My father replied to that letter by Dr Collin Abraham.
Sunday September 18, 2005
Different psyches on the road to Merdeka
POINT VIEW WITH TUN HANIF OMAR
DR Collin Abraham, a respected academic, and I have had the privilege of serving on the Tun Abdul Razak Foundationâ€™s Board of Trustees. His rejoinder to my column, â€œSheer nonsense, Mr Liuâ€ (Sunday Star, Sept 11) postulates that the period of the Merdeka struggle â€œis an extremely complex period requiring a deep analytical description of the many contingencies that were actually involvedâ€.
While not denying Tunku Abdul Rahman was the architect of Merdeka, he contends that many other groups were also directly or indirectly involved. He then announces that he is writing on this period and will attempt to put â€œthis entire anti-colonial nationalist struggle into proper perspectiveâ€.
There must already be a number of books on the Merdeka Journey, each one found wanting by this or that reader, or group.
This is so normal in historical writings because accuracy depends not only on the breadth and depth of access, on closeness to the consciousness of the period, but also on the understanding of the total dynamics of the different psyches at play, among other things.
I hope Dr Abraham will manage to get as total an access to relevant materials as is possible so that we may benefit from his scholarship.
I hold the view that Man must constantly seek knowledge and truth for justice to prevail. Thus I hold no fear that a left-wing professor in UKM is said to be marshalling a number of known communists and/or ex-communists to write their memoirs, even to justify their struggle(s). I hope to read their accounts and profit from them.
They may say that they were true nationalists, and not communists, who were really internationalists then. That is not impossible but they will have to justify themselves. As for Dr Abraham, I hope he will be able to argue plausibly that the communists were nationalists if he wishes to include their struggle as being among the â€œentire anti-colonial nationalist struggleâ€ he is talking about.
I had read the diary of one Khidir, a â€œCPMâ€ terrorist who had claimed that he could not be felled except by a silver bullet. A common bullet from a Gurkha soldierâ€™s rifle killed him in Kuala Kubu Baru. Khidir did not start as a communist; I doubt that he ever was.
He was a Police Depot constable from Ulu Langat or Jeram, Selangor, where there were lots of people of recent Sumatran origin who were â€œnot of the Sultanâ€™s peopleâ€ and therefore looked to the Indonesian freedom struggle for inspiration.
It was pathetic how he had to run into the jungle to escape arrest. According to the recently demised Guy Madoc, a leading senior police intelligence officer, he and other police officers in internship in Changi Jail decided that after the war they would have to deal with the pro-Japanese Malay radical elements.
When the Emergency was declared in 1948, they took the opportunity to deal with these elements as well. Thus, Khidir and others like him had to run into the jungle where he ended docking up with the communist terrorists who were already there.
He described how they had no food for him except wild boarâ€™s meat; how he tried to avoid taking it until he could not stand his gnawing hunger; how he threw up the first time he ate it, the second time, the third ? until he ceased to write about it any more!
But radical Malays were not confined to peoples of Indonesian origin like Khidir, Mat Indera, Samsiah Pakeh etc. There was Inspector Raja Yahaya, a Police Depot staff like Khidir. When taken by ASP â€œKitchieâ€ Birch, grandson of Perakâ€™s first British Resident J.W.W. Birch, to stem the Japanese landing at Hutan Melintang, Lower Perak, he deserted and joined the Japanese.
Birch took Detective Arshad with him to look for Raja Yahaya and both of them were captured and executed by the Japanese. Their bodies were exhumed after the war by Insp Abdul Kadir, later CPO of Johor.
It is worth investigating whether Raja Yahaya was from that branch of the Perak Royal family who suffered as a result of the murder of Kitchieâ€™s grandfather James Wheeler W. Birch.
Raja Yahaya became OCPD Teluk Anson under the Japanese and was himself shot and killed by a â€œcommunist â€œin the amusement park.
The result was that I had to wash his blood off my dad who had helped to carry his body, uproot some tapioca tuber from my grandmaâ€™s plot to give to Raja Yahayaâ€™s son for food as the family was in hardship and, not long after, was forced at bayonet point to watch a Japanese officer skin alive a young man, allegedly the â€œkillerâ€, right in front of the old wet market.
Those were terrible days! Uncle, Ahmad Jabar, Cikgu Samad Ibrahim and Cikgu Zainal Abidin Thamby were tortured by the Kempetei for listening to Allied radio broadcasts.
Cikgu Samad, who taught me and Datuk Dr Khoo Kay Kim, was later to be appointed by Dato Onn as Rida education director.
Cikgu Zainal Abidin Thamby was the grandfather of former newscaster Zalina Azman, and taught Tan Sri Musa Hitam at Johor English College.
My uncle Ahmad became Umno Teluk Ansonâ€™s first president and my father Omar the first treasurer.
I lived through that period, including the terrible three weeks when the CPM-dominated MPAJA ruled the town, imposed a curfew on all Malay males, hunted down policemen, alleged Japanese collaborators and generally their personal enemies, â€œtriedâ€ them and delivered the verdict by mob acclaim, shot them, stabbed them, bludgeoned them and drowned them.
My gentle uncle â€œManeâ€ Kumari, caught outdoors working on that same vegetable plot where I had pulled out some tubers for Raja Yahayaâ€™s son, was bundled into a gunny sack, weighed down and thrown into the Bidor River.
Another â€œAnsonianâ€ lost his father when the MPAJA caught him breaching the curfew and leaving his house to deliver cakes to a coffee-shop as he was wont to do. They pushed him into a box, lifted it onto the carrier of a bicycle, pushed the bicycle to the nearby Perak River jetty and threw him in the box into the river.
An uncle, one arm severed, and another holding the long Malay blade, pedang ladin, made a hurried visit to tell us that two other uncles had been killed by the â€œBintang Tigaâ€ and left as hurriedly as they had come.
Shortly after, a group of armed Chinese, some wearing caps with three stars stitched on, arrived and my father opened the door. All the adult males in our house were armed but my great grandma sat calmly on the floor of the lounge and rolled her nipah cigarette whilst asking me to work the flint.
â€œWho were the men who came?â€ they asked.
â€œMy cousins,â€ my dad said.
â€œWhat did they want?â€
â€œTo tell me that two of my other cousins had been killed.â€
â€œAll right,â€ they said. â€œDonâ€™t leave the house; itâ€™s not safe.â€ And they left.
My dad turned to me, and said, â€œWhen you are under these circumstances and the bad men ask whether you have seen so-and-so, although you know where he is hiding, God will not mind if you say you do not know.â€
Then my neighbour Uncle Ah Hee arrived to tell my dad how relieved he was. He was so scared the MPAJA would do something to us that he had fled when he saw them going to our house!
When I met Ong Boon Hwa @ Chin Peng in Haadyai on Dec 1,1989, the eve of the signing of the Peace Agreement, these murders were part of my conversation with him.
There will be more to tell.
I am intrigued by Dr Abrahamâ€™s choice of a tentative title for his book: The Finest Hour â€“ The Malaysian-MCP Peace Agreement. Finest hour since when? Whose finest hour? That is why I am so eager to read the book.