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Thread: History: Chin Peng die at age 90 in Bangkok, 16th Sept 2013

  1. #1
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    Oct 2008

    History: Chin Peng die at age 90 in Bangkok, 16th Sept 2013

    A Malaysia Day Letter to Chin Peng - Boon Kia Meng

    SEPTEMBER 16, 2013
    LATEST UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 16, 2013 10:25 PM

    Dear Chin Peng,

    Today is Malaysia Day, the 50th year of our Federation’s existence as a nation. On this day, which was passing by quietly, we received news of your passing in Bangkok at 6.20 am. We could have wished that your last hopes of being able to return to the homeland which you were born and defended with your youth, would actually come to pass. Sadly, that was not to be and death in exile was to be your lot in life, at 90 years of age.

    Your death on this day raises many questions about the meaning and direction for Malaysia, at this crucial juncture in her history. We were an exploited colonial outpost of the great British Empire, perhaps not as rich and prized as colonial India, but still remarkable in generating the wealth needed to put Britain back on her feet after the catastrophic consequences of World War II, with huge amounts of debt hanging over her head.

    “Malaya, your rubber and tin, your timber and trade.” For their extraction, Britain can count on poor coolies from China, and indentured labour from India, not to mention the Malay peasantry to supply the food for the working masses, whilst the rulers and the elite receive ‘protection’ under the treaties.

    Though I may never fully understand your motivations, why you gave your life to the struggle against the British, surely the horrid and terrible conditions of labour and peasantry under the colonialism of that time gives us some important clues as to why you acted as you did.

    Today I will stop my ears from listening to official statements, public condemnations by the powers that be. There is no end to the controversies as to the truth of which historical version is more compelling. For once, since I happened to be in Ipoh, I decided to take a walk around the city, looking for places where you used to hang out in the heady 40s.

    We all know you were a Malayan born in Sitiawan, and you gave the years of your youth to the resistance effort against the Japanese. I wanted to feel and move in the spaces where you may have occupied, however briefly those years were, compared with the long years of struggle in the jungles and later exile in south Thailand.

    I decided to find the famous clinic belonging to Sybil Kathigasu and her husband at 141, Brewster Road (today, Jalan Sultan Idris Shah). I remember reading an account of your experience seeking treatment there, in one of your memoirs, in a blog (

    I will let those notes speak for themselves, with some minor modifications for the present letter:

    “At the end of 1941, you (Chin Peng) were hiding out in an attap hut outside Lahat, a few miles from Ipoh where the underground communist newspaper ‘Humanity News’ was printed. A few weeks before the Japanese landed in Thailand and northern Malaya, you suffered a nasty bout of malaria. A comrade insisted that you go to a doctor. You said that the best, who dealt with all his patients with equal care, whatever their race or status, was Dr Kathigasu. He was already well known and admired by local communists because the Brewster Street surgery was close to a Chinese-owned foundry and Dr. Kathigasu had frequently treated sick or injured workers. He did not charge extortionate fees. The doctor had, you noted, pictures of the Indian nationalists Gandhi and Nehru pinned on his surgery wall. While you were waiting, you had a brief glimpse of the famous ‘Mrs K’ (Sybil). When a dose of liquid quinine failed to reduce your fever, Dr. Kathigasu insisted that you go to hospital – and it was from a hospital bed that you heard that Japanese troops had landed at Kota Bahru. A few days later Ipoh was bombed and the Kathigasus fled to Papan, a one street tin mining town on the edge of the jungle, where they set up at 74 Main Road.”

    We all knew the huge price that Sybil Kathigasu paid for her act of resistance against the Japanese, and you did too, in your own way with the MPAJA. I found the address on Brewster Road, and in a strange, melancholic way, as I was pacing around the street in that old part of Ipoh, the image of you meeting the Kathigasus in the closed space of the clinic, summed up well the meaning of living our lives fully present to the historical challenges of one’s own time and place.

    Perhaps this is what the philosopher Walter Benjamin meant when he wrote in his brilliant ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’: “The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again… For every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably.”

    So in a strange and ironic way, your death today confronts Malaysia and all her citizens (including the ruling classes) with an existential crisis. It is a crisis of identity, for that which shapes who we are is inextricably tied to what we choose to remember or choose to forget, as a people. It has to do with the terrible experiences of trauma in our shared historical past and collective psyche.

