Malayan democracy activist detained without trial for seven years

Sir Edward Gent in 1948 – The National Archives UK via Flickr.

1 July 1948

On 1 July 1948, Sir Edward Gent, the governor of Malaya, using special emergency powers to prevent the threat of a popular insurgency against British rule, ordered the detention of Ahmad Boestamam, a leading democracy activist. At the time of his arrest, Boestamam had not given up the hope for independence through peaceful political struggle.  Like thousands of others, he was detained without trial, and was not released for another seven years.1

Ahmad Boestamam was the pen name of Abdullah Sani bin Raja Kechil, journalist, novelist and activist, born in 1920 in the Malayan state of Perak, where many of the country’s tin mines and rubber plantations were concentrated. His major crime, in the eyes of the British, was his founding, in February 1946, of the anti-colonial political party, Angkatan Pemuda Insaf  (A.P.I.). It was committed, in Boestamam’s own words, to ‘an independent state founded on genuine democracy, a body politic constituted by the people, conducted by the people through a government instituted by people’s representatives, for the interest, welfare and security of the people.’2


  1. Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire, Allen Lane, London, 2007 p. 433.
  2. Teo Lee Ken, Liberational Justice in the Political Thought of Ahmad Boestamam, p67 accessed online on 16 December 2018 at url

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© 2020 Alisdare Hickson All rights reserved

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