Heritage Little Known/Unprinted Sikh History Of Malaysia

Chaan Pardesi

Oct 4, 2008
London & Kuala Lumpur
Unknown/Unprinted Sikh History of Malaysia

The Malay word Merdeka simply means Indepedence.In 1957, after many detailed negotiations and reflecting truly the unmatched maturity of the Malayan leaders,in which there were Sikhs as well, representing beyond their real numbers , the word Merdeka was shouted three times at the strike of midnight on 31 of August 1757 from the main square , known as Merdeka square today, in the capital Kuala Lumpur.The Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman led the nation to merdeka-Independance.

The Sikh Police Forces in Burma,Shanghai and Hong Kong had shown their courage and impressed the British authorities with their fearsome and martial persona and adept ability to mastering the drill better than any other, even when compared to the Punjabi Musalmaan or other Northern Indians. It was this character of the proud Sikh fighting man that prompted the British administrators to recruit Sikhs and consider the Sikhs as an appropriate racial category and a martial community to police their colonies.

The first arrival of Sikh Police Force in Malaya is recorded officially as on 28th of September 1873.Captain Tristam Speedy arrived in Perak with 110 Punjabis and Pathans.It is not known exactly how many were Sikhs, but from records of old photos, it can be reasonably argured and assumed the majority,and possibly up to 80% easily were Sikhs.This is also reflective from the Police Forces in Burma,North Borneo, who were mainly Sikh; and especially Shanghai and Hong Kong, which were entirely Sikhs.They came first to Perak, then Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Pahang, where the original police forces were largely Sikhs.They came as the lawmen to guard the mines and keep law order during the intense gang fights between the various chinese mining clans.

Mainly burly Sikh police men, with sprinkling of Pathans and Punjabi musalmaans; the Punjabi law men soon established the peace and earned the respect of the locals.A Tamil Police Officer, Dato J.J Raj a former Chief of Police in four states and commandent of The Royal Police College writes about his childhood memories in his autobiography:-

"I passed the local police station several times a day.The police sergeant, a tall burly, fierce and tough Sikh gentleman and his ten men were a friendly lot.Most of the policemen were Sikhs, tal and looking as tough and fiercely burly as their sergeant, with a few handful Malays who looked rather small when compared to the tall Sikhs, and they treated us well.

It is at once obvious through the recollections of Malaysians like dato JJ Raj that the Sikhs had come to be so clasely associated with the police Forces of not only Malaya and Singapore; but that of Shanghai, Hong kong , Fiji and North Borneo, to mention a few in this part of the world".

Over the years, larger numbers of Sikhs arrived , and soon well over 130 Gurduaras were established throughout the country, some by the Police Forces.The capital has well over 15 magnificient gurduaras, with another over 20 in the third largest Malaysian City, Ipoh, once the world's tin mining capital.Locally, Ipoh was also known as Malaysian Punjab.

The second largest city of Malaysia is Penang(GT), where within the island there are three Gurduaras and across within its Province Wellesley strip there are another two at Prai and Butterworth.

One of these on the island, The Diamond Jubilee Gurduara built in 1901, also has the road that it is situated along named as Gurduara Road.It is a very large moorish artitectually built building, and named I believe as part of the states' heritage recently, around 2006.It is a very large magnificient gurduara,once the centre of Sikh travel into and out of Malaya towards India, and east onwards towards Shanghai, BC, Phillipines and Hong Kong, and Sumatra.

Other smaller towns of Malaysia, apart from Taiping,which is blessed by three Gurduaras , generally have one large Gurduara, which become the hub of both social and religious activities of the Sikh communities.There is also another large Gurduara, known as Wadda Gurduara in Ipoh which has the road running past it, named after it as Gurduara Road.

Following Merdeka , the burden fell upon all Malaysians to take over and fill slowly at first, the jobs and positions vacated by the colonial powers' servants.Among these new breed of loyal Malaysian's were many Sikh Malaysians.Able Sikh youth whose forefather came as simple policemen and watchmen were soon reaping the rewards of their parents shrewd hard work and filtering into the leadership reins of this small nation with help of the education given by the parents.

