KUALA LUMPUR, 20 Oct 2008: Shamsiah Fakeh, 84, former member of the 10th regiment of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) passed away at 9am today from old age.
This Kuala Pilah-born nationalist initially led the Angkatan Wanita Sedar (Awas), which was formed in 1946 as part of a larger Malay leftist movement that fought for independence.
When the Emergency was declared in 1948, Shamsiah joined the 10th Regiment, the predominantly Malay wing of the CPM.
But after a few years of guerrilla warfare, Shamsiah fled the country. She eventually left the CPM in 1968, and settled in China, where she worked in a steel factory. She also married and had a family there.
Shamsiah and her family were allowed to return home on 23 July 1994, nearly five years after the CPM and the Malaysian government agreed to cease hostilities.
Her memoir, Memoir Shamsiah Fakeh — Dari AWAS ke Rejimen ke-10, was first published in 2004 by Penerbit UKM. A new edition and a Chinese language edition was published in 2007.
Social activist and Parti Rakyat Malaysia member Rohana Ariffin said Shamsiah was one of the very few Malay women in the leftist struggle for independence.
But Rohana said Shamsiah cannot be described as feminist, because gender was not a big dimension in the struggle for independence to begin with.
“She was a nationalist freedom fighter, like Ahmad Boestamam,” said Rohana.
Shamsiah, Rohana believed, was not a communist in the strict sense of the word.
“If you are a scientific communist, then you do not believe in God altogether. But Shamsiah was also deeply religious, so I personally think she was more of a Malay socialist.”
Parti Sosialis Malaysia secretary-general S Arutchelvan told The Nut Graph: “It is good that she could be buried in Malaysia, because many more communists have been denied their rightful return.
“This is even after the 1989 peace agreements. It’s about time they be allowed to return.”
Both Rohana and Arutchelvan paid tribute to Shamsiah’s contribution to the leftist struggle in Malaysia.
“Very recently, many people made her look like she compromised a lot of her ideals,” said Arutchelvan. “But she came out in Mastika magazine and clarified her position. She never regretted her fight, not even the armed struggle. We salute her for that.”
Shamsiah is survived by two sons and four grandchildren.