The emergency was introduced to Malaya as a mean to eradicate communism. Without communism, the emergency era will not come about. This shows that communism played an important role during this era.
Communism was first introduced by Karl Marx in the mid-19th century in his book The Communist Manifesto, Das Capital and The German Ideology. Communism is against feudalism and imperialism and it is determined to change this administrative system to communism trough violence and war. According to Columbia Encyclopedia, 2008, communism is a socio-political movement that aims for a classless and stateless society structured upon common ownership of the means of production, free access to articles of consumption, and the end of wage labour and private property in the means of production and real estate. Communism is followed by several countries that time, for example China and Russia.
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2In July 1919, Communist International (Comintern) instructed its party to spread communism to the whole world. In Malaya, communism is spread through Kuomintang (National People’s Party, established by Sun Yat-sen and Song Jiaoren in 1912) and Nanyang Communist Party. As both the party is from China, it is easier to spread communism among the Chinese. Communism was spread through labour union, political parties, night classes and through publications. Communism was spread among the Malays by Indonesia Communist Party throughout 1924 till1930 but the attempts failed as communism was against Islamic beliefs and their culture. This ideology does not acknowledge the presence of God but in Islam, the God is considered as the highest power of the whole universe. Besides, this ideology uses violence to get their way while in Islamic studies, violence is strictly prohibited except when forced to and to claim one’s right. Communism is also not accepted by the Indians. One of the main reasons is that MCP consists mainly of Chinese which raise the suspicion of the other two races. They were therefore more ready to help the British in bringing down MCP.
Karl Marx – Father of Communism
MALAYA COMMUNIST PARTY
In 1930, the Malaya Communist Party (MCP) was established with the objective of forming Republic of Communist Malaya. MCP had recruited a lot of cadres (new members of a political party trained to become loyal followers) and even seeped into most of the labour union. MCP also tried to spread communism to Sarawak but in vain as the people there does not have enough knowledge for politics.
In the year 1935, MCP’s attempts became more violent. More and more strikes and labour unrest occurred with the greatest strike occurring in a charcoal mine in Batu Arang, Selangor where as much as 6000 workers participated in the strike to take over the mine. As a result, the British sent 300 police to end the strike. Most of the leaders involved in the strike were sent back to China and following that incident, MCP’s leader was arrested.
When Japan attacked Malaya, MCP offered help to the British to fight off Japan. MCP’s members were trained in Sekolah Latihan Khas 101 in Singapore on guerilla war tactics. This school then became the guerilla team headquarters in fighting the Japanese army in Malaya. MCP then formed the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) and the British supplied them with firearms through another force named Force 136, also one of the anti-Japanese army but mainly consists of Malay members.
4When the war is over, a political vacuum occurred in Malaya.MCP took this opportunity to rule Malaya through its army, MPAJA for 14 days. The MPAJA troops are known as the Three Stars, symbolizing the three main races in Malaya-Malay, Chinese and Indian. MCP ruled Malaya inhumanely, torturing and killing anyone who had cooperated with the Japanese before this. They also imposed high taxes on the citizens making them suffer from poverty. Other than that, villages were burnt at night with its people still inside their houses and mosques were destroyed. Their actions angered the Malays and as most of the members of MPAJA were Chinese, racial tensions occurred. The villagers stood against MCP causing chaos over the whole Malaya. This issue was resolved when British came back to rule Malaya again through the British Military Administration (BMA) in September 1945 as the British thinks that military administrative system was required to restore peace to the country.
BMA wanted MPAJA to be disbanded and the firearms to be returned to them. MCP agreed to close down MPAJA but they did not surrender all of the firearms. Instead, they kept part of it for themselves just in case they will have to use it again in the future although the British government paid each of them who returned the firearms $350 and a bag of rice, hoping that this would encourage the MCP’s members in returning the firearms. MCP, which had already seeped into the labour union started to be active in political movements.
5MCP openly joined the political process, branching out and concentrating on labour activities. The MCP’s legal activities started by becoming a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council in Singapore in 1945 and were involved in groups like the Malayan Democratic Union and the Malayan Nationalist Party. Their plan was to cause serious disruption and chaos to the economy through strikes and labor agitation and ride the tide of discontent to power. Communist had fertile ground through Chinese schools for recruitment and agitation. Due to the abandonment of BMA, many young Chinese were convinced that the Malay leadership planned to relegate Chinese to permanent second class status. Their future seemed bleak and the communist offered hope.
