BLOOD ON HIS HANDS: Chin Peng was master of mayhem, bent on destroying democracy
IN his memoir, the late Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) leader Chin Peng suggested that his beef with Malaya, and then Malaysia, was largely ideological in nature. And in the thick tome, one would be hard-pressed to look for a single incident of bloodshed.
This attempt at rewriting and re-interpreting history is common in self-serving biographies, but, unfortunately for Ong Boon Hua, which was his given name, there were also other books, such as The War of the Running Dogs, as well as thousands of anecdotal evidence that suggest his and CPM's quest for political control was in effect a reign of terror.
His was a desire to make Malaya, and later Malaysia, a communist satellite state, beholden and subservient to foreign powers. And he tried to convince the citizenry with bullets and bombs.
Let it be known that the Emergency, which officially began in 1948 when three European planters were killed in Sungai Siput, Perak, by CPM, was for all intents and purposes a war.
However, for insurance reasons, perhaps to lower the premium for the scores of mines and plantations in Malaya, the British government decided to call it an "Emergency".
This description decidedly dulled the perception of the situation then, and now, too, especially among revisionists, who argue that some people are making too much of the ideological scuffle with CPM.
Yet, considering the fact that the colonial government then had to mobilise troops from the Commonwealth, from as far as Fiji and Nepal, not to mention Britain, Australia and New Zealand; that Britain spent a million pounds a day to fund the Emergency; and, of course, the true measure of arms conflict being the casualties, with reports suggesting that the 12-year Emergency saw 10,000 or so Malayan and Commonwealth troops, policemen and civilians killed, the new nation was indeed at war.
Even after the Emergency officially ended in 1960, CPM continued to terrorise, including assassinating then inspector-general of police Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim in 1974 and Perak police chief Tan Sri Khoo Chong Kong a year later.
Yet, there are those who continue to claim that Chin Peng is a national hero on the account that he was a member of the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army during the Japanese Occupation in World War 2.
Yes, he was, but so were tens of thousands of others who resisted the Japanese, as well as those who later sought independence from the British government.
Yet, they did so without seeking to undermine a fragile Malaya that had just gained independence. Chin Peng and CPM, on the other hand, tried to destroy the democratic and political foundations that formed the basis of the newly independent country. He did so by murdering and terrorising the citizens of Malaya.
Chin Peng decided on another path for the country. He had a different vision of what it should be and he believed in convincing the citizens through the barrel of a gun.
In 1989, when a treaty was signed between CPM and the Malaysian government, CPM members were offered amnesty if they applied to come home within a year. More than 300 former communists did, but not Chin Peng, for whatever reasons he had.
Even if the scales of history are charitable to Chin Peng's legacy, it will surely weigh heavier on the fact that he was a menace to the country.
He was the architect of destruction and master of mayhem, bent on destroying democracy.
It would be just for history to judge him unkindly as he and CPM had blood on their hands. Now that he is dead, the debate that he is a hero or not, has resurfaced. Some genuinely believe him to be so, while others, letting politics rule their senses, merely goad on rivals.
Yet, let his death be a closure of sorts for the dark period in the country's history. The man has such a divisive effect on us that there is not much to be gained by bringing him up again, or his ashes to these shores.
Undoubtedly, he is part of our history, warts and all. Now that he is dead, let us close the chapter and move on.
Zainul Arifin Md Isa firstname.lastname@example.org is the head of Media Prima’s new media arm The New Straits Times Online Columnist 18 September 2013