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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Farewell thee, Beloved Son of Malaysia

Death is unavoidable. The only question is when.

Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng
Nation's Unsung Hero
15 Sept 1927 - 1 Oct 2015

Today, Malaysia mourns one of her most illustrious sons, Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng.
Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng's contribution to Malaysia till today remains immeasurable. Simply because you can never quantify the meaning of peace.

Tan Sri Yuen joined the police force during a time when all police officers are marked men. The war against communist was very much at a stalemate then. And when he joined, he was yet the citizen of this nation.

Yet, he willingly placed his life on the line and was wounded in action twice. The first time, he was shot four times. But doctors only removed 3 bullets, not knowing there was another bullet still lodged in his body.

A story he had always shared was about a young Malay policeman who died in his arm. How that the young man asked him to help him to seek forgiveness from his mum as he would no longer be able to take care of her. To him, there was no race in the police force, for they are all brothers.

He was also famously quoted to say that he is a Malay, he is an Indian, and he is also a Chinese. So if you hurt any 3 race, you hurt him.

Along the way, he had many sacrifices. But none can be compared to him losing his daughter. As he was required to be involved in a critical mission, he could not be by his sickly daughter's side. The poor girl breathed her last as soon as Tan Sri Yuen made it to the hospital after his mission was completed.


Homing of Surrendered Communists
As a police officer, numerous attempts were made at his life. But he was a magnanimous man. Often, he would try to arrest the communist terrorists rather than killing them. And he would take them home to his house instead of leaving them in the lockup.

His sincerity and that of his fellow officers were instrumental in getting many surrendered communists to readjust back to life as civilian and having a different view of the country.

During the times when British officers' view means God's view, he tried many times to argue and to defend the lives of the communist terrorists. He was seen as crazy by his British bosses. But he prevailed.

The British, to accommodate his 'craziness' and that of his fellow Malayan officers, the British introduced the term Surrendered Enemy Personnel (SEP) to contrast against Captured Enemy Personnel (CEP).

This in turn gave assurance communists who wanted to surrender a guarantee that they would not be prosecuted once they surrender. (Penalty for being captured was death as ownership of weapons is death, and being a communist means they had probably made an attempt of the life of a police officer, which also invites death penalty).

Even with the new category, Tan Sri Yuen and his fellow officers strived to ensure that captured enemy personnel get recategorized as SEP.

When talking about communist activities in Malaysia, one always make the mistake of lumping all communist activities in Malaysia as committed by Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). The fact is that there were 3 factions of CPM in Peninsular Malaysia and the communist threat in Sarawak came from NKCP or North Kalimantan Communist Party.

He was posted to Sarawak as the Chief of Police for Sarawak to mitigate the risk of him being assassinated by CPM kill squad and that of Tan Sri Khoo to Perak (unfortunately, it did not turn out well for Tan Sri Khoo, who was assassinated by CPM - Marxist Leninism faction).
There, he applied the same skills and vigour he applied in Peninsular Malaysia.
Due to his leadership which was strongly supported by then Sarawak CM, Abdul Rahman Yaakub on the political front, they were able to force the communist there, led by Bong Kee Chok, to sue for peace.

Negotiation for peace nearly failed though. The communists did not agree to the use of term SEP. They did not want to acknowledge they had surrendered.

Tan Sri Yuen suggested to use the term REP instead. REP which mean Returning Enemy Personnel, gave face to the communists to be able to return to the society after a short while of internment.

(Different from the communist in Peninsular which was much more strongly rooted in communist ideology, the communist party in Sarawak were more likely to be Sarawakians who thought they were fighting for an independent Sarawak. Thus, saving face was very important.)

The surrender that Tan Sri Yuen had handled together with the rest of his team had decimated the communist threat, resulting in the mass surrender of nearly 700 communists, leaving only a hardcore about 200 communists who were ideologically stronger.

After Tan Sri's retirement, a group of former communists from Sarawak even volunteered to be Tan Sri Yuen's protective detail as there were rumours of threat against his life.

Nipping Third Insurgency at the Bud
Of all of Tan Sri Yuen's contribution, nipping the threat from the third insurgency was the most valuable contribution from Tan Sri.

It was during the time of peace talk between Malaysian Government and CPM at Haadyai that Tan Sri Yuen had made this great contribution.

Frustrated that Malaysian Government was not willing to budge on several key request, CPM Secretary-General Chin Peng (born Ong Boon Hua) had threatened to mobilise his CPM units which had been infiltrated into Peninsular Malaysia. He was confident that his trump card would force the Malaysian Government to heed to his demand to have Tugu Negara be demolished and his party be allowed to be registered.

Unknown to him, all his units infiltrated into Peninsular Malaysia had already changed allegiance. All the units had been infiltrated by Special Branch officers who had by then had full control over the guerrilla forces.

Chin Peng was shocked, and had to relent to Government's stance.

Note that Chin Peng did not dare to have this written in his book. And I only decided to share this as Tan Sri is no longer around. This was shared by him in an interview myself and several others had conducted at his home November last year.

Tan Sri Yuen's Last Wish
He only has one last wish. That we the new generation of Malaysians to stand together to defend and protect this nation of ours. So that the sacrifices that he and those of his generation will not be in vain.

Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng and myself (standing). This photo was taken November last year at his home. We were supposed to interview him for an hour, but ended up for 3 hours. The short chat reinvigorated Tan Sri Yuen, and it heartened him that there were young people who still care for this nation. 

Rest In Peace, Sir. We shall take up your challenge for our country.

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