    How we choose to deal with the truth will determine our destiny in the coming days ahead. The psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced her famous ‘five stages of grief’ when a human being faces up with the reality of one’s impending death. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance.

    Today you faced up to your death in exile, perhaps something which you have already accepted for some time, as you lived out your remaining years in Thailand, peacefully. The challenge is now for Malaysians to do the same.

    Will our leaders continue their childish and impudent ways of denying the necessary opacity of historical truth, or they may continue to lash out with senseless anger at any group or personality that they imagine could threaten their hold on political power, or try to wheel and deal their way out of the disconcerting developments within Malaysian society.

    Perhaps at 50, Malaysia requires a bout of depression to lead us out of our false attachments and self-aggrandisement as a nation, before finally accepting the real truth of what we really are as a people, where the welfare of the weakest among us reveals the most about what is truly great about being Malaysian.

    Thank you, Saudara Chin Peng, for the life you lived, the struggles you waged for Malayan liberation. May your death finally bring peace to a nation still troubled and uneasy with our historical past.

    In solidarity with you and your family. – September 16, 2013.

    *Boon Kia Meng reads The Malaysian Insider.

    * This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    How history lies. Isn't it ironic? The hero is the villian and the villian is the hero!

    I was looking for this article for a long time.

    Wednesday, September 18, 2013

    DIA PENGKHIANAT: Apa logiknya, di mana relevannya Abdul Razak Hussien disemadikan di Makam Pahlawan?


    Apa logiknya, di mana relevannya;
    Abdul Razak Hussien disemadikan di Makam Pahlawan?

    Tercatat dalam lipatan sejarah, Jepun pernah menyerang Malaya dan menjajah Tanah Melayu. Sejarah juga membukti, tempoh penjajahan Jepun, ramai rakyat Malaya ketika itu hidup dalam kepayahan akibat penindasan pentadbiran Jepun. Justeru, dicatatsejarahkan sesiapa yang bersekongkol dengan pentadbiran Jepun semasa pemerintahannya di Tanah Melayu ketika itu sebagai pengkhianat kepada agama, bangsa dan negara.

    Gambar di atas yang tersimpan di muzium negara membuktikan betapa pengkhianatan nyata oleh bapa Datuk Seri Najib Razak terhadap Tanah Melayu kerna penglibatannya secara langsung dalam latihan ketenteraan Jepun.

    Ketika rakyat Tanah Melayu susah dan menderita akibat penaklukan Jepun dan disaat rakyat marhean dan para komunis berjuang menggadai nyawa untuk membebaskan Tanah Melayu daripada penjajahan tentera Jepun, pemuda bernama Abdul Razak bin Hussien, bapa kepada Najib bin Razak, dengan bangganya bersekongkol dengan tentera Jepun mengkhianati hasrat rakyat untuk memerdekakan Tanah Melayu.

    Sedarlah wahai anak bangsa Malaysia tercinta, jasad Abdul Razak bin Hussien yang telah disemadikan di Makam Pahlawan bersebelahan Masjid Negara sebenarnya seorang yang pernah menjadi pengkhianat negara lantaran persekongkolannya dalam latihan tentera Jepun sewaktu Jepun menjajah Tanah Melayu..

    Demi masa depan Agama, bangsa dan negara

    (Tun Abdul Razak when he is receiving japan military training during World War 2)

    The Hidden Truth: When Chin Ping and the rakyat miskin is busy fighting the Japanese during World War 2, (WW2) to protect our Tanah Melayu, our former Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak is receiving his special training with the Japanese ARMY !!! As Malaysian is our duty to share the true historical fact out !!.


    Kalau Chin Ping yang berjuang menentang Jepun untuk membebaskan negara daripada penjajahandianggap sebagai pengkhainat, apakah gilanya sejarah negara bila menganggap Abdul Razak Hussein yang jelas bersama tentera penjajah sebagai pahlawan?

    Sekiranya abu mayat mendiang Chin Ping dilarang dibawa masuk ke negara ini, maka, apa logiknya dan di mana relevannya jenazah Abdul Razak Hussien disemadikan di Makam Pahlawan?


