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Sunday, January 14, 2018

Beware of the Bubble - A Praise to Chinese Malaysian Patriots

It is always easier to fall prey to age old prejudice, especially when one does not have the full story.

The Prejudice 
And that age old prejudice is that non-Malays just sat back quietly supporting the communist insurgents while not wanting to play any part in the government's fight against communism.

One such person that fell into that trap is Ustaz Ismail Mina Ahmad of Muafakat, a Muslim NGO. In a recent speech which he gave and was described as fiery by Malay Mail Online, he had made claims that only the Malays had fought against the Siamese, the British, the Japanese and the communists. Partly true, he had probably carried away when he claimed only Malays were targeted by the communists during the trying period. But I do not discount the fact that he was misquoted, with election season nearing. 

British Propaganda
But I don't blame him. He was after all, a victim of British propaganda. At least one British police officer based in Malaya back then claimed that the British propaganda machine had purposely highlighted the fight against communism as the fight between Malays and Chinese, despite the fact that government forces had many non-Malays, and the communists had many non-Chinese. Names like Abdullah C.D., Rashid Maidin, Manap Jepun, Mat Indera, and the likes that joined 10th Malayan National Liberation Army. In fact, the 10th MNLA was formed specifically to entice Malays to support them. And the communist had a unit known as Platoon Kawan-kawan consisted of many Indians based in Sungai Siput. 

With a predominantly Malay police force and army, against a predominantly Chinese insurgent force, it is not even a surprise.
He is after all, like many of us, trapped in our own bubble. An apt description by veteran reporter Philip Golingai in his article titled "The Trouble with a Bubble" in his One Man's Meat column in the Star. I recommend you read this article of his. So I'm going to borrow the same phrase.

The Bubble
In his bubble, let us call it the Ismail Mina Bubble, he saw facts that only Malays were victimised by the communists. That only Malays that fought against Siam, British, Japanese and communists. People that he knows, are probably people with the same set of experience. In a way, what he says is the truth within his perspective, and his knowledge. But in a way, calling this bubble as Ismail Mina bubble is quite wrong, as he is not the only one that has this view. 

Sojourners During Siamese Time
The fight against Siam was probably correct. That was in the eighteenth century. Chinese and Indians are not citizens nor subjects to the Malay Rulers then. They were, in a manner of speaking, sojourners to this land.

Chinese Resistance - Malaysian Perspective
How about the British? I can't claim for Chinese of Peninsular Malaysia, but in Sarawak, Liu Shan Bang and several thousands of Chinese miners from Bau and Sambas fought against the White Rajah, James Brooke British and had even invaded Kuching for a few days. British reinforcements forced them to retreat to Batu Kawa, where many of them met their deaths.

Liu Shan Bang. An engraving of his face on Warriors Memorial in Kuching

How about the Japanese? There will be some arguments against this, but let's put it clear. Many Chinese Malayans did fight against the Japanese, in different groups that their involvement were either sullied by political affiliation or downplayed by history. For us to understand better, let us delve into the periods between 1939 to 1942.

SSVF - For Straits Chinese Only
Back then, Chinese Malayans are considered non-Malayan, though there was a case that proven otherwise. If a Chinese Malayan is involved in crime and gets arrested, he would be deported to China. Hence, this technically means they were not citizens of the land. Therefore, he would not be able to join the Army to fight against the Japanese. Some did however, managed to join Straits Settlement Volunteer Force (SSVF). The name itself suggest that this was only open to Malayans in the states of Penang, Dinding (Perak) and Melaka.

The only way for him to fight against the Japanese was to join Kuomintang forces under General Chiang Khai Shek. And many took the path, and many never got to return to Malaya, dying in the brutal war.
Those who could not fight, donated to Chiang Khai Shek to fund the war effort. This act of donation would later lead to Sook Ching during the Japanese occupation.

When the Japanese forces were at Malayan doorstep, many Chinese volunteers joined what is known as DalForce in Singapore. Led by John Daly, the ragtag force were only armed with shotgun and 2 to 5 rounds.

DalForce in turn was a mixture of pro-Chiang Kuomintang supporters and pro-Mao Communists. While they did fought hard, they were ill-equipped against a conventional force. They had to surrender, and all ended up executed by Japanese forces.

Force 136, OCAJA and MPAJA
Chinese fight against Japanese did not end there. Major Lim Bo Seng formed the nucleus of Force 136 with the British, originally using pro-Kuomintang Chinese. Meanwhile MCP, then under Secretary-General Lai Teck, had formed MPAJA or Malayan People Anti-Japanese Army.
Due to its size, MPAJA became the main resistance force, and any Chinese would naturally join MPAJA if they want to fight against the Japanese.

Major Lim Bo Seng. He died in prison, after numerous torture by Japanese Kempetai.

