If they were alive today…

Jufrie Mahmood

Visitors to the Kent Ridge Park would not miss a plaque dedicated to the memory of a 27-year-old officer of the Malay Regiment. Lieutenant Adnan Bin Saidi and almost an entire platoon of 42 soldiers of the Malay Regiment under his command died in defence of Singapore in 1942.

Though badly wounded Lt Adnan survived the Japanese onslaught. He was taken prisoner, hanged from a cherry tree and subsequently bayoneted till he died.  

There was another Malay who made history in Singapore. Madam Sahora Ahmat won the Siglap seat for the PAP in a 6-cornered contest in the 1959 Legislative Asembly elections. Not many Singaporeans knew Mdm Sahora. I, too, neither knew nor met her. But I know that one of the candidates she defeated was my foster maternal grandfather, Mohd Sidek Bin Abdul Hamid, a former Minister of State for Education in the previous government.

A littke known fact is that Mdm Sahora was responsible for saving the PAP from defeat in 1961. She had been persuaded to leave her hospital bed to travel by ambulance to the Legislative Assembly Hall to cast her vote for the PAP.

Because of her vote, the PAP survived a no-confidence vote by a majority of one.

Many from the PAP credit the saving of the party to Mr Chan Chee Seng who was said to have persuaded and rushed Mdm Sahora to the Legislative Assembly. That recognition, I feel, should rightly go to Mdm Sahora. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you surely cannot make it drink.

Then there was Haji Yaacob Mohamed who in 1957 risked being ostracized and branded a traitor by the Malays when he joined the PAP from UMNO because he believed in, and was committed to, building a multi-racial Singaporean Singapore.

Haji Yaacob, whose last appointment was that of a Minister of State, together with a small band of Malay MPs, stood through thick and thin with the PAP, until several years before his death in 1989.

Towards his later years Pak Yaacob became disillusioned with the PAP. For reasons not made public he was sent away to serve as ambassador to Egypt and later as high commissioner to India. Some took that as some sort of banishment for speaking up against the PAP leadership.

I had gone to see him at his house in Lorong Marzuki before he passed away to have a chat with him and also to listen to his woes. He was against the PAP’s decision to introduce the GRC system. He did not agree with the PAP’s contention that Singaporeans were voting along racial lines – and he emphatically made this clear to me.

As early as the mid-80s he had said that the PAP “had gone off track” and he would strive to bring it back on track. When I ventured to ask him what would he do should he fail to do that, he looked me in the eye and said “I would join you!”

If Lt Adnan, Mdm Sahora, and Haji Yaacob were alive today, what would they say?

Would Lt Adnan let the PAP get away with its policy of discriminating against the Malays in the armed forces? Chances are he would fight another battle and teach the PAP what loyalty to one’s country really means. He would surely want to put things right.

Would Mdm Sahora, after having seen how the PAP is treating the Malays and giving lip service to the National Language, feel betrayed and regretted her decision to cast her crucial vote for the PAP? The PAP’s development would have turned out very differently.

Would Haji Yaacob not have joined the opposition lead the charge for change?

These Malays were loyal to Singapore because they were Singaporeans. Yet, somehow the loyalty of their descendants to this country are now being questioned. Have the Malays changed or is it the PAP who has changed?

Jufrie Mahmood is a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Singapore Democratic Party.

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