The arguments about Chin Peng continue

Geoff Wade has published a very good piece about the controversies that followed the recent death of Malayan communist leader Chin Peng. Wade makes a number of illuminating points. He argues, rightly I think, that the matter of Chin Peng reflects social fissures and political cleavages in modern Malaysian society. The torrent of vilification has been mixed with hagiography. Was Chin Peng a traitor or freedom fighter? Should he be erased from history – or regarded as Malaysia’s Aung Sang? Wade’s article goes a long way to revealing Chin Peng as a real historical agent, rather than spectral bogey man or nationalist hero. I was especially impressed by Wade’s analysis of how the Malayan communists reacted to the failure of the Malayan Union. This narrative is perhaps not as well known outside Southeast Asian departments of history as it should be… The  Union plan had been hatched up in London not long after the fall of Singapore when much of Southeast Asia was occupied by the Japanese. Its authors were members of  the ‘Malayan Planning Unit’. In some respects, the Union plan was a means to harmonize the different semi colonial entities of Southeast Asia – in short as a single […]
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Chin Peng has died

News from Thailand today that Malayan Communist Party leader Chin Peng whose real name was Ong Boon Hua has died in a Bangkok Hospital. He was 90. The Malaysian Daily Star quotes some divergent opinions: Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) National chairperson Dr Nasir Hashim said Monday that Chin Peng must be remembered as one of the pioneers in the struggle for independence as he fought against the colonial masters – first the Japanese and then the British. “If history is rewritten, he has a place in the country’s struggle for independence…” Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar: “He was a resourceful leader in difficult times,” he said. Less generously, Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali said: “To me, Chin Peng was not only the head of the violent communist movement but also a criminal. Chin Peng must be erased from history, so that the people especially the younger generation do not know him. There are some black moments in the county’s history that should be taken as lessons but not the history of terrorist and criminals who did harm to the country.” Erasure would be regrettable, Datuk. Chin Peng was an integral part of Malaysian history – whatever view we take of his political beliefs. […]
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