A LOCAL daily on Aug 31, carried an article suggesting that Merdeka was won by tact, not force and that Malaysia was the only nation to become independent without bloodshed.
This statement doesn’t quite portray the true picture and risks trivialising the contributions of others.
We are indeed unique in that we gained our independence from our former colonial ruler without bloodshed but to win and maintain this independence is something that we must also look at and remember.
True, we did not lose any lives in the process of gaining independence from Britain unlike our neighbours such as Vietnam which had fought off two Western powers: France and the United States, with a loss of over 300,000 Vietnamese lives, or Indonesia which fought the Dutch before securing their independence.
Then again Malaysia is also unique in that we are about the only one that had to take up arms to fight forces that wanted to take away our independence for almost 32 years after gaining it.
From 1948 the Malayan People’s Liberation Army (MPLA), an off-shoot of the Malayan People Against Japan Army, took up the aspirations of the Communist Party of Malaya and started an armed insurrection ostensibly to oust the British. After the country became independent in 1957, this insurrection was directed at ousting the democratically elected government of Malaya.
With help from Commonwealth forces, the fledging Malayan Armed Forces succeeded in forcing the CPM to retreat and seek sanctuary in South Thailand in 1960.
In the process 1,346 Malayan and 519 British troops and police were killed during this period and 2,406 Malayan and British troops and police were wounded.
Peace prevailed for a while from 1960 until 1963 when following the formation of Malaysia, Sukarno of Indonesia launched “Confrontation” against Malaysia for 3 years.
It saw 114 of our soldiers killed while 181 were wounded. Once again we were fighting to defend our independence. Two years after the end of the “Confrontation” the CPM that had been gradually gathering strength in South Thailand and inspired by the 1968 Tet Offensive in South Vietnam, resumed hostilities.
In 1968 the forces of CPM infiltrated Peninsular Malaysia.
In 1974 there was an upsurge of terrorism which saw the assassination of the Inspector-general of the Malaysian Police Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim.
Once again Malaysian security forces fought off the threat to our independence from the revitalized CPM and in 1989 they finally laid down arms and quit their struggle to turn Malaysia into a communist state.
Thus we should not look at “Merdeka” merely from the perspective of gaining independence but also at how we had to defend it. While we may not have lost any lives in gaining this “Merdeka”, we certainly shed a lot of blood and lost a lot of lives defending this “Merdeka” of ours and we had our heroes.
After the Rio Olympics of 2016 we have seen another kind of hero: those of the sporting arena. They certainly deserve the accolades and being feted and rewarded by a grateful nation and no one should begrudge them.
However the Olympic heroes with silver and bronze medals were all granted a lifetime pension of RM 3,000 and RM 2,000 monthly, never mind the one time financial reward it does tend to make one compare with.
Our heroes who have given limb and life to protect the nation’s independence, peace and stability have also won medals too although these are the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa, Pingat Panglima Gagah Berani or Pingat Tentera Udara. For this bravery and gallantry they are given a monthly lifetime pension of RM 2,000, RM 1,500 and RM 1,000 respectively.
True, the athletes have shed blood, sweat and tears. But we too have shed our blood from wounds inflicted by the enemy, sweated out waiting in ambush and we shed our tears as we watched the bodies of our fallen comrades being buried, as wives became widows and children became orphans overnight.
I ask in all humility for the media not to look at “Merdeka” from one aspect of gaining independence only but also to look at how we have fought to maintain and protect this independence.
Please also remember occasionally such as on Aug 31 each year, that our fallen heroes and those who survived had risked life and limb to preserve the nation’s independence, peace and stability lest they be forgotten over time.
LT JEN TAN SRI ABDUL GHANI ABDUL AZIZ (R)
Taman Tasik Titiwangsa, Kuala Lumpur
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