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Chin Peng, an obituary

    Chin Peng OBE


    Chin Peng, born Ong Boon Hua, 21 October 1924 to 16 September 2013

    The passing of Chin Peng in Bangkok on 16 September 2013 brings to an end one of the longest of Asian political biographies. Chin Peng became the Secretary General and effective leader of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), the country’s oldest political party, in 1947 when he was only 22. He retained that position for the next 60 years, indeed until his death, even though the party became divided, moribund and irrelevant around him. Long after communism ceased to be a threat to Malaysia he was refused permission to return to the country of his birth (unless he publicly recanted all his views) and so he remained an exile.

    The scars of that period have not healed. The role of communists in fighting first Japanese and later British for control of Malaya is scarcely recognised in Malaysian textbooks and public memory. Many Chinese and a few radical Malays remain unnecessarily alienated from the Malaysian establishment, and it from them, while an important but polarised chapter in Malaysia-China relations remains off the table, unable to be discussed by either side. Chin Peng himself spent much of his later life attempting to explain and defend what he called ‘My Side of History’. One hopes that his removal from the scene, after having his say, may make the integration of a very divided history a little easier.

    Just why Chin Peng came to lead Malayan communism so early in his life has much to do with accidents of his family upbringing and schooling. Although essentially educated in the Chinese medium like the overwhelming majority of Malayan communist recruits, he had just enough English education at the beginning and end of this period to be comfortable, if a little hesitant, in English. His elder brother and his equally committed communist wife were English-educated. In the crisis that endangered the party in 1947, when its long-term Secretary General Lai Tek was discovered to have worked for both Japanese and British and was assassinated by the Party, Chin Peng was well placed politically to succeed, not least because his English enabled him to talk to other communities. Indeed the early years of his leadership marked a striking reorientation of the Party to being ‘Malayan’, and looking for non-Chinese recruits, rather than a branch of the Chinese party.

    As a teenager he had already taken a leading part in the communist-supported Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), the most effective armed resistance to the Japanese in Malaya. With a half-dozen other communists in the resistance he was decorated by Mountbatten in 1946. But in May 1948, as the Federation of Malaya structure disappointed non-Malay hopes for a post-war democratic order, as the British increasingly cracked down on left-wing activists, and as both sides in what became the global Cold War hardened their international stance, Chin Peng led the communists back to the jungle in armed insurrection. The Malayan Emergency which followed was a long and ruinous guerilla struggle, involving troops from Britain, Australia and New Zealand as well as Malaya. Progress to independence was speeded to deprive the communists of their most powerful anti-colonial argument. Once the government that would carry the Federation of Malaya to independence was in place, led by the genial prince Tunku Abdul Rahman, a meeting was arranged at which the Tunku could try to persuade Chin Peng to give up the struggle since its nominal object of independence was achieved. Chin Peng proved clear and persuasive at the 1955 Baling talks in Kedah, but insisted that he could only bring his men out of the jungle to lay down their arms if they were allowed to enter the political process as a legal party. Under British advice the Tunku would not agree to this, or indeed to any significant concession to the communists once they surrendered. The talks failed, and all they had changed was to provide the Malayan/Malaysian public with an image of their “enemy”–a slim soft-spoken figure who vanished from sight as suddenly as he arrived.

    Malaya duly became independent in 1957, to be followed in 1963 by a broader Malaysia involving also Chinese-majority Singapore and the multi-ethnic British Borneo territories. The fortunes of the MCP in the jungle gradually declined in face of an effective containment strategy, and an increasingly prosperous independent Malaya. The MCP withdrew its central operations base to the Thai border region in 1953, to ease the military pressure. At the end of 1960, with his force shrunk from over 7,000 to fewer than 2,000 men, Chin Peng left his jungle hideout for a mammoth journey to Beijing via Thailand, Laos and northern Vietnam. There he was an honoured guest of the Chinese government for almost 20 years, though still controlling the Party’s radio station in Hunan and by proxies the party on the Thai border. This was a troubled time, including the Cultural Revolution in China and its counterproductive extremism in relations with the rest of the world. Chin Peng survived, but the unity of his party did not. The internal purges in the party became severe in the late 1960s especially, with perhaps 200 executions of alleged spies and traitors. In 1970 two factions broke away from the Chin Peng mainstream, forming the Revolutionary Faction and the Marxist-Leninist Faction respectively. In 1983 they merged to form the Malaysian Communist Party, recognising the new politics of Malaysia as the older party would not. China’s growing warmth towards Malaysia after diplomatic relations were established in 1974 meant that the MCP no longer had real support from Beijing for its armed struggle. Reconciliation should have occurred then, but each of the three parties –Chin Peng and the Chinese and Malaysian governments—had their own reasons for preferring a frozen status quo to any public change of position. Only in December 1989 did the Thais broker a peace agreement between the Malaysian Government and the MCP, whereby the few hundred remaining communists laid down their arms and settled as cultivators in southern Thailand. Chin Peng was no longer an asset to China, and lived thereafter primarily in Thailand.

