PETALING JAYA: It was only a week ago that I mentioned his name in a local radio station segment Bersama Wartawan (Together With Journalists). The DJ asked my experience as the first Malaysian journalist to enter a 1.5km tunnel built by the communists at the nation’s border in 1989.
Rather than answering that question, I said I was more speechless at meeting face-to-face the man who was responsible for directing the construction of the tunnel – Chin Peng, the Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).
This was because he was a legend. I read about him in Standard Four.
The 10th regiment: Chin Peng (centre) with members of the CPM (from left) Suriani Abdullah (formerly Eng Ming Ching and wife of Abdullah), Rashid, Abdullah, Abu Samah Mohd Kassim, Ibrahim Chik and Abdullah Sudin at the CPM’s Banglang Camp in Betong, Thailand in 1989.
His name was mentioned several times in the history book as being the communist leader who launched a guerilla warfare against Malaya, and later Malaysia.
On Dec 29, 1955, Chin Peng and CPM regiment commanders Rashid Maidin and Ah Sek came out of the jungles in Baling to hold talks with the then Chief Minister of Malaya Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra.
The talks failed and the communist leaders returned to the jungles.
Thirty-four years later, Chin Peng, Rashid and CPM chairman Abdullah CD emerged from the jungles to sign a peace accord on Dec 2, 1989, to end the insurgency that had claimed over 10,000 lives.
In the early hours of yesterday, Monday, Sept 16, 2013, as Malaysia celebrated its 50th anniversary, news came from Bangkok that Chin Peng had died aged 89. Rashid died in Thailand on Sept 1, 2006, when he was 88 years old.
Songkla and Bangkok were where Chin Peng spent his life after signing the peace accord.
He wanted to return to Malaysia, but met resistance from various quarters, particularly the families of armed forces personnel who perished fighting the CPM members.
Chin Peng’s death evoked memories of my meeting with the CPM leader during the peace treaty signing ceremony.
I was one of hundreds of Malaysian and foreign journalists who had gathered at Haadyai in southern Thailand for the historic moment.
After the signing ceremony, I asked Chin Peng: “Do you and your comrades in this hall (Saim Conference Room, Lee Gardens Hotel) still subscribe to Marxist and Leninist beliefs and understanding?”
Chin Peng glanced at Abdullah and Rashid, and then said: “Yes. We are still communists. We only laid down our arms, but we are still CPM members.
“CPM has not been disbanded. CPM merely ended the confrontation with the government of Malaysia and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.”
Unlike Abdullah and Rashid, Chin Peng, with his round shiny face, did not look like a guerilla.
Thai army intelligence sources told me then that Chin Peng had given orders to the CPM regiments from Beijing in China and not from the jungles of Malaysia or Thailand.
Immediately after the press conference, journalists rushed to Chin Peng, Rashid and Abdullah for their further reactions while thrusting pieces of paper, including money and souvenir booklets for autographs.
Rashid and Abdullah were indifferent, but Chin Peng played the diplomat.
He obliged me with his autograph on a booklet specially made for the ceremony – and he used the same pen with which he signed the peace accord!
The booklet with Chin Peng’s signature is kept in my personal album as a piece of history.ROZAID ABD RAHMAN ROZAID@THESTAR.COM.MY The STAR Online Home News Nation 17 September 2013