And my father’s answer to Collin Abraham

My father replied to that letter by Dr Collin Abraham.

Sunday September 18, 2005

Different psyches on the road to Merdeka


DR Collin Abraham, a respected academic, and I have had the privilege of serving on the Tun Abdul Razak Foundation’s Board of Trustees. His rejoinder to my column, “Sheer nonsense, Mr Liu” (Sunday Star, Sept 11) postulates that the period of the Merdeka struggle “is an extremely complex period requiring a deep analytical description of the many contingencies that were actually involved”.

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 “this entire anti-colonial nationalist struggle into proper perspective”.

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 “entire anti-colonial nationalist struggle” he is talking about.

I had read the diary of one Khidir, a “CPM” terrorist who had claimed that he could not be felled except by a silver bullet. A common bullet from a Gurkha soldier’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 “not of the Sultan’s people” 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 boar’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 “Kitchie” Birch, grandson of Perak’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 Kitchie’s grandfather James Wheeler W. Birch.

Raja Yahaya became OCPD Teluk Anson under the Japanese and was himself shot and killed by a “communist “in 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 grandma’s plot to give to Raja Yahaya’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 “killer”, 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 Anson’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, “tried” them and delivered the verdict by mob acclaim, shot them, stabbed them, bludgeoned them and drowned them.

My gentle uncle “Mane” Kumari, caught outdoors working on that same vegetable plot where I had pulled out some tubers for Raja Yahaya’s son, was bundled into a gunny sack, weighed down and thrown into the Bidor River.

Another “Ansonian” 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 “Bintang Tiga” 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.

“Who were the men who came?” they asked.

“My cousins,” my dad said.

“What did they want?”

“To tell me that two of my other cousins had been killed.”

“All right,” they said. “Don’t leave the house; it’s not safe.” And they left.

My dad turned to me, and said, “When 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.”

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 Abraham’s choice of a tentative title for his book: The Finest Hour – The Malaysian-MCP Peace Agreement. Finest hour since when? Whose finest hour? That is why I am so eager to read the book.

Collin Abraham’s Finest (?) Hour

I wonder who’s finest hour is this old jerk talking about? Still giving face to Chin Peng and his finest hour?

The battle for Malaysia
Dr Collin Abraham
Sep 15, 05 3:34pm

The articles by Tun Hanif Omar, and Noh Omar in the local English press media on Sept 11 clearly indicate that the adverse reaction to Ronnie Liu’s posting on the DAP website in this matter is being taken very seriously by Malaysians. Indeed, so seriously as to warrant his being investigated under the Seditions Act.

Clearly, although Liu has conceded his lack of sophistication in the proper use of the English language, he has nonetheless genuinely created confusion, to put it bluntly, as to “who won Merdeka?”

Hanif Omar has done a great service by attempting to clarify and to deny the various arguments advanced almost “blow -by- blow”. Indeed, what is even more significant is that his retort has given a ‘realistic’ appraisal to the extent that one gets the feeling of literally living through the events and ‘happenings”. In a way this is not surprising considering that as the IGP he himself lived through those times.

However with respect, this is an extremely complex period in our history that requires a deep analytical description of the many contingencies that were actually involved. In fact the framework for the intricacies surrounding the entire conflict cannot ignore the implications arising from the fact of our being under British colonial rule. In this sense it can be argued that the entire conflict can be traced to British political and economic interests being challenged by the indigenous and immigrant communities to jointly forge the building of a new independent nation.

Chin Peng himself has stated in his book ” It is about time historians began exploring these areas and putting perspective – solely lacking in documentation thus far – into the record of history” ( My Side of History, pp 490-491.

In this connection, I have the honour of being commissioned a year ago, by a renowned Institute of Southeast Asian Studies to write a book covering this period. In all humility, I am trying to put this entire anti-colonial nationalist struggle into proper perspective by recognising that while there is no question that Tunku Abdul Rahman and the UMNO he led, was the architect of Merdeka, many other groups were also directly or indirectly involved.

The tentative title of the proposed book is “The Finest Hour- the Malaysian-MCP Peace Agreement”. Hopefully, at least symbolically, it will encapsulate the struggles and sacrifices of Malaysians, that ultimately led to peace in our lives, and aim at national integration. In this sense the book will be in the nature of a “Truth and Reconciliation” study.

Wither Ronnie Liu

This was sent by a reader to Malaysiakini as a response to Ronnie Liu’s article on the Independence of Communist Malaya.

Liu’s history revisionism ‘a sore thumb’
by Chez1978

It won’t just be the dailies who practice selective prosecution. However, Ronnie Liu’s statement offers a lousy defense for PKM.

