Academic journal article IUP Journal of International Relations

New Light on the Emergency: The Communist Insurrection in Malaya (1948-1960)

Academic journal article IUP Journal of International Relations

New Light on the Emergency: The Communist Insurrection in Malaya (1948-1960)

Article excerpt

A lot has been written on the Undeclared War-the Communist Uprising-which has been called the Emergency in Malaya after the Second World War. Yet new documents have been produced recently which can help us have a more complete outlook of that insurrection. Moreover, quite a few novels and films have also been made on the same. Therefore, if we take into consideration all these new sources, some of which are memoirs written by the protagonists of such war both by the communists themselves as well as by people from the other side, we have now at our disposal quite a few brand new sources of information. True, all these documents do not change completely our views on the events which unfurled during 72 years, but they contribute to give us a better understanding of what happened there and then. Obviously, the most intriguing of all these memoirs are those written by the former Secretary-General of the Malayan Communist Party, Chin Peng. Not only do we have his memoirs but also the minutes of a Seminar which was held in Canberra at the turn of the 20th century in which he was asked by academics and civil servants to comment on such events in which he took part when he was leading the uprising. This paper takes a close look at the event in the light of the new disclosures.

Historiography is a never-ending process. Either brand new facts are found or new artefacts are discovered so that certain cities, empires or even civilizations appear to have been founded earlier than we first believed. Sometimes new documents are published and shed new light on what happened at a particular time and space. This is the case regarding the Emergency, the Undeclared War, which spread in Malaya in the aftermath of the Second World War.1

Indeed, there are quite a few publications on insurrection in Malaya by local and foreign historians. We also have a fairly large account of what really happened to former military personnel who were engaged in that war and to civilians who were caught in that conflict, e.g., rubber planters.2 There were numerous rubber planters who lived through that period and wrote about it. A fairly recently published account of it is Malayan Spymaster by Boris Hembry.3 As far as we know, Boris Hembry's is the most informative and real firsthand account of a rubber planter who lived there at the height of the Emergency in Malaya and took a real part in it. He was not only a rubber planter doing his job in difficult times but decided to join the government forces to fight against communists by putting together Hembry's Own Bloody Army (HOBA).4

We have also noticed that at the beginning of the 21st century, a brand new set of documents have appeared in three languages-Chinese, English and Malay- written by protagonists themselves, i.e., members of former Malayan Communist Party (MCP). However, all are not written by the former communists; a few of them are written by historians who wanted to record what the communists did and why they did it.

Obviously, the most surprising of them are the memoirs of Chin Peng, Secretary- General of the MCP As far as we know, we do have Stalin's memoirs, or Ho Chi Minh's account of what he did and why he did it when he fought the French and then the Americans in his native Vietnam. Also, we have Chin Peng's side of the story. Of course, we cannot take his account at face value, but it helps us forge a better understanding of what really happened during such time in Malaya. Indeed, Chin Peng revealed the details on his own. First he was appointed visiting fellow in 1998 at the Australian National University, in Canberra, and at the end of it, a special workshop was held in November 1999 and subsequently a book was published.5 Then he wrote his memoirs with the help of two historians, Ian Ward and Norma Miraflor, which was published in 20036, and finally he gave a lecture at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore, in October 2004 (Chin Peng is still banned from entering his native Malaya/Malaysia as the government believes that the MCP has caused too much trouble in the past). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.