Mohamed Eunos bin Abdullah



Mohamed Eunos bin Abdullah (b. 1876, Singapore–d. 12 December 1933, Singapore)1 was one of the most notable nationalist intellectuals in the 1920s.2 He has been touted as the “father” of modern Malay journalism and a leader for Malay nationalism.3 He also championed better educational facilities for the Malays of Malaya.4

Early life
Born into a wealthy family, Eunos’s father was a Minangkabau merchant from Sumatra, Indonesia.5 While several sources state his birthplace as Singapore, at least one source suggests that he was born in Sumatra.6


Eunos received his education at the Malay school in Kampong Glam and subsequently at Raffles Institution.7 Upon graduation, he entered the government service.8 He worked for a few years in the office of the Singapore harbour master attendant before becoming the harbour master at Muar, Johor.9

Eunos was an ardent follower of Hikayat Dunia, a geography text, as well as the works of Munshi Abdullah, a respectable Islamic scholar in the 19th century. He also found inspiration in Jawi Peranakkan, Singapore’s first Malay language periodical and an extension of Munshi Abdullah’s project to disseminate modernist interpretations of Islam in the region.10

Journalistic career
In 1907, Singapore newspaper proprietor Walter Makepeace offered Eunos a job at Utusan Melayu, the Malay language version of the English newspaper, The Singapore Free Press.11 Thus, at age 31, Eunos became the Utusan Melayu’s first editor.12 Then in 1914, he became the editor of Lembaga Melayu, the only Malay language newspaper in Malaya printed in Jawi at the time.13


Throughout his journalistic career, Eunos contributed opinionated pieces on Malay nationalism, espousing his notion of bangsa or “racial nationalism”. His views on the subject of bangsa distinguished him from his predecessors, who were dedicated either to the sultanates or the global community of Muslims. His zeal towards uplifting the Malay race during the period of colonial rule subsequently drove him to switch from being a journalist to a representative for the Malays in the colonial political arena.14

Due to his influential role in Malay social welfare organisations, Eunos became a member of the Muslim Advisory Board set up by the government during World War I.15 In 1922, he was appointed a justice of the peace and subsequently the first Malay member of the municipal commission. Following the colonial government’s decision to increase Asian representation in the legislative council of the Straits Settlements, he was appointed the first Malay legislative councillor in 1924.16 He was also a popular member of the Singapore Rotary Club and the first Malay to address the club.17


Nationalism
Eunos’s good standing within the Malay community gained him a following of mostly educated and progressive Malays, including Abdul Samad, the first Malay doctor, and Tengku Kadir, who belonged to the Kampong Glam royal family.18


Vocal with their opinions, Eunos and his associates were constantly at loggerheads with the members of Persekutuan Islam Singapura (PIS or “Singapore Muslim Association”), the only organisation at the time that claimed to represent the views of Muslim Malays.19 They criticised the PIS, which was dominated by Muslims of Arab descent, for being elitist and called it “a rich man’s club”.20 They also founded the Muslim Institute in 1921 to care for the needs of ordinary Malays.21

In 1926, Eunos and his associates formed Kesatuan Melayu Singapura (KMS or “Singapore Malay Union”), and Eunos was elected its first president. The first political Malay organisation set up in colonial Malaya, KMS aimed to increase the role of Malays in public life, uphold Malay interests before the colonial authorities, and promote higher and technical education for Malays.22 KMS subsequently inspired the formation of other Malay associations in the Malay states, culminating in the post-war United Malays National Organisation.23

For Eunos, the concept of bangsa was not to be taken for granted. In the 1920s, Eunos and his associates felt that people’s sense of melayu or “Malayness” was fluid.24 Inspired by an urban residential experiment in Kuala Lumpur, KMS proposed the building of a Malay settlement called Kampung Melayu as a way to preserve the essence of Malayness and inculcate a strong sense of Malay nationalism as a reaction to colonial rule.25 The kampung would provide an environment where Malays could, in Eunos’s words, “live among their own people in the manner to which they were accustomed”.26 Eunos petitioned the legislative council to fund the project and eventually received a grant to purchase land for the settlement.27

Kampung Melayu was later renamed Jalan Eunos Malay Settlement and subsequently extended to include Kaki Bukit.28 In 1981, the settlement was de-gazetted to pave the way for the construction of the Pan Island Expressway, as well as the development of new housing estates.29 To commemorate Eunos’s legacy, the government later named one of its residential districts, located near the former Kampung Melayu, Eunos.30

Death
Eunos retired in early 1933 after nine years of service as a legislative councillor.31 His health deteriorated following his retirement. On 12 December 1933, he passed away in his home at Desker Road. His body was laid to rest at the Bidadari Cemetery.32




Author

Adlina Maulod




References
1. Death of Malay leader. (1933, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 13; Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 159. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF)
2. Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
3. Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
4. Death of Malay leader. (1933, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 13; 60 years ago. (1993, December 16). The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 159. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
6. Death of Malay leader. (1933, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 13; Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
7. Death of Malay leader. (1933, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 13; Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 159. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
8. Death of Malay leader. (1933, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Death of Malay leader. (1933, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 13; Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 159. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF)
10. Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, pp. 10–11. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
11. Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 159. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF); Turnbull, C. M.(2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
12. Death of Malay leader. (1933, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH); Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 159. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF)
13. Death of Malay leader. (1933, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 13; Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 161. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 131. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
14. Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, pp. 11–12. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH)
15. Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH); Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 160. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 155. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
16. Death of Malay leader. (1933, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 13; Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH); Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, pp. 160, 190. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 155. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
17. Death of Malay leader. (1933, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 155. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
19. Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University’ Press; NIAS Press, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH); Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 189. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF)
20. Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH); Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 189. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 155. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
21. Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, p. 12. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH); Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, pp. 189–190. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 155. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
22. Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, pp. 160, 190–191. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 155–156. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
23. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 156. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Soenarno, R. (1960). Malay nationalism, 1896–1941. Journal of Southeast Asian History, 1(1), 1–28, p. 10. Retrieved from JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
24. Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH)
25. Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, pp. 5, 11–13. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 155. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
26. Kahn, J. S. (2006). Other Malays: Nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the modern Malay world. Singapore: Asian Studies Association of Australia; Singapore University Press; NIAS Press, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 307.76209595 KAH); Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 193. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF)
27. Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4; Keys, P. (1981, September 27). Splendid example of kampung living. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 194. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF)
28. Geylang Serai: Down memory lane: Kenangan abadi. (1986). Singapore: Heinemann Asia, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 779.995957 GEY); Keys, P. (1981, September 27). Splendid example of kampung living. The Straits Times, p. 8; Sixty Malay families seek loans for housing. (1959, April 24). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. 5,000 to move out for new HDB estate. (1981, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 5; Did you know? (2009, November 13). The Straits Times, p. 169. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Did you know? (2009, November 13). The Straits Times, p. 169. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Death of Malay leader. (1933, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 13; Musa Kasbi. (1988, February 23). Eunos founded first Malay political body. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Death of Malay leader. (1933, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


 

Subject
Heritage and Culture
Politicians
Ethnic Communities
Mohamed Eunos Abdullah, 1876–1933
Personalities>>Biographies>>Political Leaders
Minority journalists--Singapore--Biography
Pioneers--Singapore--Biography
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
People and communities>>Social groups and communities