Dr Burhanuddin al-Helmi, PKMM’s founding vice-president, was appointed while he himself was in Singapore due to his leadership reputation during the Japanese occupation. As Ahmad Boestamam recorded, PKMM was established with the cooperation of a Malay division in the Malaya Communist Party (Rejimen 10) under Mokhtaruddin Lasso, an Indonesian.

With Sutan Djenain, another member of the Indonesian Communist Party, they became the backbone of PKMM. Ramlah Adam (2000) cited the same book Ronnie Liu cited (Ahmad Boestamam, 1972), but he failed to mention that PKM’s influence in PKMM was evident right from the start.

Burhanuddin was not a communist and he, like Pak Sako (Ishak Haji Mohammad), was from the Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM) days that saw the betrayal of Ibrahim Yaakob to the Japanese. Burhanuddin, was an Islamist and stated clearly that his vision that the fight is of the middle way, against colonialism but not pro-communist.

He was still an aspirant of the Melayu/Indonesia Raya ideal in 1947, but PKMM was packed with communists and he had to cooperate with PKM to counter Umno. His leadership in PKMM since 1946 is testament to that reality.

I don’t know where Liu learns of the fact that PKMM proposed to reject the Malayan Union, but Burhanuddin and PKMM supported the Malayan Union early in 1946.

I quote, Ramlah Adam (2000) citing the official voice of PKMM, Pelita Malaya (p. 46): ‘The best way is to accept the present Malayan Union scheme. The rights of the Malays, ie the rights of citizenship can be safeguarded if the Malays will demand that the conditions jointly governing the question of citizenship for non-Malays be tightened’. – Pelita Malaya, May 3, 1946.

Note that PKMM felt that the only thing to work out was the matter of citizenship of the non-Malays. Burhanuddin and PKMM then realised their serious error when the Malays disagreed, and in particular, he took the official line of offence that the Malayan Union failed to reflect the historical past of the Malays in Malaya.

PKMM then ‘decided’ that Malayan Union was out to wipe out the Malay-ness of Malaya, by a colonial trickery of ‘Malayanising’ the nationality of the Malays.

It is with this sentiment PKMM attended the Malay Congress in March, 1946. It was a very important moment for PKMM who made the earlier mistake of calling for support for the Malayan Union.

For example, the Persatuan Melayu Selangor was revived to distance and differentiate themselves from PKMM’s original pro-Malayan Union stance. Noting the massive change in popular political sentiments, PKMM’s ‘willingness’ to unite with PKMBR (Persatuan Kebangsaan Melayu Bersatu-Umno) to topple the Malayan Union in the Congress was a very important turning point.

PKM too was hoping that PKMM could wrestle the leadership and political momentum from the others, notably the state Malay parties and organisations. In the Congress of 1946, Ahmad Boestamam was the one who carried PKMM’s assault on the Malayan Union.

In his closing speech, however, Burhanuddin, president of PKMM graciously acknowledged Onn Jaafar’s leadership role in the Congress and in fact, endorsed his appointment to lead the Malay cause against Malayan Union.

What staged walk-out by the PKMM when their proposal was rejected? That’s was during the Umno general assembly in June 1946 in Ipoh. Can Liu check and verify what he has written with proper historians first?

The truth is Burhanuddin got into hot soup with PKM with his closing speech on March 4,1946 on the last day of the Congress. PKM complained that PKMM was given a smaller share of votes and attacked Onn Jaafar for his aristocracy tilt. In truth, PKM preferred the Malayan Union to returning power, however symbolic, to the royalties.

API, the PKMM youth wing under Ahmad Boestamam, blasted and questioned Burhanuddin’s leadership after the Congress. It was Boestamam that attended the Umno meeting in June because Burhanuddin ‘couldn’t make it’.

In actuality, Burhanuddin attended another Congress in Johor Baru aon May 11,1946 and signed the charter that gave birth to Umno, together with Zulkifli Ownie. PKMM’s relationship with the Congress lasted for three months.

It was Boestamam who walked out of the Umno assembly in June 1946 and the official excuse is that PKMM lost by one vote to Ikatan Setia Kampung Baru in deciding the offcial Umno flag. Onn Jaafar’s PMSJ suggestion for the flag got 19 votes.

Readers can decide whether there was a proposal which Liu claims ‘was rejected by the Congress and the PKMM delegation staged a walkout as a protest on the third day of the Congress’. What a bunch of mistakes.

You can get the real story behind why Boestamam was upset over the flag – they just didn’t want the keris which symbolises the royalties. Other than that, PKMM and ISKB’s designs are mostly similar (Ramlah Adam, 2000, p. 52-53).

