Warta Malaya



Warta Malaya (also known as Warta Melayu) was the first of the independent Malay dailies of the 1930s. Its first issue was published on 1 January 1930.1 Published in the Jawi script, this Malay newspaper appeared at a time that saw the proliferation of 81 new Malay periodicals across the Malay Peninsula. With the largest circulation, Warta Malaya dominated the Malay newspaper scene. It was also the first to receive overseas subscriptions.2

Published by the Anglo-Asiatic Press located in North Bridge Road, Warta Malaya was followed by two companion periodicals. One was the Sunday paper, Warta Ahad, which first came out on 5 May 1935. The other was a pictorial weekly, Warta Jenaka, which appeared the following year.3

Warta Malaya’s journalists included men who would become prominent in post-war Malay politics. Its first editor was Onn Ja’afar, a Malay nationalist who went on to found the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) political party. Another notable member of the staff was journalist Abdul Rahim Kajai, who is regarded as the father of Malay journalism. Also on the staff was Yusof Ishak, who later became Singapore’s first president.4

Arab involvement in Malay newspapers
The lively Malay newspaper scene was “financed and to that extent, controlled by the non-Malay-Arabs, Malay-Arabs and Jawi Peranakan”.5 For instance, Anglo-Asiatic Press, the publisher of Warta Malaya, was owned by the Alsagoffs, a wealthy Arab family in Singapore.6 After three years as editor of Warta Malaya, Onn was succeeded in 1933 by Syed Alwi Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi, who in turn was replaced the following year by the newspaper’s proprietor, Syed Hussein bin Ali Alsagoff.7

First independent daily
Before the appearance of Warta Malaya, the only Malay newspaper available after Utusan Malayu ceased publication in 1921 was Lembaga Melayu.8 It was a publication by the proprietors of the English language Malay Tribune and its editor was Mohamed Eunos bin Abdullah, “a loyalist Malay in the confidence of the government”.9 When Lembaga Melayu folded in 1931, the more independent Warta Malaya filled the need for a Malay daily. Warta Malaya, with its “politicising aims”, thrived in “the liberal safe havens of the Straits Settlements that provided [the paper with] protection from government censorship”.10

Aimed to uplift Malays
Characterised as both “fiery and pungent” in its early years, the chief concern of Warta Malaya’s editorials was the progress of the Malays.11 One of the aims stated in the first issue was to “raise up” (membangkitkan) the Malay race.12 The paper sought to raise awareness among the Malays of world events, especially on “matters of importance to the negeri [‘country’ in Malay]”.13 The paper carried the latest telegraphic news of current events in Muslim countries and was the first Malay newspaper to subscribe directly to world news agencies.14

The paper’s content focused on issues that affected Malays’ rights such as “the demands of the non-Malays for increased rights, higher education for the Malays, the development of the Malay economy” and political rights for Malays.15 Editorials criticised colonial policies that affected the Malays adversely. However, the paper was more pro-Malay than anti-colonial. For instance, it sought “more generous allocation of senior administrative posts to Malays rather than to oust the British altogether”.16 Taking the positions it did, Warta Malaya became an important voice on Malay affairs and established itself as the champion of Malay interests.17

Malay nationalistic journalism
These “politicising aims” of “uplifting and unifying the nationalistic spirit of the Malays” changed the character of the Malay press in Singapore.18 Warta Malaya succeeded in engaging its readers in diverse economic, social and political issues despite the frequent changes in editors and management.19 The Anglo Asiatic Press was renamed Warta Malaya Press Limited on 1 January 1934.20 Syed Hussein remained Warta Malaya’s proprietor but he took in Syed Abdullah and his cousin, Shaikhah, as new partners.21 Warta Malaya ceased publication in 1941 when it could no longer compete with Utusan Melayu, which was the first Malay-owned newspaper.22

Despite its relatively short life of 10 years, Warta Malaya remains an important newspaper for the study of Malay journalism and nationalism. The National Library of Singapore’s earliest issue of Warta Malaya is the 24th issue published on 29 January 1934.23



