Chin Peng arriving at a hotel in Haadyai for a press conference
MORE puzzling than the Malaysian government‘s current myopic reaction against the idea of Chin Peng‘s return is the sketchy outline of events soon after the Haadyai Peace Accords. The peace treaty was signed on 2 Dec 1989 to end hostilities between Malaysia and the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).
If Chin Peng’s version of events is to be believed, it would appear that he was played out, and quite soon after the ink had dried on the peace agreement.
The government’s defiance of the signed agreement today is unsurprising given the political climate. But did Malaysian officials, in the early years after the peace accords were signed, intentionally cause delays in order to frustrate Chin Peng’s attempts to return?
Chin Peng now believes he was “tricked” and “played” by the Malaysian government, as he tells Malaysian journalists from the Chinese-language media and The Nut Graph at a press session in Haadyai on 27 Nov 2009. The press conference was called in conjunction with the 20th anniversary commemoration of the peace accord. Chin Peng now lives in Bangkok.
When asked why he thought the government signed the peace accords at all if it had no intention of letting him return, Chin Peng, who is no stranger to betrayal, offers a pragmatic view.
“The scenario then forced the government to sign the agreement with us. If they had been unwilling, they would have felt alienated by the people. We were also faced with the same situation,” the former CPM secretary-general, whose real name is Ong Boon Hua, tells reporters.
A young Chin Peng (Courtesy of Farish Noor)The decades in between the first failed peace attempt in Baling, 1955, and the Haadyai accords in 1989 was a time of flux for world communism. These global events affected CPM’s own direction, Chin Peng recalls in his memoirs Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History, published in 2003.
In the later 1980s before Haadyai, Thailand also initiated peace negotiations with the CPM, which was hiding in its southern jungles. Chin Peng recalls that the Thai overtures were coordinated with similar advances for peace from Malaysia. He mentions then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad authorising Malaysian Special Branch contact with CPM representatives for exploratory talks.
Eventually, there were five rounds of private negotiations between CPM and Malaysia, with the Thais as mediators. Chin Peng notes that significantly, during the negotiations, CPM’s role was recognised in the independence struggle leading to Merdeka.
After the peace accords were signed, Chin Peng says he applied in late 1990 to return to Malaysia, but the application was rejected in December 1991.
Former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai has a different version. He recently told The Star that during the resettlement process in the three years after the peace accords were signed, Chin Peng never stated his intention to return to Malaysia.
Yet, the Home Ministry has also accused Chin Peng of failing to attend a resettlement interview that was fixed for 31 Oct 1992.
Chin Peng now says he “suspects”, although he does not dare to accuse the Malaysian government outright, of intentionally reneging on the agreement. “I don’t dare to assume that it was intentional … [Whether] it happened in 1992 or much earlier, I can’t remember exactly. I think I was being tricked to go for an interview. They asked me to go to this place, and then the government side didn’t turn up. Then they asked me to go to another place … from one place to another. As far as I can remember, I was being played by them,” he tells reporters in Haadyai.
At 85 and of poor health, Chin Peng admits to having a patchy memory. He cannot recall dates of the supposed interview with Special Branch. He speaks slowly with long pauses, as if trying to jog his memory.
But he says he kept to the deadline to inform the Malaysian authorities of his intention to return. Under Article 5 of the administrative agreement of the peace accords, CPM members seeking resettlement in Malaysia had one year from the date of the signing of the agreement to notify the Malaysian authorities.
Chin Peng personally wrote to then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on 14 June 2004 to state that he had met the notification deadline. “It is a matter of record that in 1990 I applied under the guarantees of the Peace Accords to resettle in Malaysia. I had sought direction from the Haadyai-based Special Branch officer handling resettlement matters, and was specifically advised to wait in Haadyai for a call to be interviewed. This call never materialised. Subsequently, I received a letter stating my application had been rejected on grounds that I had failed to present myself to an interview.”
The letter to Abdullah never received a response. It is among the correspondence by Chin Peng, his lawyers and the government tendered in court during the hearing for his 2005 application to be permitted to enter and live in Malaysia.
His memoirsChin Peng was to be stood up a second time. In his memoirs, he tells of an offer by a Special Branch officer in Yala in 1999 to “apply for a sightseeing tour”. Chin Peng agreed to the offer and expressed wishes to pay homage at the graves of his grandfather, parents and siblings at a Chinese cemetery located near Sitiawan, where he was born in 1924.
