Chin Peng has the last laughThe Malaysian government intended to deliver a humiliating blow and final insult to Chin Peng, the late former secretary-general of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), by denying his dying wish.
Despite the sabre rattling by premier Najib Abdul Razak and extremist groups like Perkasa, it is Chin Peng who has won the psychological battle and more importantly, is having the last laugh from beyond the grave, leaving Najib with egg on his face.
Najib may wish to diminish Chin Peng’s role in our history, perhaps even airbrush him out of the struggle for Independence, but the irony is that his death on Sept 16, will mean that the Malaysia Day celebrations, will now also commemorate Chin Peng’s memory.
Chin Peng has been praised for being a wily operator and the brains behind the guerrilla warfare of the Emergency (1948-1960).
Even he could not have planned it better. His death on Malaysia Day was the ultimate accolade for a man who was denied his right to return to the country of his birth and denied a fair hearing in the Court of Appeal. What poetic justice!
The Malaysian government reneged on the terms of the three-way Peace Treaty which it signed with Thailand and the CPM leaders, in Hadyai in 1989. The PM at the time was Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
In life, the government rejected Chin Peng’s application to live in Malaysia. In death, they refused to allow his remains be interred in his family burial plot near Lumut. This prolonged revenge-fuelled retribution by Umno Baru will unwittingly give Chin Peng, the oxygen of publicity. If the young and uninformed did not know of Chin Peng, they do now.
When Najib ordered that government forces be placed on red alert at border checkpoints, people scoffed at his idea.
If two jet engines can be smuggled out of Malaysia, then it would be child’s play to smuggle an urn into the country. This is a pointless exercise especially as resources and manpower should be deployed to better use, to deter crime.
Fighting and living in the shadows were Chin Peng’s speciality. It would have been easy for him to sneak across the border, assume an alias, and live anywhere in the country, like the former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karad ic' the architect of the Srebrenica massacre who escaped arrest for 12 years, practising as a doctor in Belgrade. Chin Peng may have been the leader of a disbanded guerrilla army, but he was a man of honour.
The unprecedented furore and lack of compassion, to allow an old man his dying wish, is prompted by the upcoming Umno-Baru elections. Najib will milk Chin Peng’s death for political mileage to show his ultra-Malay credentials.
Many people are probably unaware that the struggle for Malaya’s Independence was fought on several fronts.
During World War II, Chin Peng and the British army (Force 136) joined forces in 1941, to fight the Japanese invaders. Chin Peng’s outfit was called the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) and after the war, he was decorated for his heroism with the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
When the Japanese invaded Malaya in 1941, the Malays and Indians were given better treatment than the Chinese. Sino-Japanese relations had deteriorated after the Nanking Massacre (The Rape of Nanking) in 1937.
When the tide turned against the Japanese in 1943, the Japanese started to encourage Malay nationalism by arranging conferences, demonstrations, language courses and education. They even whipped up anti-Chinese sentiment by using paramilitary groups of, mainly, Malay men, to fight Chinese resistance groups.
Without the CPM ...
In the chaos immediately after the war, the MPAJA being the most organised and well-armed group within Malaya was given tacit approval by the British to restore law and order, at least until the British administrators returned in force.
The MPAJA used this opportunity to exact retribution on their old enemies and Japanese collaborators. As the Malays had been given preferential treatment by the Japanese during WWII, the MPAJA punished them severely.
The clashes were interpreted as racial conflict. The Malays retaliated by forming groups to fight what they saw as the “Chinese MPAJA/CPM”.
Internecine clashes between these two groups, continue to this day and to increase the distrust between the Malays and Chinese, Umno Baru will conveniently use the bogey, ”Chinese communists” or “May 13”, whenever it suits them.
After WWII, Chin Peng continued his armed struggle for Independence, but this time, he fought against the British because he wanted Malaya to be free from colonial rule. He renamed his outfit, the Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA).
His ideology was to have an equal society with the wealth redistributed among the people equally, through the labour movement, under communism.
The civilian side of the MRLA was the Min Yuen (Masses Movement) which provided the guerrillas with food, information, and new recruits. Civilians who did not cooperate were tortured by the MRLA, whilst those caught cooperating, were imprisoned by the British.
The guerrillas would disrupt labour relations on the rubber estates and their sympathisers would demand military protection. The idea was to sabotage the economy but also to keep the British troops out of the jungle. The communists later changed this strategy when civilians began to blame the communists for their hardships.
Najib said that returning Chin Peng’s ashes would upset the Malays because the CPM had committed atrocities against them. Malaya was on a war footing. Atrocities were committed on both sides.
The Japanese killed several hundred thousand Malayans during the Japanese Occupation; the Batang Kali massacre was blamed on rogue elements in the British army; and yet, the worse treatment has been reserved for Chin Peng, whose forces were responsible for 10,000 deaths.
No one is condoning Chin Peng’s guerrilla warfare but Malaysians must realise that without the CPM, the Japanese in Malaya would not have been defeated.
Without the Min Yuen, we would not have the current identity card system and Chinese squatters living on the jungle verges would not have been resettled into new villages, much to the irritation of Malay villagers who complained that these settlements had electricity and running water.
Without the CPM, we would not have had the Internal Security Act or a return to the authoritarian regime of Gerald Templer, the high commissioner who introduced local elections and village councils as his objective was the formation of a united Malayan nation. The Chinese were urbanised, by the British, to reduce the influence of the CPM.
Umno Baru and the Malays are in their exalted position because of Chin Peng. Without the armed conflict of the CPM, the British would not have agreed to give Independence to Malaya, nor the privileges that the Malays now enjoy.
Tunku Abdul Rahman (left) acknowledged that Chin Peng’s challenge to him, at the Baling talks in 1955, immediately led to Merdeka.
Perhaps, it is fitting that divine intervention has made it possible for Umno Baru to honour Chin Peng, every year, on Sept 16.
The British used the divide-and-rule strategy to conquer the locals, the Japanese in WWII deployed the same tactic. Today, Umno-Baru continues this method of control.
Chin Peng may be gone but his legacy continues. Malaysians are still striving to establish a just and equal society.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).