Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Promises to ex-communists still not kept

25 years on, peace treaty’s promises to ex-communists still not kept

Former CPM member Yaacob Ibrahim, 53, or ‘Bulat’ says the Communist Party of Malaya continues to be demonised by the Malaysian government despite a peace treaty. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, December 2, 2014.Former CPM member Yaacob Ibrahim, 53, or ‘Bulat’ says the Communist Party of Malaya continues to be demonised by the Malaysian government despite a peace treaty. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, December 2, 2014. A peace treaty had been signed and an insurgency long ended, but a quarter of a century later, hurt remains for former members of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) who still feel the sting of broken promises and continued demonisation over their past.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Hatyai Peace Accord, when the CPM laid down arms against the Malaysian and Thai governments, ending an insurgency that began in 1948.
But despite having signed the agreement with Malaysia, the government has not been sincere in honouring the pact, former CPM members living in Narathiwat province in southern Thailand told The Malaysian Insider during a visit there ahead of the anniversary of the signing of the treaty.
Still demonised
Former CPM member Yaacob Ibrahim, 53, better known as Bulat among his comrades, was angry that the CPM continued to be demonised despite there being a peace agreement and the fact that the party was no longer a threat.
"In my view, the last 25 years had been a test and we have to accept reality, which is sometimes bitter. The years have shown that the government has been insincere.
"Until now, there is propaganda on television stating the communists are a threat. When the war ended, it was finished. What threats? We have no guns. They were all destroyed in a fire," said the small-sized man, who did not hide his disdain when speaking.
Bulat was originally from Pasir Puteh, Kelantan. At 11, he joined the 10th CPM Regiment called the Malayan People's Army. He later was in charge of graphics and layout for the regiment's newspaper, Suluh Rakyat (People's Torch).
He feels the Malaysian government has "twisted" history about the CPM, citing how the Barisan Nasional administration had prevented the publication of history books on the party and its former leaders, Abdullah Che Dat (Abdullah CD), Rashid Maidin, Ibrahim Chik, Shamsiah Fakeh and CPM secretary-general Chin Peng, more than 10 years ago.
He said the books were an initiative by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and after all the work had been completed, including royalty being paid to Rashid, former information minister Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin then voiced objections in the media.
"There was talk about attempts to revive communism and so on. UKM did not go through with the publications. Everything could not move for nearly a year. In the end, the material was retrieved from UKM so that we could find our own way to publish the books," said Bulat, who now works as a rubber tapper.
'We were against British colonisation'
Another ex-CPM man Indrajaya Abdullah, 57, known as Anas among his comrades, also hit out at former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor, who had earlier this year disputed the communist party's struggle for Malaya's independence.
Rahim had reportedly said in an Utusan Malaysia article in February that the CPM's only agenda was to form a communist state in Malaya and that there was nothing in the party's constitution about freeing Malaya from the British.
"A democratic revolution is a fight against imperialism and feudalism. It is against colonisation. We just didn't use the term 'independence'.
"A democratic revolution has a bigger meaning than independence. What happens after that? The shape of the country," Anas said when met at Chulabhorn Pattana 12 village in Sukhirin, Narathiwat province in southern Thailand.
The village, where its original residents were former 10th CPM Regiment members, is only 3km from the Thai-Malaysia border near Kelantan. The village was initially known as 'Ban Rattana Kitti 4 (Peace Village 4), until it was placed under the governance of the Chulabhorn Research Institute.
Pact signed but promises not kept
Bulat also told The Malaysian Insider that the Thai government had treated the former Malayan communists better than Malaysia.
The Peace Village, for instance, was given by the Thai government to ex-CPM members to live in.
Under the peace accord, the Malaysian government was to have allowed former CPM members born in Malaysia the right of return. The government was obliged under the pact to process their citizenship according to the law.
But Bulat said some of them have never received their identification documents even after 25 years.
"There was this man named Majid. He was unhappy he never got his IC (identity card) so he came back and died in this village.
“Pak Chu Mahsin, a follower of Mat Indera, also didn't get his. He had to use another person's bank account to keep his money. That was how he got cheated.
"It was so clear that they were all Malaysians but the government claims they didn't have the papers (to prove they were)," Bulat said.
Anas said it was the same with the late Chin Peng, CPM's secretary-general, who was never allowed to return to live and die in Malaysia.
"His siblings and his father were all citizens. But even the court denied he was a Malaysian. They would not give a Malay his citizenship, so what more Chin Peng, a Chinese?"
Chin Peng, whose real name was Ong Boon Hua, died on Malaysia Day last year in a Bangkok hospital. He was one of the three CPM leaders who signed the Hatyai Peace Accord with Malaysia and Thailand on December 2, 1989, in Hatyai. The other two were Rashid and Abdullah CD.
Chin Peng tried for many years to apply for his return to Malaysia. In April 2009, his hopes were dashed when the Federal Court dismissed his motion for leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision in June 2008, that Chin Peng must produce his birth certificate or citizenship as proof before he could pursue legal action against the Malaysian government.
It was reported that the National Registration Department could not find any record of his birth. The Federal Court also ruled that Chin Peng's memoirs "Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History" in which he told of how his papers were destroyed in a raid by the British on June 16, 1948, could not be accepted as the truth.
Chin Peng had maintained that he could not produce the documents as they were seized by police during a raid in Kampar, which he escaped.
'What is Malaysia afraid of?'
Bulat joked that that they could have smuggled Chin Peng into Malaysia while he was alive, if they had wanted. What more his ashes.
