee rebus semalam...

Rockybru said...

Can't quite agree with Mat Salo on this. I know he ain't the type to trivialize anything or anyone, but the facts of history must be placed in the correct perspective.

After the Second World War, most economies were in shambles, of course. Britain was in bad shape: it had a mountain of debts and it had not enough money to even feed its own people. Its borrowings from the US were huge and its the balance of trade favoured the Americans immensely.

In Malaya, which was a agro-based economy, plantations had to be rehabilitated and plantation companies re-organised. However, compared with many British colonies (and Britain itself), the Malayan economy was relatively promising.

In 1946 Malaya’s US dollar earning was 3 times the total contributed by countries (British colonies) within what was then called the "sterling area". Rubber and tin were the two commodities that made Malaya a gold mine.

So important was Malaya's contributions to Britain that a senior official of the British Treasury was quoted then that “without Malaya the Sterling Currency system as we know it would not exist”.

After the war, Malaya was "the largest US dollar factory which Britain possessed" because of its resources (natural rubber and tin).

This was precisely why the Malayan Communist Party was focusing on planters and miners during their terror campaign to seize Malaya from the white colonial master. The Communists knew that because rubber and mines were the strengths of the Malayan - and therefore the British - economy, disrupting the plantations and the mines would cripple the Malayan/British economies and weaken their resolve.

When Tunku the others fought for Malaya Merdeka, the country's economy was nowhere near what it is today. But it was still a gold mine for a Britain that was economically in trouble after the war. Which was why the British had wanted to install the Malayan Union in the first place, to continue to use our wealth for themselves.

The Ancient Mariner said...

Rocky is right. Post war Malaya was actually the 'jewel in the crown' of the British Raj.

But with India/Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma et al going independant: the commies creating havoc in Indo China at the time and the fear of the domino effect, there was no way the UK Labour government was going to deny us our merdeka. The US would not have backed them too.

tony -stand-up philosopher said...

Hi Nuraina,
I was away in Bangkok when Ramadan started. So here's wishing you a Selamat Berbuka Puasa.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

i seriously think Tan sri is one man full of bravery. i mean, to tell them SB fellas to screw off, that takes a lot of guts.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ena and fellow visitors,

I was just thinking...

whether we actually wrest our freedom from the British or had the luck to need only to prise our land from their weakened fingers, those brave people who were instrumental in us achieving our Merdeka, like your Bapak et al, are truly owed by the nation.

We should also thank our lucky stars they all had what it took... the smarts, the resolve and the honour.

Imagine if it was up to the idiotic, self-serving and dishonorable lot that we have now...


zai: really? aduhai...thanks.

waah! zai's mee rebus....sure seddaaap!

ancient mariner: Aye aye, Captain!

Kerp: Wish I could have a quarter of his guts..

Mekyam: thank you, Mekyam.
yeah....u think they'd sell of the country?

ahirudin (Rocky): what can I say?

Anonymous said...

The Brits held on top Hong Kong till almost the end of 20th century!

They would have luv to hold on to Malaya but Ancient Mariner is right, them Brits couldn't stop the Reformasi then.


MIH: wouldn't they just?

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading Said Zahari's memoir and in it Pak Said mentioned about Pak Ismail involvement in UMelayu and the pre-Merdeka movement. However Pak said also claimed that Pak Ismail has so many to tell about Malaya and then malaysia if only Pak Mail is to write his own memoir which Pak said say that Pak Mail is never going to do ... Betui ke? Why is that?

BaitiBadarudin said...

ah, but that age of chilvarious men and women has certainly passed