Burhanuddin accepted Boestamam’s action and explanation (he was in total control of PKMM anyway) and PKMM actually went on to be on the side of the Malayan Union by working with AMCJA and Putera, again, with close ties to PKM.

PKMM/Putera supported the Malayan Union with additional terms, such as Malay language as the official tongue and Islamic elements in development. On April 1,1946, PKMM supported and welcomed Sir Edward Gent’s appointment as the Governor of the Malayan Union.

Read Ramlah Adam’s biography of Burhanuddin (page 55) for that. In the end, Burhanuddin was soon fighting two fronts, Umno and the British because it decided to play both sides. They were upset when Umno was invited to discuss a replacement for Malayan Union, and PKMM was left out.

More importantly, the return of the royalties was too much for PKMM. Umno was labeled as ‘reliant’ on the colonials and was accused of not fighting the British full-heartedly. The British did sideline PKMM, but that’s only obvious after Umno gained ground. ,

In February 1947, Burhanuddin returned to the fold, fighting for Malay rights and compromising on many fronts. PKMM no longer differed with Umno on major points, so their dissent was ineffective.

Then in desperation they turned to the Islamists. PKMM became Malayan in outlook too, as tempered by their later cooperation with Putera-AMCJA. They failed again, and PKM was utterly dejected.

Ishak Haji Mohamad took over PKMM in1947, and freed Burhanuddin to his Islamic pursuits and other platforms. He returned to the political scene as the leader of PAS in 1956.

Ronnie Liu conveniently fast-forward the clamping of the British on PKMM in 1948 and attributed that as the reason why PKM turned to arms. What a gloss over, including of the Hartal.

I know Liu is not a historian, but literature on the matter is available all over the place. I do not claim to be clever, but what Liu related is so different from a biography I have read many years ago and that is distressing.

I sure hope Liu can check his facts. I mean, granted, there is a lot of revisionism in history, but this one stands out like a sore thumb. Let’s put aside politics for a while and appreciate past events as they had taken place – not as spun by politicians both from the ruling or opposing coalitions.

History is an academic exercise with differing takes and perspectives, true, but it is not to be packaged with misleading lies to influence the public. Deriding our past prime ministers and doubting their nationalistic struggles just because they worked with the colonialists is downright silly. But that’s politics, not history, I suppose, and many parties are guilty of that practice.

International Clean Up Day

I wonder how many people on this planet realised the significance of September 17th.

Come to think of it, I can’t recall when exactly is Mother’s, Father’s and Teacher’s days.

Police to interrogate Pro Dive Townsville boat crew about scuba accident

Police To Question Boat Crew Over Scuba Accident

TOWNSVILLE, Australia (18 Sep 2005) — Police will interview the crew of a dive boat after two British tourists survived a six-hour ordeal in shark infested waters on the Great Barrier Reef.

Louise Woodger, 29, and Gordon Pratley, 31, become separated from their dive boat Sea-Esta about 10am (AEST) on Saturday.

The couple, suffering exhaustion and mild hypothermia, were found clinging to emergency flotation devices about 3.50pm – nearly 10km from where they first entered the water at Wheeler Reef north-east of Townsville.

The dive boat crew had reported them missing after a head count.

New dive safety procedures introduced after the disappearance of American couple Tom and Eileen Lonergan in 1998 have been credited with helping to save the couple’s lives.

Their disappearance was not reported to police until two days after the trip and they were never found.

The incident sparked a crisis of confidence in north Queensland’s dive industry and the tightening of safety regulations for dive boats.

In the latest incident, police said there was no suggestion of any negligence by the crew.

Acting Inspector Greg Doyle said police would interview the rest of the dive group.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to talk to the crew or the other members on the dive ship itself, because they were actually out for the weekend,” he told ABC radio.

“So they don’t actually come back until tomorrow, which is Monday, and we’ll obviously get the chance to speak to the crew and the rest of the passengers on the boat at that stage.”

Coast Guard skipper Jon Colless, who ferried the exhausted pair to safety, said they were at risk of “very large” sharks and in greater danger if they were not found before sunset.

“They were freakishly lucky that search was called early in the day, that the weather was going down, it had been a bit lumpy … and the skipper of the dive boat was right on the ball, did everything right,” he said.

Mr Colless said the area in which the pair went missing was between two reefs and a high tide “caused a much stronger current between the reefs than I think anybody realised”.

After The Love Has Gone

And oldie…but meaningful:

Somethin’ happened along the way
What used to be happy was sad
Somethin’ happened along the way
And yesterday was all we had
And oh after the love has gone
How could you lead me on
And not let me stay around
Oh oh oh after the love has gone
What used to be right is wrong
Can love that’s lost be found