KUALA LUMPUR: Retired military and police veterans have gathered to recall their time sacrificing and fighting for the country to keep the peace and harmony during the communist insurgency back in 1968 to 1989.
Datuk Paul Kiong, a retired superintendent of police who had served 32 years in the Special Branch, shared his involvement in covert operations against the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) in the jungles of Perak during that period.
Kiong said he was a letter courier, a driver for the communists and also a food supplier for them as he was tasked to obtain intelligence from them.
In one of his missions, Kiong said the Special Branch managed to capture a 45-year-old communist branch committee member and had interrogated him for four days before the man decided to work with the police to deliver a letter to another communist group.
"We interrogated him for four days but he did not say anything. We gave him food, drinks and cigarettes. But, on the fifth day, he suddenly said that he was prepared to cooperate.
"I told him that I needed him to take a letter and deliver it to another communist group in the jungle. Very strangely, he was cooperative," the now 75-year-old said during a sharing session at the Taman Tugu Human Library (TTHL) project on Sunday (Sept 8) in conjunction with Malaysia Day and Warriors' Day (Hari Pahlawan).
Although he was sceptical at the communist member's cooperation, Kiong said they had no choice but to trust him.
Kiong said the communist member was only given 15 minutes to deliver the letter but took longer than the required time.
After waiting for 15 minutes, Kiong said the man did not return. He noted that after 20 minutes, his mind started to wonder whether he has been betrayed.
"About 30 minutes then I saw shadows of men walking towards me. I had another problem wondering if I should start shooting. I knew that I was going to die and believed that I could take out at least two of them before going down. But, if I shoot then my cover would be blown.
"But, when he arrived, he said, come let's go. I was happy because that means he did not betray me. Without any hesitation I got into the car, drove off and brought him back to base," he said.
Kiong recalled the communist member telling him that he saw his village friends at the camp and decided to have a chat with them so as not to arose any suspicion.
Kiong, who has been awarded the nation's highest gallantry medal "The Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa" and Perak's highest gallantry medal "Pingat Keberanian Handal", said most of the communists that were caught have been rehabilitated and had gone on to live good lives, where some of them had even become his friends.
Meanwhile, for retired army officer Capt Dr Wong Ang Peng who was part of the infantry and ranger corps in 1975, said he spent six years in the jungle when the communists were laying booby traps everywhere.
Dr Wong said the communists used homemade booby traps made from milk tins that were charged by a pair of batteries and had an impact like the explosion of a mine.
"When I was a cadet officer, we heard so many stories of army officers losing their legs due to the booby traps. Very few wanted to join the infantry, even for me, the infantry was not my first choice. There was fear and it was demoralising," he said.
Despite the fear, Dr Wong, who was only 22 years old then said they fought the communists in one of their missions in a jungle that ensued with a 45-minute firefight.
"We found out that the (firefight lasted long) as they were trying to retrieve their injured. At one point, they lobbed a grenade and its shrapnel flew and hit my leg. I got injured then. All in all, we managed to kill five and lost two soldiers. Until today, I still think of them (the dead soldiers)," he said.
For retired army officer Major Ismail Kamat, among his roles during the communist insurgency was to take out the bodies of fallen soldiers from the jungle while retired Lt Col Raymond Goh, who was a qualified engineer in the army, had helped to build infrastructure which includes roads and bridges.
The warfare triggered by CPM lasted for 21 years. In 1989, CPM welcomed a peace accord by the Thailand government in collaboration with Malaysia which ended their armed struggle.
Also present were former Port Dickson MP Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah, who is also a retired Navy Rear Admiral, and Patriot president Brig-Jen (Rtd) Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji.
The event also had family activities such as congkak, hopscotch, batu sembilan, treasure hunt and others.
TTHL operates as a human library where a person shares their personal experience on a certain topic. TTHL is opened to the public on every first Sunday of the month from 9.30am to 12.30pm.
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