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Saturday July 7, 2007
By DEBBIE CHAN
Photos By SAMUEL ONG
AS police cadets get into line for their morning drill, the morning prayers echoing from the nearby mosque signifying the start of the day for the community at Jalan Semarak.
Semarak is a Bahasa Malaysia word to describe burning passion.
The previous Jalan Henry Gurney also comes alive with a small student community mainly from the city campus of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia that is quaintly nestled on the road.
Mention the name Henry Gurney and perhaps most would remember the Henry Gurney school instead of the road named in honour of the man.
Born on June 27, 1898 in London, Gurney was educated in Winchester College and University College in Oxford.
He married Lady Isabel Lowther Weir in 1924 and has two children.
Gurney began charting his career in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in 1917 where he served for four years before joining the Colonial Service as a colonial servant in Kenya in 1921.
He then took on various posts including that of an assistant colonial secretary in Jamaica in 1935, chief secretary to the conference of East Asia Governors in 1938, colonial secretary in Gold Coast in 1944, chief secretary to the Palestine Mandate Government in 1946 and finally became the British High Commissioner in Malaya on Sept 13, 1948.
According to a 1951 Time magazine article that chronicled his life, Gurney’s friends often use words like “courage,” “imperturbable” and “dogged determination” to describe him.
The strong-willed leader was quoted as saying, “we are fighting militant communism and we intend to finish it off,” during his posting in Malaya which was during the era where our country was battling the communist insurgents.
He called for more troupes from London and constantly gave reassurance to the local community. He also initiated a resettlement scheme utilising the village method to stop the communists from gaining access to supplies such as food and water.
Gurney’s assassination will always be a part of our country’s history to remember.
He was with his wife on their way back to Fraser’s Hill for a meeting on Oct 6, 1951 when the communist guerillas lying in ambush fired at the car but Gurney decided to step out of the car and ran to draw fire away from his wife who stayed in the car.
Remembering his efforts, Malayans of all class and nationalities attended his funeral.
He was buried at the Cheras Christian Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur.
Other than battling communism, Gurney played an important role in establishing various schools in Malaya including the Advanced Approved School and the Henry Gurney School.
There are roads today in Malacca, Seremban and Singapore bearing his name and also the popular Gurney Drive in Penang.
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