‘The University Socialist Club (USC) was formed in February 1953. In the 1950s and 1960s the USC and its organ Fajar were a leading voice advocating the cause of the constitutional struggle for freedom and independence in peninsular Malaya and Singapore.
In May 1954, the British colonial government arrested the entire editorial board of Fajar and charged them with sedition. In the subsequent high profile trial the Fajar Eight, as the members of the board had become popularly known, were acquitted. The monthly periodical continued to be published until it was banned in February 1963, following the massive wave of political arrests codenamed Operation Cold Store.
This collection of essays by leading members of the USC provides a timely documentation and narrative of the personalities who contributed to the struggle for freedom and independence in both countries.
The foreword by the doyen of the Malayan Democratic Union, Lim Kean Chye, pays tribute to this group of English-educated intellectuals who participated in and sacrificed for the cause of national independence and a continuing vision of a more equitable social order’ .
Dr Lim Hock Siew
The two decades from 1945 to 1965 was an extraordinary era of political turmoil in the modern histories of Malaya/Malaysia and Singapore. The end of the war unleashed concerted demands for greater political representation, self-rule and eventual independence in the face of British attempts to manage the decolonisation process.
The character and direction of this struggle were deeply contested. Different strands of nationalist thinking and competing political formations battled to define and shape the character of the future nation states.
The Fajar Generation tells the hitherto neglected story of a remarkable group of men and women who advanced a radical agenda of anti-colonialism, democracy, multiculturalism and social justice through the agency of the University of Malaya Socialist Club.
Through personal memoirs and analytical essays the contributors to this collection illuminate their own roles in that struggle – the hopes and despairs, the triumphs and defeats. At the same time they remind us of just how much of that progressive political agenda is still to be won in contemporary Malaysia and Singapore.
Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew each served in leading positions in the University Socialist Club at the University of Malaya, Singapore.