One such individual was a turbanned Fighter Pilot Officer, Jaswant Singh of Kuala Lumpur.He became the first local born Sikh pilot officer.During a national parade of the Air Force , he was honored by the nation's defence secretary for his services to the country.He went on to become a senior wing Commander in the independant Malayan AirForce.

Another Sikh Sardar Gurnam Singh Gill, from Seramban won an American scholarship,to study in USA.He was the secretray of Negri Sembilan Transport Union, as well as the National Transport workers Union.He went on to become the president of Seremban Town Council and was appointed by royal accent to be a member of Negri Sembilan State executive assembly.

The British Government offered two scholarships, known as Queens scholarships, to capable Malayan students .One of the first few to qualify were two Sikhs, one from Singapore ,Sardar Satwant Singh Dhaliwal, and another from Malaya Sardar Chatter Singh Data.On 1957 Vesakhi day, these two were honoured by the community before their departure to UK by the Naujawan Sikh Association in a farewell party.

On return from their studies, these two succesfully became professors and achieved high positions in the country.Professor Satwant Singh Dhaliwal was a known name in University of Malaya.Professor Chatter Singh became a dean (I believe )in the University of Science in Penang.Presently he is also, the President of Penang State Sikh association.I have met this kind but a very stern gentleman only last year, when he entertained me at his home for a dinner.

In 1955 and English Brigadier Hannikar wrote a book titled ..the "Red shadow over Malaya", in which he discuss the threat from red chinese communism.He also writes about the forces fighting the 12 year old Malayan emergency in Malaya.He writes that the Sikh,Punjabi Musalmaan, and other northern Indians are wrongly refered to as Bengalis.Sadly this wrong referance continued even after Merdeka, and Sikhs were more commonly labelled with this wrong word.The Sikh community did not do anything to correct this wrong label, but lerft to individual Sikhs to try and educate their friends about it.

Even when on large scale bangalis began cooming to work in Malaysia,the local people still continued to see and refer to the Sikhs generally as bengalis; and the bangladeshis as bangla or bangladeshi.This is now changing now among the educated who realised that Sikhs and Bengalis are different altogether.

However it was mainly after 1984, the educated class of Malaysians realised their folly and began to refer to Sikhs accurately as Sikhs or Punjabis.

Brigadier Hannikar continues to write that even though the Sikh population is small in number, they are over represented and Individual Sikhs are seen as a force to be reckonned with in high and influential positions.

There were many Sikhs until about 1970s to be seen in many high positions in the government services, the police and army.Slowly these numbers have gone down, as the younger Sikhs took to newer and far more rewarding and self gratifying positions as successful lawyers and doctors, and other professionals, yet again over representing themsleves than their real numbers, when compared to other races.

One such Sikh was in a lesser known department-Sardar (Colonel) Dara Singh was the head of the Perak state Tribal and Aboriginal Affairs department in 1958.Later he was transfered to become the head Game keeper of Penang state wildlife department.Then he was also headed the same departments in Negeri Sembiland and Selangor states.

Very few Sikhs, even in Malaysia would know that Colonel Dara Singh had a colourful history about him.He was born in Taiping,Perak,but went on travels of China in his youth, where he joined the Kuomintang national Army of Chiang kai Shek fighting aginst Mao Tse Tung's communists.He is the single recorded and known Malayan or non Chinese; and a Sikh taht is known to have fought in the national army of any Chinese government.

Because of his hard work, and commitment and bravery in battles, he was made a Colonel in the Kuomintang army and awarded by Chiang kai shek personally.

Malayan history is full of many other Sikh personalities who contributed effectivley to the community and nation.Many of these remain unpublished and unprinted.Some need more reasearch carried upon.

Another Sikh, Lal Singh, was a great cricket player.He played in London.One women was so impressed by him, she named a rose after him.How many, esspcially Malaysians and Sikh Malaysians know there is among the rose gardens of the world, also a rose known as Lal Singh.