    Long-standing MCP habits of illegality and clandestinity were gradually overcome in the 1990s as governments lost their fear of communism, and Chin Peng himself sought to make his case. Some international journalists found their way to him through Thai military contacts, and articles began appearing from 1997. One of the enterprising journalists was Bangkok-based Australian Tony Paul. He finally managed to meet Chin Peng at the British Club in Bangkok in 1997, and encouraged his interest in writing his memoirs, in a place better served with libraries than his normal residence near Haadyai. On his behalf Tony Paul contacted David Chandler at Monash, and then Merle Ricklefs at ANU, who delegated the matter to me. As a result Chin Peng made his first visit to Australia and New Zealand (having nephews both in Sydney and Auckland), in the course of which I took him to lunch in Canberra on 3 February 1998. He was remarkably affable, charming and thoughtful, revealing nothing of the steely side that must have enabled him to survive the lurches in the Chinese and Soviet lines over his time in charge of Malayan communism. I invited him to return for a month as a visitor at ANU working on his memoirs, in return for which we would hope for a rather intense seminar working over the history of the MCP with some experts.

    A year later he was installed in the Coombs Building at ANU behind a door discreetly labeled Mr B.H. Ong. The ANU did not fund his visit, so he stayed with Mr C.C. Chin, omniscient chronicler of the MCP, who at that time was hoping to write an ANU PhD on the subject under my supervision. He charmed both his old antagonists and the students who gathered to hear him reminisce about “Why I became a communist”. On 22-23 February we organised a workshop under the auspices of the newly-formed Centre for the Study of the Chinese Southern Diaspora, where some 20 scholars grilled him about the key decisions and turning points of his long career. Everything would be on the table, he agreed, except the two most sensitive areas for him – the internal disputes of the party and its relations with the Chinese Party. Among those gathered for this remarkable occasion were not only the leading historians of the Malayan Emergency and the MCP –Cheah Boon Kheng, Yoji Akashi, Peter Edwards, Hara Fujio, Anthony Short, Richard Stubbs and Yong Chin Fatt—but several participants who had fought against him, notably Lt.General John Coates of the Australian Army, Leon Comber of the Special Branch, Malayan Police, and John Leary of the Malayan Scouts. The exchanges were cordial and fascinating. On the whole his memory was better that most of those in the room, and his thoughtfulness in reflecting on the issues was second to none.

    At the end of a remarkable two days of exchanges, revelations, and critiques, Chin Peng made some interesting personal observations.

    Since the beginning of the ‘90s I think and think it over whether I made mistakes or not, whether my belief in communism is wrong or not. …. At least I think my conviction to seek an equal society, that was what communism meant—to seek an equal and just society—I think that is not wrong. …And I think that human society will move on. It will take perhaps another millennium to achieve this fully, or to fundamentally achieve this.
    Secondly, about the military defeat…

    We were defeated in a sense, we did not realise our goal to set up a government dominated by communists. Or, in our terms, a people’s democracy. But we didn’t [experience] defeat in forcing the British to grant independence to Malaya. Without our struggle, I don’t think the British would grant independence to Malaya. Or it will be many years later…. I don’t think we were humiliated. At least I never surrender, and at least I feel proud, not for me, for our movement, for all those supporters. We can carry on a struggle, a military struggle for twelve years against a major power…This is the longest, the largest scale guerilla warfare in the British Empire, in the twentieth century. [1]
    Chin Peng had shown that he was as adept at handling a group of expert academic antagonists as his own hardened guerrillas and the international forces ranged against him. Although the transcript of this exchange was eventually published, he also sought a more controlled version of his story, as related to Ian Ward and Norma Miraflow in My Side of History (Singapore: Media Masters, 2003). In October 2004 he was able to visit Singapore, to give a seminar and quietly meet the next most enduring regional politician, Lee Kuan Yew. That was also the last time I would see him. But despite several attempts he was never able to return to Malaysia.

