The next session of Northern Writers takes place at No5 Gopeng Road at 1030, Saturday 5th November. New books, new readers and a little food. Do come along. It’s very interesting.
And this month we have the special treat of the Poi Lam Choral Speakers, now internationally known.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Yes, this is long overdue…..but thank you all for waiting so patiently. Here is Andrew Lin’s article on the other ‘famous brother’ – S P Seenivasagam! Due to the length of the article, only part of it has been put up on the blog. The rest, together with the credits, can be read at our database….
SP: The Much Misunderstood Politician
“Isn’t it a pity that S P Seenivasagam should go down in history as such a greatly misunderstood politician after having given his all for Ipoh? Andrew Lin recalls the life and times of the other half of the legendary Seenivasagam brothers.
Sri Padhmaraja Seenivasagam, fondly known as SP, was the other half of the famous Seenivasagam brothers of Ipoh, the other being D R Seenivasagam (DR). Both men were brilliant lawyers and founder members of the Perak Progressive Party in 1953. The party changed its name to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) two years later. SP was generally perceived as the quieter of the two; a man of few words, at least during the time when his younger firebrand sibling was the president of the PPP and concurrently the Member of Parliament for Ipoh. SP himself was the MP for the adjacent constituency of Menglembu in the heart of the Kinta Valley.
Despite the frequent comparisons made between them by the local media, the Seenivasagam brothers’ genuine concern for the welfare of the people, especially the poor and the needy, was never in doubt. It was precisely this trait in SP that prompted him to make what most people at that time considered his biggest blunder in his long and illustrious record of public service – the fatal decision to join the Barisan Nasional (BN) in 1974 so that the PPP could continue serving the people of Ipoh through the administration of the municipal council of Ipoh (the Ipoh Municipality).
In the heyday of the PPP between 1957 and 1969, SP was the vice-president of the party. Although credited by many as the “brains” behind the success of the party, SP remained in the background during that golden era, playing the role of a strategic planner while DR time and again dominated the headlines as a fierce and harsh critic of the then Alliance government. SP only came to the fore upon the untimely death of DR in early 1969, barely two months before the nation’s third general election. The racial riots of May 13, which took place immediately after the election, changed the entire course of the nation’s history.
As a result, very little information was available to the public on the personal side of SP. Like DR, SP was fond of liquor and was also a heavy smoker, averaging no less than four packs a day. His inner circle of close friends, which included the leaders of the PPP and his counter-parts in the legal profession, readily testified to his warm and easy going ways which often culminated in a thunderous burst of laughter. It was common knowledge that despite his hectic daily schedule, SP did his best to be available to the people at his office at the Municipal Chambers, which literally became his second home.
SP was first and foremost an outstanding British-educated lawyer, perhaps one of the best the nation has ever produced. Civil law was his forte. Together with DR, an equally eloquent and much feared criminal lawyer, their professional services were very much sought after. Both brothers featured prominently in numerous high-profile cases in the country. Their remarkable talent and extraordinary contributions as legal practitioners are well documented in the annals of the Malaysian Bar Council. Till today, the Seenivasagam brothers are still fondly remembered and respected by the legal community. Once, a rumour went round that SP had been offered a judgeship on more than one occasion but he turned it down.
Among the most memorable court appearances featuring SP was the Rahman Talib corruption case in 1964 where DR was sued for libel and slander by the then Education Minister. SP was engaged as the defence counsel for the co-respondent, one Abu Bakar, the businessman who tipped off DR on corruption allegations against the minister. (DR himself was defended by a young up-and-coming barrister by the name of Chan Nyarn Hoi, better known today as Dato N H Chan, an eminent and respected retired judge of the Court of Appeal.) The minister lost the case (and his job too) and the subsequent appeal the following year. Another case that attracted national interest was the Fan Yew Teng sedition appeal in 1971. Fan, then a Democratic Action Party (DAP) MP for Kampar, faced possible disqualification from Parliament as he had earlier been convicted in the Sessions Court under the Sedition Act for publishing an offensive article in the party’s newsletter. In the hearing at the Federal Court, SP successfully argued the appeal for Fan on the grounds of technicality. The court concurred with SP and ordered a fresh trial. The rest, as they say, is history.
