1940-1949 | Executions | Malaysia



[ 4 May 1916 ]

Joseph Plunkett, a poet and playwright, who left a hospital bed to participate in the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin, was executed by a British firing squad at Kilmainham jail at dawn on Thursday 4 May. Less than two hours earlier, he married Grace Gifford, a cartoonist and illustrator, at a little before 4 am in the prison chapel.1


S.A. Ganapthy – Wikimedia.

[ 4 May 1949 ]

On 4 May 1949, the British hanged the trade union leader, S.A. Ganapathy, at Pudu Jail in Malaya.  Ganapathy had been the president of the powerful Pan Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU) which boasted 400,000 members. He would routinely remind gatherings of workers that ‘a fight for a democratic constitution is a fight for better food and clothing.’ He was also a highly respected veteran of the Malayan resistance to the Japanese occupation.2 Ganapathy’s crime was being arrested while allegedly being in possession of a .45 revolver, shortly after the PMFTU had been banned and a state of emergency declared. Some claimed that he had been detained while on the way to a police station to hand his weapon in.  Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, made a last minute appeal for clemency but to no avail and the World Federation of Trade Unions condemned his hanging as ‘a murder.’3

Pudu Jail – stairs to the Hanging Chamber
Ezry Abdul Rahman – CC License – Flickr.


  1. Diarmaid Ferriter, A Nation and Not a Rabble: The Irish Revolution 1913-23, London, 2015, pp. 163-164 and ‘Married at Dawn – A Bride of Death,’ The Hull Daily Mail, 8 May 1916, p. 3. There is some disagreement in various accounts as to the timing since an announcement of the marriage in The Irish Times conflicts with some reports giving the date as 3 May, the day before the execution.
  2. Saminathan Munisamy (20.03.2016) ‘S.A. Ganapathy: From Social Reformist to Independence Fighter,’ accessed online at http://sahabatrakyatmy.blogspot.com/2016/03/sa-ganapathy-from-social-reformist-to.html
  3. Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire, Penguin, London, 2007.

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