    [1] Dialogues with Chin Peng: New Light on the Malayan Communist Party, ed. C.C. Chin and Karl Hack (Singapore: NUS Press, 2004), pp.234-5.

    Anthony Reid is Emeritus Professor and Visiting Fellow at the Department of Political & Social Change, School of International, Political & Strategic Studies at the Australian National University.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Chin Peng and cleavages in Malaysian society


    Revolutionary leadership is a hard row to hoe. While respect and even occasionally adulation may be enjoyed among one’s own followers, it is vitriol and denigration which are the most common responses to any efforts made to forcibly change political regimes. And when revolutions are unsuccessful, the forces of the establishment will, almost without exception, vituperate those who led them. This is certainly the case with Chin Peng (the nom de guerre of Ong Boon Hwa), who led the Communist Party of Malaya (and then Malaysia) (CPM) as its Secretary General from 1947 until his death in a Bangkok hospital on 16 September 2013.

    Establishment figures have been quick with their denunciations. Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak noted that: “We will not allow him to be buried in Malaysia because of the black history he had created,” while Ibrahim Ali, head of the supremacist group Perkasa, clearly reflected the perceived danger of Chin Peng’s memory to the UMNO party-state when he averred “People like Chin Peng must be erased from history, from being known by people, especially the younger generation.” Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi advised that Putrajaya did not want his remains interred in the country as it could lead to a memorial dedicated to him.

    But the reactions to his passing have certainly not been solely those of state vilification. PAS Sepang MP Mohamed Hanipa Maidin referred to Chin Peng as “an independence fighter,” while Kedah PAS leader Fadzil Baharom travelled to Bangkok to offer his condolences. MCA vice-president Gan Ping Sieu urged that Chin Peng’s ashes be allowed to be returned to Malaysia, while Thai former prime minister General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh was key guest at the cremation. Retired Thai generals who attended his cremation lauded Chin Peng as “Malaysia’s version of Myanmar’s Aung San, Indonesia’s Soekarno and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh.” Even the former Inspector-General of Police in Malaysia, Abdul Rahim Noor, who had negotiated with Chin Peng in 1989, noted that Malaysia would be a laughing stock if it did not allow Chin Peng’s ashes into the country.

    The diversity of responses to Chin Peng’s death and assessments of how the man and his party should be remembered in Malaysian history have constituted a virtual online civil war, reflecting many of the social fissures and political cleavages within the country. While a whole spectrum of opinions has been expressed, two basic strands can be distilled — that Chin Peng was a traitor and terrorist who tried to destroy Malaysia and brought death to many, or that he was a freedom fighter who tried to liberate the country and achieve social justice within it.

    The agendas of Chin Peng were indeed diverse over time and, before further assessing how relevant any of the present-day interpretations of the man are, it might be worth briefly examining what Chin Peng was seeking to achieve at various stages of his life. His earliest recorded political involvement occurred during his middle school years in his home state of Perak where, in 1937, he joined activities which were aimed at opposing the Japanese occupation of China and professed a wish to travel to China to fight against the Japanese forces there. At this time the CPM, which organised the anti-Japanese activities, was promoting a “Malayan People’s United Front of all nationalities,” in order to “realize a Malayan Democratic Republic.”

    In 1940 Chin Peng joined the party and was placed in charge of the local underground newspaper Humanity News. While the party was local, its concerns as reflected in this journal were indeed international and the Fascism of both Europe and Asia were key aspects of concern. The subsequent key role of the CPM, through the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army, in opposing the Japanese in Malaya post-December 1941 and in assisting the British special forces in Malaya throughout WWII is well-known and needs no rehearsing here. Following the Japanese surrender in 1945, while being awarded an OBE by the British for wartime assistance, Chin Peng was also promoted to the CPM’s Central Military Committee and was tasked with implementing a policy of “open democratic struggle” involving “the unity of the three races” in pursuit of self-rule in Malaya.

