No tombstone but at least a brick for S.A Ganapathy

With my mother, Thanaletchumy and wife Rinu accompanied by Lynn in Malaysiakini office at Jalan Bangsar.
With my mother, Thanaletchumy and wife Rinu accompanied by Lynn in Malaysiakini office at Jalan Bangsar.

When I started independently researching about S.A. Ganapathy, the former president of now defunct Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU), my friends felt that I’m obsessed with him. I don’t blame them. Not many Malaysians are aware of Ganapathy’s contribution to the working class.

Almost all the contribution has been completely erased off the Malaysian history, short of trivial mentions here and there in the secondary school textbooks.

PMFTU was the pioneering union movement in Malaya established to unify all the trade unions under one umbrella, which at that time was seen as a great threat for British establishments.

S.A Ganapathy

S.A Ganapathy was hanged for accusation of arms possession under the emergency rule on 4th May 1949. The World Federation of Trade Union (WFTU) described it as “a murder”. Many of his comrades were imprisoned or hanged, which eventually led to the disbandment of PMFTUM.

Having gone through various documents, books and microfiche, I learned the injustice brought upon this man and the organisation, which has been broken up to under John Brazier, the British government’s trade union adviser.

Analysing the tragic events, which eventually led to the era of decline in the trade unionism, I felt there is an immense need for this man to be recognised for all his contribution and the empowerment of the working class in Malaysia.

Enter Malaysiakini, the leading independent news portal, and their “Buy-A-Brick” campaign to garner support and sponsorship for their new building @Kini, which will soon become the hub for independent media in Malaysia.

While looking at one of their advertisement, it just struck me that enshrining Ganapathy’s contribution to the country in one of the brick in Malaysiakini’s new building would be the most ideal thing to do.  After all, they fought and still fighting for a better nation.

After my marriage on the December 18th 2013, with the support of my wife, Rinu Mathavan, we decided to take out a portion of our wedding gift money (RM1,000) to invest in something worthwhile for the generation to come.

To say that the money was solely ours will be inaccurate as it also belongs to my family and friends who have entrusted us with monetary gift, which they would have expected us to put in a good use.

I did not hesitate and wrote down S.A. Ganapathy’s name on the form. Soon a brick with his name will be one of brick that became the foundation for media independence and freedom of speech in the years to come in Malaysia.

Brick engraved "Malaya Ganapathy" as S.A Ganapathy known to many
Brick engraved “Malaya Ganapathy” as S.A Ganapathy known to many

We left Malaysiakini office with a sense of satisfaction. Even though Ganapathy died without any tomb nor tombstone placed on his grave, at least, I am glad that a brick in Malaysiakini’s new office shall always reminds us of him and speak of his sacrifice to the working class.

As Tim Harper in his book Forgotten War The End of British’s Asian Empire said: “His sincere service to the workers for a long time cannot be forgotten. In appreciation of these services, it is but right to express our sympathy to him in his dark days.”

(For more information on S.A Ganapathy, please visit


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