A rare occasion when SP’s private life caught public attention was in October 1965 when he married the former Miss N Danapakia Devi from a well-known family of lawyers from Seremban. (Datin Seenivasagam died of a heart attack in 2006 at the age of 72). SP was then in his late forties. Prior to this, the Seenivasagam brothers were among the most eligible bachelors in the country. SP was conferred a Datoship by the late Sultan Idris Shah of Perak in 1964, an honour seldom bestowed on an opposition personality even to this day. The Dato Seri title was awarded in 1972.
Senior citizens and those in their fifties may recall that for a very brief period in 1973, Belfield Street and Hugh Low Street, two busiest streets in Ipoh were originally renamed Jalan S P Seenivasagam and Jalan D R Seenivasagam respectively in one of the earlier road-renaming exercises. At that time, the naming or renaming of roads within the municipality was the prerogative of the Ipoh Municipality and it had been the council’s policy to grant such a privilege to serving municipal councillors as well, irrespective of party affiliation. Thus we have Jalan Megat Khas, Jalan Chew Peng Loon, Jalan Yin Choo Han, Jalan Chan Swee Ho, Jalan S A Lingam, Jalan R C M Rayan (all situated in the Ipoh Garden housing estate), Jalan Leong Boon Swee and a few more in other parts of Ipoh. The first two mentioned councillors were from the opposition Alliance while the rest were from the PPP. But in this instance involving the names of the Seenivasagam brothers, the renaming was met with stiff opposition from certain quarters. To avoid further escalation of the controversy and being a true gentleman, SP voluntarily withdrew his consent to use his name for the road which subsequently became known till today as Jalan Sultan Yussuf. But SP told a press conference that the municipal council would appeal to the state gpvernment to retain the name of his late brother in place of Hugh Low Street. The appeal was however turned down. Hugh Low Street was subsequently renamed Jalan Sultan Iskandar. It was ironical that whilst his municipal colleagues had roads named after them long before this outcry, the president himself was unreasonably denied this honour.
SP was elected to Parliament as the representative for Menglembu in the first general elections in post-independent Malaya held in 1959. He also won the state seat of Kuala Pari in the Perak State Legislative Assembly the same year. Both these two seats were successfully retained by SP in the subsequent general elections in 1964 and 1969.
As a parliamentarian, SP was ranked among the luminaries of the Opposition Bench in the infant days of the nation’s Parliament. Indeed both SP and DR left their indelible foot-prints in our parliamentary history. SP’s attendance record in Parliament, however, was rather dismal, averaging about five per cent. His opponents capitalised on this glaring weakness during pre-election rallies and other public gatherings – but with minimal effect as Menglembu was a stronghold of the PPP during that time due to the Seenivasagam brothers’ immense popularity.
To be fair to SP, he was never found wanting when important bills affecting the nation were discussed in Parliament. He participated actively in the debates relating to the Internal Security Act Bill in 1960, the Constitutional Amendment Bill, which saw the separation of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965, the controversial Constitutional Bill relating to the Sarawak Council Negri crisis in 1966 and the contentious National Language Bill in 1967. All his speeches in unequivocal support of the stand taken by DR were crisp and concise and reflective of the hopes and aspirations of the people.
Many observers believe that SP chose to remain in the shadow of DR in the discharge of their parliamentary duties out of sheer respect for the latter’s position as the party leader. Not one to relish undue media attention, SP never attempted to steal the limelight when DR was still around. In spite of his own enormous personal attributes as a shrewd and distinguished lawyer, SP took great pains to ensure that the celebrity status enjoyed by his flamboyant brother in Parliament was never in jeopardy at any time.
Most importantly, SP would also go down in history as one of the handful of opposition parliamentarians who courageously stood up and opposed the highly sensitive Constitutional Amendment Bill, which removed the parliamentary immunity of MPs in 1971.
Read the rest of the article here.
We have seen a number of Ipoh’s young ladies recently and here we step back a generation or two. It is before the war came to Malaya, Hitler is causing problems in Europe while the world is struggling to recover from the 1929 depression. This was the era of the Superman comic (first published in 1938), the Benny Goodman Band and the film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a popular attraction.
But here in Ipoh it was all about pretty girls, Cheongsams and shoes as the picture shows.
We thank ipohbornkid for this wonderful step back into Ipoh’s past.