    In some ways, this is what the British were also intending with the implementation of the Malayan Union in 1946, which sought to create a peninsular Malayan polity rather than a Malay-dominated state. This provided for equal citizenship for all races of the peninsula and reduction of the powers of the feudal rulers. However, through subsequent opposition from the new-created UMNO, paternalism within the Colonial Office and growing British Cold War fears, between 1947 and 1948 the Malayan Union was completely reversed and replaced by the Federation of Malaya – an arrangement deliberated upon only with the sultans and UMNO — which provided for a special place for the Malays in the new state and a revived role for the sultans. As this new framework for Malay ethnocracy was being drawn up, Chin Peng assumed leadership of the CPM in 1947 following the flight of the British agent Lai Tek. It was quickly recognised that the new political arrangements being instituted by the British essentially precluded any possibility of the CPM gaining power through constitutional means.

    Whether it was mainly this which led to the CPM under Chin Peng planning and launching a rebellion (aka revolutionary war) in mid-1948 is unclear, but the degree to which British failure to include Chinese and Indian aspirations in the 1948 Constitutional arrangements precipitated the rebellion or encouraged the assistance it was to receive from the Chinese and Indian communities and the Left from all communities remains a key issue for further research.

    Over the 12 years of the Emergency (1948-60), Chin Peng led a revolutionary war against the British and then against independent Malaya. By 1951, it was clear that the CPM could not win a shooting war, and the Central Committee, including Chin Peng, moved from Pahang to southern Thailand. In 1955, as plans for Malayan independence were progressing, the Tunku made a public offer of amnesty to the CPM, which was met by a counter-offer from the party for talks. The subsequent talks in Baling between the Malayan authorities and the CPM, represented by Chin Peng, broke down primarily because the Tunku reneged on a previous undertaking that through surrender CPM members would be able to “enjoy a status that would enable them to fight for independence by constitutional means.” The failure of the talks and the recognition that there was little future in armed struggle saw Chin Peng push in 1957 for further political and ideological work among students across the peninsula, while most of the CPM guerilla fighters regrouped with him at Sadao in southern Thailand.

    The CPM had long been aided at least ideologically by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and in 1960 Secretary-General Chin Peng travelled overland to China, meeting Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi en route. Beijing was already funding other armed revolutions in Southeast Asia and Deng Xiaoping urged Chin Peng to revive armed struggle in Malaya. Somewhat later, efforts were expended on opposing the “Malaysia plan” which the British had implemented to create the new country of Malaysia which would serve as an anti-communist bulwark in Southeast Asia.

    While the second revolutionary war raged in Malaysia, from 1969 Chin Peng created and oversaw the Suara Revolusi Malaya (Voice of the Malayan Revolution), a radio station which broadcast from Hunan in China to Southeast Asia in Mandarin, Malay, Tamil and English. The broadcasts began in the year that riots in Malaysia following the federal election were used as a pretext to invoke martial law and install a National Operations Council, led by Tun Abdul Razak, which further entrenched racially discriminatory systems and practices. In response, the CPM broadcasts urged “people of all nationalities” to unite to overthrow the “semi-feudal Razak clique,” and highlighted the chauvinism and “racial suppression” by the Malaysian government, noting that “The CPM puts forward a programme for a new democratic revolution to ensure racial equality in all respects, oppose racial discrimination and strengthen national unity.” This claim, that the UMNO-led Malaysian government was intrinsically racist and therefore socially unjust continued to be a key claim of the CPM and validated their continued opposition to the Malaysian state. It also earned them considerable support among those who were the losers under the ethnocracy practiced by the UMNO party-state.

    However, in 1981, with PRC support for Southeast Asian communist movements being withdrawn, Deng Xiaoping instructed Chin Peng to close down the CPM radio station. Within the following decade, a succession of talks between the CPM, and the Thai and Malaysian governments explored avenues for the cessation of all CPM functions. During these talks, conditions for the ceasefire set by Chin Peng included the right to form a political party to contest in federal elections in Malaysia, that the Internal Security Act be repealed, that the CPM’s struggle be recognised as a factor in Malayan independence, and that those CPM members desiring to return to Malaysia be allowed to do so. Only the last of these demands was eventually acceded to.

