Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Maria Hertogh saga ...part 5

Photo: Maria Hertogh arriving at Schipol Airport, Netherlands

The Aftermath
In the aftermath of those dark and terrible days, the police detained 778 people for investigation
into their involvement in the riots and the killings. One of those detained was Karim Ghani the Muslim activist from Rangoon. Of these number 200 were later charged. Only 100 were convicted while 5 rioters were sentenced to death for "wanton killing".
However the 5 condemned persons were not hanged and had their death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. For this escape of the hangman's noose they had the Tunku to thank.
On 25 August 1951, Tunku Abdul Rahman ( who would be the 1st Prime Minister of the new Federation of Malaya later) became President of UMNO...a Malay/Muslim political party in Malaya. He set out to try to save the 5 condemned men by first gathering enough support from the Muslim population and then pressured the British authorities to commute the sentences. The British were on the tail end of their far-east rule and realised that their time was coming to a close. They did not relish leaving behind grim memories. So Tunku won the day.

The Commission of Inquiry ( source: Wikipedia )
A Commission of Inquiry was appointed by Governor Franklin Gimson. It was headed by Sir Lionel Leach, a member of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Commission placed large blame on the police command for not having anticipated the violence from many indicators between 2 and 11 December. Furthermore, when the riots first started, the police failed to act promptly to disperse the crowd. The Gurkha contingent standing by was not put into action, while too much dependence was placed on Malay policemen, many of whom defected or at least hesitated to carry out their duties. The British House of Commons criticised the colonial government for its poor handling of the situation.
Present day Government of Singapore also attributed the tragedy to the insensitivity of the colonial government towards the racial and religious feelings of the locals. It cites the incident as a vital lesson learnt in the importance of racial and religious understanding and harmony. It also cites the incident as a case for placing a certain degree of governmental control on the media, especially when racial or religious issues are implicated.

Epilogue ( Source: Wikipedia )
On the night the riots broke out, Maria Hertogh was moved out of the convent, where the rioters tried twice to march on and were only kept back by the police. Plans were made at York Hill to receive her but she was instead sent to Saint John's Island, an offshore island 4 miles south of the main island of Singapore. The next day, Maria and Adeline Hertogh departed for the Netherlands by aeroplane. After landing in Schiphol Airport, they quickly proceeded to the Hertogh home on the outskirts of Bergen op Zoom.
At first, Maria could only talk to her mother, the only one in the family who understood Malay. She demanded rice with every meal, resenting the western diet. She continued to say her Muslim prayers five times a day. In addition, a policeman in plain clothes was assigned to escort her whenever she left the house, for fear of possible kidnappers who might take her back to Singapore, following reported sighting of "oriental strangers" around town. The house was also placed under surveillance.
Slowly, Maria began to adjust to her new environment. A nun came to the house daily to teach her Dutch until she was proficient enough to attend a local convent school. She also began to attend Mass with her family. Back in Singapore, Aminah and Mansoor had apparently given up hope of retrieving Maria after leave to appeal to the Privy Council was not granted. Earlier interest of the several Muslim groups involved had also gradually died down.
On 20 April 1956, Maria was married to Johan Gerardus Wolkefeld, a 21-year-old Dutch Catholic. On 15 February 1957, she gave birth to a son, the first child of ten. However, Maria did not seem to be contented. As she told De Telegraaf, she often had rows with her mother, who lived near by. She also said she still longed for her Malayan homeland. Johan and Mansoor began corresponding. In letters both expressed wish for Maria to travel to Malaya to visit the aged Aminah, but such trip was never made due primarily to financial difficulties. Aminah died in 1976.
The life story of Maria took another dramatic turn on 16 August of the same year, when Maria found herself on trial in a Dutch court charged with plotting to murder her husband. She admitted in court that she had been thinking about leaving her husband but was afraid to start

divorce proceedings in case she lost custody of her children. She came into contact with two regular customers at her husband's cafe bar. The trio bought a revolver and recruited a fourth accomplice to carry out the actual murder. However, the latest member got cold feet and gossiped about the murder plan. The police quickly learnt of it and arrested all four conspirators.
In her defence, Maria's lawyers brought up her background, which the court acknowledged. With this in mind, and because the plot was never executed and there was no proof that she offered any inducement to the other three, the three-man bench acquitted Maria. Meanwhile, Maria had also filed for divorce on the grounds of the irreparable breakdown of her marriage.

On 8th of July 2009, Maria Hertogh died at her house in Huijbergen at the age of 72. The cause of her death was the Leukemia from which she had been suffering.

Maria was raised as a Muslim in Kemaman, Trengganu.
Photo: Her schooling days ( girl circled)

Above : A news report from long ago

Above: A more recent report.
Al Mansor Adabi
As mentioned in my earlier blogpost, Mansor Adabi passed away on 15 October 1988 from a heart attack. He was aged 60. At the time of the story in 1950, he was then a trainee teacher attached to Bukit Panjang Government School having been posted to the school in 1948.
He was born in Kelantan and had his early schooling there. During the War while Singapore was under Japanese occupation, he went to a school called Sihan-Gakko. After the War ended, he continued his schooling in Victoria School, Singapore. Mansor was a scout and later as a teacher became a scoutmaster of Victoria's famous " 6th Arrow Scout Group ".
That was my direct link to dear Mansor as I played an almost similar role to his in the same Scout Troop, same alma mater.
Unk Dicko first met him from the early 1960's.
In all the years I knew him, I found him to be unbelievably soft-spoken, mild mannered, gentle
and highly regarded by one and all short, a perfect gentleman. He carried himself very well and as far as I know, did not allow the past saga of 1950 to weigh him down.
In those early days, his family lived at Kampong Wak Tanjong where many Malays used to live.
I know that kampong well as it was not too far from where I used to grow up in Siang Lim Park, Geylang. That kampong is no longer existing today.
Mansor's father was the well-known writer and nationalist...A Kadir Adabi.
His mother was Che Wok Adabi, an old friend of Che Aminah ( Maria's foster mother ).
Mansor was later married to Zaiton Juhairi. He had 4 children ( a daughter and 3 sons) and 3 grandkids at the time of passing.
NB: There are 3 more parts after Part 5. Just click on the month of March and Part 6, 7, and the concluding Part 8 is there.
Happy Reading!
Unk Dicko

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