WE talk about feeling sorry for old men. Or about being upset with the idea of Chin Peng stepping back on Malaysian soil. We have been swamped with evocative words that demand strong reactions. “Old man wants to die at birthplace.” “Just a grandfather.” “Notorious murderer.” “Massacre of innocents.” The “evils of communism”. Strong words for strong feelings, that’s for certain.
MuhyiddinBut whether one abhors left-leaning youths or loathes anti-communist conservatism, the bottom line is that deals and agreements are signed and sealed on paper specifically to leave these emotions aside. When one comes to the table and inks his or her name to an agreement, they do so as men and women of intellect and rationale.
And the fact is, the government of Malaysia signed an agreement with the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), of which Chin Peng was the secretary-general. And today, the Malaysian government is reneging on that agreement. Even Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Muhyiddin Yassin is adamant about the government not fulfilling its end of the bargain.
The Malaysian government signed two agreements with the CPM on 2 Dec 1989 in Haadyai, Thailand. The landmark peace treaty ended the armed conflict between the government and the CPM. The treaty consisted of The Agreement Between The Government of Malaysia and The Communist Party of Malaya to Terminate Hostilities, and The Administrative Arrangement Between The Government Of Malaysia and The Communist Party Of Malaya Pursuant To The Agreement To Terminate Hostilities.
We were represented by no less than then Home Affairs secretary-general Datuk Wan Sidek Wan Abdul Rahman, former Defence Forces chief General Tan Sri Hashim Mohd Ali, former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Mohd Haniff Omar, then deputy IGP Tan Sri Rahim Noor, and then Special Branch director Datuk Zulkifli Abdul Rahman.
Chin Peng (pic courtesy of
Farish Noor)Families of the victims of the communists must have been upset or conflicted when the Malaysian government went to negotiate with the CPM in 1955 in what was the failed Baling talks, and again in 1989 for the successful peace treaty. But these aside, the leaders of the day did what they did for the nation’s peace. In these leaders and in the government did our nation place its trust for rational and principled deliberation. It is therefore a step back for our government today to choose to cloud the issue with plenty of emotional and defensive talk.
It would be timely to remember that the people who signed this peace treaty on behalf of Malaysia with the CPM, represented by Chin Peng, committed the Malaysian government to the following:
Article 1 — Upon the signing of the agreement, the Malaysian government and the CPM would cease all armed activities.
Article 2 — The CPM would disband all its armed units, destroy its arms, ammunition, explosives and booby traps in Malaysia and Thailand.
Article 3 — Members of the CPM and members of its units who are of Malaysian origin and who wish to settle down in Malaysia would be allowed to do so in accordance with Malaysian laws.
Article 4 — The Malaysian authorities would assist members of the CPM and members of its disbanded armed units to start their peaceful life afresh.
Identification portrait of communist
used by Commonwealth troops in
Malaya (public domain /
The rest of the agreement is gracious and honourable in word and spirit. It actually states that the Malaysian authorities would help CPM members who wanted to start anew in Malaysia with assistance like temporary accommodation and other transitional support.
While it is clear that the CPM has fulfilled its end of the peace treaty, the same cannot be said of the Malaysian government. Unfortunately, in April 2009, the Federal Court upheld an earlier ruling that compelled Chin Peng to show identification papers to prove his citizenship, hence closing the door on Chin Peng ever returning to Malaysia.
Chin Peng himself has maintained that his birth certificate was seized by the police during a raid in 1948. These were the years of the Emergency; a time of turmoil and chaos, it must be remembered. The court ruling deprives Chin Peng of the right of residence based on the principle of jus soli. Indeed, Chin Peng was born in Sitiawan, Perak and has siblings and relatives who can easily testify to this.
It would seem then that despite the evidence, the Malaysian government has been let off the hook from having to fulfil its legal obligations under a peace treaty that it voluntarily signed 20 years ago.
Not a “pinky swear”
Not how it happened…
Government agreements are not a ten-year-old’s “pinky swear”, where children can run to their corners and backtrack in a tantrum. When two parties commit to a treaty, it means that both come to the table as willing parties who agree to assume certain obligations. A treaty’s fundamental principle is expressed in the Latin maxim pacta sunt servanda, which holds to the idea that promises made in good faith must be respected and agreements carried out.
