M. G. G. Pillai

M. G. G. Pillai

MGG Pillai (1939 - April 28, 2006) was a Malaysian journalist and political activist. He was one of the country's pioneers in Internet-based journalism and activism.cite web | title = Journalist MGG Pillai dies of heart attack| publisher = thestar.com.my| date = 2006-04-29| url = http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2006/4/29/nation/14100739&sec=nation| accessdate = 2007-04-24] His parents originally belonged to Kerala, India. His great maternal uncle, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai was a celebrated Malayalam novelist. True to the matrilineal tradition of the Nair caste, he had a reverential relationship with Thakazhi. Thakazhi in turn was proud of his nephew's journalistic pursuits. MGG Pillai was married to P.C. Jayasree. They have two sons, Sreekant Pillai and Sreejit Pillai.

Background and career

A Johor Baharu-born Malaysian Indian of Malayalee descent,cite web | title = Nieman Notes| publisher = nieman.harvard.edu| date = Spring 2006| url = http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/06-2NRsummer/p105-0602-classnotes.html| accessdate = 2007-04-24] he studied in English College (now known as Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar, Johor Bahru), and later studied law at the University of Singapore. He started his career in journalism in the 1960s as a Reuters correspondent, and covered the Vietnam War in 1965.cite web | last = Hassan| first =M.R.| language = Malay|title = PAS rakam takziah kepada keluarga MGG Pillai| publisher = harakahdaily.net| date = 2006-04-28| url = http://www.harakahdaily.net/bm/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2058&Itemid=28| accessdate = 2007-04-24] In 1967, Pillai had a brief stint in Bernama before joining the "Malay Mail" and covered the May 13th riots for the newspaper in 1969. He joined the then newly-established "Singapore Herald" in 1970 but left after the government of Singapore refused to renew his work permit.

Upon returning to Malaysia, Pillai began freelancing for the "Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER)". By then, Pillai was also a stringer for the Indian newspaper "Hindustan Times". Besides writing for "FEER", Pillai also contributed to "Newsweek" as a stringer and co-founded the defunct news magazine "Asiaweek". In 1977, Pillai became the first Malaysian to receive a fellowship from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism, which offered him a chance for further study in journalism at Harvard University.

Journalistic style

Pillai was well-known for his straight-talking, no-holds-barred style of reporting and commentary, which resulted in brushes with authority. He had been forbidden from entering Singapore since 1990 after one his reports roused the anger of top government officials. While politicians may have reviled him in public for his hard-hitting, anti-establishment views, privately many maintained good personal relations with Pillai, to the extent he became a confidant to politicians in both the government and the opposition.

Contribution to Malaysian journalism

Pillai was a regular contributor to pro-opposition publications, such as the official mouthpiece of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), "Harakah" , independent online news and commentary portals "Malaysia Today" and "Malaysiakini". He was one of the first Malaysian journalists to see the potential of the internet; he founded a mailing list-based discussion forum, "Sang Kancil" ("The Mouse Deer") and mggpillai.com, his self-titled but now-defunct news and commentary website. He rose to national prominence during the heyday of the "Reformasi" ("Reform") movement, which blossomed following the sacking of the then Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in 1998. His internet-based commentaries and reporting were at the forefront in chronicling the political turmoil amid a time when the internet was in its infancy in Malaysia.


Pillai died on 28 April 2006 at the University of Malaya Medical Centre, Kuala Lumpur, due to heart-related complications.

Notes and references

External links

* [http://marhaen.kelatedaily.net/mar_a_marhaintua_khas01.html MGG Pillai Dalam Kenangan (Malay) ] (An obituary for MGG Pillai by an anonymous Malaysian political activist)
* [http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/people/classphotos/class77.html MGG Pillai's Nieman Foundation 1977 fellowship class photo ]

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