When the Japanese left Malaya, economy was disrupted. Malayan people faced many challenges including low wages, unemployment, scarce and expensive food. Due to the revenue from Malaya’s rubber and tin industry that was important to the British’s own recovery, BMA was attempting to repair Malaya’s economy quickly while there was a large number of strikes and a considerable labour unrest during 1946 through 1948. Harsh measurements such as arrest and deportation were used in dealing with protestors causing them to be increasingly militant.
A temporary rubber price drop in the world at 1947 caused employers to seek government action to restrict union operations as the Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU) directly controlled 80-90 percent of the unions in Malaya.
Increasing violence especially against European planters convinced the government to strengthen the already stringent law of 1940 to govern the trade union activities. New measures were introduced which requires registration of all unions and condition for registration, certain terms on the eligibility of union officials to hold office were imposed. Situation for workers generally improved however, diminishing influence of the PMFTU and hence the MCP in the labour unions of Singapore and Malaya.
6The MCP was also experiencing serious difficulties within its own organization. The Secretary-General Lai Tek disappeared in March 1947 and later MCP revealed that he had been a double agent. This was a strengthening faction which had consistently argued for an armed struggle. It was decided at the Fourth Plenary Session to prepare for this struggle by moving all party activities underground.
Trade unions were encouraged to not only improve welfare of workers but also to lead them to the road of violent action. The authorities were alerted to the change of direction on MCP’s policy after a spate of murders and attacks on the European estate managers.
BMA did not last long and as soon as MPAJA is disbanded, the British came up with a new administrative system known as Malayan Union. However, the locals did not agree with the system as it threatens their status quo by having jus soli citizenship and due to other factors as well. On the contrary, MCP very much support this kind of administrative system as that will means citizenship for all of them. Furthermore, this system will also not be controlled by the rajas and the Malay officers. This is why, in 1948, when the British decided to change Malayan Union to Federation of Malaya, MCP stood against it.
7In February 1948, a few representatives of MCP attended the Asian Communists Youth Conference in Calcutta, India. The conference encouraged the communist parties to have an armed rebellion to achieve their objective, which is to overthrow the British government and establish the Communist Republic of Malaya. This caused the MCP, led by Chin Peng to form a guerilla unit known as Malayan Races Liberation Army (MRLA) and as most of the firearms not returned are kept in the jungle, this guerilla unit was formed in the jungle itself.
MCP started the rebellion by attacking the colonial resource extraction industries, which in Malaya were tin mines and rubber plantations owned by Europeans. (extracted from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malayan_Emergency) Besides that, they also attack the police station, set factories and buses on fire, damage railway tracks, one of the most important means of transportation essential in sending products from factories to the port, and kill people they think works with or cooperate with the British. . Their plan was to cripple the economy in Malaya, conquering big cities, and towns in the outskirts and finally driving the British out of the country.
Damaged railway tracks
MPAJA cap-shown by the red star
THE EMERGENCY ERA
MEASURES TO COMBAT THE COMMUNIST THREAT
The climax of the MCP violence was on 16 June 1948, when three European estate managers were killed. This incident appalled the British government and spurred them into action to eradicate the communists and their activities. Among the measures taken were the declaration of emergency, enlarging the security force, the Briggs Plan, military steps, psychological warfare ( the Templer Plan), and through the declaration of amnesty.
DECLARATION OF EMERGENCY
Following the death of the three European estate managers, the British High Commissioner, Sir Edward Gent declared Perak and Johor as emergency areas. A state of emergency was declared on the whole of Malaya a day later. This action is to protect the economic interest of British in Malaya. MCP was finally outlawed on 23 July 1948 followed by all of the leftist parties.
9Following the declaration of emergency, the British government reinforced the Emergency Law of 1948. The Emergency Law of 1948 enabled police and soldiers to arrest and detain communist suspects without a trial. It also allows the police force to ransack houses, move citizens to a new area or quarantine a certain location suspected to be involved in communism. Roadblocks and curfews in areas where communist’s activities were rife were also imposed.
It was called an emergency, not a war so that it was possible for businessmen to claim insurance for damage to property from insurance companies, Lloyd’s insurers in this case.
ENLARGING THE SECURITY FORCE
The government also took action in increasing the number of soldiers and police in the country. The police force was reorganized and enlarged until it reaches an amazing number of 70000 people. To increase its military troops, the British brought in soldiers from Commonwealth countries, especially from Australia, New Zealand, East Africa and Fiji to eradicate the communist threat in Malaya.