References

1. Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 161. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF); Malay journals. (1932, January 27). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2.
Roff, W. R. (1967). Sejarah surat-surat khabar Melayu. Pulau Pinang: Kerjasama Sinaran, p. 33. (Call no.: Malay RCLOS 079.595 ROF)
3.
Zulkipli Mahmud. (1979). Warta Malaya, penyambung lidah bangsa Melayu, 1930–1941. Bangi: Jabatan Sejarah, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, p. 23. (Call no.: Malay RSEA 079.595 ZUL)
4. Jerman Sulaiman. (1988, November 7). The rise of Malay newspapers. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5.
Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 174. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF)
6.
Lee, G. B. (1989). Pages from yesteryear: A look at the printed works of Singapore, 1819–1959. Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, p. 25. (Call no.: RSING 070.5095957 PAG); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 154. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
7. 
Roff, W. R. (2009). The ins and outs of Hadhrami journalism in Malaya, 1900–1941: Assimilation or identity maintenance? In A. I. Abushouk & H. A. Ibrahim (Eds.), The Hadhrami diaspora in Southeast Asia: Identity maintenance or assimilation? (pp. 191–202). Leiden; Boston: Brill, p. 198. (Call no.: RSEA 305.89275335 HAD); Zulkipli Mahmud. (1979). Warta Malaya, penyambung lidah bangsa Melayu, 1930–1941. Bangi: Jabatan Sejarah, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, p. 48. (Call no.: Malay RSEA 079.595 ZUL)
8.
Matters of Muslim interest. (1930, February 27). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9.
Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 161. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF)
10.
Smith, W. G. C. (2009). Entrepreneurial strategies of Hadrami Arabs in Southeast Asia, c. 1750s–1950s. In A. I. Abushouk & H. A. Ibrahim (Eds.), The Hadhrami diaspora in Southeast Asia: Identity maintenance or assimilation? (pp. 135–158). Leiden; Boston: Brill, p. 149. (Call no.: RSEA 305.89275335 HAD); Zulkipli Mahmud. (1979). Warta Malaya, penyambung lidah bangsa Melayu, 1930-1941. Bangi: Jabatan Sejarah, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, p. 1. (Call no.: Malay RSEA 079.595 ZUL); Milner, A. C. (2002). The invention of politics in colonial Malaya. New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 265. (Call no.: RSEA 959.5 MIL)
11. Marina Samad. (1972). Enter the Utusan: Malay journalism in the 20s and the 30s. [S. I.]; Malaysian Journalism Review, p. 8. (Call no.: RSEA 079.5957 MAR)
12.
Milner, A. C. (2002). The invention of politics in colonial Malaya. New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 265. (Call no.: RSEA 959.5 MIL); Marina Samad. (1972). Enter the Utusan: Malay journalism in the 20s and the 30s. [S. I.]; Malaysian Journalism Review, p. 272. (Call no.: RSEA 079.5957 MAR)
13.
Milner, A. C. (2002). The invention of politics in colonial Malaya. New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 266. (Call no.: RSEA 959.5 MIL)
14. Matters of Muslim interest. (1931, September 1). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 8; Malay journals. (1932, January 27). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chen, A. Y. (1991). The mass media, 1819–1980. In E. C. T. Chew & E. Lee (Eds.), A history of Singapore (pp. 288–311). Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 291. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 HIS-[HIS])
15.
Marina Samad. (1972). Enter the Utusan: Malay journalism in the 20s and the 30s. [S. I.]; Malaysian Journalism Review, p. 8. (Call no.: RSEA 079.5957 MAR)
16.
Roff, W. R. (1994). The origins of Malay nationalism. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, p. 168. (Call no.: RSING 320.54 ROF)
17.
Lee, G. B. (1989). Pages from yesteryear: A look at the printed works of Singapore, 1819–1959. Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, p. 25. (Call no.: RSING 070.5095957 PAG); Tan, Y. S., & Soh, Y. P. (1994). The development of Singapore's modern media industry. Singapore: Times Academic Press, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 338.4730223 TAN)
18.
Muliyadi Mahamood. (2004). The history of Malay editorial cartoons (1930s–1993). Cheras; Kuala Lumpur: Utusan Publications & Distributors, p. 16. (Call no.: RART 741.59595 MUL 2004); Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 154. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
19.
Roff, W. R. (2009). The ins and outs of Hadhrami journalism in Malaya, 1900–1941: Assimilation or identity maintenance? In A. I. Abushouk, & H. A. Ibrahim (Eds.), The Hadhrami diaspora in Southeast Asia: Identity maintenance or assimilation? (pp. 191–202). Leiden; Boston: Brill, p. 199. (Call no.: RSEA 305.89275335 HAD)
20.
Zulkipli Mahmud. (1979). Warta Malaya, penyambung lidah bangsa Melayu, 1930–1941. Bangi: Jabatan Sejarah, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, p. 2. (Call no.: Malay RSEA 079.595 ZUL)
21.
Zulkipli Mahmud. (1979). Warta Malaya, penyambung lidah bangsa Melayu, 1930–1941. Bangi: Jabatan Sejarah, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, p. 4. (Call no.: Malay RSEA 079.595 ZUL)
22.
Zulkipli Mahmud. (1979). Warta Malaya, penyambung lidah bangsa Melayu, 1930–1941. Bangi: Jabatan Sejarah, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, p. 24. (Call no.: Malay RSEA 079.595 ZUL)
23. Warta Malaya. (1934, January 29). Singapore: Syed Hussein bin Ali Alsagoff. (Call no.: Malay RCLOS 079.595 WM)



Further resources

A. R. Kemalawati. (1984, March 15). Peranan suratkhabar Singapura. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Matters of Muslim interest. (1930, January 17). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 9 September 2013 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
Newspapers
Malay languages and dialects