Chin Peng deserves his place of rest
Chin Peng’s ashes should be allowed the courtesy of entry into the country and internment in the place of his wish.
By M Kula Segaran
I have heard about the Communist Party of Malaya secretary general Chin Peng from a young age. For as long as I can remember, Chin Peng has been associated with the town of Sitiawan. More than interest in his career as a guerrilla fighter drew me to him.
I, too, hail from Sitiawan where I was born a good many years after Chin Peng emerged on the west coast of Perak in 1924. Marxists might disagree, but a sense of geographical solidarity may be just as strong as class solidarity.
I had wanted to meet up with Chin Peng since the time I first heard about him. Being from a rubber tapping family, I was drawn to read quite a lot about him and his struggles.
Rubber was the mainstay of the Malayan economy but rubber tappers were poor and communist ideology was sympathetic to those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Hence I had an interest in the fighter who was from my hometown of Sitiawan and in how his career worked out in history.
My curiosity was gratified with the publication of Chin Peng’s memoir of his struggle, ‘My Side of History’, which was published in 2003. I devoured the book and remembered striking aspects of the story.
An Ipoh lawyer of my acquaintance, Chan Kok Keong, took up Chin Peng’s application to the Malaysian government to be allowed to return to Malaysia to visit his parents’ graves. Kok Keong arranged for a meet-up in Bangkok in 2009.
Through Kok Keong’s connections, the meeting took place in a famous hotel in the Thai capital in 2009. With episodes in Chin Peng’s memoirs fresh in my memory, the first thing I did when I encountered the man in the flesh as different to the vivid character in the pages of ‘My Side of History’ was to ask about intriguing episodes in the book.
I asked how he evaded capture by the British and the Japanese while he traveled in Perak in the period between 1939 and during the Second World War (1942-45). He told me his base was in the high hills of Bidor, near Cameron Highlands.
Chin Peng told me that he cycled from his base in the hills of Bidor via rubber plantations to places where he could meet up with fellow guerillas and contacts. He told me almost all the time he was able to avoid detention. Till today, this narrative evokes wonder and awe in him.
I asked about how he had met up with the British military unit ferried by submarine to link up with officers of the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army on the coast of Perak in 1943. He said the submarine landed in Lumut Kiri.
Even present days Perakians would be hard put to know where Lumut Kiri is. It is a very remote area which is only accessible on foot. Chin Peng said he had cycled to Pantai Remis via rubber plantations and then walked the last few miles to Lumut Kiri to meet up with his British military contacts. This wasn’t an easy feat, even if attempted in these days — what more then!
In the Bangkok meeting with him, I sensed Chin Peng’s desire to o come back to Malaysia, if only to pay his respects at his parents’ graves which are at the Chinese grave site in the village of Pundut, in Lumut. Alas, that wish remains unfulfilled.
I have raised in Parliament the 1989 Peace Agreement between the Malaysian government and the MCP.
I have argued that the government must be ashamed for not honouring their part of the agreement to allow Chin Peng to return as required by the terms of the peace accord.
Now the government’s decision to disallow the internment of his ashes in Pundut compounds the insensibility of the earlier decision to bar his return to the country of his birth.
How can we expect others to abide by the terms of agreement they may make with us if our government violates and refuses to adhere to agreements we have made with others, such as the one we made with the MCP in 1989?
I disagree with communist ideology and abhor the huge loss of life and destruction of property their militant struggle caused in Malaya between 1948 and 1960, and on a lesser scale from 1960 to the conclusion of a peace agreement in 1989.
But I contend that the MCP’s struggle against the Japanese during the latter’s occupation of Malaya was valiant and their resistance to the British colonials after the defeat of the Japanese hastened the grant of independence to Malaya in 1957.
For that reason and also in deference to the terms of the 1989 peace accords, Chin Peng’s ashes should be allowed the courtesy of entry into the country and internment in the place of his wish.
M Kula Segaran the MP for Ipoh Barat and the DAP national vice chairman.