A deal is a deal is a deal. Many people who now comment on the Chin Peng versus the government case argue around the concepts of forgiveness, apologies, sympathy and a sense of compassion. They bring in examples of leaders who have been wronged but remain gracious and non-bitter such as Nelson Mandela. Some even pontificate in romantic tones about Che Guevara-type socialist ideology and how we should let different roses bloom and the like. Some mention the “irony” of letting current leaders from China enter the country.
Che Guevara (public domain /
Wiki Commons)In my opinion, these are all beside the point and sometimes, over the top. These arguments rotate around an axis of “What we should do”. But really, based on the agreement between CPM and the Malaysian government, the crux should be, “What we must do”.
What are the implications of a sovereign nation, which aspires to be developed by 2020, dishonouring a contract? Keeping promised commitments is a standard of developed nations worldwide. What example is the government setting not only for its people, but for governments and investors outside of Malaysia? And even if we are willing to put international regard and confidence aside, perhaps our leaders should remember the nation’s own Rukunegara which upholds the sovereignty of the law.
Frankly, I could not care any less for Chin Peng but by showing us that some rules and promises can be broken, we tell our children and the world, that our commitments can be unkept and our principles negotiable. Our government had, and has, the chance to show through example, that when the Malaysian government gives its word, it will keep it no matter the flavour of politics for the season.
The Nut Graph needs your support
What can one expect from a dishonourable government that defends corruption and even murders when those in its ranks are involved?
This government will do anything it pleases and will turn to you and say, “So what”?
orang kampung says
Let this act of breaking signed agreements by the Malaysian government be a warning to all international foreign direct investors.
The words “caveat emptor” should be branded on their minds whenever they think of investing in Malaysia. Do so at your own risk because what you signed would mean nothing when you deal with the Malaysian government. Be forewarned!
Nicholas Aw says
Koh Lay Chin’s article is aptly written. We all know that the suffering was experienced by both sides — the CPM and their families and their victims.
The bone in contention is the Malaysian government which has not fulfilled its end of the bargain. By backtracking and not honouring a signed and sealed document, the government is sending the wrong message not only to Malaysians but also to investors and the whole world that our government does not hold to its promises and is morally wrong.
I feel ashamed that even the DPM is adamant about the whole issue. If other penitants could be “welcomed” home such as Rashid Maidin, I don’t see the reason why Chin Peng should not be allowed to come “home” on the strength of the agreement signed between the Malaysian government and the CPM.
I never knew that there was a treaty or agreement signed. I’ve changed my mind about this issue. Our government should choose to do what is right and should honour their agreements.
Gopal Raj Kumar says
This article is devoid of any substance let alone information of any worth.
The underlying issues here are the rights, obligations and the powers of a sovereign government whether or not the rights or powers of that government are applied in a way that causes them to breach their treaties or bargains with others which is their sole preorgative.
This nonsense that they entered into treaties or peace deals on behalf of the people of Malaysia is stretching credibility too far.
The entire deal between Chin Peng, the Tunku and others were structured and negotiated directly by the British using the persons of Malaysia’s leaders as their cover to satisfy the British interests in the area.
Not only was Chin Peng and his men guilty of killings during an undeclared war or insurgency, but so too were the British […].
Chin Peng must earn his keep if he wants to return from exile. It is difficult to envisage that. Considering he could well be a trojan horse for the now economically powerful and menacing China, a leopard that has not yet shed its political (communist) spots, still laying claim to parts of the Asian continent including all that lie in the south China seas […]
What will happen if Chin Peng dies in Thailand? If his grave is then made into a monument in Thailand, and he is remembered as a fighter for the independence of Malaya, then very MALU loh our country. Even more malu if a lot of people pay respect at his grave in Thailand … it might even later become a tourist attraction!
If we allow him back, he will die very soon (he is now 85 years old) and we bury him. Habis cerita.
Well said… you never go wrong with agreement on paper.
Article 3 â€” Members of the CPM and members of its units who are of Malaysian origin and who wish to settle down in Malaysia would be allowed to do so in accordance with Malaysian laws.
According to the law, CP is yet to prove that he is indeed a Malayan. He lost his birth certificate. How come you say Malaysian government doesn’t honor its commitment? It is due to his own part who can’t prove his legal standing.
When you say emotion apart when abiding by the agreement, it’s the same in regard to law.
Farouq Omaro says
Only legal way to keep Chin Peng out is to declare the 1989 peace treaty invalid and declare a fresh war on the CPM! Wonder what former PM, Tun Dr Mahathir has to say? Was he not PM at that time, during the peace agreement? Or should he be kicked out too since he negotiated with a “terrorist”?
