A Malaysia Day Letter to Chin Peng - Boon Kia Meng

September 16, 2013
Latest Update: September 16, 2013 10:25 pm
Dear Chin Peng,
Today is Malaysia Day, the 50th year of our Federation’s existence as a nation. On this day, which was passing by quietly, we received news of your passing in Bangkok at 6.20 am. We could have wished that your last hopes of being able to return to the homeland which you were born and defended with your youth, would actually come to pass. Sadly, that was not to be and death in exile was to be your lot in life, at 90 years of age.

Your death on this day raises many questions about the meaning and direction for Malaysia, at this crucial juncture in her history. We were an exploited colonial outpost of the great British Empire, perhaps not as rich and prized as colonial India, but still remarkable in generating the wealth needed to put Britain back on her feet after the catastrophic consequences of World War II, with huge amounts of debt hanging over her head.

“Malaya, your rubber and tin, your timber and trade.” For their extraction, Britain can count on poor coolies from China, and indentured labour from India, not to mention the Malay peasantry to supply the food for the working masses, whilst the rulers and the elite receive ‘protection’ under the treaties.

Though I may never fully understand your motivations, why you gave your life to the struggle against the British, surely the horrid and terrible conditions of labour and peasantry under the colonialism of that time gives us some important clues as to why you acted as you did.

Today I will stop my ears from listening to official statements, public condemnations by the powers that be. There is no end to the controversies as to the truth of which historical version is more compelling. For once, since I happened to be in Ipoh, I decided to take a walk around the city, looking for places where you used to hang out in the heady 40s.

We all know you were a Malayan born in Sitiawan, and you gave the years of your youth to the resistance effort against the Japanese. I wanted to feel and move in the spaces where you may have occupied, however briefly those years were, compared with the long years of struggle in the jungles and later exile in south Thailand.

I decided to find the famous clinic belonging to Sybil Kathigasu and her husband at 141, Brewster Road (today, Jalan Sultan Idris Shah). I remember reading an account of your experience seeking treatment there, in one of your memoirs, in a blog (http://malayanwars.blogspot.com/2012/08/sybil-few-notes.html).
I will let those notes speak for themselves, with some minor modifications for the present letter:

“At the end of 1941, you (Chin Peng) were hiding out in an attap hut outside Lahat, a few miles from Ipoh where the underground communist newspaper ‘Humanity News’ was printed. A few weeks before the Japanese landed in Thailand and northern Malaya, you suffered a nasty bout of malaria. A comrade insisted that you go to a doctor. You said that the best, who dealt with all his patients with equal care, whatever their race or status, was Dr Kathigasu. He was already well known and admired by local communists because the Brewster Street surgery was close to a Chinese-owned foundry and Dr. Kathigasu had frequently treated sick or injured workers. He did not charge extortionate fees. The doctor had, you noted, pictures of the Indian nationalists Gandhi and Nehru pinned on his surgery wall. While you were waiting, you had a brief glimpse of the famous ‘Mrs K’ (Sybil). When a dose of liquid quinine failed to reduce your fever, Dr. Kathigasu insisted that you go to hospital – and it was from a hospital bed that you heard that Japanese troops had landed at Kota Bahru. A few days later Ipoh was bombed and the Kathigasus fled to Papan, a one street tin mining town on the edge of the jungle, where they set up at 74 Main Road.”

We all knew the huge price that Sybil Kathigasu paid for her act of resistance against the Japanese, and you did too, in your own way with the MPAJA. I found the address on Brewster Road, and in a strange, melancholic way, as I was pacing around the street in that old part of Ipoh, the image of you meeting the Kathigasus in the closed space of the clinic, summed up well the meaning of living our lives fully present to the historical challenges of one’s own time and place.

Perhaps this is what the philosopher Walter Benjamin meant when he wrote in his brilliant ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’: “The true picture of the past flits by. The past can be seized only as an image which flashes up at the instant when it can be recognized and is never seen again… For every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably.”

