BUKIT MERTAJAM, 29 May 2009: Former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim today asked if former communist guerilla Chin Peng would be treated with as much hostility by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government if he were Malay.
“Let us not divide the rakyat by creating new enemies … He is Malayan. Chin Peng is now old. It is impossible for him to create trouble anymore,” Zaid, an ex-Umno veteran, wrote in his blog today.
Zaid admitted that Chin Peng and the other communist guerillas, such as Rashid Maidin and Shamsiah Fakeh, were “cruel”.
However, he said, “Sometimes, a bitter past can only be accepted when we rid ourselves of vengeance and replace it with humanity.”
Zaid gave the example of South Africa’s violent and repressive past with the racist apartheid regime.
“Nevertheless, (President) Nelson Mandela did not want vengeance. Instead, he set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He wanted both black and white [South Africans] to come together and learn the truth of what happened during the apartheid era,” he said.
Zaid also pointed towards Rwanda‘s successful reconciliation efforts between its Hutu and Tutsi population after the 1994 genocide that tore the country apart.
However, Zaid remained doubtful that the Umno-led BN government would attempt to reconcile with Chin Peng and the country’s communist past in this manner.
“They won’t even apologise to the judges who were sacked [in the 1988 judicial crisis]. Do they have it in them to forget Chin Peng’s [past]?” he said.
“[But] I hope even if the government does not want Chin Peng to return, they won’t accuse those who sympathise with his wishes to spend his last days in Malaysia as enemies of the state,” he concluded.
“Not just an old man”
However, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Member of Parliament for Kulim-Bandar Baru, Zulkifli Noordin, expressed diametrically opposite views.
“I object to the suggestion [to allow Chin Peng's return] because this is not merely about an old man who wants to spend his last days in Malaysia. The issue is that Chin Peng brings with him this country’s dark history,” Zulkifli said through an e-mailed statement today.
Zulkifli said that Chin Peng’s victims consisted of Malay, Chinese and Indian Malayans.
“I recall how in the 1970s the communist terrorists behaved, including bombing public places. I saw myself how my father’s friends in the Ipoh Federal Reserve Unit 5 base were shot by communists during their Simpang Pulai posting in the 1970s,” he said.
“To me, those who support his return to this country are either ignorant about history or heartless,” he said.
Zulkifli said that allowing Chin Peng to return to Malaysia would be akin to “urinating on the graves of the fighters and security officers who sacrificed for the country’s peace”.
“I urge the government to do anything at all to stop him from setting foot in this country, and I will give my full support to that stand, insya Allah,” he concluded.
On 20 May, Penang Gerakan chairperson Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan urged the government to allow Chin Peng to return to Malaysia on humanitarian grounds, since he was no more a security threat to the country.
Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim refused to entertain the idea, saying there is “no place for communists in Malaysia”.
At the same time, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has accused certain quarters of trying to “revive” the communist ideology in Malaysia.