September 21, 2013
SEPT 21 — The Chinese have a saying that “if a leader succeeds, he will be hailed as a hero, but if a leader fails, he would be called a bandit.”
Both the late Tunku Abdul Rahman and Chin Peng actually fought for the same cause, that was to gain independence for the people of Malaya after the Second World War.
The difference was that they subscribed to different ideologies, and at that time, there was in fact a greater war being fought between those two ideologies.
While the Tunku subscribed to Western style democracy, and was instrumental in winning local elections and negotiating successfully with the British to grant independence to the country, Chin Peng chose another way. But his choice should be viewed within the context of that time.
Chin Peng, in fact, was honoured with an OBE during the Second World War for leading the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese army. This hero status was changed when his forces turned against the British to fight for the independence of Malaya. His OBE was withdrawn by the British authorities then.
Chin Peng’s fault was that he chose Communism as a vehicle for his struggle. Communism has proven to be a failed ideology, and most so-called communist states today are now adopting market economy.
I do not support Communism, nor do the majority of the people of Malaysia and the world at large. As an ideology, it has failed.
The threat then, however, was real. State after state fell to Communism at that time, and there was this domino theory that had most of the democratic nations worried.
In the end, it was their intrinsic ideological weakness in managing the economy that led to the demise of the whole Communist ideology. The two biggest Communist powers, China and Russia, have all turned to market economy and are practising a modified market economy.
But at that time, during the 50s and 60s, the Communists played up the sentiments of independence for the people against colonial powers, and many youngsters succumbed to this attraction, and joined the struggle not so much because of their belief or understanding in the ideology, but more for the struggle to push out the colonial powers.
As a result, all over South-east Asia, wars were being waged. In Korea, in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos Thailand and Malaysia, wars were being fought between the Communists (supported by the USSR and China) and the non-Communists (with the help of their Western allies). It was in fact an extension of the bigger war being fought between the Communist giants and the Western allies.
In wars, there are bound to be casualties and atrocities. While what the communists under Chin Peng did should not be condoned, it should be seen in the context of a war. Many innocents were killed. In fact, a prominent headmaster from my alma mater, Chung Ling HIgh School, was murdered by the Communists.
But in war, once there is a peace accord, both parties must look forwards and not backwards. As an example, once the Second World War ended, the US even helped to rebuild West Germany, and Japan.
Even China and Japan re-established ties and exchanged ambassadors. Malaysia, one of the countries occupied by Japan where thousands were killed and beheaded, also became friendly with post-war Japan.
Another example is the Cold War. All the fights in South-east Asia were actually an extension of the Cold War, a war between two major ideologies. Once the Cold War ended, the past was forgiven and bridges were quickly built between the former Communist states and the democratic world.
To bar Chin Peng’s return was understandable, even though it was against the spirit of the peace accord.
But once a person dies, there must be a closure to everything.
As a nation, while we should not forget about the past, we should not be obsessively vindictive too.
Furthermore, how are we going to enforce the ruling to prevent his ashes from coming into Malaysia?
So I would join in the chorus of appeal including those from Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng, a top police officer involved in the fight against Chin Peng and his people, to allow his ashes to come back to Malaysia.
Let us be magnanimous and forgiving as a nation and move forward.