Thursday, February 14, 2013

Malay politicians from Hillview.

By Guest Blogger, Johar Anuar.

Malay politicians from Princess Elizabeth Estate by Johar Anuar.

I was seven years old when my family shifted house in 1954 from a kampung at 6 milestone Bukit Timah Road to block 23, Princess Elizabeth Estate.

Like any other Malay Muslim parents, my parents wanted their children to have an Islamic studies background, which in those days would have meant possessing some basic knowledge of Quranic reading.

For me and my siblings, our Quranic lessons was at the home of a housewife, Mdm Sahorah binte Ahmat, at block 24 Elizabeth Drive (7 storey). Madam Sahorah did not accept any payment for the good deed, possibly because her husband Pak Chik Amir was a friend and office colleague of our father. In lieu of payment, we performed simple chores like watering the potted plants at the corridor of her house and playing with her young son Raphael. For she must have thought those were the things we as children could do.

Attending the Quranic class was something not to be feared or avoided for me and my siblings, as it otherwise would  have been for other Muslim children. I suppose it was mainly because Madam Sahorah was not always at home, which therefore meant there were very often no lessons for us.   

Moreover, this likeable woman would always treat us to many types of cookies and cakes she had in her house. That would in a way explained why we enjoyed being in her house, perhaps more than the imparting of her religious knowledge to us.

Mdm Sahorah was no ordinary housewife we learnt afterwards. 
She was a political activist for the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), which was a rarity for a Malay woman in those days.

But Mdm Sahorah was not the only UMNO activist staying at block 24.
There was also the UMNO Secretary General, Encik Selamat bin Samsuri, who was another of my father's friends. 
Though I am not too sure whether the the good man was holding that position in Singapore UMNO or only for the Bukit Panjang Branch while he was staying at block 24. But that he had held that high position was a matter of fact.

There was also Encik Ahmad bin Hj Taff, the chairman of Singapore UMNO.  
Encik Ahmad (later Senator Hj. Ahmad Taff) lived at block 20, Princess Anne Hill.  
He was then employed by the Singapore Dairy Farm.

In the 1950s, Singapore UMNO was a branch of the UMNO of Malaya.  
It was therefore not surprising to hear a story from Encik Selamat, told to me, on several occasions when we both served in the Ar-Raudhah Mosque (Bukit Batok) building committee in the 1980s.

I remember him saying that the he was amused whenever he reflected on an event which happened  about three decades ago. It was on 30 August 1957, when at the stroke of midnight, at the small plot of land in front of block 24, UMNO Singapore members raised the Malayan flag, singing 'Negaraku', the Malayan national anthem to celebrate Malaya's independent from Great Britain. Kelakar (comical), he chuckled, of the flag raising ceremony. A misplaced event he thought. Although he did not join the PAP like many of his UMNO colleagues, Encik Selamat had always spoke well of the ruling party.  

A historic political event
Unlike Encik Selamat, Mdm Sahorah, who had been a tireless UMNO member working the kampungs at Dairy Farm, Chestnut Drive and Bukit Panjang, changed her political party affiliation.

Mdm Sahorah stood for election to the Legislative Assembly in 1959 as a PAP party candidate.
She was elected as the Assemblywoman for the constituency of Siglap.
Mdm Sahorah then left Princess Elizabeth Estate to live at Dido Street in Siglap.  
Who would have expected that a simple housewife, whose roots began at Seremban, Negri Sembilan would become an Assemblywoman in Singapore? 

In 1961, the Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew called for a vote of confidence in his government over the proposed referendum for merger with Malaya. His party needed a majority vote to carry the proposed referendum. Failing to obtain that decisive vote would cause the government to fall, leading to the possible formation of a leftist government, as related in the book 'Men in White'.

Mdm Sahorah, who was hospitalised at the time, was dragged out from SGH, brought to the Legislative Assembly House in an ambulance and carried to the chamber to cast her vote.
With her vote, the government obtained 26 of the 51 votes cast. 

Mdm Sahorah being stretchered into the Legislative Assembly  to vote.

We know that Mdm Sahorah had made her contribution to this country. 
In whatever form it had been, we ex-residents of Princess Elizabeth Estate can proudly say that the late Mdm Sahorah was from Princess Elizabeth Estate. She was one of us.

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