Over the past few days, we have seen the furor and strong objections being voiced out by certain segments of the public and the government over the suggestion to allow Chin Peng, a former leader of the Malayan Communist Party, who is currently living in exile in Thailand, to return to Malaysia.
The government’s stand is that Chin Peng will never be allowed to return to Malaysia because of the atrocities that he and the communists committed during the Emergency period. In fact, Rais Yatim, the Minister of Information, Communication and Culture, is planning on digging into the Malaysian film archives and to rebroadcast documentaries showing the violence and atrocities that the Malayan Communist Party committed.
Another perspective of Chin Peng and the Malayan Communist Party’s involvement in Malaysian history, which I believe is highly significant and which has not been publicized and emphasized enough, is the role that the Communists played in fighting the Japanese forces in Malaya during World War 2. Why do we not give them any credit for that? And when the communists fought against the Malayan and British forces during the Emergency period, they were essentially fighting against the British colonialists of Malaya. Like the founding fathers of our independence, they too wanted freedom for our land, albeit by establishing a Communist dictatorship in Malaya.
I am in no way espousing any Communist sentiments or ideas here. All that i am wishing for is for people to view and to take into accounts both sides of the coin. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong in allowing Chin Peng to return. The Emergency period was a long time ago in our history and does not constitute part of the memory of the younger generations. If the people of Rwanda and South Africa could forgive the perpetrators of worse violence in their countries through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, why can’t we? Of course people were killed and tortured and maimed by the actions of the Malayan Communist Party during the Emergency. But it was a period of unrest and war. And people are bound to get hurt and killed in a war. Can you really blame them for shooting and killing the soldiers in the Malayan forces? Like the Malayan/British force, the communists too suffered casualties on their part. They probably experienced more casualties compared to the Malayan/British forces since in the end it was they who lost the war. In the news a few days ago was an article about some former soldiers who had their legs amputated as a consequence of their injuries caused by the hands of the communists. I have profound pity for them of course. But it happened during the war. And that is the risk that one has to take if one decides to join the army. If a boxer is inflicted with brain injury after a KO defeat by his opponent, is it right for the injured boxer to blame his opponent? No. Because his opponent won fairly. And his injury is part and parcel of the game. Every boxer knows that. The same thing applies during a war.
Ultimately, we must be careful before passing any judgement about anything. Learn all sides of the story and keep an open mind when thinking about history. After all history is not absolute. Historical narratives are subject to interpretations and manipulations in order to put forth and to support one’s agenda.