:: History

Singapore Malayalee Association was founded in 1917. Started as a social and cultural club, SMA today has developed into a major cultural organization of the Malayalees in the region. At first, the organization was called Keraleeya Mahajana Sangham. In 1918, at
its first AGM, the organization was renamed Malayalee Association. Mr V.R. Menon was the first President of the Association. In 1947,the Association was reorganized and renamed Singapore Kerala Samajam. In 1952,Mr A. Shukoor, the then President of the Samajam, took a bold step and bought the present building at 44 Race Course Road for $34,000.00. The building was in his name until 2001 when the present Executive Committee transferred the Title Deed to the names of the current trustees of SMA. By 1953,the Samajam had established 14 branches in the Malayalee heartlands of Little India, Tanjong Pagar, Kampong Bahru, Pasir Panjang, Alexandra, Bukit Timah North, Bukit Timah South, Bukit Timah 6th mile, Upper Serangoon, Sembawang, Nee Soon, Jalan Kayu, Katong and Changi. Mr J.P.Gomez, the then Samajam President, highlighted the need to have a single organization for the Malayalees in Singapore. His efforts were partially realized when seven of the fourteen existing Malayalee organizations in Singapore finally merged with Kerala Samajam to form the Singapore Kerala Association (SMA) in 1959. Mr J.P.Gomez served the Association for over 60 years from 1920 to 1980 in various capacities, including that of President. Mr S.M.Haneefa has the honour of serving SMA as its President for ten years (1973 - 1986) with breaks between his tenure. Mr V.Surendranath has the distinction of serving the Association as President for eight consecutive years (1961-1968).
The Executive Committee under the leadership of Mr V.Surendranath settled the outstanding bank loan incurred in purchasing the present building and also carried out a major renovation to the building. Another major renovation to the present building was carried out by the Executive Committee led by Mr K.O. George (1987 - 1990). In 1996,during the Presidency of Mr Michael Fernandez (1995 - 1997), the Executive Committee submitted a detailed report of the Association to the National Archives Department of the National Heritage Board as part of their microfilming records from Indian organizations. The materials needed for this were researched and collated by Mrs Sarojini Chandran, the then Vice President of SMA. Those who wish to know more about SMA may visit the National Heritage Board at 140 Hill Street. SMA was represented in the Constitutional Protection of Minority Rights formed by the Singapore Government in the 1960s. In 1970, the Executive Committee led by Dr. V.P.Nair organized a blood donation camp. A large number of Malayalees came forward to donate blood.

In the year 2006, Singapore Malayalee Association formally changed to its current name from Singapore Kerala Association. Currently Singapore Malayalee association has taken up a huge task of renovating the SMA building. Once completed the new location is expected to serve as a centre to enhance the community activities of Singapore Malayalees.

Being the first Indian Association formed in Singapore and the oldest registered Malayalee organization outside India, SMA has a pivotal role to play in the development and promotion of the Malayalee culture, language and heritage in the region.

With the changing pattern of the membership and the varying aspirations of the community, SMA needs to revisit the underlying issues of the community and adjust its goals and objectives accordingly. Basically, the Malayalee community in Singapore can be classified into three groups - the ‘pioneers’, the ‘locals’ and the ‘expatriates’. The ‘pioneers’ are a dying force whose objective is mainly the promotion of the language and culture. The ‘locals’ on the other hand would like to see SMA engaging in activities that not only benefit the Malayalee community but also the Singapore society as a whole. The ‘expatriates’, in addition to the above goals, want SMA to adopt a more ‘look Kerala’ approach and go ‘global’. The success of SMA depends on its ability to hold these three groups together and work towards our common objectives. The future of the association is in the hands of our younger generations who should be prepared to take over the helm from the present leadership. Our activities and programmes need to be more relevant to attract these people to our fold.
SMA is a member of the National Volunteer Council. The Association provided volunteers during the outbreak of the Hand, Foot and Mouth disease in Singapore. It is currently working with North-East Community Development Council to set up a Student Care Centre in Sengkang. SMA works very closely with SINDA, supporting and co-operating in all its activities. In the past few years, SMA has rendered its services to People’s Association (PA) by providing cultural items in various shows organized by IAGs and also participating in the mammoth cultural show-cum exhibition by PA ‘Narpani’ group at Ngee Ann City and Sentosa. SMA was also honoured with an invitation by Sentosa Development Corporation to perform at Sentosa during the Indian Cultural Festival. In the first ever Kerala Food Fair jointly organized by Silk Air and Carlton hotel, SMA played an active role by providing exhibits and cultural items. SMA also raised funds through its cultural shows for National Kidney Foundation, Asian Women’s Welfare Association and Ramakrishna Mission.

With the co-operation of the WMC, SMA has successfully organized the first Asia Pacific Malayalee Conference in Singapore in 2004.The main objective of this conference was to facilitate networking among the Malayalees in the region and also to explore the possibility of holding the World Malayalee Convention in Singapore in 2006. The publication of the first Directory of Singapore Malayalees in 2004 was another milestone in the history of SMA.

SMA has played pivotal role in introducing Malayalam Channel Asianet in Singapore. National Arts Council (NAC) has recognized SMA’s efforts in promoting Malayalee arts and culture in Singapore. NAC awarded project grants to two Malayalam dramas produced by SMA in 2003 and 2004.

SMA should not be seen as a ‘seasonal’ organization that wakes up during the Onam season, performs some ‘stunts’ and goes back to its ‘doldrums’ after that. It must be active throughout and adopt an extrovert and global approach. Only then the association will be respected as a credible force in the global Malayalee community.

44 Race Course Road
Singapore 218558
Tel: 6293 9195
Fax: 6392 8009
Website: www.malayalee.org.sg

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