So in a strange and ironic way, your death today confronts Malaysia and all her citizens (including the ruling classes) with an existential crisis. It is a crisis of identity, for that which shapes who we are is inextricably tied to what we choose to remember or choose to forget, as a people. It has to do with the terrible experiences of trauma in our shared historical past and collective psyche.

How we choose to deal with the truth will determine our destiny in the coming days ahead. The psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced her famous ‘five stages of grief’ when a human being faces up with the reality of one’s impending death. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance.

Today you faced up to your death in exile, perhaps something which you have already accepted for some time, as you lived out your remaining years in Thailand, peacefully. The challenge is now for Malaysians to do the same.

Will our leaders continue their childish and impudent ways of denying the necessary opacity of historical truth, or they may continue to lash out with senseless anger at any group or personality that they imagine could threaten their hold on political power, or try to wheel and deal their way out of the disconcerting developments within Malaysian society.

Perhaps at 50, Malaysia requires a bout of depression to lead us out of our false attachments and self-aggrandisement as a nation, before finally accepting the real truth of what we really are as a people, where the welfare of the weakest among us reveals the most about what is truly great about being Malaysian.

Thank you, Saudara Chin Peng, for the life you lived, the struggles you waged for Malayan liberation. May your death finally bring peace to a nation still troubled and uneasy with our historical past.

In solidarity with you and your family. – September 16, 2013.

*Boon Kia Meng reads The Malaysian Insider
Official Statement on the passing of Chin Peng in 3 languages

Pengumuman Akhbar
Walaupun dah pergi, tetapi tetap bersama rakyat buat selama-lamanya

Dengan kesedihan yang mendalam , kami mengumumkan pemergian pemimpin kami yang tercinta dan rakan seperjuangan yang dikasihi KAWAN CHIN PENG ( ONG BOON HUA ) yang meninggal dunia dengan aman, berusia 89 tahun pada 16hb September 2013, pukul 6:20 pagi (waktu Malaysia pukul 7:20 pagi) di Bangkok, selepas sekian lama melawan penyakit.

Dengan ini, tamatlah hidup beliau yang gilang gemilang, yang penuh dengan peristiwa-peristiwa perjuangan. Beliau telah meninggalkan kompatriot dari semua kaum, rakan-rakan dalam perjuangan bersenjata, saudara-mara dan sahabat-sahabat serta tanah air tercinta dan juga perjuangan rakyat , yang mana menjadi tumpuan sepanjang hidupnya ini.

Perjuangannya terhadap penyakit menunjukkan personal yang kuat, sama seperti dalam hidupnya, dalam menentang semua dugaan dan menghadapi apa yang tidak dapat dielakkan. Beliau telah berjuang dengan kesungguhan, keberanian dan, yang paling penting, dengan ketenangan yang disemai dengan kebijaksanaan, tanpa mengenal kalah dalam sepanjang "pertempuran" beliau.

Malangnya, hal-ehwal yang tidak dapat dielakkan telah mendatang : Beliau telah meninggalkan kita buat selama-lamanya . Mungkin , bagaikan seorang yang balik keluar dari peperangan yang panjang, beliau perlu rehat. Jadi , REHATLAH , kawan seperjuangan kami tersayang.

Beliau telah meninggalkan kita , tetapi semangat beliau masih bersama kita, tertanam dalam sanubari setiap orang.

Tiada apa yang boleh menggantikan setiakawan yang telah mengikat kami. Dulu, kami berjuang mati-matian untuk mempertahankan negara kita daripada pencerobohan asing. Kami sama-sama mengumpulkan keberanian untuk melawan kuasa-kuasa jahat dan ketidakadilan dalam masyarakat. Dan kami sama-sama mencabar semua musuh yang hanya pandai membuli si-lemah dan kaum tertindas.

Kita memiliki cita-cita yang sama. Kepercayaan politik yang sama telah mengikat kita sepanjang umur. Kita sama-sama inginkan satu dunia yang lebih baik . Kita telah menunjukkan kepada generasi mendatang bahawa jalan perubahan adalah panjang dan rumit . Kita adalah sekumpulan manusia yang berani berjuang dan berani berkorban untuk kebaikan umat manusia.