Within MPAJA itself, it was divided into 2 key groups. The first group are hard-core communists. These were indoctrinated with Marxism and were your true-blue communists. The second group were Chinese Malayans who wanted to find a way to fight against the Japanese invaders. This group must be distinctively identified, so you would understand better later.

And they did fight hard against the Japanese. Unfortunately, they were handicapped from the very beginning when their Secretary-General, Lai Teck was by then, had been turned into a Japanese Kempetai spy.

Lai Teck, aka Agent Wright, Secretary-General of MCP. He betrayed MCP to the Japanese Kempetai for his own sake

Pro-Kuomintang Chinese that had avoided joining MPAJA had tried to form OCAJA, or Overseas Chinese Anti-Japanese Army. Filled mostly by Kwongsai Chinese, most of them were killed off in battles between OCAJA and MPAJA hard-core. MPAJA members who were part of second group were not involved with this hidden part of the war.

When the war against the Japanese was over, a new war would soon engulf the land. In fact, it had nearly broke out even before Japanese surrendered to the British. But in the intervening weeks before British returned to Malaya, MCP men subjected Malayans of all races under what is known as 14 days of Three Star Terror.

The return of the British saw that many of MPAJA soldiers were demobilised, but a hard-core group entered into the forest to continue the fight another day, without the knowledge of even their former comrades.

Legitimate Political Struggle to Armed Struggle
From 1946 to 1948, MCP had tried to talk to the British to get an independence under their terms. Their earliest attempt was to join hands with Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and several other parties to form All Malaya Council of Joint-Action (AMCJA).

With deterioration between Kuomintang and Chinese Communist Party in China, key members of MCA began to unravel AMCJA even though they had managed to strangle the Malayan and Singapore economy via a Hartal. Frustrated with getting independence via negotiation and intense political rhetoric, MCP began a campaign of terror.

Many former MPAJA soldiers were involved in this part of action in the beginning, as many of them felt they were cheated off their war-time pay by the British. The British had suspected that MCP had purposely inflated their headcount during war to claim more fund from the British. MCP claimed that the British did not pay them the fund, but MCP was not able to substantiate their claims too. British tried to get MCP to forgo the claim by awarding Chin Peng and several top communist leaders Members of British Empire (MBE) commendation. The award was given by Lord Mountbatten when he was in Malaya. (Note: this photo had been used by some irresponsible party to portray as DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang as a member of MCP).
Young Chin Peng@Ong Boon Hua receiving his MBE from Lord Mountbatten
A doctored photo replaced Chin Peng's head with that of DAP Stalwart Lim Kit Siang. 

The campaign of terror began in June 1948 with the murder of 3 British estate managers and soon the whole of Malaya devolved into a campaign of sabotage and terror. While above, I did mentioned of MCP was frustrated of progress via legitimate political struggle, the armed revolution that they had launched were in line with the resolutions made during ComIntern (Communist International), which was delivered to Malaya by a prominent member of Australian Communist Party.

Not only the Malays were badly affected. Many Chinese and Indians were adversely affected. Many Chinese fell victims to communist just because they were seen talking to a police officer. In a case that was narrated by a Special Branch officer, in order to execute an informer named Ah Lim, the communist had rounded up all Ah Lims in the village and executed them all.

Even Tun Tan Cheng Lock, their erstwhile comrade in AMCJA was targeted with a grenade attack. An ironic twist, he later defended the woman that was instrumental in enabling the attack against him.

Sir Tun Tan Cheng Lock survived a grenade attack.

For a non-Malay wishing to fight against communist terrorist then, he only have 2 choices. The first was to volunteer under any British Army outpost, or to join Malayan Police Force. The Malayan Army was not available for non-Malay until 1952, when the Federated Regiment was formed.
Many Chinese did take the fight against communist via the Police Force. Names like Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng, Datuk Leong Chee Woh aka "the Scorpio", Tan Sri Khoo were some of the officers that fought against the communists.

Tan Sri Yuen Yuet Leng

Q Operations and Hor Lung
Tan Sri Yuen and Datuk Leong for example, were part of very successful Q operations where they infiltrated communist ranks and convinced members of MCP units to surrender. In fact, almost all of communist members in Johor had surrendered using this method with the help of a former MCP Pulitburo member known as Hor Lung. A staunch communist, he eventually surrendered when a female member that he had a crush on was badly injured and required urgent medical attention.

Impressed that the Government was sincere, he offered to help to negotiate for surrender of all Johor communists. The police agreed, suspending all combat operations to allow him to get his people to surrender. His role in ending the Emergency was so great that Hor Lung's name was mentioned in disgust by Chin Peng in his autobiography. Even though Hor Lung never disavowed his communist ideology, his willingness to serve the nation saw that he being appointed as Deputy Director of Information Department, alongside another Chinese stalwart, Tan Sri C C Too.

