S.A Ganapathy, a name remembered by many Malaysians especially the old timers for his role in the communist underground rebellion during the Japanese occupation of Malaya, as well as a postwar trade unionist (Malaysia). He entered the Malayan Communist Party in 1939 and served in the Indian National Army (INA) as an instructor during the Japanese occupation. In February 1947, he was elected President of the Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions after successfully seeking to increase the General Labour Union’s influence.
But history has mostly forgotten Ganapathy’s contribution and sacrifices to the country, which were rewarded with broken promises from the government.
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 services, it is but a right to express our sympathy to him in his dark days. We hope that those responsible would recognise 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 from his service.”
Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU) was the first union party in Malaya. It was established to integrate all trade unions under one roof, and was seen as a significant challenge to British interests at the time.
Ganapathy emphasised the importance of a democratic constitution in enhancing the workers’ standard of living. Recognising that a significant portion of the population was illiterate and still unable to meet basic human needs, Ganapathy decided to attach basic human needs to political philosophy.
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.
Apart from that, Ganapathy preached the importance of education to the working class. He had a relentless thirst for sharing his knowledge and relevant information on labor issues. He had also voiced out on wage issues which were faced by the working class.
“Today when real wages have shrunken to an alarmingly low level at a time when the working class is awakening in realisation of 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”.
On the 4th of May 1949, S.A Ganapathy was hanged for alleged firearm possession under the emergency law. His death by hanging was proclaimed as “murder” by the International Federation of Labour Unions (WFTU). Many of his comrades were incarcerated or executed, and PMFTUM was inevitably dissolved.
Interpreting the devastating events that led to the downfall in trade unionism, Saminathan Munisamy, the founder and author of the malayaganapathy.com website, insists that this man deserves to be honored for his contributions to the emancipation of Malaysia’s working class.
Hence, he went to Malaysiakini, which is known as a mainstream independent news portal, to help fund their new building @Kini, which became the centre for independent media in Malaysia, as part of their “Buy-A-Brick” initiative.
The brick bearing his name will be one of the foundations for any form of freedom including that of the media and expression in Malaysia in the years to come.
For me personally, I was in awe because I had never heard much about S.A Ganapathy who had contributed to the development of our beloved Malaysia. The story of his contribution and legacy is very much needed for our upcoming generation. I think it should definitely be part of secondary school education.
Lest we forget.
Source: Malaya S.A Ganapathy Blog
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