Know this road? Way back in 1945, this was part of the Singapore-Penang route. This picture shows the road passing through Ipoh (although, we don’t know which part of Ipoh this is).
Yes, there weren’t many cars on the roads in those days; in the picture are a couple of bullock-carts.
Must have been a nice way to travel (save the LONG hours)…..minus the toll! 🙂
According to the donor of this photograph – Sybil de Roquigny – this was taken in 1945, sometime after the war.
Seated on the left of the Indian girl (wearing a plain samfoo) is Sybil’s aunt Linda Leong Kam Leng (daughter of Leong Eng Khean and granddaughter of Towkay Leong Fee). Seated on the far left (wearing a hair clip) is Linda’s best friend Lily. Incidentally, Lily and her husband owned a textbook and school supplies store in Old Town; across the road from the Ipoh Sar Hor Fan/Satay coffee shop (Thean Chun).
Recognise anyone in the picture? Perhaps your mum/aunt/relative is one of the pretty girls?
This was taken in 1945 by the late Geoffrey Clark (of the 4th Regiment Signals Troop). Here we have 3 dulang washers, complete with their wide hats and long sleeved shirts, working hard along the river.
On the reverse of the photo he identified the place as Ipoh and guessing that this was taken from a military vehicle, it is interesting that the land was so wild.
Where are those wide coolie hats now? Maybe they are in the same place to which the Japanese “invasion” bicycles went. I wish we could find examples of both!
Recognise this street?
Well, put those thinking-caps on, people 🙂 I’m sure some of you are grinning madly…while typing away your answers!
This picture is part of the late Geoffrey Clark’s collection. (We featured one of his pictures in a previous blog post) Clark served in Malaya from about 1945-1947 under the 4th Regiment Signals Troop (which arrived in Malaya just after the Japanese surrendered).
This was sent to us by UV, as part of his Teaching in Ipoh series. In the above picture, seated in the centre, is Mr Teh Chin Seong (mentioned in the story below). This picture was taken in 1968 and published in The Argosy 1968 (the school magazine). The lovely lasses in the picture are members of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade from MGS Ipoh.
Teaching is a vocation where those taking it up must be prepared to sacrifice. However, it can also be a vocation where those who are not really dedicated can exploit. I would like to deal with the negative aspects of some teachers as many today can only see this dark side of the noble profession. I want to deal with it now and put it to rest and in the rest of my story, I would want readers to put aside the image of a bad teacher and concentrate on teachers who have dedicated their lives to teaching pupils.
The teaching profession was at the time I joined it, a vocation you work for half a day only. Most schools would end at the latest by 1.50 p.m. Some lower secondary classes ended even as early as 12.30 p.m. and of course Primary classes ended around that time most days. This enabled the teacher to have the rest of the day free. Many would take this opportunity to give extra tuition for a fee. Others would mend their homes or used it for social events (usually a game of mahjong at home or in a club. To the detriment of the students and the profession, such activities usually result in neglect of the much needed correction of assignments given or better preparations that should have been made before a teacher teaches the next day.
Teaching provides a teacher with long vacation. In those days there were three terms per year and normally at the end of the first and second terms, a two week vacation is given and at the end of the final term, a four to five weeks vacation is in the offering. Of course, self-centered teachers would spend such vacations for their own purposes whereas those who love their students may organize special educational outings or provide remedial classes for the weaker ones.
When I joined MGS Ipoh in 1968 I was most impressed by the caliber of students there. Classes were streamed according to academic excellence but they were also divided into Science, Arts and Domestic Science streams from Form Four onwards. There were very little differences in academic performances between the best of the Science classes and that of the Arts.
When I was in school in ACS Ipoh, one can see a mark difference between the Science Stream and the Arts Stream with a few individuals in the Arts Stream showing equal academic abilities to those in the Science Stream and these were usually those who chose to take up Arts subjects even though they qualify for the Science Stream.
