Ya Ilahi Tuhan-ku Rabi!
Pokok yang rendah menjadi tinggi!
Sa-lama kuching tidak bergigi,
Tikus tidak bersopan lagi.
Pileh2 melipat kain,
Jangan termasuk baju kemeja.
Pileh2 tempat bermain,
Jangan di-patok ular yang bisa.
THE FIRST BATTLEFIELD IS THE RE-WRITING OF HISTORY - Karl Marx.
54 years after Merdeka and 63 years after the declaration of insurrection by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) we are once again being taunted - this time by a rising clamour from Friends of Chin Peng (FOCP) for the canonization of the terrorist Lim Chin Peng (LCP), the leader of the MCP since 1940. Some of the voices are hesitant and timorous; others are loud and self-righteous.
The champions are both local and foreign. Sharing the same bandwagon are academics, historians, Salon-Lefties, dinosaur Marxist-Leninists, 'radical' writers, young wannabe revolutionaries, slick journalists, opportunistic politicians and a motley crew of Political Fashionistas.
They have woven a fabric of myths around LCP and his Party.
1. The first myth is that LCP, who led the bloody insurrection from 1948-1960 and again from 1967-1989 is a national hero who deserved the status of Malaya's foremost, if not the first freedom fighter, our liberator from British Imperialism. Dr Chen Man Hin (DAP Life Advisor) for one, regards LCP as a 'freedom fighter'. LCP's champions all agree his return to Malaya should be granted and lauded.
Really? Let's look a little more deeply into the matter. Let's examine the context of that critical period after the Second World War.
In February 1946 Stalin declared that for as long as capitalist societies existed, wars were inevitable. Then in March 1946 Churchill coined the term 'The Iron Curtain' and asked that all English speaking countries should stand together against Communism.
And Mao Tse-Tung, whose Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did not gain victory until 1949 responded; "world war should be avoided but there should be no compromise towards internal conflicts".
The Cold War had begun.
In Malaya, of course, 1946 also witnessed a huge protest by the Malays against MacMichael's Malayan Union, which would have reduced the Malays to a minority people in their homeland and lose them their political clout as well. This period also saw the formation of UMNO. As in other colonial territories, the worm was beginning to turn, but not without severe complications.
During WW2, LCP and the MCP fought with the British against the Japanese. Their participation in the MPAJA (Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army) has often been extolled as the Communists' unstinting loyalty and sacrifice in Malaya to expel the Japanese. Indeed, after the War the British awarded medals to LCP and other CPM leaders for their services.
They were not of course the only ones who deserved such recognition for defending Malaya and Singapore: remember Lt. Adnan Saidi and his platoon from the Malay Regiment who paid a heavy price with their lives fighting the Japanese at Pasir Panjang Ridge, Singapore. It took some time before history text books in Singapore were willing to acknowledge the Malay Regiment's ultimate sacrifice.
However, there is one difference between this and the MCP's commitment in the MPAJA. The Malay Regiment were in battle for the sovereignty of their tanah air. LCP was not fighting as a patriot of Malaya but as a revolutionary inspired by the wider world vision of Communism and by the humiliation that smaller Japan had inflicted on larger China from the 1930s.
The MPAJA were motivated by their hatred of the Japanese and what they did to China after the 1937 invasion. And when the Chinese in Singapore and Malaya were picked upon by the Japanese during Occupation, it was a continuation of the violence and hostility already evident in China. The bitter enmity and violence of the Sino-Japanese War had been transplanted to Occupied Malaya, to Ma-Rai-Ee.
After all, the Nanyang (Overseas) Chinese had rallied to the call of the Motherland from both the nationalist Kuomintang and the CCP for help and aid. Anti-Japanese supporters ranged from ordinary people to millionaires like Tan Kah Kee, known as the Rubber King of Malaya and Singapore who managed to get enough funding for the Chinese Air Force to buy 13 fighter planes. Incidentally, Tan departed for Indonesia to escape the wrath of the Japanese. The Chinese in Singapore boycotted Japanese goods and even Chinese trishaw riders refused to accept Japanese passengers. Committees like the China Salvation Movement were set up to collect donations from rich merchants and ordinary workers who were committed enough to give regular monthly contribution. Some even volunteered to leave their jobs and families to serve as motor mechanics and drivers in transporting war materials.
But if loyalty to China was a matter of blood, it was also a matter of ideology. And when LCP and MCP 'served' in the MPAJA and later turned to armed insurrection in 1948 to begin the People's Revolutionary War, he was fighting as a soldier in the service of both blood and ideology.
