PETALING JAYA: The peace and harmony that Malaysians get to enjoy today did not come without a price, paid by those in the armed forces who tirelessly and bravely fought to ensure the country remained independent.
One of them is former Special Branch officer Paul Kiong, who spent over a decade of his life fighting against the communists’ second insurgency from 1968 to 1989.
Kiong also put his life on the line by going undercover to infiltrate the communist movement, despite being married and having a young child at home.
Over a period of six years, he went in and out of the jungles of Perak, placing his life in the hands of “rehabilitated” communists who led him deep into the movement’s network, or what he called the insurgents’ “playground.”
He captured 43 of them throughout his time undercover, earning him the country’s highest gallantry award, the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa medal.
The blood, sweat and tears he shed to ensure the country did not fall into the communists’ grasp is one worth retelling over and over again.
“I remember very clearly how when I came back from a jungle operation after a few months, my son, aged around three or four then, couldn’t even recognise me.
“He opened the door, called out for his mother and said ‘there is a man here who is looking for papa.’
“I looked so haggard, bearded, and hungry. We were under the canopy of the trees so there was no sunlight and that made me look so pale.”
Knowing full well in that particular line of work, the only thing certain was death, Kiong said whenever he left for his operations, his wife never asked when he was coming back, or even if he was coming back.
“She knew I was going for intelligence operations inside the jungles, but she didn’t know exactly what my job scope was. I couldn’t tell her.
“She was wise enough to know not to ask when I am coming back because most of the time, I myself did not know if I would come back.
“Calling was not an option as well because back then, there were no handphones like today. Those days, once you leave the house that’s it, you’re on your own.”
The life of most Malaysians revolve around their families, and it was the same for Kiong. However, when going on an operation, thinking about them could have cost him his life or even, those of his men, and so he had to shut off thoughts of his family.
“I missed my family, but I must emphasise that when you go to the jungles to do your job, you more or less have to switch off and try not to think of them anymore.
“Thinking of them may disturb your mind, and put you in an unhappy situation. Then you can’t focus or concentrate on your task and you may end-up endangering yourself and the men who are with you.
“I just had to focus on the job and do my best, and try to come back alive.”