Chin Peng, My Dad and Me...with thanks to Gareth "AT ANY STREET CORNER"
FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2005
Chin Peng, My Dad And Me
I don't want to sound like Spike Milligan-lite but this man had a role in my life and I'd like to have a small part in his as he enters his dotage. The man is Chin Peng, who took over the leadership of the Communist Party of Malaya in 1947 and led the armed struggle, first against the British colonial authorities and then against the post-colonial Malaysian state, until 1989 when he agreed to end the struggle and dissolve the party. Today he's probably the least known of that generation of Asia's leaders – Gandhi and Nehru, Sukarno, Ho Chi Minh, Aung San – who led popular movements that resulted in the eclipse of empire. Despite his defeat Chin Peng has a legitimate claim to being one of the makers of modern Malaysia. After many decades of exile in Thailand, Chin Peng now wants to come home to visit his parents' graves and, probably, to die. I think he should be allowed to do so.
There are two senses in which Chin Peng's life has had an impact on mine. The first is quite personal. I guess he's the main reason why my dad came to colonial Malaya all those years ago. Chin Peng had been one of the outstanding leaders of the anti-fascist resistance as a commander in theMalayan Peoples' Anti-Japanese Army and had even been awarded an OBE by the British authorities. But when he launched the communist struggle from his jungle redoubt the British dubbed him "Asia's most wanted man" and declared a State of Emergency. My dad's from a working class family that hails from Holyhead. What was a teenage boy to do in austerity-riven north Wales? He took the queen's shilling. After cursory training in the Brecon Beacons and the North Yorks Moors he found himself on a troop ship bound for Singapore and fighting communism in Malaya. My dad had no political education, no deep sense of who or what he was fighting, but he became a bit player in the last ignominious stand of the British empire - those dirty little wars fought with brutality in Cyprus and Kenya, Guyana and Malaya. And there he met my mum who'd had her own firsthand experiences of the wartime struggle against the Japanese. The rest is, as they say, history.
The other way that Chin Peng has shaped my life is more academic. I studied and later taught the history and politics of nationalism and decolonisation in Asia, fascinated by the so-called revolution in Monsoon Asia which - at that time - had only just reached some sort of denouement in Indochina. And then there was Malaysia. What lay behind Britain's desire to hold onto some of its colonial possessions even as Cold War realpolitik and strong US lobbying meant that their fate was effectively sealed? Why had the British resorted with such ruthlessness - the "protected villages" strategy that were effectively concentration camps - and what was their later significance for counter-insurgency measures adopted elsewhere? How did the politics of ethnicity play out in the transition to independence? What were the tactics and strategy of a classic guerilla war? And, ultimately, why had the communist struggle in Malaya failed when it succeeded elsewhere? Those were the kinds of questions I was interested in. And Chin Peng and the struggle he led lay at the centre of my thoughts - nominally the enemy of my dad but, as I would find out later, someone whose politics (even in eventual defeat) were important in shaping post-independent Malaysia and whose character was largely sympathetic.
In the last eighteen months, Chin Peng has published two books. His autobiography My Side Of History and Dialogues with Chin Peng: New Light on the Malayan Communist Party. They are both invaluable insights into the man and the struggle, as well as key documents of contemporary Malaysian history and the history of revolution in Monsoon Asia. They are part of a recent upsurge in publishing the memoirs of these old comrades and may, in the long run, spark an historiographical reappraisal. The autobiography is a story of idealism and self-sacrifice that is well told. And there is a remarkable candour when it comes to assessing the failures of his struggle. Here is an overview of his accounting of history:
Having lived as long as I have, I am now able to enjoy what I can only describe as a levitated view of history. I was instrumental in playing out one side of the Emergency story. Access to declassified documents today gives me the ability to look back and down on the other side and see the broad picture. In the grim days of 1953, my comrades and I were struggling to hold our headquarters together. We plotted and manoeuvred to outfox security force ground patrols and outwit not only enemy jungle tactics but overall strategy as well. Sometimes we succeeded. Sometimes we failed.