He continues in his book: “For some reason or other, things have not worked out yet. It has been a frustrating wait.”
Chin Peng and his lawyers followed up on the offer with a series of letters, even disclosing travel arrangements, in 2003 and 2004. Two letters were by Chin Peng directly to Abdullah in his capacity both as premier and as then home affairs minister. Other letters were by his lawyers to former Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Omar and then Home Affairs Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, who is today the Election Commission chairperson.
On 25 Oct 2004, Abdul Aziz wrote to Chin Peng’s lawyers a letter, without explanation, that their client’s request to enter Malaysia was rejected. Chin Peng then began turning to the courts. He lost his final bid in the Federal Court on 30 April 2009.
In the light of these letters, the remarks by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop in June 2009 should be evaluated for accuracy. Abu Seman claims that Chin Peng never resubmitted an application after failing to attend the 31 Oct 1992 interview, and thus violated conditions of the peace deal.
The paper trail of letters culminating in the rejection letter of 25 Oct 2004 suggests otherwise.
Another remark that warrants scrutiny is Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad‘s statement that it was the CPM, and not Chin Peng himself, which had disarmed, according to conditions under the peace accords.
Explaining in Parliament why Chin Peng was still listed as an enemy of the country, Abdul Latiff was quoted by Bernama: “This is because during the signing of the peace accord with the CPM in 1989, he did not sign the agreement to lay down arms. Only the CPM agreed to do so and not Chin Peng.”
Considering that Chin Peng’s signature and party position as secretary-general are recorded at the end of the peace accords documents, one wonders what Abdul Latiff means.
A copy of the 1989 administrative agreement to end hostilities signed by Chin Peng on behalf of CPM,
together with then Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor’s signature
Terrorist to some and freedom fighter to others, Chin Peng seems to care little of how history will remember him. He remains convicted of the CPM’s struggle, which, from his perspective, was to free Malaya from colonialists, whether Japanese or British. It wasn’t an “emergency”, it was a war, he declares in his book. As for the armed struggle after independence in 1957, CPM considered that to be a “false” independence by the British.
“It would be arrogant of me to say how I hope history will judge me. It should be left to the people of Malaysia to decide on what I have done with my life,” he tells reporters in Haadyai.
“In politics, we all have our own stand. Those who hate me will certainly not want me to return. But whether they like me or not, I think there is no reason for them to oppose my wanting to pay respects to my ancestors in Sitiawan.”
He says he would choose the same path of armed struggles against the colonialists if time were turned back. But he adds: “If we had thought that there would be another way at the time, we would have chosen it.”
He remains steadfast in the belief that communist principles can form an egalitarian society with the freedom of self-determination. “I have never wavered in my communist belief. Any movement that can bring change to the world will have to face obstacles. This is nothing strange,” Chin Peng tells the press.
Hu Jintao (kremlin.ru; source: Wiki commons) On the visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Malaysia, he says, “It is a good thing for China and Malaysia to establish friendly relations.”
Determined to return
Chin Peng says he has no regrets except for one: that he was “fooled” into thinking he could resettle in Malaysia. He returns to the topic of going back to Sitiawan repeatedly throughout the press conference, chuckling resignedly at times and even managing to smile.
“I have reluctantly accepted [that I will not be allowed into Malaysia]. It is my fate. But I will still push the government to accept me. I am getting older and older and I want to set foot on my hometown. And if they want to arrest me, let them arrest me, banish me.
“I will try to go back to the land of my birth. I will try every way. Smuggle in also can. I don’t know if I will succeed, but I want to try.”
Perhaps, just as strong as Chin Peng’s desire to return home, is his desire to know that he has dealt with honest men. Mahathir, under whose administration the peace deal was signed, now sides with the political status quo not to let Chin Peng return. Former IGP Tun Haniff Omar now considers Chin Peng to have no legal standing in his 2005 suit against the government for defamation, citing the CPM’s illegal status. Yet, it was Haniff who signed on behalf of Malaysia in the 1989 agreement to end hostilities.
In his 14 June 2004 letter to Prime Minister Abdullah, Chin Peng wrote: “I also wish to be reassured, before it is too late, that my signing of the Peace Accords on [2 Dec1989] was not a futile exercise. I still wish to believe that solemn undertakings expressed by Malaysia in international agreements are readily recognised as pledges of honour to be respected and that the injustice done to my 1990 application was a misdeed limited in its culpability.”
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