Kami memahami hasrat terakhir beliau yang ingin mengembalikan jasadnya kepada anak-anak beliau yang tidak pernah beliau bela sendiri. Rintihan hati anak-anak beliau dan beliau sendiri mungkin tidak dapat difahami atau dirasai oleh orang lain. Dalam hal ini, beliau telah menunjukkan kepada dunia bahawa beliau hanyalah seorang manusia, yang penuh dengan nilai-nilai dan sensitiviti merendah diri dan kemanusiaan. Kami tabik kepadanya. Kami juga tabik kepada anak-anak dan keluarga beliau . Dan kami menyampaikan ucapan takziah kepada mereka.

Beliau amat mencintai kepada negara ini- tanah tumpah darahnya. Dengan kebijaksanaan dan keberaniannya, beliau telah mendatangkan perdamaian kepada negara kita. Beliau telah memberikan sumbangan yang bernilai, namun beliau dilarang kembali ke tanah air tercintanya. Sejarah akan menggugat mereka yang mungkir janji. Apapun yang terjadi, rakyat jelata tidak buta.

Selamat tinggal, Kawan Chin Peng - pemimpin yang kami cintai , kawan kami, wira kebebasan yang berani !

Abdullah CD , rakan seperjuangan akrap Kawan Chin Peng,
Ban Chulabhorn Pattana Ke-9 (Kampung Perdamaian Banglang)
Ban Chulabhorn Pattana Ke-10 (Kampung Perdamaian Betong)
Ban Chulabhorn Pattana Ke-11 (Kampung Perdamaian Yaha)
Ban Chulabhorn Pattana Ke-12 (Kampung Perdamaian Sukhirin)
Persatuan Abad Ke-21 Malaysia
Persatuan Perdamaian Hadyai
Persatuan Perdamaian Kampung Perdamaian Banglang

Tarikh: 16hb September, 2013
Press Statement

He has left us, but he is with the people forever.

With the greatest pain and deepest sorrow, we announce the passing of our beloved leader and our dear comrade CHIN PENG (@ONG BOON HUA) who departed peacefully at the age of 89 on 16th September, 2013 at 6:20 a.m. (Malaysian time 7:20 a.m.) in Bangkok, after a long struggle with illness. He has thus ended a glorious life in combat and finally left all his compatriots of all races, comrades-in-arms, relatives and friends as well as the people’s cause, for which he devoted his entire life, and his beloved Motherland.

His battle against illness depicts his strong character, just as in his life, fighting against all odds, against the inevitable. He fought with such determination and courage; and most of all with serenity imbued with great wisdom, without which he would have lost the “battle” long ago.

And yet, the inevitable has come: he has left us forever. Perhaps, it is like after a long drawn fight, he needed a rest. So be it, REST IN PEACE, our dear comrade.

He may have left us, but his spirit is with us, embedded in the heart of every one of us.

Nothing could replace the comradeship that has bounded us together. We fought to death to defend our country against foreign aggressors. Together we mustered the courage to fight against evil forces and injustices in society. Together we dared all our adversaries to continue bullying the weak and the oppressed.

We share the same ideals, the same political beliefs that hold us together for a life time. We dream together for a better world. We show to future generations that the road for change is long and tortuous. We were a bunch of people who dare to fight and dare to sacrifice for the betterment of mankind.

We fully understand his last wish to return his body to his children whom he had never been able to care for. Their sufferings and his could perhaps never be understood or felt by others. In this, he has shown to the world that he is but a human being, full of humility and humanistic values and sensitivities. We salute him. We salute his children and family, to whom we convey our deepest condolences.

He had loved very much his country- his place of birth. He had the wisdom and courage to bring peace to our country. He had done his part and yet he had been denied return to his beloved Motherland. History will point the finger of indictment at those who break the promises. Let it be, the people are not blind.

