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Malaysia's longest political detainee, a fighter to the very end
Published:  Nov 7, 2002 8:32 AM
Updated: Sep 22, 2021 3:37 PM

"As long as we are of the slave mentality, we will remain as slaves of those who want to keep us trodden. History tells us that as long as there is no political consciousness, you will be stamped upon. This is what we are lacking the political consciousness. Once we have that, we will not let others walk over us," Kamarulzaman Teh told malaysiakini in an interview

in November 2000.

He was 80 years old then, blind and unable to walk, forgotten by everyone. He was not just an old man imparting words of wisdom on political consciousness. This man had the honour of having endured the longest political detention 22 years in this country, all because of his determination to fight for true freedom for his country.

In that interview, he said he had yet to see his dreams realised although Malaysia had gained independence in 1957.

"What I struggled for decades ago is yet to be achieved. We are still in the shackles of the slave mentality and we have yet to elect leaders who are people-oriented.

"As long as the elected leaders try all the tactics to keep their interests, our struggle for a truly free nation is far from over," he had said.

But Kamarulzaman will never know if his dreams will come true one day. He died in Southern Thailand at about 10.30am on Nov 5 and was buried in the Muslim cemetery in Narathiwat province the same day.

Young socialist

According to PRM's Siti Noor Hamid Tuah and Sabariah Abdullah, Kamarulzaman's health deteriorated about four months ago. He was taken from Kuala Lumpur to his village in Temerloh, Pahang, and from there, to Southern Thailand to meet his old friends.

Kamarulzaman was born on Jan 15, 1920 to a farmer in Temerloh. He joined the Partai Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya (PKMM) during the Japanese occupation to rid his motherland of the invaders.

"What attracted me was the socialism that they preached and as a farmer's son, it was the only avenue for me to break the vicious circle of poverty caused by landowners," he had said.

"I was also taken by their underground guerilla tactics and this was one of the most effective ways to disrupt the Japanese forces."

Kamarulzaman was eventually made the Pahang head of the PKMM youth wing, Angkatan Pemuda Insaf (API).

When Emergency was declared in 1948, the British arrested Kamarulzaman at the Temerloh bus station without any warrant and charged him with possession of firearms, for which he was sentenced to death by hanging.

"For 10 days and 10 nights, the death sentence hung over me. I appealed against the sentence. Then on the day I was supposed to be hanged, I was told by the warden, the Sultan of Pahang had pardoned me. My sentence was then reduced to life imprisonment."

Kamarulzaman then spent the next 14 years in jail. Following the departure of the British, he was released, but placed under surveillance.

However his freedom was short-lived as he was arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act for another eight years.

Incomplete fight

Following his release, Kamarulzaman joined Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (now PRM) and contested unsuccessfully for election in 1974.

Siti Noor and Sabariah said that Kamarulzaman was actively involved in PRM throughout the seventies.

Poor health proved to be a handicap for Kamarulzaman in his 'freedom' struggle. His family also had difficulties paying his hospital bills. He was taken care of by his adopted sister and her husband.

In his later years, he was put in an old folks home in Kuala Lumpur. Though his physical condition prevented him from active pursuit of his dreams, he tirelessly spread his message to anyone who cared to listen.

"We are still very much in the feudal system, where we are still slaves to the people who rule us. We have yet to be able to have a class struggle, where everyone gets his share and no one is above the other...the struggle is (not over)."

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