I REFER to the letter “Forget not their deeds” (The Star, Aug 11).
I congratulate the writer, Datuk A. M. Ahmad Tejuddin, for bringing up the matter and I would like to describe his letter as a wake-up call to the Government, politicians and all Malaysians to remember and respect the people who contributed their blood and lives to enable us to enjoy our good life in peace and harmony today. Do some politicians actually know their history or are they simply ignoring it for the sake of their political agendas?
As president of the Malaysia Ex-British Army Association, which represents 1,200 registered multi-racial members of the ex-British Armed Forces in Malaysia and their widows, I would be failing in my responsibility if I do not openly support this call by Ahmad Tejuddin.
The British left Malaysia in 1971 after they were sure that this country was free of threats. After Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Adam Malek of Indonesia signed the peace agreement in August 1966 in Bangkok, the British and Commonwealth forces remained in Sabah and Sarawak until the end of 1966/ 1967. I was in Labuan with the British army until the end of 1966 when we closed down our workshop and sailed for Singapore.
The Royal Commonwealth Ex-Service League’s 32nd Conference held in Kuala Lumpur from June 26 to 29 this year, which was jointly organised by the Malaysia Ex-British Army Association and attended by delegates from 41 nations across the Commonwealth, was a huge success. It also sent the message to young Malaysians that the good life they enjoy today was only possible because of the magnificent contributions and sacrifices of the foreign forces in the turbulent years before and after Malaya gained independence in August 1957 and then after the formation of Malaysia. Some died fighting on our behalf thousands of miles away from their homeland and families.
The service of some 12,000 Malaysians of various races who served in the British Armed Forces from 1948 to 1971 either as infantry or technical and logistics support soldiers was terminated under the redundancy plan when the British progressively withdrew from Malaysia after the Confrontation with Indonesia ended in 1966. The withdrawal was completed by the end of 1971.
The 1,200 registered veterans of the British army and their widows, whose average age is 75 years old, are still waiting for the Government’s decision on their memorandum which was submitted to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in May 2013. The memorandum highlighted the plight of British Army veterans and the association’s appeal for the Government to consider paying the non-pensionable veterans their pension or a one-off payment in lieu. These veterans were deprived of the opportunity to continue serving for 21 years to qualify for pension because of the British’s premature plan to withdraw from Malaysia.
The association has written many follow-up reminders to the PM but we regret to say that until now the Government has yet to respond.
CHE ONN NEAMAT
Malaysia Ex-British Army Association