Farewell to a true national hero

  • Nation
  • Friday, 02 Oct 2015

Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng always placed the country’s well-being as his priority. 

HE was an officer and a gentleman. Above all, he was a true and loyal Malaysian. Not many can match Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng’s credentials in serving the nation as a police officer, especially in the fight against the communists.

After he retired from the force, he continued to serve the nation in the way he knew best, quietly giving his views to the powers that be whenever he felt that there were issues that threatened to tear us apart.

I remember the painstaking work he put into compiling a dossier about the state of the nation which he gave to the then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. He showed me the manuscript in the early stages and it was clear why he was concerned over certain developments in the country. He cared deeply about the nation and where it was heading.

Portions of that dossier subsequently appeared in his book, Nation Before Self: And Values That Do Not Die, which was released in June 2010.

I wrote a profile article about Yuen which subsequently ran in Sunday Star on June 17 2010 under the headline, “Still fighting fit”.

The book was his second after Operation Ginger (which focused on the battle against the communists during the Emergency) which was published in 1998.

Yuen was a prolific writer but he was not an attention-seeker. If his name occasionally showed up in the newspapers, it was mainly in the letters pages, especially when his comrades passed away. And if we cared to read what he wrote, we are transported into a world when many of the police officers who put their lives on the line during the Emergency came from all races.

For example, in a tribute to retired Deputy Supt Chin Sik Goon (“Another national hero has departed,” The Star, June 5 2014), Yuen shared how they joined the police force separately in 1950.

In later years, they were selected and co-opted into a most successful high-level Special Branch (SB) project mounted some years before, which continued under different configurations even after our independence in 1957. Chin had worked earlier at a district SB location where he had managed to secretly acquire a copy of Chin Peng’s “Central Committee 1951 October Directive”.

“This enabled us to replan our strategy and tactics which managed to keep at bay the Communist Party of Malaya’s intended revised operations in the country at a time when both sides felt we were unable to win the war nor sustain the heavy casualties on each side,” Yuen wrote.

“Without the unquestionable loyalty and services of non-Malay officers like Sik Goon in the Special Branch which had embedded complementary research Military Intelligence Officers within, our Armed Forces and normal police operational units could not have been so successful against violent communist terrorism during our nation’s most turbulent emergency times.”

It was in this context that Yuen lamented about how we have progressively lost the peace in recent decades. He noted that many politicians and radicals are unaware or do not wish to remember, or just do not want to know the real past – how this nation came about, and why we have to be what we once were and were meant to be according to the Constitution that established this nation.

“Our Constitution is fair to each and every community so that it can never be fair enough to the radicals in each community who are the cause for us to regress, splitting our moderate nation in negative terms of polarising race, religion and personal or elitist class materialism.

“Moderates in this nation have to continue to speak up more strongly to retain a moderate and constitutional nation,” he concluded.

If you search the archives, you will find similar letters he wrote in tribute to many of his fallen comrades. Perhaps to those in the current generation, these names do not mean a thing. But it is to Yuen’s credit that he made sure that there was some form of written record to these brave men. As he wrote in another letter, “We can serve and die for the nation in so many ways. However, it is only a special breed that dares to serve and fight on the front or in a guerilla war which has no permanent and very deceptive fronts.

“It is only a very special breed who volunteers to infiltrate the enemy organisation in both the jungle or the open underground. In such a manner, a number have died in the enemy ranks but these were unreported and unadmitted for security reasons.”

The last time I met Yuen in person was some time last year at the funeral of my friend’s father, a police officer who served in his time. Again, the topic of conversation revolved around the sam e issues which threatened the social fabric of our nation.

I would not say I know Yuen well, but whenever we met, he was always a gentle, fatherly figure to me. He knew about my medical issues and was concerned about my health. Now and then, he would send me a phone message or give me a call to find out how I was.

When I got the call from his wife yesterday morning around 10.30 to inform me about his demise, I felt deeply saddened and the tears flowed naturally.

Yuen served the nation in a very special way right till his final moments. We have to be in awe of men like Yuen who were prepared to lay down their lives for the nation. The peace and harmony we have today is the result of the sacrifices of these patriots.

Rest in peace, Tan Sri Yuen. The nation salutes you.

Related story:

Communist-era hero and patriot dies at age 88

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