A Short History of Tamil Newspapers in Malaya (Malaysia), 1875 – 1960

Author:   Dr. Ganesan Shanmugavelu

A Short History of Tamil Newspapers in Malaya (Malaysia), 1875 – 1960

Dr. Ganesan Shanmugavelu

Since coming to Malaya, the Indians have experienced  various social, economic and political development  as well as forming a community with its own culture and traditions in Malaya.  Various social, economic and political issues that existed among the Indians in Malaya had encouraged the emergence of the middle class  to view  their opinions and fight for the fate of the Indians.  Among the important methods used by them were to write their views in the press.  Actually the press had played a very important role in shaping the thinking of Indians in Malaya. 

Before Tamil newspaper was published in Malaya, reading materials, especially newspapers were  brought from India.  As a result, the Indians in Malaya were influenced by the  ideas and thoughts  contained in the newspapers from India.  The publishing of Tamil newspaper  in Malaya began in the late 19th century.  Starting from the 20th century, more Tamil newspapers were published and these  newspapers  discussed various social, economic and political issues of  Indians in Malaya.  
The history of  Tamil newspaper in Malaya is  uncertain due to lack of evidence or records that disclose with accuracy the publishing of Tamil newspaper. However, a study by R.Dhandayutham explains that the  Ulaga Nesan was published in 1877 followed by Singai Nesan and Hindu Nesan.  Although these three newspapers may be accepted as the earliest  Tamil newspapers in Malaya, but Ulaga Nesan in its first edition stated the name of the three news papers published earlier, namely, Vidya Visarini, Vågai Nesan and Vijaya Kethanan. 
 In the meantime, the editor of Singai Nesan, S.K.Masuthum Sahib also said,  in 1875, he  published  Singai Warthamani but was stopped within a short time.  Then he published three newspapers that were  Thangai Nesan , Nyana Sooriyan and later on  Singai Nesan.  According to E.W. Birch, the weekly newspaper Singai Warthamani was said to have began circulating in 1875. Meanwhile A.Mani, stated that an English-language newspaper in Singapore, The Straits Observer in its publication on  February 29, 1876 had reported that the Singai Warthamani has been in circulation and this newspaper has been published by ‘Dhinodhaya Press'. 
Based on the information obtained from Singai Nesan and views expressed by E.W.Birch and A.Mani, it can be concluded that, the first Tamil newspaper in Malaya was Singai Warthamani published since 1875. Later on,  the  Singai Nesan, a weekly newspaper was published in 1887 and had a role to report the problems faced by the Tamils in Singapore, but this paper ceased publication in 1890 due to lack of support from the community.  It was during this period, two other Tamil newspapers were published, they were  Tejahbimani in Perak in the year 1896 and Pinanggu Warthamani in Penang in the year1897. 
The publishing of Tamil dailies continued to rise in the 20th century.  Tamil newspapers which appeared in the early 20th century were Warthamani, Vijayan, Nyanasoorian, Janobhakari, Sathyawan and Pathukavalan.  According to Krishnan Maniam, the  Mahayudtha Samsaram was a handwritten newspaper and brought news about the First World War.  Other newspapers brought in current events and presented the hardships faced by the Tamils in the rubber plantations. 
 In the 1920s, more Tamil newspapers  appeared in Malaya.  One of them was Tamilaham published by Narasimha Iyengar in 1921. Starting in 1922, this newspaper began to spread nationalist sentiment and had warned and forbade the Indians from coming to Malaya to work in the rubber plantations. Besides Tamilaham, other Tamil newspaper published in the 1920s were Potujana Mithiran, Sinthamani, Kaliyuga Nanban and Munetram.  Sinthamani was published by V.Balammal and it was the first Tamil newspaper published exclusively for women.  Meanwhile , Kalliyugam was published by V.Govindasamy and the press began to advise the Tamil’s to consider Malaya  as their homeland and become loyal citizens of this country. 
Another Tamil newspaper that appeared in Malaya in the 1920s was the Tamil Nesan.  This paper was published on 10 September 1924 by Narasimha Iyengar after he left the Tamilaham .At the end of the 1920s, another newspaper appeared entitled Kaliyuga Nanban was published from 6 April 1928 in Ipoh, Perak.  This newspaper was published monthly and the editor was V.Govindasamy.  In 1929, another Tamil newspaper was published, titled Munnetram.  This newspaper expressed the ways how  Indian society can achieve success in terms of politics, economy and social in Malaya and Singapore. 
The publishing of Tamil newspapers   grew rapidly  in the 1930s.  Among the newspapers published in this period were Tamilan, Malaya Mithran, Malaya Thootan, Navaneetham, Jana Warthamani, Tamilthondan, Baratha Mithran, Inba Nilayam, Dravidian Kesari, Bharatha Nesan, Putu Yugam, Tamil Murasu, Janma Bumi  and Tamil Kodi.  In 1930, the Desa Nesan was published by Hamid Kalanjiyam and this newspaper published  many news on  socio-cultural aspects of Tamil-Muslim society.  Meanwhile, another newspaper  appeared in Singapore in 1932 titled Malaya Thootan.  This newspaper was first published on 12 February 1932 and the editor  was P.S. Rajendran. This  newspaper was printed by  'Sundram & Company' in Selegei Road, Singapore. 
In addition, another newspaper appeared in 1932 titled Malaya Mithran.  This newspaper was first published on 14 April 1932. This newspaper was published by the ‘Mercantile Press’ in Penang and the editor of this newspaper were Pankulam and Hamid Kalanjiyam.  In 1933, leaders of  reformation movement, R.V.Nathan, R.R.Nathan and R.H.Nathan had published Samuthaya Oliyan and Bharatha Mitran to spread the reformist ideology among the Indian labourers. The writing of  R.H. Nathan  focused the problems of Indian labourers. His writings clearly revealed his attitude towards  anti-colonial  and the tendency towards socialism.  In addition, another newspaper appeared in 1933 entitled Janawarthamani published on 20 December 1933. 
Meanwhile, in 1934, a weekly Tamil newspaper  appeared in Malaya titled Tamil Chelvan.  This newspaper was first published on 27 April 1934. The editor  of this newspaper was V.J. Chandraraj and this newspaper was printed by the 'Merchantile Concern Press Company' located at Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur.  Another important Tamil newspaper was published in 1930s  titled Tamil Murasu.  This newspaper was first published on 6 July 1935 in Singapore.  This newspaper was published  by G. Sarangapany and it  spread the  reformation ideas  brought by ‘Tamil Reform Association’.  In addition, another newspaper appeared in Singapore in 1935 titled Malai Mani and this newspaper was published by V.J. Chandra Raj. 