Asian Joseph Goebbels
Tan Sri C C Too was nearly recruited into communism. But somehow they could not manage to convince him. Their failure to recruit him turned out to be very deadly for them, as he was able to understand how a communist thinks. Together with Hor Lung, he created tonnes of propaganda against the communists. Not only the propaganda managed to convince the communists to surrender, he managed to turn some of them against each other.

He was very good at his work that during Vietnam War, he was seconded by Malaysian Government to South Vietnam. While he did impressed both the South Vietnamese government and the US Government, US military preoccupation in fighting the war the conventional way saw not much of his work being successful there. Nevertheless, he did managed to assist the United States Army to establish a propaganda school at Fort Bragg. The Americans liked what he did and even called him Joseph Goebells of Asia.

Other Chinese Veterans
They are not the only Chinese that fought against the communists. Many former MPAJA, especially those that fall under the second group after surrendering to the Government, volunteered to fight back against their former comrades. Most of them volunteered via Malayan Police Force. In fact, at one point of time, a full battalion of Police Field Force were volunteers who were former MCP. Many too continued their services in Special Branch. Many of them later were victims of assassinations by MCP kill squad.

Despite the odds, many Chinese still joined Malaysian Police Force. Amongst them are Datuk Paul Kiong and Datuk Sia Boon Chye. They were part of Special Branch Q team during the Second Insurgency. Unlike other combat teams, Q teams infiltrate communist units, pretending to be communist members, and then kidnap key communist members without firing a shot. Both were awarded with Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP).

Kroh- Betong Tragedy Memorial

Chinese Malaysian Patriots amongst those killed

Malaysian Armed Forces
The Armed Forces too allowed non-Malays to serve, via Federated Regiment. In fact, Lance Corporal Choo Wah Soon from the Federated Regiment became the first person to be awarded with the newly created bravery award, Pingat Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) on 4 June 1961.

L/Cpl Choo Wah Soon retired as a Sgt.

Many other illustrious Chinese served in the Armed Forces fought against the communists. One of the most illustrious would be Ranger Mat Isa. A pure Chinese, he and his family converted to Islam after his mother remarried with a Malay police officer. He was killed when he used his body to protect his Lt who had been shot by a communist terrorist.

During the height of Second Insurgency, at least 2 Chinese pilots and an aircrew were killed in 1 S61A4 Nuri crash in Gubir and another 2 in a Caribou cargo plane crash near Fort Attap, Selangor.

Caribou crash at Fort Attap. Courtesy of Allahyarham Sager Ahmad. May God bless his soul.

News paper clipping on S61A4 Nuri crash in Gubir
Just two days ago, as the 51st anniversary of the death of another Air Force Pilot Officer Teoh Seng Wah, killed when his Caribou had crashed in Meligan, Sabah on 12 January 1967.

Malaysian Army 4th Division at one point of time, had so many Chinese Malaysian soldiers that it was colloquially known as Chinese Malaysian Army. They were based in Temerloh, and were in the thick of action against communist terrorists.

As a tribute to the sacrifices of men of various races during their service to His Majesty's Armed Forces, the army had built several arches listing the names of soldiers killed in action. Listed here, are names of many Chinese Malaysian Patriots alongside their Malaysian brothers.

Many Chinese Malaysian patriots had since retired and they still continue to serve His Majesty and our nation via the formation of Malaysian Chinese Veteran Association (MACVA).

Other Notable Name
Another often forgotten patriot is Capt Dr Albert Kwok Feng Nam, a Sarawakian who had worked as a Chinese traditional doctor in Sabah during the Japanese Occupation. He led his multiracial ragtag guerrillas known as Gerila Kinabalu. Numbering 200 plus men, they launched an attack on 10th October 1943, and managed to take over Jesselton and Api-Api. Forced to retreat when Japanese reinforcements arrived, they were finally captured after a few months. He and his men met their end at Petagas, executed by the Japanese military. A memorial now stands at the site of his execution.

Hard Work to Dig Out More Information 
These are only a small part of historical contribution of Chinese Malaysians to safety and security of Malaysia, and in service of His Majesty Armed Forces and Police Force. No doubt, there could be more, but one would need to dig through tonnes of archival documents to compile and collect these information.

These are not hidden histories. But just stories hidden because we Malaysians are too lazy to find out more about ourselves, about our country.

While this article showed the contributions and sacrifices of Chinese, it is by no means to detract the sacrifices made by all other races. Names like Datuk Sri JJ Raj, ASP Kulasingam, Wilfred Gomez and many more too lined our history.

I hope I didn't burst his bubble, and sincerely hope he would open his eyes to see the contribution of those around him.

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