Kiran Nesarajah says
I think the government [has done] its part of the deal. Everyone has to prove their citizenship. We don ‘t give such courtesy to the other immigrants workers in Malaysia, so why [this difference] now? Is everyone okay with making such concessions?
This article constitutes a half-truth. How can the author just list down four articles, and [then] conclude that Chin Peng [was] a national hero? I can do [a] similar four articles to conclude [that] the author is a loser ….
When was the last time Umno honoured its words?
Wu Ling says
Thank you for this informative article. A responsible government should not break any signed agreement to deny the right of a powerless senior citizen to return to his/her home country.
Let the old man die in peace .You think Chin Peng is evil? Look at our own news today … History is good to know, but don’t let it hold us back. For a nation to progress, we need to look ahead and move forward.
tuna singer says
I’m strongly against the CPM for what they did. And I’m all for letting him in back in the country. That way Malaysians who loathe the man will know exactly where to find him.
I completely agree with your statement that the Umno government has been misleading all Malaysians with its excuses for not letting CP return to his home country. That CP has the right to return under the agreement was never mentioned, but all kinds of emotive reasons and excuses were given instead. I am extremely ashamed that the government is disgraceful and low-moralled as to do such a thing. I wonder what the government would say if CP declared the agreement null and void since the Malaysian government failed to play its part, and resurrected the movement and armed conflict?
Dokter Lap says
For the thousands widowed,orphaned and separated from their loved ones because of this heartless butcher, I don’t see how you can “argue around the concepts of forgiveness, apologies, sympathy and a sense of compassion” unless, of course, you are his comrade or immediate family and have unconditional love for this criminal and share his ideas as well.
For people like Chin Peng, the only law applicable is in his victims’ hands and not with the Malaysian government.
Good point on the Malaysian government keeping to its word, and that its a case of “What we must do” as opposed to “What we should do.” The issue of Chin Peng is not a matter of emotion or justification, but a matter of principle.
But unlike the Chinese or Japanese government, Chin Peng is hardly an economic voice, easily sidestepped because he [isn’t a factor] that our own government might stand to benefit from. Unless you mean bitter memories, which can always be played, back to back.
Minghock Chai says
It is disturbing to imagine that Malaysian government can sign an agreement of equal terms with a political entity, only to have it thrown into the drain and dishonoured. No wonder we are not taken seriously.
Does it really surprise anyone when everything is seen through race, race, and nothing but race in this land?
Shamim Imran says
Israel reneges on its agreements and promises and the international community goes mum. Why must Malaysia even bother with the scribe of a few discontent people, unhappy with the treatment panned out towards Chin Peng? He should be tried and hanged for crimes against Malaysians. Yes, the CPM suffered, too, but they were the initiators of the conflict.
Merah Silu says
Chin Peng’s case is similar to Mandela? I was about to muntah. Mandela was a native fighting for his right. Chin Peng was an illegal immigrant, a decendant of Ghee Heen and Hai San, and who assisted the British in robbing the wealth of this country. He was inspired by his cousins in his motherland China to take over this country by force.
He was not included in the “free citizenship” granted by Umno (Tunku Abdul Rahman) … so rightly, he is not a citizen of this country and should go back to his native motherland China. After all, he is a committed communist, and China is still a communist country.
Chin Peng’s case should be used as a [reminder of the time] before the British surrendered to the legitimate ruler of this country. The granting of citizenship should be done properly, as it is being done now. Through the proper process, people will [be more appreciative of] peace and harmony …
Good article. I think most Malaysians, in latching on to the emotional aspects (“he murdered my grandfather” or “he’s an old man, let him RIP”) are totally unaware that re-admission and amnesty were terms agreed upon in the peace talks. I didn’t know either.
Aiyah, what the Malaysian ruling party says is always right! No two ways about it … The ruling party is supreme and they can break any social contract, law, agreement when they deem fit. They are a law unto themselves …
We heard about the agreement between the government of Malaysia and the CPM to end the armed struggle. I disagree that their leader should be allowed to live freely in this country. He kept on carrying out the armed struggle and killed many innocent people to topple the legitimate government. He should be convicted and executed. After all, he has never been the citizen of this country.
Half truth…..only four articles are detailed here…. how about the rest? The rest are not important because they are useless for propaganda purpose…
Ask Chin Peng to embrace Islam; then they may consider his application to enter Malaysia on “compassionate” grounds.
Interesting article. Though I suspect the thing about politics is never so clear.
