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4. New Era of St. John Ambulance of Malaysia (1972-1989)

Act of Parliament Incorporates the St. John Ambulance in Malaysia

The merger of SJAA and SJAB was first suggested by the St. John Ambulance Headquarters in London in 1963. SJAB Chief Commander General William Pike visited Malaysia to brief the senior officers regarding the merger in that year. The suggestion to merge the Association and the Brigade in Malaysia under one organisation was first discussed during the 1970 National Conference. 

In 1971, Minister of Health YB Tan Sri (later Tun) Haji Sardon bin Haji Jubir who was also the St. John Council Chairman, suggested the merger of the Association and the Brigade to streamline activities of both organisations in West Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. A sub-committee was then set up under the chairmanship of YB Tan Sri Abdul Kadir bin Shamsuddin, the then Chief Secretary to the Government and SJAA Chairman, to study and propose recommendations for the merger.

In 1972, SJAA and SJAB in Malaysia were amalgamated into one corporation known as the St. John Ambulance of Malaysia (SJAM). The 1972 St John Ambulance of Malaysia (Incorporation) Act (Act No. 74) passed by the Malaysian Parliament was given Royal Assent on 23 March and gazetted on 30 March 1972. It came into force on 31 August 1972. Following the enactment of the Act, work on the St. John Rules started in the same year. Before the Rules were passed, a sub-committee to manage the affairs of the Association and the Brigade chaired by Tan Sri Abdul Kadir with Dato’ Seri Dr. Haji
Megat Khas Megat Omar as his Deputy and Encik R. S. Gurcharan Singh as Committee Secretary was formed.

The main objective of the sub-committee was to manage the activities during the transition period and to consolidate the assets of the two bodies. The first and second drafts of the Rules were ready at the beginning of 1972. Several meetings were held to discuss the details of the new structure and collect views from senior officers. The drafts were prepared and presented to the Rules sub-committee which consisted of Tan Sri Abdul Kadir (Chairman), Dato’ Seri Dr. Haji Megat Khas, Puan Sri Saadiah Sardon, Encik R. S. Gurcharan Singh, Dr. T. Visvanathan, Dr. Tan Tiong Hong (Hon. Secretary of St. John Council) and the Legal Advisor from the Ministry of Health. The third draft was presented and discussed at the Council Meeting held on 23 July 1972. Tan Sri Abdul Kadir proposed that the officers of St. John should adopt military designations due to its paramilitary nature. 

Earlier, meetings were held in Sabah on 1 and 2 August 1971 to discuss the preparation of the merger in Sabah. The proposal from Sabah was discussed at the meeting held at the National Headquarters building on 23 August 1972. Two Council Meetings were later held on 24 August 1972 and 15 September 1972 in the Conference Room of the Ministry of Health to amend and finalise the Rules. In the meantime, SJAM Sarawak was formed on 3 June 1971 by Kuching philanthropist Dato’ Ang Lai Soon who was appointed as the Chairman and District Commissioner.

The final draft of the Rules was prepared by the Legal Advisor of the Ministry of Health on 29 January 1973. The 1973 St John
Ambulance Rules was gazetted and came into force with effect from 1 August 1973. Under the Rules, the Prime Minister of Malaysia and the Minister of Health became SJAM National President and Deputy National President respectively. The Rules also provide for the establishment of a National St. John Council and an Executive Committee at the National, State/Regional and Area levels. The first National Council Meeting after the amalgamation was called on 2 June 1974. 

After the Amalgamation

The amalgamation saw the arrival of a new era for SJAM. The 1970s saw the establishment of a National St. John Council according to 1972 Act and 1973 Rules. YB Tan Sri Abdul Kadir was appointed the first SJAM Commander-in-Chief after the amalgamation. On 11 April 1975, the National Headquarters held its Investiture ceremony in Kuala Lumpur. The National President, YAB Tun Haji Abdul Razak Hussein, Prime Minister of Malaysia, presented medals to recipients. YAB Tun Abdul Razak passed away on 14 January 1976 while seeking medical treatment in London. The visiting St. John Ambulance Director of Overseas Relations, Sir Leslie Monson, attended the memorial service held at Masjid Negara. YAB Tun Abdul Razak was succeeded by YAB Tun Hussein bin Dato’ Onn as the third Prime Minister and second SJAM National President.

The National Headquarters introduced the first version of SJAM Dress Regulations in 1975. Meanwhile, the National Lay-Lecturers Course was held from 4 to 7 August 1977 in Port Dickson. 147 participants attended this course. The first Officers’ Seminar with the theme “For the Betterment of SJA” was held at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Bangi from 7 to 8 April 1978. St. John Ambulance worldwide celebrated its centenary in 1977. A Centenary Foundation Conference was held in London that year.

Tan Sri Abdul Kadir, National St. John Council Chairman and SJAM Commander-in-Chief passed away on 8 November 1978 and he was succeeded by Dato’ Dr. P. T. Arasu. The work to train first aiders was extended to institutions of higher learning. The first Officers’ Training Course for Lecturers of Teachers’ Training Colleges was held at the Regional Centre for Education in Science and Mathematics (RECSAM) in Pulau Pinang in 1978. The first National Training Seminar was held at National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) in Port Dickson in 1979.

Growing with the Nation

On 20 April 1980, SJAM held its National Review and Investiture at Padang Kelab Selangor in Kuala Lumpur. The parade was inspected by YAB Tun Hussein bin Dato’ Onn, SJAM National President. Encik (later Dato’) Zainal Abidin bin Endot succeeded Dato’ Dr. P. T. Arasu as National St. John Council Chairman and third SJAM Commanderin- Chief in 1980. A Nursing Seminar was held in 1980 to improve the nursing activities within the organisation.

SJAM Kawasan Pantai Selangor responded to the Port Klang Inferno in 1980 after forming its emergency ambulance service in 1979. The National Headquarters held a First Aid Course for Lecturers of Teachers’ Training Colleges from the 29 November to 5 December 1985 at Asrama Za’aba in Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, following the establishment of Bahagian Pendidikan Guru (Teachers’ Education Division) in the same year. Encik E. Paramasivam succeeded Dato’ Zainal Abidin bin Endot as National St. John Council Chairman and fourth SJAM Commander-in-Chief in 1987. In 1988, St. John Ambulance of Malaysia held its first Walkathon to raise funds for the National Headquarters building.