    The peace documents were signed in Haadyai, Southern Thailand on 2 December 1989, and while Chin Peng pledged allegiance to the Malaysian ruler, both he and Abdullah Che Dat (Abdullah CD) urged Malaysians to unite in the cause of social justice. Most veterans of the Malay 10th regiment of the CPM were accepted back into Malaysia, as were Abdullah CD (CPM Chairman) and Rashid Maidin (CPM Central Committee member). However, new conditions involving statements of confession and surrender instituted by Malaysia obstructed the return on many of the Chinese fighters, including Chin Peng. Despite repeated requests, support from the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a court challenge seeking permission to return, the Malaysian government kept Chin Peng out of the country until his death.

    It is likely that this enforced exile gave Chin Peng even more cachet among some people as both a victim and—whether earned or not — as a fighter for both ethnic and social justice in Malaysia. In the period after the signing of the peace accord, Chin Peng certainly did set about trying to create his own history, researching in the British archives, participating in academic seminars on CPM history in Canberra and Singapore, and writing his autobiography “My Side of History.” A film about Chin Peng, “The Last Communist” (2006) by Amir Muhammad, is banned in Malaysia, while a plethora of publications by former CPM guerillas and underground operatives now bring attention to their authors and, albeit not always positively, to the leader of the party. Within these works, in usual Communist parlance, “the struggle” is depicted as an almost sacred duty, with those who died during the Emergency or subsequently being referred to as “martyrs” and “heroes.” There have also been a not insignificant number of statements by members of the Left in and beyond Malaysia claiming that the CPM forces were the real freedom fighters and assessments that Malayan independence in 1957 was brought about by the CPM.

    Chin Peng’s death has brought together a range of opponents of UMNO and its policies, historical and contemporary. The voices of the Old Left, the New Left and the ordinary citizens who feel that they have been excluded from Malaysian society by ethnocratic policies and practices or by UMNO corruption and decadence have found common cause. Even the reputation of the CPM is being publicly rehabilitated by some. P. Ramasamy, deputy chief minister of Penang, has publicly proclaimed that: “Political, social and economic developments in post-war Malaysia would make no sense without any reference to the CPM. The formation of trade unions amongst urban and plantation workers was largely initiated by the CPM. The fight against plantation capital for the improvement of the lives of Tamil workforce was directly inspired by trade unions that came under the influence of the CPM.”

    Malaysia’s Sedition Act provides that actions which “question any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignty or prerogative established or protected by the provisions of part III of the Federal constitution or Article 152, 153 or 181 of the Federal Constitution” are seditious. Open interrogation of ethnic provisions and privilege in Malaysia is thus precluded. But indicating common cause or sympathy with a person who led a party whose rhetoric stressed the equality of all Malaysians and the unmet need for social justice allows the same sentiments to be expressed legally. This reveals why there is so much intensity, anger and angst on the two sides of the Chin Peng assessment debate. It is, in effect, a proxy debate on the future of Malaysia.

    The excesses, violence, purges, and ideological straightjackets of the Communist Party of Malaysia do not necessarily endear it or its members to the New Left. But Chin Peng, perhaps more in death than in life, is being lauded and remembered not as Secretary General of the Communist Party of Malaysia, but as a symbol of opposition both to UMNO privilege and corruption and to the ethnocratic practices which continue to destroy the social fabric of Malaysia. And it is precisely on this basis that UMNO’s vitriolic opposition to Chin Peng, to the repatriation of his ashes, to memorials to him and to a positive historical assessment of the man is such an essential task in validating UMNO privilege and Perkasa’s raison d’etre.

    The Left in Malaysia need symbols around which they can unite and Chin Peng has, through his death, provided such a symbol for this moment.

    Geoff Wade researches historical and contemporary Asian Interactions. He developed the China-ASEAN and China-India Projects at the Centre of Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong and subseqently worked with the Southeast Asia-China Cluster of the Asia Research Institute, NUS before helping to establish the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre of ISEAS, Singapore. He is now Canberra-based.

  5. #5
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    Dec 2013
    Chin Peng was a long-time leader of the Malayan Communist Party. A determined anti-colonialist, he led the party's guerrilla insurgency in the Malayan Emergency, fighting .

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