COMMENT Former inspector-general of police Abdul Rahim Mohd Noor has weighed in on the debate - firmly on the side of us keeping our solemn commitments as outlined in an international peace agreement.

Chin Peng, longtime secretary-general of the Communist Party of Malaya, was denied entry into Malaysia and now that he is dead, his ashes are barred from being brought into the country for interment, presumably at the Chinese cemetery in the village of Pundut, in Lumut, where the graves of the CPM leader's parents lie.

NONEThe disbarments, according to Rahim Noor (left), are in violation of the Hatyai Peace Accords signed in December 1989 between the governments of Malaysia, Thailand and CPM.

If it wasn't for the fact that former IGP was the man who headed the Malaysian team in the negotiations that led to the Hatyai Peace Accords, his opinion that we are making an international "laughing stock" of ourselves in refusing Chin Peng's ashes to be interred here would not have mattered, given the nature of the public debate, suffused as so many things are in Malaysia with racist sentiment.

Rahim has weighed in the public debate on the sanest side possible in this wrangle.

This is the side of the letter of the Hatyai agreement that brought peace to the Malaysia-Thailand border, the focal area, between 1960 and 1989, of the conflict between communist terrorists belonging to the CPM and Malaysian and Thai security forces.

As Special Branch head at the time of accords with the CPM and as the government's lead negotiator, Rahim should know the terms and conditions of the Hatyai agreement.

If there is anybody who can hold forth authoritatively on the contentious matter of whether Chin Peng had a right to come back to Malaysia and, now that he has died, have his ashes buried in his hometown of Sitiawan, it is Rahim.

Rahim said the government was in violation of the agreement when it barred Chin Peng from returning to Malaysia as the former secretary general of the CPM desired and, when he was baulked, petitioned the Malaysian courts for recourse.

The courts upheld the government's bar on Chin Peng's return and now the government thumbs its nose further at the Hatyai accords by barring the entry of the CPM leader's ashes.
He believes in keeping his word
Rahim's opinion that the government is behaving less than honourably is the more remarkable because he has appeared in recent years at public forums organised by Perkasa, the Malay right wing group that is prominent among the voices defending the government's disbarments of Chin Peng.

chin peng funeral 200913 At least, Rahim believes in keeping his word and in the government keeping theirs, but the NGO Rahim has seen fit to patronize does not.

The government and Perkasa seem unable to rise above the welter of partisan emotion to regard the fine print of the Hatyai accords as binding on its signatories.

Assorted security personnel in Thailand, our collaborators in the conflict with the communists, appear as nonplussed as Rahim is about the Malaysian government's fastidiousness in the matter of Chin Peng's ashes.

Their reported comments on the matter throw Rahim's comment about Malaysia making itself into a laughing stock into sharp relief.

Emotions have been allowed to well up on the side of a closed door policy against Chin Peng. It remains to be seen whether the bracing comments on the matter by the former IGP can retrieve matters from their frigid state.

Malaysia's adherence to its solemnly given word is not a matter that can be easily scanted without damage to its standing.

As things stand international ratings agencies have already given us a negative grade; don't let the diplomatic circles follow suit just because of our churlishness on the matter of the remains of a deceased exponent of an expired ideology.

TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for close on four decades. He likes the occupation because it puts him in contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them.