In 1936, another Tamil newspaper was published titled Inba Nilayam starting from June. The last Tamil newspaper appeared in Kuala Lumpur in 1930s was a monthly newspaper entitled Puthuyugam and had been published since 6 January 1937 by V. Sagaram Pillai.  Meanwhile, another Tamil newspaper titled  Dravida Kesari  was published in Singapore in April 1937 and the editor of this newspaper was V.A. Santhirathasan.
The field of journalism is becoming increasingly important because it is also the agent of  literature development in Malaya.  Accordingly, Tamil Kody  was published in 1938 in Melaka by Arunasalam Chettiar who migrated to Malaya in the 1920s. Tamil Kody was  first published as a monthly newspaper and then became a weekly newspaper.  The aims of this newspaper is to spread and improve the Tamil literature in Malaya. Besides that, , in 1939, a weekly newspaper Bharata Nesan appeared in Singapore and was published every Wednesday. The editor of this newspaper was R.P. Vadivelu. Another Tamil newspaper appeared in 1939, titled  Janma Bhoomi. This newspaper was  published since 15 September 1939 and  the editor was V. Balakrishnan. 
The year  1940s was an important year in the history of Malaya with the effects of  Japanese occupation in Malaya.  Before the Japanese occupation in Malaya,  a Tamil newspaper appeared in 1940 entitled Jayamani, and it was published by Subramaniam Iyer and it focused on the  issues of labour reform.  Meanwhile, another newspaper,  Malaya Nanban  was published in September 1941 by N.P. Shaik Abdul Kader and later  Karim Ghani was the editor of this newspaper and he was the supporter of 'Muslim League'. Another newspaper appeared in 1941 entitled  Tamil  Pannai  with the aim to raise the status of  Indian language and culture in Malaya. 
Some of the newspapers published during the Japanese occupation in  Malaya were  Azad Hindustan, Suthandara Bharatham, Suthandara India and Syonan Jit Po.  Suthandara India was the first newspaper published by ' Indian Independence League (IIL)'.  This newspaper was first published on 24 September 1942 and the first editor  of this  newspaper was Ananda K.S Narayanan. In addition, 'IIL' also published two weekly newspapers in Singapore namely, Yuvabharatham and Suthanthirothayam.   Suthanthirothayam was first published on 14 September 1942 while Yuvabharatham was first published on 9 March 1943 but ceased publication on 30 January 1944 after issuing 48 copies only. 
Meanwhile, the  ‘IIL Youth Section’ also published a weekly newspaper called Bala Bharatham in Penang.  The editor of this newspaper was Raki Sethuraman and he also published another newspaper  entitled Purnaswaraj .   Although many Tamil newspapers were published during the Japanese occupation in Malaya, but not everything was under the publication of  'IIL'.  According to G.P. Ramachandra, during the Japanese period, Indian newspapers were also published by a Japanese press agency called  'Indo-Shimbun Sha' , an independent organization without any  influence by  'IIL'.  During the Japanese occupation, there were also Tamil newspapers published without the involvement of Indian Indepence League '.  Among the dailies were Jaya Bharatham and Zindabad  in Penang, Puthu Ulakam, Ilangkathir and Ilampirai in Ipoh, Idi Mulakam in Kampar, Uthayasoorian in Taiping, Jayamani and Islamiya Ilainyan in Kuala Lumpur, Seremban Seithi and Seremban Gazette in Seremban.  These Tamil newspapers also conducted courses to teach Japanese language.
 After the end of the Japanese occupation in Malaya, a new Tamil newspaper  appeared entitled Jananayakam. This newspaper was published in Kuala Lumpur on 28 September 1945 by Subramaniam Iyer. Another Tamil newspaper entitled Sevika, appeared in Penang in November  1945. The editors of this newspaper were  T.Sethuraman and S.Athi Nahappan. This newspaper showed extremism and more  in favour of supporting Subash Chandra Bose. Meanwhile, another newspaper entitled Samarasan was published on 25 February 1946. The editor of this newspaper was T. Kanagasundram and it focused more towards social reform. 
In addition,  Nawa Yugam , a new Tamil newspaper appeared  on 2 August 1946 in Kuala Lumpur under the command of C.V.Kuppusamy. This newspaper was published as a weekly newspaper on Sundays.  In the meantime,  another Tamil newspaper appeared in 1946 entitled Muyarchi, published in Ipoh under the leadership Thiruchitrambalam, but this paper ceased publication in 1948.  The publication of Tamil newspapers continued to grow in the 1950s.  Among the Tamil newspapers published in this period were  Kalanjiyam, Sangamani, Desa Bakhtan , Desa Panthu, Jothee, Eluitchi and Malai Nadu.  The Kalanjiyam was  published in Singapore in January 1950 by T.M.M.Ahmad @ Sarana Bhaskaran.
Meanwhile, one of the important Tamil newspaper appeared in the 1950s was Sangamani .  This newspaper was published on 1 May 1952 with the initiative of  'National Union of Plantation Workers'.  A plantation worker from Johor, Mr. Jeganathan  named this newspaper as 'Sangamani' which means 'Voice of the Union'.  According to M. Krishnan, though this newspaper is the 'Voice of the Union', it created  a good impression on the plantation workers who made up the majority  of the Tamil community in the country in the effort  to develop Tamil language and literature in Malaya. 
In the year 1958, a Tamil newspaper entitled Malai Nadu was published in Sungai Siput,Perak  by V.Meenatchi Sundram, the elder brother of  V.T.Sambanthan, the 5th President of Malayan Indian Congress (MIC). After the  Second World War, many leftist  English and Tamil newspapers appeared among the Indians in Malaya who spread extreme anti-colonial propaganda such as Indian Daily Mail and Nawa Yugam ,  However, most of the Tamil dailies such as Tamil Nesan and Sangamani  played  an important role in promoting Tamil nationalism and unity based on language and culture. 
Several Tamil newspapers appeared  in Malaya in the 1960s.  Among the Tamil newspapers published in this decade were Tamil Malar, Sakhti and Desa Thootan .  Among these newspapers, Tamil Malar was the only newspaper  published until 1980. According to M. Krishnan, Tamil newspapers in the 60s broadcast current news and supported the policies of the new government of Malaysia as well as continuing efforts to develop the Tamil creative works.



