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Monday, September 30, 2013

Who is to blame for our soldiers’ deaths? Baling Peace Talks revisited

Surely Umno leaders who have been loudly protesting the return of Chin Peng’s ashes to Sitiawan cannot be ignorant of what actually happened in Baling in December 1955, writes Jeyakumar Devaraj.
baling-peace-talks
A review of what happened at the meeting in December 1955 in Baling, Kedah between the Alliance represented by Tunku Abdul Rahman, David Marshall and Tan Cheng Lock and the Malayan Communist Party represented by Chin Peng, Rashid Mydin and Chen Tien, is crucial for a proper apportionment of the blame for the continuation of the communist insurgency in Malaya post Independence.
First a quote from Khong Kim Hoong:
The Peace Talks in Baling in December 1955 between the Alliance leaders and the MCP broke down. The Alliance leaders went back on their amnesty proposal which they had campaigned for earlier in the (1955) elections and rejected the MCP demands that after the cessation of the guerilla warfare, there would be no reprisals against any individuals and that the MCP would be allowed to participate freely in politics. The stand taken by the Alliance leaders was important to the British government. They had proven themselves to be as uncompromising to the communists as the British government itself. Therefore the earlier fears of the British that the Alliance leaders might strike a compromise with the MCP that could adversely affect British interests in Malaya were eliminated. The talks in London opened in a more amiable atmosphere. – (Merdeka! British Rule and the Struggle for Independence in Malaya. p198)
Khong’s description of the outcome of the Peace Talks is corroborated by Said Zahari in his book, “Dark Clouds at Dawn”, where he writes (p282) –
I asked Tunku if he was disappointed with the failure of the “peace talks”. Unhesitatingly, the Chief Minister replied: “No, I’m not. I never wanted it to be a success.” He then smiled broadly and walked away towards the conference room. Syed Jaafar Albar pulled me aside and said “Said, I think Tunku’s reply to your question should not be made public.” I was disappointed.
According to these two accounts, Tunku Abdul Rahman had to renege on his offer of amnesty for the communists that was so loudly canvassed in the Federal Elections of July 1955 because that would have adversely affected his push for Independence within two years. Chin Peng and his colleagues thought so too, and they harboured hopes that once Malaya won its Independence, the amnesty offer might be followed through (See “My side of History” by Chin Peng.) The amnesty was finally offered in 1989 on almost the same terms that the MCP had requested in Baling in 1955.
Why the inordinate delay? The MCP was ready to lay down arms in 1955 itself for they could see that the military campaign was not getting them anywhere. But they did not want the indignity of surrender and indefinite detention under the ISA! The continuation of armed hostilities in the jungles of Malaya between Independence in 1957 and the Peace Accord in 1989 was largely because the Malayan/Malaysian government wanted to keep the communists out of the legitimate political process. They were afraid that the communists might be able to garner enough support to enter Parliament and offer resistance to the pro-capitalist policies of the Alliance government.
Don’t the Umno leaders – Najib, Muhiyuddin, Hishammuddin, Nazri and several others – who have been loudly protesting the return of Chin Peng’s ashes to Sitiawan, know what actually happened at Baling in December 1955? Surely they cannot be so ignorant!
Their main argument is that Chin Peng was responsible for the deaths and injuries suffered by Malayan /Malaysian soldiers, and that is why many Malaysians are still angry with him. Yes, many Malaysian soldiers sustained their injuries fighting the communist insurgents. But surely Khong Kim Hoong’s and Said Zahari’s accounts of the Baling Talks suggest that the Alliance leaders do share the moral responsibility for all the injuries sustained by our soldiers as well as the communist fighters post Independence.
Intellectual honesty has never been the strong point of our Umno leaders. The penchant to take an ethnic slant on issues is. Their hysterical reaction to the proposal to bring Chin Peng’s ashes to the land of his birth displays both of these features quite clearly!
Jeyakumar Devaraj

About Jeyakumar Devaraj

Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, a long-time Aliran member and contributor, is the Member of Parliament for Sungai Siput. A respiratory physician who was awarded a gold medal for community service, he entered politics and scored a major upset in the 2008 general election when he defeated an incumbent heavyweight minister. ALIRAN

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