Merah Silu, I have some brief questions:
1). Err, did or can Umno grant anything like â€œfree citizenshipâ€ to anyone?
2). This is the first time I heard of the British surrendering to us (I am guessing you
mean to the citizens and not Umno?)..
3). If Chin Peng was not without some legitimacy, how and why did our government negotiate with him?
Of course, if there was a technical glitch such as not having oneâ€™s birth certificate or the “correct papers”, then political intervention could be sought to override the technicalities but then the question reverts back to one of sentiments. And the art of power is all about creating and directing sentiments. It would be naive to ask for objectivity, when politics is fundamentally subjective.
If politics is all about will, perhaps the right thing to do, in my opinion, is to let the man back in. Closing the chapter to a particularly violent part of our history is part of the healing process as a nation. Of course, the start of it was signing the treaty and recognising we can make deals with our enemies. I believe it was the Tunku at the Baling talks who told CP that if he continued to hold strongly to his struggle than he has to go back to it (or something to that effect). It is worthwhile noting that Tunku demonstrated chivalry and honesty in the handling of the Baling talks. The CPM delegate came to the talks and as far as I know, all made it back to the jungle to resume their struggle. Some probably may say well the Tunku was weak. To me, he simply was a gentleman. Leaders have to make decisions and not follow a line from some “buku panduan”. It would be better for everyone if those decisions reflect good character.
As for trying CP or any of the members of the CPM for war crimes, I would assume that the treaty would have somehow protected their actions during the emergency. So I don’t think we even need to consider that. After all, as I understand things, there was no surrender. Rather, the CPM agreed to end their armed conflict and in return those who gave up the ideological struggle were allowed home and those who chose not to return home were given a place in Thailand near our borders to (co-)exist peacefully.
Finally, perhaps by letting CP into the country, we can start to acknowledge publicly the individuals who number in the thousands of Malaysian and Commonwealth men and women who stood in the frontlines and fought for the struggle we believe in; those whose lives were forever changed by the war; who lost their limbs; and those who never made it back to their loving and longing families. In our anger and resentment towards the atrocities committed by CPM and of what CP represents, or as many have raised their discontentment towards the purported lack of fair play on the government’s part, we forget the real reason why we should never forget the CPM and the emergency. That is firstly, putting ideology aside for a moment, the concerns was for our nationâ€™s independence. And secondly, to remember those who died fighting for our struggle (and I am not referring to CPM) and in the process setting the foundation on which our nation stands. For better or worse, we live in a Malaysia that was built by the actions and will of shrewd politics and the blood of Malaysian and Commonwealth soldiers who put up the good fight. It seems only apt to quote the Australian War Memorial phrase â€œlest we forgetâ€.
It seems pretty clear from this discussion that I was right earlier to say that unless we truly try to show the Malaysian masses, particularly the Malay masses, what role Chin Peng truly played in Malaysia’s history, shorn of the racial sentiment, hypocrisy and government propaganda, Chin Peng will never be allowed into Malaysia. Period.
Too many people in this country simply see the CPM as a terrorist group which murdered indiscriminately and challenged peace. In reality, they were a group which practised terrorism against the civilian population, but also fought a WAR against colonialism and its harbours, namely the police, army and British population. Long before Umno even thought of independence, the CPM wanted freedom and equality for all, and did not wage war against the Sultans or Malays, but against the instruments of British power.
We may not agree with all their acts, and certainly the CPM ruined their own cause with their unpopular acts, but at least place them in context. The atrocities of the British in suppressing the communists will never be fully told because they won the war. The brutal suppression of the leftist parties, both Malay and non-Malay, by the British to further their exploitation of Malaya left the CPM no choice but to wage war for their ideals. Meanwhile the Umno elites were more easily groomed as pro-British future rulers of the land, despite their struggles, too.
Lastly, Chin Peng does not need a birth certificate. If my grandfather can remember him cycling to school everyday before the war, then imagine what evidence of his birth others like his relatives may provide? The law is indeed an ass at times.
I am not defending Chin Peng’s actions, and Malaysia is on the whole a better country for remaining non-communist. But let us accept the greys of history and the chaos of a very different era from our own, and understand why the CPM did what it did, even if we do not forgive them. A treaty is a treaty after all, and Malaysia must abide by it once it is signed. To allow Chin Peng back may hurt the families of those who suffered, but to renege on the agreement would shame us all.
If Nordin Top, a terrorist that killed so many innocent people, can be brought back to Malaysia, why can’t Chin Peng come back?
Double standards or racism?