1.Primary Sources

BMA File PR No.420 : Newspapers Publsihed in Malaya, National Archieve, Kuala Lumpur.

BMA File PR No. 31G/1947 : Action on Press Comments, National Archieve, Kuala Lumpur.

BMA File 42 / 45, Malaysian Press Digest, No.18, National Archieve, Kuala Lumpur.

MU File : No.223/47, List of Printing Presses, Publishers and Publications(Malaya), National Archieve, Kuala Lumpur.

MU File: No.PR/2/28, Press and Printing Official Publication, National Archieve, Kuala Lumpur.

MU File : No.PR/2/1, Press and Printing : Report for Permission to Resume Publication of Newspapers, National Archieve, Kuala Lumpur.


2. Secondary Sources

Dhandayutham.R.(1986). Pathirikai Noorandukal Valarchium Tamil Ilakiyamum,

            ( The Hundreds Years of Tamil Newspapers and Tamil Literature) , Kuala Lumpur:

            Universiti Malaya.


E.W.Birch.(1879). Vernacular Press in the Straits, Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol.4, December.


John A.Lent, Malaysian Indians and Their Mass Media.(1973). Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Vol.12 , No.3, December.

Krishnan.M.(1988). History and Development of Indian Newspapers and Magazines Before

            and After Independence in Mohd.Sarim Hj.Mustajab, Newspapers and Magazines in

            Malaysia, History and Development, Bangi : Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.


Ramachandra.G.P.(1970). The Indian Independence Movement in Malaya, 1942 – 1945,

            M.A.Theses, Kuala Lumpur : Universiti Malaya.


Dr. Ganesan Shanmugavelu,  Institute of Teacher Education Ipoh Campus, Malaysia, [email protected]


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