So, when the British decided to team up with the Communists in the MPAJA, they became in effect, the patron and godfather of the coming 1948 Emergency. Both had the same war objectives but different post-war intentions. By 1943, the MPAJA-cum-MCP already had a strategy to set up the People's Republic of Malaya; and by 1945 there were already 10,000 well-trained, well-armed and disciplined Chinese Communist soldiers in the Malayan jungle.
2. A second strand of myth claimed by the FOCPs is that the insurrection precipitated Malayan independence. If it wasn't for the Emergency the British would not have given Malaya her independence in 1957!! This was also LCP's adamant stand. And so to that extent, they say LCP should be recognized as the father of Malayan independence.
Well, British interest in Malaya was part of a larger design than merely responding to Lim Chin Peng.
Britain may have won the Second World War but 1945 marked the start of the decline of "the Empire on which the sun never sets". It had been bombed-out, the country's infrastructure was damaged, there was not much left in the coffers. One by one the colonies got an independence of sorts: India/Pakistan in 1947, Ceylon in 1948, Malaya and Ghana in 1957, Tanzania in 1961, Uganda 1962. Only Kenya's independence was preceded by rebellion, to thwart the agenda of the White Settlers. The leader of the Mau Mau rebellion Kimathi, was captured, executed and buried in an unmarked grave. That was how the British dealt with their coloured dissidents. Even their home-grown traitor Lord Haw Haw was hung for his pro-German broadcasts during WW2 and buried in an unmarked grave.
But imagine, if the MCP had succeeded in establishing a People's Republic of Malaya - it would be similar to the American War of Independence when the non-indigenous white colonists fought the British for independence, to the considerable disadvantage of the Natives. There would be one big difference of course; Malaya would become a dollar-earner satellite state (or another province) of the People's Republic of China. We would have to practise the adulation of the great leader Lim Chin Peng and Lim's Little Red Book would be in every home.
3. A third strand of the myth is that LCP and MCP had strong Malay support. Few academics could deny that one major reason for the failure of the insurrection in Malaya was the refusal of the great majority of the Malays to participate, either physically or spiritually, with Communism and the MCP. Even that pioneer of Indonesian Communism, Tan Malaka gve up trying to recruit the Malays in the 1920s.
Basically Malays do not relish being led by 'foreigners'. British Colonial authority was tolerated only because the Council of Malay Rulers backed British Administration. There were of course many Malay nationalists and leftists who were anti-British but they did not see the MCP as an ally.
The lack of Malay support is a weak link in the FOCP's attempt to legitimise LCP and the MCP. They needed to find ways to suggest that the insurrection was multi-ethnic. They wrote articles like........
...... to support their cynical agenda. For every Abdullah CD one can easily locate thousands of Malays whose fathers and brothers and husbands were killed fighting the Communists.
But there is one fact that LCP's champions are loathe to accept and expand. Membership in the MCP and the Malayan Peoples Liberation Army (MPLA), the militant wing of the MCP was unquestionably over 90% Chinese.
So too was the Min Yuen (the People's Movement), a most potent wing of LCP's insurrection. These were Commmunist soldiers without uniform and wages who played a crucial role as a support network, living and working for their ideology among the general populace. Out of 30,000 to 40,000 members, 90% were Chinese, made up mainly of the labouring and squatter classes with the rest from Chinese school teachers and students and professionals.
The Chinese squatters played a decisive role during the Emergency.
At the beginning of the insurrection there were about 500,000 Chinese squatters (15% of the Peninsula's population in 1951) living on the fringes of the jungle, especially on the west coast states of the Peninsula. In Johor for example, squatters occupied 40,000 acres of land growing vegetables for Johor and Singapore.
|This is from my Primary School Malay Language textbook. What is most revealing are sentences 5, 6, 7 and 8..|
There were also Malay and Indian squatters among them but their numbers are negligible. Of course, not all 500,000 were keen on aiding the insurrection but the 'strong-armed' tactics of Min Yuen in extracting food and money and information for the MPLA made certain that the squatters kept the guerillas ticking over. Also these squatters were not sure that the British could win this 'war' and hence decided 'to go with the flow'. So effective were the Min Yuen in sustaining the Revolution that by 1951, 200 police and civilians were killed each month - the authorities were fighting a war with shadows they could not pin down.
The Briggs plan to resettle such squatters into New Villages was a device to break the hold of the Communists on their major source of survival. The objectives and implementation of this scheme make up another story. Most versions relate to the ruthlessness of the scheme and the impositions on the squatters. However, rural Malays of that period also had their woes but they were largely untold.
Why was membership in the MCP, the MPLA, the Min Yuen strongly Chinese dominated? Perhaps we need to look into the cultural make-up of the emigrants.
