MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku



Wednesday, August 31, 2022


VT Sambanthan was a signatory of the Merdeka Agreement and part of the Malayan independence delegation to London in 1957. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: Around the corner from the saree-lined storefronts and the mouth-watering aroma of the turmeric- and cumin-infused cuisine of Brickfields lies Tun Sambanthan station, named in honour of a founding father of Malaya’s independence.

The station, which is part of the KL monorail line, is named after Veerasamy Thiruyana Sambanthan, an illustrious politician and a champion of the poor.

He was born in Sungai Siput, Perak, in 1919, 23 years after his family arrived in Malaya. Upon their arrival on these shores in 1896, Sambanthan’s family settled in the plantations, with his father, MS Veerasamy Thevar, working as a rubber planter.

Young and discontented with life in the plantation, Sambanthan worked to improve his prospects with the hope of one day contributing to the nation.

His crowning achievement was when he was made signatory of the Merdeka Agreement, having also been a part of the Malayan independence delegation to London in 1957, along with Tunku Abdul Rahman, Abdul Razak Hussein and Tan Cheng Lock.

Sambanthan was the fifth president of MIC, one of the major political parties in the country, from 1955 to 1973, succeeding Kundan Lal Devaser.

He went on to be a Cabinet minister, serving as labour minister (1955-1957), health minister (1957-1959) and works, posts and telecommunications minister (1959-1971) before holding the post of national unity minister from 1972 to 1974.

Sambanthan enjoyed a close relationship with Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. (Facebook pic)

For one day in August 1973, Sambanthan was made acting prime minister when then prime minister Abdul Razak Hussein and his deputy Hussein Onn were both out of the country.

Sambanthan was said to have regarded racial unity and harmony as core principles throughout his political career.

Historical accounts document the many discussions he held with Chinese leaders after the May 13, 1969 riots to mediate peace and hear their grievances.

In the aftermath of the riots, the Chinese lion dance had been banned but as national unity minister in the early 1970s, Sambanthan saw to it that the ban was lifted.

He also championed the cause of the underprivileged, especially among the Indian community.

With the majority of Indians being migrant workers from South India during the years after Malaya gained independence, Sambanthan used this ministership to help them obtain citizenship and employment.

Being the son of a migrant himself and having lived his formative years in estates, he knew the importance of integrating migrants into society and fighting for their civil and political rights.

The Tun Sambanthan LRT station is named in honour of the illustrious politician, who was also a champion of the poor.

In 1960, he established the National Land Finance Cooperative Society to assist Indian workers by acquiring estates and land at a time when plantations were becoming increasingly fragmented and many workers were losing their jobs.

By 1979, the cooperative had bought over 18 estates, totalling 120 sq km and had a membership of 85,000 workers. Sadly, on May 18 of that year, Sambathan died, aged 60.

Forty-three years after his death, his unwavering belief in racial unity and harmony is an example Malaysians today would be well advised to emulate.

Tun Sambanthan station, as well as Jalan Tun Sambanthan across from it, stand in tribute to that belief. - FMT

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