I was given the best Arts class in Form Five. I thought Geography there. I was really taken up by the diligence of the girls not only in doing their assignments, following the lessons as you teach but also the amount of extra time they are willing to put in after school to create and produce charts and models with me to enable the teaching and learning of the subject to be easier. To these girls, a big handful of them, the learning process was not restricted to the classroom alone but in extra activities related to each subject they can garner outside the classroom. They were keen on outings, to visit Geographical features on actual ground. We climb up waterfalls in nearby Buntung. We walked along the Kinta River banks, we visited caves and limestone hills and we went to nearby factories to see how things were made and took trips outside the town to study production of rubber and palm oil as well as tin ore. Such then was Geography taught and learned that year and years to follow in MGS. It is not the teacher alone that can give rise to this form of teaching and learning. It takes interested students to want to follow the teacher around to see for themselves what is actually happening in real life.
I have the good fortune of meeting these students after 40 odd years recently in Kuala Lumpur and these were the same group that took special interest in my subject as well as those of other teachers. They did very well in their SPM and went on to do well in life. Many were top civil servants and some captains in the commercial sectors. Yes, they were girls turned top ladies. When we talked of school days, what do they remember most, the extra-curricular activities we had. I felt very happy and satisfied that what I did was not in vain.
MGS Ipoh in 1968 had a small collection of male teachers. They were usually involved in the teaching of Science and Mathematics. I was the only Arts male graduate. The other men teachers were the Bahasa Malaysia teachers. Men teachers are very popular with girls’ students. They tend to take advantage of the men teachers but some of us were rather stern and many students learned the hard way when they do not put in enough effort.
Men teachers of course could not lay hands on a girl pupil in anger nor in affection but there are various methods well established in MGS Ipoh for them to take to punish recalcitrant girls. There’s a lady discipline teacher to deal with such girls. MGS Ipoh is also famous for detention classes where girls are detained after school or had to come back on Saturdays to perform some duties. In this manner, girls are kept in line.
The men teachers are also useful in providing transport for girls when they fall ill or when they need to go somewhere for an activity. Of course some lady teachers do likewise. The men are expected to handle the heavier duties of physically shifting furniture (with the help of men manual workers) and are responsible for many games. The Sports Secretary when I was there was a man teacher and he did a wonderful job all those years.
Mr. Teh Chin Seong was a male icon that no MGS student can forget. He was there before I joined MGS Ipoh and he remained there until he retired many years after I left MGS Ipoh. Not only was he a very efficient Sports Secretary who ran the Annual Athletics Meet every year without a hitch, but he was also good in coaching volleyball, basketball, and many other games MGS was involved in. In addition he was also the Band Teacher.
Is that all? No, Mr. Teh was also an officer in the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade and was in-charge of the MGS Ipoh Company. Many girls became nurses after joining this movement. Some of them went to England to take up nursing and continued working there. I had the good fortune of meeting one Operation Theatre Sister from my batch of 1968 Form Five during the last reunion of this class.
Mr. Teh Chin Seong passed away last year (2010) leaving much fond memories in the hearts of many who had served with him and who were his students. He was an excellent Mathematics teacher too despite all the extra-curricular activities he had to handle and any girl having gone through the LCE or SPM Mathematics papers would have him to thank.
To round up the appreciation of a well rounded teacher, I would like to add that Mr. Teh was a wonderful ballroom dancer and on many occasions he demonstrated his skill to the school in our Prize Giving Day Concert and Teachers Day Celebrations. He really added colour to MGS Ipoh.
We have here a picture from Helen Philip (who’s in the far right, with her partner Teh Jung Siang). Also in the picture are: Rosalind Goh (4th from right), and Teng Yoke Leng (10th from right).
This event is said to be the ‘most exciting’ event during the RPS annual Sports Day. (Some of you might remember one of our previous posts titled “Let’s March“).
Does RPS still have this event lined up as part of their Sports Day programme? Calling all RPS girls (past and present) and teachers too! 😉
We thank Howard Tang Hoy Wah (from Falim, Perak) for this picture. Howard now lives in the US, and was formerly a student of ACS Ipoh. He was also well connected to the Wesley Methodist Church – his brother, Tang Kin Wah, once served as a Methodist Pastor before he too left for the States.
This picture was taken in the 1950s. Are you in it? Do you know anyone in it?
We received this from Sophie via email. This was taken during Chinese New Year in 1969 – showing the Class of Form 3C of RPS.
Sophie has, unfortunately, lost touch with her friends (those in the picture) since she left school. Are you one of those in the picture? Do let us know…..and Sophie if you’re reading this, do point yourself out to us 🙂
PS: Can anyone guess WHERE this picture was taken?