ONE person who has come out strongly against Chin Peng's return to Malaysia is Deputy Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin.
“Chin Peng is our enemy who had brutally killed our people. He may be wearing a suit now, but he is still a communist.
“Many Chinese too had lost their lives in the hands of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) during the Emergency, including civilians,” he said.
Ironically, for someone who speaks in such hostile terms about communism, the ideology and its development in pre-independence Malaya were somewhat a positive factor in charting his career path.
In a recent interview, Zainuddin revealed that it was communism that first inspired him to be a journalist, a profession that later served as a launching pad for his entry into politics.
The year was 1955. Zainuddin was a 16-year-old when the Baling Talks was held between CPM and the government of Malaya, which was still under British rule but preparing for a transition to self-rule with mounting pressure from both the communist threat and the people's aspirations.
He was swept up in the excitement generated by the peace talks aimed at disarming the communists, which saw the local folk eagerly awaiting every piece of news coming out of Baling and debating the latest developments.
“I was living then in a village in Kota Kuala Muda in Kedah, where my disabled uncle ran a news-stand from home.
“I could feel the excitement as people were pouring into the house to get the papers and they sometimes lingered on to talk about the implication of the peace talks on the country’s direction as it headed towards independence.
“There was a strong sense of nationalism in the air then. I was moved and made up my mind that I wanted to become a journalist one day to witness major events unfolding personally,” he recalled.
(Historians believe that the failed Baling Talks had played a role in speeding up the independence process as Tunku Abdul Rahman – who went on to become the first prime minister – had used the communist threat as a bargaining chip to put pressure on the British.)
Thirty years later, not only had Zainuddin fulfilled his ambition to become a journalist, but he was also among those covering the second peace talks between the CPM and the Malaysian Government in Haadyai in 1989.