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3. Localisation (1957-1971)

Towards Autonomy

The year 1957 marked a new chapter in the history of St. John Ambulance in Malaya when YAB Tun Abdul Razak bin Dato’ Hussein, the then Deputy Prime Minister Federation of Malaya, joined SJAA as its President. In the following year, under the direction of SJAA Chairman Tan Sri Dato’ Yong Shi Meow, the SJAA Rules were revised to suit our local needs. In the same year, Dr. Chang Hoey Chan became the first local SJAB Malaya District Commissioner and held the post until 1966. The inaugural First Aid and Nursing Competition was held in Kuala Lumpur in 1957 to improve First Aid and Nursing skills among its members.

On 17 February 1958, Major-General John Mather Kirkman, SJAB Overseas Commissioner-in-Chief arrived in Kuala Lumpur for the official handover of the administrative and executive powers of St. John Ambulance in Malaya to serving Malayan officers. This was followed by the formation of the Nursing Advisory Board by Federal Organiser Ms. Irene Checkley and
SJAB Malaya District Superintendent (Nursing) Datin Saadiah Sardon in November 1958. The purpose of this Board was to help the Nursing divisions in Malaya in their training programmes and to solve problems in their divisions. Terengganu held its inaugural St. John Ambulance meeting in 1961. On 15 April 1961, the Pan-Malayan First Aid and Nursing Competition was held at Happy World Stadium in Singapore.

The First St. John Council 

Efforts to form a St. John Council in Malaya started in 1955. Mr. Justice Tan Sri Dato’ Yong Shi Meow, later SJAA Malaya Chairman, drafted the Rules of the St. John Council. The first St. John Council was under the chairmanship of the Minister of Health and Social Welfare YB Tun Leong Yew Koh and subsequently his successor, YB Tun V. T. Sambanthan, along with a committee which included Tan Sri Dato’ Yong, YM Raja Musa Raja Mahadi and Encik E. Paramasivam. The rules of the St. John Councils of India, Pakistan and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) were used as references.

The Rules of the St. John Council were signed by Lady Edwina Cynthia Annette Mountbatten, Countess Mountbatten of Burma on 2 February 1960 and presented to Minister of Health and Social Welfare YB Dato’ Ong Yoke Lin who was also the St. John Council pro-tem chairman. On 5 May 1961, the St. John Council of the Federation of Malaya held its first meeting at the
Conference Room in the Ministry of Health, chaired by YB Dato’ Ong.On 3 December 1964, Rear-Admiral Royer Dick, SJAB Overseas Commissioner-in-Chief briefed the Council Members on the functions of the St. John Council as well as its relationship with the Association and Brigade during his visit to Malaysia.

On 5 December 1964, the Commissioner-in-Chief met the chairmen and representatives of the Associations from all the eleven states and addressed the members at the Annual General Meeting. On 21 December 1964, Minister of Health and Social Welfare YB Encik Bahaman bin Samsudin called for the second St. John Council meeting during which the St. John Council elected Encik S.K. Thury Rajah as Hon. Secretary and Dr. T. Visvanathan as Hon. Treasurer. YB Encik Bahaman instructed the Council to further look into amendments of the St. John Council Rules. On 26 June 1965, the chairmen and secretaries of the States’ Council met at the St. John Ambulance Headquarters in Singapore. It was unanimously agreed that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong will be appointed National President of the National St. John Council, the supreme body on policy matters.

Post-Formation of the Council

The Council played a vital role in providing a platform for SJAA and SJAB to coordinate their activities. It also served as the communication ground for officers to discuss issues and align policies. Council Meetings were presided by the Chairman who was also Minister of Health and attended by representatives from both SJAA and SJAB. In 1960, SJAA formed sub-committees
to manage the new headquarters building, Flag Day, annual dinner and awards.

SJAA also called for meetings of eleven representatives from the State Branches to discuss issues faced by them. The meetings were chaired by its Chairman Tan Sri Dato’ Yong Shi Meow. In 1961, the Rules were approved and printed copies were distributed to the State Branches. 

The Rules came into force on 1 January 1962. Some of these Rules were then incorporated into the St. John Ambulance Rules published in 1973. From the initiative of SJAA President YAB Tun Abdul Razak and SJAA Chairman Tan Sri Dato’ Yong, the Government made an annual grant of $10,000 to St. John Ambulance in 1962. Since 1964, YAB Tun Abdul Razak, as SJAA President, chaired the SJAA Annual General Meetings.

Dato’ Seri Dr. Haji Megat Khas Megat Omar succeeded Dr. Chang Hoey Chan as SJAB West Malaysia District Commissioner in 1966 and served till 1972. During the 13 May 1969 tragedy, when the Federation of Malaya was placed under a State of Emergency, SJAB quickly responded by assisting the authorities. In the 1971 nationwide flood, control centres was set up all over the country and SJAB members were mobilised and ambulances dispatched for relief work.