But Anas disagreed, saying that they had wanted Chin Peng to return home honourably and could not understand why the government "feared" his influence.
"Chin Peng has turned toAbdullah Che Dat better known as Abdullah CD is 91 and had wished to die in Malaysia but there are fears he will be arrested if he sets foot in his birth country. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, December 2, 2014. Abdullah Che Dat better known as Abdullah CD is 91 and had wished to die in Malaysia but there are fears he will be arrested if he sets foot in his birth country. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Hasnoor Hussain, December 2, 2014. ashes. What are they so worried about?"
Anas said Malaysia's stance against Chin Peng made the government look as if it would "flip over with a push of a finger".
"That is what it would look like to others outside the country. Will bringing back Chin Peng's ashes affect the people?
"Why the fuss over Chin Peng. It is a matter of humanitarian grounds," he said.
Anas, Abdullah CD’s son-in-law, also said in Thailand, the government had given the ex-communists "special case" citizenships.
"To be a Thai citizen, you need to know the language. But how could senior citizens like my father-in-law, who were well in their 70s and 80s, pick up the new language? But the Thai government granted them, even though it took some time.
"The Thai government also did not discriminate against our village," he said, citing how the government had given land to the former CPM members, with each family getting one house along with 15 “rai” (about 3ha) of land to use for farming as promised, after the peace agreement was signed.
Anas, who once worked for the Suara Revolusi Malaya radio station in 1969 in China, and then the Suara Demokrasi Malaya radio station in Thailand before serving as a translator and trainer in the party's 10th Regiment, said the villagers enjoyed welfare perks.
"We also got amenities as a poor village. Medical treatment at the local hospital is also free because we hold cards issued to the poor.”
The village has 147 houses with a population of about 500 people, up to the third generation of the former communists' families.
The village also has a mosque, primary school, kindergarten, nursery, a clinic, a small museum and an inn. It has no telephone coverage but at some spots in the village, there is free WiFi. The Thai government is now building the Sukhirin Garden that costs five million baht (RM522,607) for the village.
Opting not to return
Life in the village is peaceful. The community, which largely makes its living out of the agriculture sector, is close-knit. Many of the villagers are in their 20s, children of the former Communist Party members.
Daily life is simple for the senior citizens like Abdullah CD, 91, who has lived in the village since it was established after the peace agreement.
His daily habits include strolling around his double-storey brick house after waking up, reading and watching television, especially the news.
Abdullah seemed alert and also physically strong for his age. He uses a walking stick but would set it aside if he was walking while reading something that interests him.
Unfortunately, Abdullah suffers speech difficulties after being poisoned in September 1975. He wrote in his memoir "Perjuangan di Sempadan dan Penamatan Terhormat" (Fighting at the Border and the Honourable End), an intelligence agent had poisoned his drink.
The old man was mostly quiet when he sat down with Anas and Bulat during the interview. He spoke only occasionally to add comments to what the two younger men had said.
Abdullah, who was born in Perak, said he had wanted to go home permanently but took issue with one development after the peace accord was signed.
"The Malaysian government suddenly wanted us to go through an orientation of sorts for a period to supposedly help us adapt. We saw it as an attempt to brainwash us.
"They were saying that because we lived in the jungle, we could not adapt to living in society, that we would need time. We understood it as an attempt to change us. That was why I decided not to return," he said.
Anas said there was also a concern that Abdullah CD might be detained under the Internal Security Act if he went back to Malaysia.
But Abdullah did return to Malaysia once, in 1998, and had an audience with the late Sultan Azlan Shah in Kuala Lumpur.
Observing Malaysia
Despite living outside Malaysia for decades, the former communists are up-to-date with affairs in the country of their birth, including the recent episode in Parliament when PAS lawmaker Mohamed Hanipa Maidin spoke about Chin Peng and other CPM leaders' contributions.
Bulat cited how Umno's Datuk Seri Azalina Othman had called Hanipa a communist supporter.
"They still do not see communism as an ideology. They see it as something bad and demonic," he said.
Bulat said communism was an economic system, like capitalism, and he failed to understand why communism was linked to anti-religion sentiments and atheism. Malays who joined the CPM still practised Islam.
He related how an ustaz (a religious teacher) had visited the Chulabhorn village with a friend some time ago.
"It was zohor (around noon) when he arrived. He heard the azan from the entrance of the village.
"He came into the village, went to see the headman and he was angry. He said for more than 40 years, he had been duped."
Bulat also said Malaysia was far from becoming a nation state.
"We are only free from the colonisation of foreign powers. Now we have switched to the local authorities.
"From the aspect of oppression, issues of justice and others, there is no significant change. Minds are also not free, still tied to what the colonial powers left behind like the Sedition Act.”
Bulat said the country could not be a nation state when its people were still identified by their respective races.
Anas did not miss a beat and said: "How do you achieve a nation state when it takes so little to tell the Chinese to go back to China?"
Bulat said Malaysians have become more mature in thinking as shown by the way people remained clam over religious and racial incidents, like attacks on churches and cow heads and pigs' heads thrown at places of worship.
But Anas said Malaysia has a long way to go with conservatism among the Malays, in Umno and the government on the rise.
"That is a sign the country is going backwards, like what that Australian writer said... that Indonesia has taken a step forward while Malaysia takes two steps back," he said, referring to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald criticising Malaysia's growing authoritarianism. – December 2, 2014.

It is sad that Malaysia cannot keep its promises. Best not to make them in the first place.
 What is the Umno/BN govt so afraid of!

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