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Rightfully Recognize Sybil Kathigasu's Contributions in Malaysian History Syllabus

This petition had 3,258 supporters

Credit: Texts/Excerpts taken from an article by Mariam Mokhtar. Full article can be accessed at

Malaysians have a very poor sense of history. In recent decades, our education system and schools placed little emphasis on the subject. What passed off as history was knowing which political party and politicians featured prominently in Malaysia’s recent past. As such, this gave rise to many 'forgotten heroes and hereoines'.

One such personality who has not been given due credit for her contributions is a Malayan woman who defied the Japanese occupiers in war-torn Malaya in the 1940s. She is Sybil Kathigasu and is our World War II heroine. Her nursing skills and quiet determination have also termed her the title, Malaysia’s Florence Nightingale.

Together with her husband, the resistance fighter opened another dispensary in Papan and secretly provided the guerrilla forces with medical treatment and supplies as well as information to the resistance forces during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya.

They were betrayed and she was caught by the Japanese in 1943 and tortured mercilessly. She underwent the “Tokyo wine treatment” whereby water was pumped into her and her torturer would stomp on her stomach and force water out of her through all her orifices.

She was beaten, burnt and kicked on the jaw in an attempt to break her. She could not walk, lost all her fingernails and had broken bones everywhere, including her skull. Her five-year-old daughter, Dawn, was dangled from a tree and her torturers threatened to roast her child alive with charcoal burning beneath her.

Despite being tortured and thrown into prison by the Japanese military police, Sybil never divulged information about the resistance movement. She survived the ordeal although her health was severely affected after the various injuries sustained during her incarceration.

When Malaya was liberated in 1945, Sybil was flown to Britain for medical treatment. She was awarded the George Medal for Gallantry, the only Malaysian woman to receive the medal for bravery.

Sybil Kathigasu died in 1948, in Lanark, Scotland, from acute septicaemia brought on by her previous injury sustained during her torture. In 1949, her remains were returned to Ipoh, where a huge crowd paid tribute and accompanied her cortege to her final resting place in the grounds of St Michael’s Church. She, like many others in the war effort, gave the ultimate sacrifice to the nation in order that we may live in peace and security.

Note from Admin: Some minor sentencing amendments (not to the factual contents) were made to the original article for formatting purposes.

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