Lions of Malaya

Balan Moses of The Malay Mail, a daily Malaysian newspaper, visited Gurdwara Sahib Jalan Polis at Jalan Parliament where an akhand path was going on in the memory of Sikh policemen who had fallen in the defence of Malaya, and later Malaysia. He speaks to some family members and policemen who live to tell their stories.

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| Balan Moses | The Malay Mail | 19 Oct 2015 | Asia Samachar |

The Malay Mail, 12 Sept 2015.
The Malay Mail, 12 Sept 2015.

THE small compound of the Jalan Parlimen gurdwara (temple) echoed with the stirring strains of prayers sung in memory of the many Sikh policemen who died in defence of Malaya since the late 1800s.

In the adjacent community centre sat some of the children, nephews and grandchildren of those who gave their all in faithfully defending their vows taken as policemen.

In fact, the 125-year-old temple, the oldest in the country, was where early batches of Sikh policemen took amrit (baptism) before going into service against secret society members, communists and all manner of men out to create mayhem. It is understood they came from a police station just across Jalan Parliament (three was no such road then) for prayers and food at the gurdwara.

Sikh policemen carried out their duties with religious fervour — their size and the well-known temperament of the Singhs (lion in Punjabi) scaring the wits out of the members of the Ghee Hin and Hai San secret societies in the early 1900s.

The communists during the Emergency between 1948 and 1960 also faced the feared warriors with trepidation, having learnt of their military prowess on the field.

That morning, in keeping with national warriors day this year, the men and women who gathered to remember the departed had stories to tell about their loved ones, their touching tales speaking volumes of the blood, sweat and tears of the Sikh policemen of yore.

Gurmel, 55, one of a handful of Sikh friends, who organised the prayers over three days to remember their relatives and the many unknown Sikh policemen who died in the call of duty, followed in his father’s footsteps.

“My father, Puran, joined the police force in 1943 and served diligently for many years. He is still hale and hearty at 89. He was shot in the arm by communist terrorists in Raub in 1945,” said the businessman who joined the force in 1976.

Gurmel said his father and others were recruited by a young Tun Hussein Onn who was then a serving offi cer in the Indian army in Rawalpindi.

He and his father served concurrently in the force until Puran retired in 1981 said the former sargeant-major who is also known as the singh who makan peluru (ate the bullet) in police circles. Apparently, he was accidentally shot in the mouth in his youth but survived none the worse for wear.

As I digest the information he and his friends provide, I am also trying to finish the plate of vegetarian food (Guru ka langgar) he brought me after prayers.

Earlier, Gurmel brought me a scarf to tie around my head as did photographer Adib Ramli as required by the Sikh faith of all who enter the temple.

Gurmel and friends, who spent their own money hosting the event, plan to hold it every year as their contribution to the memory of fallen Sikh policemen.

Pritpal, 52, recalled how his granduncle had set out as driver to British High Commissioner Sir Henry Gurney one day in the early 1950s and never came back. “The car my grand uncle, Bishan, was driving was shot at by people believed to be communist terrorists and he died in the incident,” he said.

Gurney died on Oct 6, 1951 when he was ambushed by communist terrorists on the Kuala Kubu Road near Fraser’s Hill.

Pritpal said his grandfather, Bahajan (Bishan’s brother), serial number 2595, came to Malaya in the 1930s and served for many years before retiring and returning to Punjab in India.

At this point the conversation veers towards the serial numbers by which policemen, especially Sikhs, were known by in the early years of the country. I remember newspapers carrying death advertisements announcing the death of Sikh policemen with the serial number prominent under the name of the person concerned and beside the village name in Punjab.

Kulwant, 60, who works with Tan Chong Motors, recalled how his father, Jai, came with the Sikh Regiment and retired at the Tapah police station.

“He served all over Malaysia. I am part of these prayers as I want to thank God for my father and his service to the nation, like so many other Sikh policemen who served here.”

Surjit, 82, a retired police chief clerk and one of the oldest present, joined the conversation. His father, Buggar, joined the police force in 1928 with the number 69.

“In the early days, the numbers were not recycled when someone died. It only started when the police force grew,” says the retiree who joined the force 62 years ago.

Samret, 60, remembers how his father, Ghenda (6099), loved his job as a policeman and did his best for the nation.

The nation remembers Samret and Ghenda for different reasons: Both were hammer throwing champions who set national records at diff erent times. “He set the record of 44.14m which I bettered with 51.36m later,” he says of his father who was probably the best known Sikh around in the 1960s and 1970s.

Today, there are only a handful of Sikh policemen, the lure of better paying jobs and tertiary education taking a toll on their numbers in uniform.

But the legends of Sikh policemen, who never gave up on the battlefi eld and in whose vocabulary the word “surrender” never occurred, live on.

 

ORIGINAL article, entitled Lions of Malaya appeared in The Malay Mail on 12 Sept 2015. 

 

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