In today’s world, the once scary communism ideology is gone with the wind, like Chin Peng’s ashes.
FROM young, I’ve been aware that my late father’s job as a policeman was to protect the nation from CTs, short for communist terrorists.
Dad was always reticent about his work but he documented his experience as a frontline Special Branch officer in the Emergency (1948-1960) in his unpublished memoirs.
A part of it reads: “The British administration knew the crucial importance of intelligence as without it, the army would be fighting blindfolded against an elusive enemy.
“The British administration also knew that the insurgency being essentially a Chinese problem, because the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) was Chinese controlled, it had to fight fire with fire by saturating the ground with Chinese officers in order to secure information from the rural Chinese population on whom the terrorists depended for logistic support.
“Hence, the bulk of the Chinese officers including myself were posted during this crucial period to the ground for this purpose. I only had on-the-job training for experience and I suppose it turned out to be the best teacher, helped perhaps by the naiveté and bravado of youthful manhood.”
By the time the Emergency ended 12 years later, according to Wikipedia, security forces had killed 6,710 CTs, captured 1,287, while 2,702 surrendered during the conflict, and 500 more at its conclusion. On the other side, 1,345 Malayan troops and police, 519 Commonwealth personnel and 2,478 civilians were killed, with another 810 recorded as missing.
But the communist threat had not been entirely eliminated – the remnants of the MCP went deeper into the jungle and over to southern Thailand to continue their guerilla warfare – and Dad continued to serve with SB until his retirement in 1982.
Our nation stands as the only one to successfully fight off a communist threat. The CPM finally surrendered with the signing of the Peace Accord in Hat Yai in 1989.
Undoubtedly, the CTs suffered immense hardships fighting for a hopeless cause for decades and one can only surmised they did so because they truly believed in what they were fighting for.
One member was Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok’s brother, William, whom he described in his memoir as “a dreamer in the highest sense of the word”. He added that from young, William lived by his principles of fair play and justice and stood up for the underdog which led him to join the MCP.
In 1948, to escape capture, William went into the jungle and was killed in an ambush in August 1953. He was just 30 years old.
So the young Chinese in colonial Malaya who joined the MCP, after helping fight off the Japanese, most probably dreamed of an egalitarian Malaya throwing off the yoke of western imperialism in the mould of communist China.
They were tragically misguided in the method they chose to do so, in much the same way those who joined the Islamic State are misguided to achieve their goal through violent means.
Perhaps the CTs also naively did not see it in racial terms but simply wanted a nation that was shared by all. Big mistake, of course, since they couldn’t convince the majority to follow them, especially the Malays.
And that is really the crux of the lingering anger that continues to fuel the suspicion the Malays have for the Chinese.
To the Malays, Chin Peng and communists were out to take over Tanah Melayu. It doesn’t matter there were very senior Malay members in the MCP like its chairman Abdullah CD and central committee member Rashid Maidin, who made up the party’s delegation with Chin Peng at the signing of the Peace Accord.
Chin Peng represents the failed Chinese attempt to seize the country from colonial rule and make it an outpost of China, for which he can never be forgiven. And certain politicians are happy to harp on it to keep their brand of racial politics alive.
That’s why he was treated differently and the Malaysian government under Barisan Nasional reneged on the terms of the Peace Agreement, as former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor has alleged repeatedly, in refusing to allow Chin Peng to return because he could not produce his birth certificate to prove he was born in Malaysia.
That’s why even Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad alluded to a racial bias when he pointed out that other CPM leaders returned to Malaysia without fuss.
“We have allowed Shamsiah Fakeh to return and no one complained, perhaps because she was a Malay. Rashid Maidin too came back to Malaysia, ” he said in response to the uproar over news that Chin Peng’s ashes were quietly brought back into the country in September and scattered at a hillside near Chemor and at sea, off Lumut.
(For the record, Shamsiah lived in China for almost 40 years prior to her homecoming, while Rashid never returned and died in 2006 in southern Thailand.)
Some quarters, including at least a few PAS members, consider Chin Peng a Malaysian independence fighter. And historical researcher Geoff Wade claims others, like the retired Thai generals who attended his cremation, laud him as “Malaysia’s version of Myanmar’s Aung San, Indonesia’s Soekarno and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh.
That is ridiculously hard to swallow but so too a newspaper editorial that condemned the return of Chin Peng’s ashes on the basis that it would cause disharmony among Malaysians and that he stood for communism, which is “against the very grain of what is Malaysia”.
What disharmony? Who’s going to revive a guerilla warfare on our shores in his name? Chin Peng’s ashes were scattered, so there is no grave that fanatics, if any, can turn into a shrine for him or communism.
Dad, who spent his life fighting the CTs and lost friends and colleagues, had no issue with Chin Peng’s desire to return dead or alive. As he said, if we can forgive the Japanese who killed lots more Malayans and never apologised, why not him.
And if Chin Peng should be condemned because he stood for communism, then Malaysia should have nothing to do with the likes of Vietnam, Cuba, Laos, Russia and the biggest communist state of all, China, which incidentally supported the MCP and provided refuge for Chin Peng, Shamsiah and her fellow communist husband Ibrahim Mohamad.
Neither should we be warming up relations with North Korea, which frosted over with the murder of Kim Jong-nam at KLIA2 in February 2017.
Using communism as a bogeyman to frighten Malaysians is really so last century and a bunch of mostly old uncles and aunties gathering to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Hat Yai Peace Agreement is no national security threat.
It’s been three decades and Malaysian Chinese are not in the least bit interested in China’s communism. They instead look at the country’s capitalistic successes and opportunities.
But what is true is that people, young people in particular, are protesting against their governments all over the world, which prompted the NPR podcast, Why so many people are taking to the streets in protests around the world.
In the podcast, NPR’s Middle East reporter Jane Arraf believes “the common theme is injustice, basically government corruption, unemployment, poverty, lack of government services. They have this rage against the traditional political class. Like, where do these people get their fortunes when the rest of the people are going hungry?”
Which was the same rage against the extreme economic and social changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution, especially between wealthy factory owners and industrialists and poor, disadvantaged workers. That, in turn, sparked Karl Marx’s communism ideology.
But none of today’s protesters are chanting Marx’s name nor quoting from The Communist Manifesto; to them, it is just people power.
What is really important as David Priestland says in his New York Times article, What’s left of communism: “Lenin no longer lives, the old communism may be dead, but the sense of injustice that animated them is very much alive.”
And that is what governments, including ours, should be paying attention to.
The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.
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