Ashes Test

Hello everyone! So the semester’s started again which means more drama, excitement, more friends and of course, more Ignite! So, what’s been going on in Malaysia during the summer? A lot. For the international students, I CAN update you about the General Elections in May and the short rampant crime spree and price hikes which followed but why not try asking a couple of the local students about it. I guarantee you will have a ball with all the many answers and reactions. But of course, I’m not here simply to advertise and sell you some Malaysian hospitality, so let’s get on with the more recent happenings in Malaysia, in particularly the death of one Chin Peng on Malaysia Day, that’s September the 16th for those of you who might not know.

Who’s Chin Peng? I suppose most, if not all Malaysians are familiar with his story. (If you’re not, don’t admit to not knowing, because I will silently judge you, in a bad way). For those of you who may find this person interesting, here’s some information about him and I swear, this is all objective:

Chin Peng (Real name Ong Boon Hua) was born in 1924 in Perak, Malaysia. He was a prominent member and leader of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) which later became a pioneering member of the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), a guerilla military unit which comprised mostly of Malayan Chinese formed in retaliation against the Japanese occupation. For his work in the MPAJA’s movements, Chin Peng was awarded two war-time medals and an OBE (later revoked) by the British.

However, Chin Peng was then portrayed as a sort of fallen angel who turned from hero to zero in1948 when alleged members of the MCP killed European plantation managers in Perak, leading to the MCP being banned in July that year. In the subsequent raids that followed, Chin Peng claimed that he lost his identification documents and narrowly escaped arrests despite maintaining that he had no prior knowledge or any involvement with the killings. This resulted in the Malayan Emergency, a civil war which lasted the length of twelve years, until 1960 when Chin Peng withdrew to southern Thailand, where the MCP opted for a more theoretical approach instead. Chin Peng and his allies eventually laid down arms in 1989, meeting with the governments of both Thailand and Malaysia to negotiate separate peace agreements with both states, in which one of the terms mentioned was permission for Malayan MCP members to return and live in Malaysia.

Chin Peng applied for permission to return to Malaysia twice, once in 2000 and again in 2008, both times rejected for failing to present relevant documents, documents which Chin Peng again maintains were taken away from him during the initial police raid in 1948. Unable to return to his home country, the Communist Party leader passed away aged 88 on the 16th September 2013, ironically on the 50th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia in Bangkok, Thailand. But it is his dying wish which has caused a ruckus in recent weeks.

Now, I’m not so brave to pick a side and publicly admit to it, nor am I a firm supporter of communism but regardless of how one looks at Chin Peng, be it as a freedom fighter or a terrorist, I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic towards the man when his dying wish of having his ashes buried in his hometown of Perak was firmly denied by the Malaysian government. The new Home Minster (we had an election, remember), Zahid Hamidi is perhaps in the most vocal in the stand against Chin Peng’s ashes (meant to sound sarcastic and/or funny, but if it doesn’t work…well, don’t hurt my ego, so please, pretend to laugh), claiming that he feared the return of Chin Peng’s ashes could spark an initiative to have a memorial built or for a campaign of recognition for Chin Peng as a national hero, citing the desire to not offend the many family members of those who died during the Malayan Emergency as a reason.

The media have been quick to kick up a storm surrounding the MCP leader’s death, some going as far as to claim that Chin Peng’s family members were planning to divide his ashes and bring them back into Malaysia ala incognito, prompting the Malaysian government to further reiterate its stance of not allowing his urn of ashes to be brought back into home soil. Of course, there are many fragmented views regarding this matter which transcends political ideology, with some arguing that Chin Peng and the MPAJA contributed to the independence of Malaya while others branded him a traitor to the country.

Regardless of what one might think, this is a question that really should be pondered upon:

Are an urn of ashes, a memorial and potential recognition of a man past his time, of an ideology all but booted out in the democratic state of Malaysia really that much cause for concern or somewhat unethical media outplaying and intrusion into a man’s family matters? Really?

Darren Yeoh

"Zeal without knowledge is fire without light." - Thomas Fuller, 17th century historian

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