MUSLIM cleric Ismail Mina Ahmad is clearly ignorant of the country’s history, especially the period when we fought communist insurgents. He either doesn’t know about the past, is pretending not to know, or is attempting to rewrite history.
Recently, he said that only the Malays had battled British colonists, Japanese occupiers and the communists.
He has now claimed he was misquoted by the press, insisting his statements were deliberately manipulated by the liberal media “to create chaos in the (general) community”.
Ismail said that the issue he highlighted depicts how Bintang Tiga (Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army, aka the communists) killed many Malays, especially during the immediate aftermath of World War II.
The ustaz clarified that the mention of Malays defending our country was “taken out of context” by two reporters covering the event on Jan 13. It’s a wonder how a pair of journalists from different media companies could get it wrong, as he claimed.
And this is precisely the point where history lessons are required, not just for Ismail, but for Malaysians in general as well.
As chairman of the Ummah umbrella group for Muslim organisations, what he says certainly matters, and this is where his reported rhetoric and ignorance is deeply distressing.
I believe I can offer an educated opinion on this issue since I studied history while at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, where I spent time researching the Emergency period from 1948 to 1960.
Let’s start with the basic facts: the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) or Bintang Tiga, mainly comprised Chinese. It shouldn’t be surprising as the Chinese suffered the most at the hands of the Japanese during the war.
Bintang Tiga, as the name suggests, supposedly represented the three main races – Chinese, Malays and Indians – but it clearly was about the Red Star, or communists.
They were not freedom fighters. The MPAJA was a front for the communists.
There were other left-wing Malay organisations which were “facades” for The Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), such as the Malay Nationalist Party and Revolutionary Malay Nationalist Party.
The communists even went to the extent of creating Parti Persaudaraan Islam – Paperi – to carry out activities with religious leanings.
Also, CPM, which the MPAJA evolved into, had Malay leaders such as Abdullah CD, Shamsiah Fakeh, Suriani Abdullah, Abu Samah Mohd Kassim, Musa Ahmad, Ibrahim Mohamed and Rashid Maidin, who all held top posts.
Not all CPM members were poor though. Its richest was William Kuok, the brother of tycoon Robert Kuok who was head of CPM’s propaganda division. He was killed in 1952.
It is also well known that the non-Malays resisted the communists. Many paid with their lives, including family members who were killed because their fathers or brothers were either in the police or army.
This is all well documented and any history student well versed with the Emergency period and CPM will know that this is basic information. It’s not news, except maybe to people like Ismail.
But many young Malaysians, and perhaps even older ones, too, like Ismail, might not know one name which was instrumental in combating the CPM.
The late Tan Sri Dr CC Too was the country’s mastermind in the uprising against the CPM.
He was, in fact, regarded as one of the world’s top experts in psychological warfare and counter-insurgency.
Until Chin Peng’s escape to China, the late CPM leader “had been at the receiving end of CC Too’s sharp and keen ideological foil”, in the words of an author.
In the book The Story Of A Psy-Warrior: Tan Sri Dr CC Too, Lim Cheng Leng, a former senior Special Branch officer who crossed swords with the CPM, wrote: “Too could read the Communist mind like a communist, owing to his early exposure to some of the leading comrades who had come to town following the Japanese surrender in 1945.”
And while late Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew claimed credit for fending off the communists in his backyard from 1962 to 1963, it was Too who, in fact, provided him with a copy of the communists’ master plan in Singapore.
Too’s contributions would have remained lost in the mists of time had he not revealed his exploits in a news article in 1989.
Author Lim was an eye witness of the proceedings and was briefed about the Singapore mission, where he was given detailed notes.
In short, Too helped save the Singaporean PM and the PAP government from being toppled by the communists.
I had the honour of meeting the late Aloysius Chin, who was senior assistant commissioner of Police Deputy Director of Special Branch (Operations).
He was in the police force for 38 years, 30 of which were spent in the Special Branch studying and thwarting the communists.
His book, The Communist Party of Malaya: The Inside Story, bears testimony to the role Malaysians of all races played in the war against the CPM.
Surely, a man like Ismail, at his age, would recall the assassination of Perak Chief Police Officer Tan Sri Koo Chong Kong. There was also the plot to kill Singapore Commissioner of Police, Tan Sri Tan Teik Khim.
The violence knew no boundaries, and even a Chinese clerk attached to the Special Branch in Kuala Lumpur was shot at because he was mistaken for an officer.
One incident which detailed the cruelty of the communists was the murder of the pregnant wife of a Chinese Special Branch officer on Jalan Imbi, Kuala Lumpur, just as the couple were walking out of a restaurant.
The CPM’s hatred was largely directed at Chinese policemen who were regarded as “running dogs”, as far as Chin Peng was concerned.
The party feared these brave and dedicated law enforcers because many of them sacrificed their lives for the nation in their attempt to infiltrate the movement, going as far as to disguise themselves as communists in the jungle.
It would have been impossible for Malay policemen to pose as CPM fighters even if there were senior Malay party leaders because of the predominantly Chinese makeup of the guerrillas.
Reports revealed that between 1974 and 1978 alone, at least 23 Chinese SB officers were gunned down by the CPM, with thousands more Chinese civilians perishing throughout the Emergency period.
According to the late Dr Cheah Boon Kheng, an authority on CPM, “during the Emergency (1948-60), security forces lost 1,865 men, with 2,560 personnel wounded. Civilian casualties were heavier – 4,000 killed or wounded and 800 missing. The communist side reported that over 6,000 died, 3,000 surrendered and 1,286 were captured. In 1952, the worst year for police casualties, 350 policemen of all ranks, races and branches lost their lives in action”.
It should be noted that the MPAJA embarked on a reign of terror when the Japanese occupation ended.
Dr Cheah, in his book Red Star Over Malaya, wrote that one source told him that “about 70% of small towns and villages throughout the peninsula fell into guerrilla hands”.
The lawlessness which prevailed in Malay villages, with the emergence of armed Chinese communist guerrillas, fuelled racial tension which eventually exploded into well-recorded clashes – incidents chronicled in the book.
In my research on how Malaysians of all races sacrificed for the country, one of the saddest news articles I stumbled upon – published in 1976 – was about Captain Hardev Singh of the 6th Malaysian Infantry Brigade.
He was killed in an ambush in Kota Ayer near the Thai border. Four others were also killed.
Hardev was just 25 years old when he died. He was shot more than 10 times by the communists. However, what saddened me most was the revelation that he was looking forward to celebrating his first wedding anniversary.
There are many names which need to be cited in our history books. And if we don’t, we breed contempt and plain ignorance.