He was only a teenager when the 1955 Baling Talks between the communists and the Government held the nation in thrall. But more than 30 years later, LAM LI reports, Deputy Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin had an up-close-and-personal experience at the second round of peace negotiations held in Haadyai, an experience he shares in his forthcoming book, Unsung Heroes.
BARELY a few weeks on the market, the memoirs of the bygone Communist Party of Malaya’s (CPM) secretary-general Chin Peng has seized the top spot on the best-selling lists of bookstores around the country.
Suddenly, communism – long thought to have become irrelevant following a chain of events that saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and China heading towards market liberalisation – is creating a buzz in the public domain again.
The publication of Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History has kicked up much dust, with top leaders commenting on the 81-year-old former guerilla’s wish to return to Malaysia, and newspapers and current affairs magazines running stories, some even quoting former communist sympathisers, on whether Chin should be allowed to come home.
Soon, another book taking a re-look at the history of communism in the country will be available. But this time around, it is not high-profile CPM figures like Chin Peng and Lai Te nor top British or Malaysian government leaders that will get the limelight.
Instead, policemen who had worked quietly behind the scenes to broker the 1989 Haadyai Peace Accords that ended the Emergency officially will take centrestage in Unsung Heroes, written by Deputy Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin.
Due to be released by year-end, the book aims to present the Government’s side of the story on how the negotiations were made possible through the eyes of a journalist – Zainuddin was then the chief editor of Utusan Malaysia – who covered the peace accord proceedings in Thailand that year.
As the book’s title suggests, Zainuddin said he wanted to inform the public on certain personalities whom he felt had not been given due recognition for their contributions in ending the communists' armed struggle.
One of them was former policeman Senior Asst Comm II Yau Kong Yew, who was recalled from retirement to pave the way for the peace talks. Instead of enjoying his retirement from 1984, Yau’s service was extended for him to work on the special project.
“Yau was an experienced interrogating officer of the communists during the British rule. He later moved on to become deputy chief of the Special Branch in the Malaysian police force,” said Zainuddin in a recent interview.
Yau, he added, was roped in when former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor, who was then chief of the Special Branch, mooted the idea of formally ending the CPM's armed struggle for the good of the country.
Zainuddin elaborates on this in his book, pointing out that it had been very costly to maintain a fight against the communists.
“It took up no less than RM1mil to cover operational cost and intelligence activities to track down one communist.
“Furthermore, the on-going fights in the interior areas had prevented full-scale development to cover the whole nation,” he notes.
He then goes on to detail Yau’s journey to establish contact with the CPM's top leadership to relay the Government’s intention of finding a peaceful solution.
Yau started in 1988 and met Chin Peng’s right-hand man Chang Lin Yun – a Chinese schoolteacher back in pre-independence Malaya – in Haadyai in August, which opened the door for him to meet top CPM leaders in China.
“Following that, Yau travelled to China no less then 10 times to convince the communists of the Government’s sincerity in conducting a peace talk.”
Zainuddin also credited Yau with being humane in making medical arrangement for the ailing Chang, when the latter developed end-stage liver cancer as the negotiations were gaining momentum.
With the trust and rapport built up by Yau, he noted, further negotiations were held over much of 1989.
Finally, on Dec 2, a peace accord signing ceremony was held at Hotel Lee Garden in Haadyai, with Zainuddin there to report on the event.
“The ceremony was held amidst lots of excitement, especially among the press. Cameramen scrambled to get a good angle and several of them knocked over some flowerpots.
“Invited guests were unable to witness the signing ceremony because their view was blocked by the horde of photographers and television crews,” he recalled.
Zainuddin said it was more than a decade later that he had a chance to meet up with Yau personally to find out more about a series of “behind-the-scene” incidents leading to the signing ceremony.
“It was by chance that I ran into him at the residence of Tan Sri Rahim Noor in the course of my research to pen this book. Back in 1989, I did not have a chance to speak to him due to the secrecy surrounding the talks.
“After learning more about his role in the peace process, I decided to dedicate a chapter of my book to him.
“I think it is important to highlight that Chinese too have played a central role in ending the communism threat, especially the contributions of those working in the Special Branch,” he said.