During his formative years at the University of Malaya (Singapore), James believed that “if the University is to play its important role in the development of the country it must become the advocate and guardian of the concept of the Malayan Nation and work for the achievement of this idea”. But before university his youthful adventures took him into the Indian National Army—he fought at the Battle of Imphal—then to Rabindranath Tagore’s University at Shantiniketan, also serving as an ambulance driver during India’s brutal Partition. Returning to Malaya in the late 40s James’ entered University and was catapulted into the politics of pre-Independence Singapore, with three stints under detention. In that decade and a half James’ made important contributions to economic analysis and governance, but retired from active politics after being expelled from Singapore.
His nephew, Sharaad Kuttan presents a brief sketch of these events from the police arrest during his university years, his detention under the ISA, to the formation of Malaysia, to the ideation of NEP and his retreat from active politics and the pursuit of his legal career.
Today, on the day he passed away, we remember his contributions to the nation-state we inherited today, called Malaysia.