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.
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