Last week Chin Peng filed an application to return to Malaysia with hundreds of his comrades at the Penang High Court. The Malaysian government has previously rejected his applications to return. He has made this moving appeal to the authorities:
I had indicated my wish to be allowed to visit my hometown so that I could pay homage to the graves of my grandfather, parents and my brothers in the Chinese cemetery, halfway between Sitiawan and Lumut. This duty is still uppermost in my mind .… It is ironic that I should be without the country for which I was more than willing to die.
As his autobiography demonstrates, Chin Peng is a remarkable man. Today his burning idealism is tinged with a new realism about the possibilities for change but he still holds to a core set of beliefs that must make the Malaysian ruling class shudder:
I am still a socialist. I certainly still believe in the equitable distribution of wealth, though I see this could take eons to evolve.
The campaign to bring Chin Peng home has already begun in earnest.
Chin Peng -Forgive and Forget
You asked for my opinion pertaining to Chin Peng. I scribbled two articles sometime in May (if it can be classified such) about him. Appended below is one of them.
Appreciate if it is fit for your blog. Otherwise, dicard it.
CHIN PENG - FORGIVE AND FORGET
By EX RMN M2140
By EX RMN M2140
Sometime in August 1945, a village head in a remote settlement outside the sleepy town of Air Hitam was ‘persuaded’ to attend a meeting with PKM personnel in an unknown location. That was the last time he was seen by his family.
Earlier in the week, he was advised by the Chinese villagers to leave the village, albeit remporarily because there were rumours the communists were after him. Being a ‘Banjarese’ who migrated to Malaya in the early thirties, and having fought the Dutch colonialists in Kalimantan, Indonesia, he was adamant to stand his ground and overcome adversities, come what may. Little did he know that there were Malays and Banjarese in the communist camp.
Many ‘Banjarese’ of yesteryears were well known for their bravery as well as in depth spiritual knowledge and fighting skill. The exploits of ‘panglima’ Salih and Ijam in Muar/Batu Pahat and HJ Bakri and his men in Sungai Manik are testimonies of their saga.
Without the help of the Malays/Banjarese, the communists would not have been able to cause injuries much less the premature demise of this village head.
That village head is naib Hassan bin Abu Bakar, the scribe’s grandfather.
Nyior Estate, 1950 or thereabout. A full platoon of special constable personnel was ambushed and virtually wiped out by the communists. Another platoon that came to the aid of their comrades hours later saw dead bodies, most of them with stab wounds. According to the sole survivor who outfoxed the communists by feigning death, the injured were kicked and stepped on mercilessly for any sign of life upon which, the living wounded would be despatched to the Creator with their bayonets.
A week or so before the encounter, a group of terrorists headed by a well known ‘one eyed’ communist leader in the area, a Malay nicknamed ‘Man Cilak’ surprised a platoon of special constables who were resting in a rubber plantation. The manner in which Man Cilak and his men appeared and disappeared in a blink of an eye behind ‘a’ tree were the talking point for years to come. Such were the prowess of the Malay communist leaders then.
And fortunately (or otherwise) for that platoon, Man Cilak did not just spare them the ignominy of being caught with their pants down but also advised them to be vigilant in future only to return, days later, and witnessed the brutal massacre the communists inflicted on their comrades.
In 1953, the lone survivor from that encounter in Nyior Estate came to visit his friend who by then have opted to start life anew in the village.
That man who lost his right leg on that fateful day was uncle Hamdan and the person he visited was his good friend in the second platoon. And his good friend is the scribe’s father.
And Chin Peng is regarded as the person responsible for the unnecessary loss of lives and limbs including that of naib Hassan and uncle Hamdan.
Why Chin Peng. And Chin Peng alone!
