The prime minister was right when he asked “why must there be so much fuss about bringing back the ashes of communist leader Chin Peng to Malaysia”.
He noted that “other Communist Party of Malaya leaders such as Shamsiah Fakeh and Rashid Maidin too had returned to Malaysia without any uproar, and that those who tortured Malaysians in the past – like the Japanese – were forgotten.”
If truth be told, the furore is all because of the race of the person.
Chin Peng’s ashes were reportedly brought back illegally in September 2019. Some politicians have exploited the issue for political expediency, aided by some pseudo-academics and those who know little about the history of communism.
Though it was the Dutch radicals who first introduced communism in South-East Asia, this ideology was given impetus by the rise of the Chinese Communist Party whose role in China’s democratic and socialist revolutions had major influence on the local scene.
Communism has worked well in China but today China does not export its political ideology to Malaysia or other countries, but instead uses its economic strength to pour in investments.
The communist bogey
The term “communist” or “communist-influenced” is often used in the local political context as a bogey so that local Malays will not accommodate those people whose roots are found in Communist countries. This is nothing more than a political strategy to stir up Malay feelings.
No doubt some rural Malays have quite an emotional aversion to the word “communist”, but the majority of Malays are now immune to this term, as they are aware that it is often used as a political propaganda.
About 3,000 civilians and non-civilians were killed in Malaya (later Malaysia) and Singapore during the long decades of the Communist Party of Malaya’s violent campaign.
But we cannot deny the fact that almost 90,000 people were killed during the Japanese invasion and occupation of Malaya and Borneo during the Second World War. The battle against the Japanese forces was initially fought by the Allied forces who were later assisted by the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA).
The pain and agony that the people went through, from 1930 to 1989, is etched in our history. No Malaysian would want this history to be repeated.
Today China has become one of a favourite tourist destinations for Malaysians, especially the Malays, who dine in halal Chinese restaurants and visit many historical places including the famous mosques. These tourists return home happy with a better impression of China, and travel has diminished the fear of the word “communism”. China is today a relatively peaceful country under its own system of governance and is developing rapidly.
Japan has evolved into a nation of economic prosperity and Malaysians have been looking east to Japan to emulate their work ethics. The presence of Japanese products and investment in Malaysia is just phenomenal.
Creating anxiety among the locals
Unfortunately, there are still some political zealots and pseudo-academics and of the old domains who are trying hard to cause anxiety among the locals – especially the Malays – of the possible “resurgence” of communism in the country.
Today, almost 75 years after the Japanese atrocities in South-East Asia, the nation’s relationship with Japan has been cordial, while China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner bringing shared prosperity to all Malaysians, and now not seen as an “exporter” of communist ideology.
Malaysia will not succumb to communist ideology when there is good business and economic strategies devoid of feudal economic exploitation, no tyranny and political oppression, a government that is not corrupt, and there is social justice for all its citizens. There would be no reason for the people to resort to communist ideology as the way forward.
Politics in the country represents the old and young. When those of the old political domain, with an old school of thought, talk race politics and bring up stories of communist days to scare the people, it does not reflect well on the nation.
The Malaysians in the new political domain will just ignore all that, as their wishes are to build a better Malaysia by building bridges among all the races in the country.
Let history be kept at its rightful abode and read to remind us of the importance of peaceful living. It can be used as a measure of the success or failure of a system, but not as a political bogey to alarm the people.
It is unwise for some leaders and supporters of race-based political parties to bring up gory stories of the communist terrorists or of the Japanese Occupation to people of the new generation.
If at all there is an issue with Chin Peng’s ashes, it has got to do with the law: the ashes were brought or smuggled into the country illegally. Other than that, there is much ado about nothing.
Moaz Nair is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.