Farewell, Comrade Chin Peng – our beloved leader, our comrade, the courageous freedom fighter!

Jointly issued by:
Abdulah C.D., close comrade-in-arms of Comrade Chin Peng,
Chulabhorn Village 9 (Banglang Peace Village)
Chulabhorn Village 10 (Betong Peace Village)
Chulabhorn Village 11 (Yaha Peace Village)
Chulabhorn Village 12 (Sukhirin Peace Village)
Twenty-First Century Friendship Association Malaysia
Hatyai Peace Association
Banglang Peace Village Association
Dated: 16th September, 2013.

The funeral wake for comrade Chin Peng shall be held at the วัดธาตุทอง เอกมัย สุขุมวิท — Wat That Thong temple (Court No. 11) on 20th September, 2013 and open for public mourning from 20th – 22nd September, 2013 (the temple is closed after 8:30 p.m. each day); Buddhist ceremony will start at 10 a.m. on 23rd September and there will be a public funeral ceremony at 3:00 – 3:30 a.m. and cremation will take place at 5:00 p.m. on the same day.

Contact numbers: 66-(0)81-832-4602 (English)
66-(0)90-960-9802 (Malay)

(Wat That Thong temple is on Sukumvit Road, Bangkok and located right next to Ekkamai BTS station. Road traffic around the area may be congested and travelling by BTS Skytrain is recommended.)


经过与病魔搏斗了很长的时间,终因医治无效, 不幸于2013年9月16日凌晨6时20分(大马时间7时20分)在泰国曼谷安详逝世,离开了他牵挂的我国 各族同胞、同志战友、亲朋好友和他为之奋斗终生的人民事业以及亲爱的祖 国,走完了他战斗的、光辉的一生,终年89岁。

他与疾病的斗争中,充分体现出他那坚强无比的 性格,诚如他一生的事迹:始终坚持不懈地与逆境斗争,不断挑战常人之所不 能。“不管风吹浪打,胜似闲庭信步”,可充分表达出他的坚毅和勇气、钢铁 般的意志、浸润着睿智的沉稳冷静、面对任何艰难险阻都能泰然处之的大无畏 性格。如果不是如此遇事不惊、镇定自若 ,那他早就“战败”了。

可是,生老病死的自然规律终归不可避免地发生了,他已离我 们而去。兴许,经过数十年如一日地不息奋斗,他也需要休息了。我们亲爱的同 志,安息吧!

陈平同志虽然离开了我们,但他的精神永存,铭记在每一个人 的心中。

没有任何东西可以取代那维系着我们的同志情 谊。过去,我们为了保家卫国,与外国侵略者战斗不息,不 惜牺牲。我们一道鼓起勇气与社会的邪恶势力和非正义作斗争。我们一道向所 有欺凌弱者和被压迫者的恶势力挑战。

共同的理想和政治信仰将我们一生凝聚在一起。 我们共同盼望一个更美好的世界。我们向后来者揭示,变革的道路漫长而曲 折。我们正是一群为了实现更美好的世界而敢于斗争、敢于牺牲的人们。

我们充分理解陈平同志的最后愿望:将身躯归还 他从未有机会照顾的子女。他们感受的苦难和他本人的内心苦楚,外人也许永 远无法理解和体会。他的态度让全世界看到,他也是一个充满谦卑和人道主义 价值,顾及别人感受的人。我们向他致敬!也向他的孩子和家属致崇高敬意! 我们向他们表示沉痛地哀悼。

陈平同志深爱着他的祖国—他出生的地方。他以大智大勇,果断地为国家带 来了和平。他做出了卓越贡献,却被拒绝回归祖国。历史将会控诉那些背信弃 义的人。千秋功过,自有评说。人民的眼睛是雪亮的。

再见了,陈平同志 – 我们敬爱的领袖、我们的同志、勇敢的自由战 士!

陈平同志的亲密战友: 阿布杜拉·西迪(Abdulah C.D.)
The Forgotten War in Malaya
Malaya - the Undeclared War
(Malayan Emergency)