Another great successful Sikh was Gurcharan Singh Singa, The Lion of Malaysia,who single handedly led an underground campaign and fought against the Japanese occupation of Malaya.He was named Singa, in opposition to the Tiger of Malaya-General Yamashita, the Japanese General in Charge of Japanese Ocupationary Forces,Malaya.Gurcharan Singh later went on to become a police officer of the first Prime Minister of Malaysia 's elite Personal Protection Unit.

More to come later.

Gurcharan Singh Kulim


A comment to the above article:-
Totally agree with you veerji.It is really sad to see so many great Sikhs in Malaysian forgotten today.Youth like me who are born and brought up in Malaysia do not know anything about our pass.I really hope the sangat in Malaysia could do something about this! NO where in our history books are Sikhs even mention.Besides the national memorial "Tugu Negara" where list of of Sikh soldiers who had given their lives during the japanese and communists occupation are sated there is no other source that shows the contribution of Sikhs in Malaysia.]]*

I came across this article that I wrote many years back on the tapoban site.I will try and update this in the next few days; with new information that I unravelled in the last two years on my four visits back to Malaysia.

The link for this article is http://www.tapoban.org/phorum/read.php?f=1&i=52050&t=52050 (spnadmin)


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ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ (Previously namjap)
Jul 14, 2007
NO where in our history books are Sikhs even mention.Besides the national memorial "Tugu Negara" where list of of Sikh soldiers who had given their lives during the japanese and communists occupation are sated there is no other source that shows the contribution of Sikhs in Malaysia.]]*
Gurcharan Singh Ji,

I will have the attention of SNSM and Gurdwara Sahib Titiwangsa to look into this matter thru this link: http://pyaarmessages.wordpress.com/...of-snsm-and-the-gurdwara-council-of-malaysia/
Thanks for your kind comments.

~ namjap ~

Chaan Pardesi

Oct 4, 2008
London & Kuala Lumpur
Namjap Ji ~I will have the attention of SNSM and Gurdwara Sahib Titiwangsa to look into this matter thru this link: http://pyaarmessages.wordpress.com/2...l-of-malaysia/

Dear Santokh Singh Ji,

Thank you very much for your interest in the above and to share it with others.TY also for sharing the link with me, I have been unaware of it.But it would be helpful, if we could introduce ourselves, so that I can place you when communicating in the future hopefully.I have a rather large collection of photos of Sikh sevicemen.I am in the process of also obtaining films of Sikhs in the war from the Imperial Museum, London.Unfortunately, As I still work, I find little time to share these with the community.I hope, once retired,I will commit myself fully to this cause.I see you are from Seremban, my in laws are from there.I always visit it, when at home.What is the role of Titiwangsa Gurduara, If I may ask.I know the SNSM, I am a life member.

Please note, I have edited the original article and added on, if you wish to share it on your net.

Thank you for your kind comments, Gurfateh


ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ (Previously namjap)
Jul 14, 2007
Chaan Pardesi Ji,

You may bring out the collection of the old album of pics and I will see to it that it reaches it gets the right exposure. It would be good if you can make available the pics online as that is a sure way of safe keeping the hard copies with you. You can go directly to SNSM and meet Master Pritam Singh Ji and could make a suggestion that they may follow a similar approach as this website: http://www.sikh-heritage.co.uk/heritage/sikhhert EAfrica/sikhsEAfricapart3.htm

Gurdwara Sahib Titiwangsa's long standing Secretary is my elder brother. His name is Kartar Singh. His contribution to the sikh community is monumental. E.g. the Shabad Explorer Software which you get to view at every Gurdwara screen in the region is the brainchild of Kartar Singh. One can actually download it from my blog.

Santokh Singh

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
Namjap Ji..
What a small world...and what a surprise...
YES indeed Kartar Singh is all you wrote and more...i should know because hes one person right after my heart..vis a vis Gurbani..correct interpretation. SRM and...genuine satkaar of sggs et al...a real gem if ever i saw one....icecreammundaicecreammundaicecreammundaicecreammundaicecreammunda