But could the communists have found the formula to neutralise the ’spiritual prowess’ and invincibility of naib Hassan. And could Chin Peng be as ’brave and powerful’ without the collaberations of the Malays?
An honest answer will be a big NO.
Why then only Chin Peng is prohibited from returning to his birth place while the ’collaborators’ were treated differently?
Is the scribe less of a patriot for questioning the wisdom of fellow Malaysians?
During the height of the Indonesian Confrontations, and with reasonably good Senior Cambridge certificate, the scribe decided to answer the call of duty by joining the armed forces. Offers to pursue teaching profession and desk jobs in the civil service were put aside for the sake of the country.
Is that not patriotic?
And how many of those ‘very patriotic’ Malaysians dare risk life and limbs serving the front line in defense of their beloved country?
And why should fellow Malaysians practice ‘forgive and forget’?
As obedient servants of God, Muslims are guided by the teachings of Quran and practice the sunnah or preachings of Prophet Mohammad. And the majority who vehemently oppose the return of Chin Peng are Muslims.
Have we not heard how Prophet Mohamad forgave his enemy Abu Sufian and the Jew who had the habit of throwing water on him, and Saidina Ali who forgave the enemy whom he was about to kill? Those are just a few of the many examples of forgiving the enemy.
As Muslims, we ask for forgiveness from God and hope to be forgiven. But why the reluctance when it is our turn to forgive others!
As human beings, it is never easy to erase the pain from memory but it does not take super human effort to forgive. After all, Islam as well as other religion and teachings encourage the faithfuls to be forgiving.
So fellow Malaysians, why not give it a thought.
EX RMN M2140
EX RMN M2140
As an ex serviceman of 25 year who fought against the CTs in the jungles of Pahang, Perak, Kelantan and the borders of south Thailand in the 60s and 70s fully support any move to allow Chin Peng to return to his homeland.ReplyDelete
Afterall, the war against the communist had ended more than 20 years ago and a peace accord had been reached for them to surrender and they are allowed to return to their kampongs which some of them have done so. Why then renege on the accord and bar him from returning? Where is our honour?
The pains and sufferings the people went through, during that period, were the consequence of the struggles and growth of nationhood many countries in our region underwent. Most have moved on and reconciled with their enemies but not us. Where do we stand in the eyes of the international community, more importantly in the eyes of GOD who teaches us to forgive (and we will be forgiven).
If Dato' Yuen, a true patriot, who was nearly killed defending this country against the communist, can forgive and ask that Chin Peng be allowed to return, why are we giving credence to the pseudo patriots who are bent on barring him. I think if Tunku, who was a man of honour, is alive he would have allowed him to return and bring healing to the country.
YOU ARE NOT A MALAY, SO WHY DO YOU WORRY, YOU WOULDN'T MISS THIS COUNTRY, STAY WHERE YOU ARE.
CHARGE EACH PERSON $100 WHO WANTS TO MAKE A CONNECTION WITH YOU FOR HISTORICAL REASONS AND WALA, WALA YOU COULD BECOME A MILLIONAIRE IN NO TIME. IF I WERE YOU BUT AYEM NOT YOU, I WOULD THINK ABOUT IT AH CHIN. THIS IS GOOD MONEY AH SENG.
HEY, AH CHIN ADVERTISE YOURSELF ON THE INTERNET TO GIVE SOME LECTURES IN THE UNIVERSITIES AROUND THE WORLD ESPECIALLY IN USA WHERE THE INNOCENT COLLEGE STUDENTS HANG ON TO EVERY WORD OF EVEN THE JOBLESS DAILA LABAMA REPEATEDLY IN HIS SPARE TIME. DON'T FEEL BAD CHIN, IF THAT IS YOUR RIGHT NAME, YOU WERE ONCE A DECORATED HERO, SO GIVE MALAYSIA A MISS, YOU WON'T MISS A THING.
Sorry, but there is only one way I can describe Bolehland! Its truly fcuked up by Umno!ReplyDelete