Even before the 1920s and up to the present, the Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore and in the rest of Southeast Asia had a remarkable and admirable (depending from which end of the telescope you're looking at) sense of oneness, of a common identity wherever they were in their 'diaspora'. Only recently (1 Oct 2011) Joceline Tan wrote in The Star , " Chinese from Malaysia and Singapore may see themselves as cousins......" in the wake of Lim Guan Eng's disparaging remarks in Singapore about another state (Johor) in his own country.
They regard one another as tong pao or 'of the same womb'. And in that context, in Southeast Asia especially, the umbilical cord between the MCP, KMT, and CCP then, and the Nanyang Chinese and PRC (Communist China) and ROC (Taiwan) today cannot be severed.
The economic prowess of the Nanyang Chinese and their kin connections in Southeast Asia are almost legendary. This blood loyalty between colonial emigrants - and between colonial emigrants and mother-country - has been a strong factor in the economic success of the Nanyang Chinese. But it was a matter of networks rather than genetics alone, as Joe Studwell suggests in his Asian Godfathers: Money and Power in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. He 'dismisses the common assertion that being Chinese confers an unusually high potential for economic success, showing that the predominance of ethnic Chinese among the godfathers devolves from the colonial era and emigration patterns rather than genetics'.
Lim Chin Peng as Malayan Hero : A Malay View
In this crusade for the resurrection of LCP, his adherents are keen to quote past Malay PMs and other senior Malay voices to bolster their cause. These Malays speak for themselves. Malays reckon they are being harried to adjust and change their opinions to fit into the FOCPs box - to have to cut their coat according to other people's size and cloth.
Just think for a moment. Malay feelings about the Chinese Communists and the insurrection have a lot in common with Chinese feelings about the Japanese in the 1920s and 1930s.
The ousting of the Communists cost the deaths of 1,346 Malayan troops and police (albeit including a minority of non-Malays). In comparison, British and Commonwealth fatalities were about 519. The Malays were not incidental casualties - they enrolled in the Police Force, the Special Constabulary, the Home Guard, the Malay Regiment and as British Army Malayan Soldiers (BAMS), making a stand to defend the tanah pusaka.
All the insurrection did was to aggravate the tension between the two races and intensify the hostility and mistrust. It is not up to only the Malays, but also the Chinese and others to face and talk squarely about the causes, the effects and the repercussions of this dark, bloody history.
Promoting the wishes and woes of one man, without consideration of the wider tapestry of lives blighted during the insurrection aggravate the dissensions and serves only to 'menanggok di air yang keroh'.
Malaysia's big neighbour Indonesia often scorns the way Malaya's/Malaysia's independence was seemingly handed on a silver platter. They tend to ignore the bloody price paid by this country's people and especially the Police and Armed Forces to uphold its peace and sovereignty during the Emergency from 1948-1960, from 1967-1989 and during Konfrontasi.
|My father and his students from the Malayan Police Force (I'm not too sure about this) attending the Hygiene Assistants' Course at Nee Soon, circa 1950s|
Turun ka-sawah memakai tudong,
Padi di-huma layu lengkesa;
Sa-ekor sawa (ular) sa-ekor tedong,
Bersama2 mengadu bisa.
Then of course, came the sequel, another insurrection between 1967-1989, (which had the encouragement and blessings of the People's Republic of China's Chairman Deng Xiaopeng) which was fought almost entirely by Malaysians.
This campaign to resurrect LCP, so that he can expire peacefully in his bed in his 'hometown' and be buried next to his father, will most certainly persist. We are fed selective pictures of a smiling, jolly-looking, rotund elderly man, looking like our taukeh kedai runcit who has been living just next door to us for the last 40 years. How could anyone have the heart to deny this simple wish of a man who "at the tender age of 18" (Susan Loone's paean to LCP) joined the CPM, conjuring an image of an innocent choir boy?
There are many men with fewer bloody culpabilities who would not dare to hope for such a benign end.
When the man finally meets his Maker, I predict Friends of Chin Peng and especially the Political Fashionistas will be parading in T-shirts, or ribbons or wrist bands or bandanas adorned with Lim Chin Peng's image and words like Che Chin Peng, a la Che Guevara. Green caps decorated with a red star (or 3 red stars) will be the latest 'must-haves' to demonstrate solidarity with their cause celebre and to vaunt their liberal humanitarianism.
But then perhaps it is all to the good this way. What an ignominious fate it would be for the man who wanted to be Chairman Lim Chin Peng of the People's Republic of Malaya - to end as a mere fashion statement.
NB: All three pantun were taken from Kalong Bunga Buku 1, oleh Za'ba, 1964 (DBP)