Peo­ple ral­lied to the cause of a mul­tira­cial in­de­pen­dent na­tion, says re­tired cop

New Straits Times - - Front Page - FERNANDO FONG IPOH

THE na­tion could have lost in the bloody con­flict of the Malayan Emer­gency (1948 to 1960), but unity among the peo­ple ul­ti­mately con­tained and de­feated the in­sur­rec­tion.

Re­tired po­lice su­per­in­ten­dent Datuk R. Tham­bip­il­lay said the po­lit­i­cal un­rest and vi­o­lence wrought upon the coun­try by the Com­mu­nist Party of Malaya (CPM) pro­duced a sense of com­mon pur­pose among the peo­ple.

Tham­bip­il­lay, who joined the po­lice force at the on­set of the in­sur­gency in Au­gust 1949, said the CPM had tried to di­vide the peo­ple through in­dus­trial strikes, vi­o­lence and dishar­mony among work­ers in the rub­ber es­tates and tin mines.

“The CPM paral­ysed these in­dus­tries, which had been the na­tion’s pri­mary ex­ports and were im­por­tant to im­pe­rial Bri­tain’s re­cov­ery af­ter the end of the Se­cond World War.

“When the Emer­gency broke out, the CPM, which was pre­dom­i­nantly Chi­nese, in­jured and killed in­no­cent civil­ians who re­fused to aid them or be part of the Min Yuen,” he told the New Straits Times.

The Min Yuen (Mass Or­gan­i­sa­tion) was a civil­ian or­gan­i­sa­tion, which sup­ported the CPM by col­lect­ing sup­plies and in­for­ma­tion, and was es­pe­cially ac­tive in Chi­nese squat­ter ar­eas.

The acts of ter­ror, in­clud­ing de­rail­ing trains, cut­ting phone lines, acid at­tacks and killing preg­nant women, back­fired and un­der­mined the ap­peal of the CPM in the eyes of the peo­ple.

It helped pub­lic opin­ion to co­a­lesce around one idea: to unite for a pros­per­ous and in­de­pen­dent mul­tira­cial na­tion.

“Whether you were Malay, Chi­nese or In­dian, peo­ple felt that they were all in the same boat.

“Our pa­tri­o­tism was mo­bilised by the prospect of a fair chance to live fruit­ful and com­fort­able lives in this coun­try, un­der a firm rule of law and steady progress to­wards in­de­pen­dence,” he said.

The na­tion also pre­vailed at the end of the day be­cause the peo­ple over­came their ini­tial mis­trust of the gov­ern­ment and started to work with the se­cu­rity forces to form an ef­fec­tive, uni­fied civil-mil­i­tary com­mand struc­ture.

Tham­bip­il­lay said it was not easy to gain the peo­ple’s trust, in part due to the mis­takes in early years such as the counter-guerilla strat­egy of co­er­cion and en­force­ment, which led to civil­ian suf­fer­ing. In short, the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse ap­peared to be in­ad­e­quate and con­fused, and it looked as though they were los­ing.

The dif­fi­cul­ties en­dured by civil­ians caused them to view the se­cu­rity forces with dis­trust.

“There was a par­tic­u­lar in­ci­dent in which the se­cu­rity forces were ac­cused of steal­ing live­stock from vil­lagers, which caused an up­roar,” he said.

“The Com­mu­nist ter­ror­ists (CTs) wors­ened the sit­u­a­tion by dis­tribut­ing pam­phlets which al­leged that the se­cu­rity forces had com­mit­ted the theft dur­ing the cur­few hours. The se­cu­rity forces were vin­di­cated when CTs were caught steal­ing ducks and chick­ens,” he re­called.

An­other fac­tor that con­trib­uted to the even­tual vic­tory was the gov­ern­ment’s po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic mea­sures, in­clud­ing the mass re­set­tle­ment of squat­ters, which won the peo­ple’s hearts and minds.

When the Malayan gov­ern­ment de­clared that the Emer­gency was over at the end of July 1960, the CPM con­tin­ued its armed strug­gle to over­throw the gov­ern­ment. The CPM only laid down its arms af­ter sign­ing the Peace Agree­ment of Hat Yai in 1989, which marked the end of the Com­mu­nist in­sur­gency.

The po­lice played a vi­tal part in the strug­gle and paid heav­ily for it. They suf­fered more ca­su­al­ties than the other se­cu­rity forces.

Tham­bip­il­lay started his ca­reer in the Ge­mas Po­lice District where he met the famed for­mer Spe­cial Branch se­nior of­fi­cer Tan

Sri Yuen Yuet Leng, who was a trainee teacher. It was Tham­bip­il­lay who sug­gested that Yuen join the force as the lat­ter was very keen to be­come a po­lice­man and later served most of his life in the Spe­cial Branch.

In the early 1970s, Tham­bip­il­lay, who was Po­lice Field Force as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent, helped to im­ple­ment the Dan­ger Belt Scheme in the com­mu­nist hot­bed of Sibu, Sarawak.

Rub­ber tree logs were used to bar­ri­cade vil­lages so that vil­lagers could carry out their chores safely, in­clud­ing go­ing into the rub­ber plan­ta­tions to work. Be­yond the dan­ger belt, se­cu­rity forces car­ried out “seekand-kill” mis­sions against the CTs.

In time, the peo­ple re­gained con­fi­dence in the se­cu­rity forces. Mil­i­tary suc­cess was achieved and as the ter­ror­ists were de­nied sup­port from the peo­ple, they were forced to aban­don their op­er­a­tional ar­eas.

“The suc­cess gave me the op­por­tu­nity to win over the hearts and minds of the vil­lagers, and em­pha­sised to com­mu­nity lead­ers the ben­e­fits of the scheme,” Tham­bip­il­lay said.

At the time, he was serv­ing in the Ra­jang Area Se­cu­rity Com­mand, the pre­cur­sor to the East­ern Sabah Se­cu­rity Com­mand. For his con­tri­bu­tions, he be­came the first non-Sarawakian to re­ceive the Ahli Bin­tang Sarawak award in 1973 for fight­ing the Com­mu­nist in­sur­gency in the state.

He saw ac­tion against the en­emy in 12 ma­jor op­er­a­tions in the jun­gle with the Po­lice Field Force, in­clud­ing op­er­a­tions in the Be­tong salient at the MalaysianThai bor­der. He went on to serve as as­sis­tant of­fi­cer-in-charge-of­po­lice-district (OCPD) in Kuala Kubu Baru and as OCPD in Ta­pah and Slim River/Tan­jung Malim be­fore re­tir­ing as Perak Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Depart­ment chief in the 1990s.

Datuk R. Tham­bip­il­lay with a copy of ‘The Last Post’, in which he wrote about the Malayan Emer­gency.

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