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Did You Know The Late Tan Sri Devaki Stood For Local Council Election In 1952?

Did You Know The Late Tan Sri Devaki Stood For Local Council Election In 1952?

Get to know more about the late Tan Sri Devaki’s contributions to the local political scene.

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Tan Sri Devaki Krishnan, the first Malaysian woman to be elected to public office, has passed away at the age of 100. 

The late political veteran died of old age, as confirmed by her grandson, deputy entrepreneur development and cooperatives minister R Ramanan on Facebook. 

“The whole family is currently mourning her death at the age of 100. 

“Her loss is irreplaceable. The memories will continue to be with us. May her soul rest in peace,” wrote the deputy minister.

Ramanan, who is also the PKR MP for Sungai Buloh, then paid tribute to his late grandmother, calling her the ‘Grand Dame of Malaysian Indian Politics’. 

Ramanan was certainly right about his late grandmother. In fact, did you know she was a force to be reckoned with in the local political scene?

Ran for local elections in 1952

While she may have started her career as a teacher, Devaki was the first Malaysian woman to hold public office in pre-independence Malaya.

Her career in politics started when she learned from her husband that she had been nominated to stand for election in the Kuala Lumpur Municipal elections back in December of 1951.

Though she was initially hesitant, she was convinced as she was approached by the late Dato’ Onn Jaafar, who asked her to become a member of the Independence of Malaya Party (IMP).


“When I stood as a candidate, I needed help to address the audience, so I would sit with Datuk Onn and another lawyer, R. Ramani, at his office,” she recalled during an interview with Star.

She then stood for the local council election in 1952.

Her election manifesto? It was to push for women’s rights since there were no figures then pushing for the cause.

“I will interest myself particularly in the lot of the women in Kuala Lumpur and in extending the programme of social work already carried out by the municipality,” said Devaki in her manifesto.

Fortunately, Devaki was elected to the then-Bangsar Municipal Council in 1952, making her the first woman in the country to be elected to public office.


She would then hold the position again in 1955 as she won during the municipal election that year.

She, was, in fact, paraded in an open-top car, accompanied by over 50 cars along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman upon her victory.

Work with MIC

But aside from being the first woman in public office, Devaki also holds several other titles during her time in power.

For one, she was an active member of MIC. After the election, she got involved with MIC, which was then only a social and welfare association.

She contested the Sentul constituency in the 1959 state election but lost. Regardless, she continued her hard work, forming the women’s section when she became the party’s first secretary in 1975.

“No one taught them (women) to come out as they were shy and had strict upbringings. Wherever they opened branches in MIC, I would open a women’s branch.


“I will take the women aside, talk to them and tell them they would gain and how they could go about becoming members.”

Up till her death, she was the longest-serving member of the party.

Other contributions

Aside from her association with MIC, Devaki also took on several other positions, including Board Member of the National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO) and vice-president of the Pan Pacific and South East Asia Women’s Association. 

In addition, she also joined the Civil Defence Corp in 1953 where she underwent training in firefighting and welfare.

Her efforts sure paid off as she assisted during the May 1969 riots. During that time, she helped take care of the victims and homeless, numbering around 3,500 at Stadium Merdeka.

She was assigned to the medical clinic, which she served until all the victims had been cared for and released.

Will go down in history

From the evidence above, it is clear that Devaki has played a pivotal role in forming Malaysia.

Although she has passed away, her legacy will forever be remembered and cherished by all Malaysians.

Meanwhile, with Devaki’s passing making headlines, conversations on social media are circling around the topic of bringing back local council elections.

Share your thoughts with us via TRP’s FacebookTwitterInstagram, or Threads.

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