In addition, the government also established the Home Guard troops in the village to assist the police and military force. Members of the troop are of both genders and the establishment of the Home Guard troop heightened the spirits of the locals to defend the country from communists. The willingness and courage of the Malays to fight the communists awed the British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney.
Besides that, as much as 24000 Special Constables were trained and sent to isolated estates and mines to prevent the attack of communists against them. The military force also bombed and ambushed areas that nested the communists with the help of the British Air Force.
Sir Harold Rowdon Briggs introduced the Briggs Plan to eradicate communist activities through a strategy that relocate the squatter areas from the edge of the forest to a new village and by launching starvation movement in 1950. He himself became the operation director of the plan. The relocation plan started on 1 June 1950 in Johor. Towards February 1952, more than 400,000 Chinese squatters were relocated to approximately 400 new villages. This plan was aimed at restricting the Chinese from supplying food, medicine and information to the communist guerrillas who were hiding in the jungle. This plan was effective in eradicating communist violence because it weakened Min Yuen activities and forced the communist out of the jungles.
The new villages were fully equipped with basic amenities such as houses, schools, medical facilities, electric and water supply. The new village was also fenced with barbed wire and guarded by Special Constables to monitor the movements of the villagers.
11In the new village, each family head is given a food ration card to ensure that all of his family members obtained sufficient food supply. The in and out of the villagers within the new village was also supervised at all times. All these fall under the British plan, the Starvation Movement to ensure the communist will not get any food, weapons, information and medicinal supply from the villagers. This is what that weakens the Min Yuen activity which is formed by the communists to provide food and medicine to them. Most of the MinYuen members are mine and estate workers, either forced in or are involved voluntarily.
With the help of road blocks, it will be impossible for the communists to get any supplies from the villagers. They were forced out of the jungle to get the supplies themselves and this made it easier for the British to demolish them.
Other means to eradicate communism includes introducing a new registration system that is the same for the whole Malaya whereby citizens above 12 years of age are required to register themselves to the government to be given an identification card to be differentiated from the communists.
Briggs also supports the formation of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) in 1949 that helps Chinese squatters lead their lives in the new village. MCA has conducted fund raising through the sale of lottery tickets. The lottery proceeds were then donated to the Chinese settlers in the new village to help them lead a more easy life.
The Brigg’s Plan was a success in crippling the MCP networks. MCP started to feel the pressure on them and the downfall of villagers towards them that in their Central Committee Meeting in Pahang, they decided to reduce violence against civilians and to retreat to southern Thailand.
Sir Gerald Templer was appointed the High Commissioner of Malaya in 1952 to replace Sir Henry Gurney, who was shot dead by communists, on 6 October 1951, while on his way to Frasers’s Hill.
12 As a military general, he used firm military force to fight the communists. His military tactics included the use of 13 battalions of English soldiers, Gurkhas and Malays training 67 000 special Malay soldiers and forming home guards system with 210 000 of them in 1953 and recruiting assistance from the Commonwealth military, such as from Australia, New Zealand and Rhodesia. The strength of the military team enabled the government to launch more aggressive attacks on the communists and ensured that food was not smuggled out for the guerrilla communists.
Sir Gerald Templer also launched psychological warfare upon the communist terrorists by the campaign ‘winning the hearts and minds of the people’ as he realized that the use of force and weapons alone will not be enough to eliminate the influence of communists.
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Campaigns like ‘Malayans Against Communism Month’ were held successfully in which the villagers of all three races held banners condemning violence of communism. They also burnt dolls of communists to show their hate towards them.
Pamphlets opposing the communists were also distributed throughout Malaya. The psychological warfare implemented by the government starts to grow hate towards the cruelty of communists in the villagers that they volunteered themselves in joining security forces and in the police force to defend their land.
13Besides that, Templer also introduced the system of ‘white and black areas’. The white area is an area that is announced free from communist activities, while the opposite is the case for a black area in which Templer introduced curfews as the communist activities were still active and the soldiers were hunting for the communists. By 1954, Templer had announced Malacca, Terengganu, Kedah, Perlis and Negeri Sembilan as white areas.
To draw support from the Chinese in supporting this psychological warfare, Templer made it easier for the non-Malays to obtain citizenship that allows 1.2 million Chinese and 1.8 million Indians became the citizens of Malaya. The leniency of state requirements showed the sacrifice of the Malays in creating unity and welfare of all citizens.
In the psychological warfare campaign, Templer also increased the value of the prizes offered to citizens who manage to capture or give out information regarding the communist’s guerillas. Whoever manages to catch Chin Peng, whether dead or alive will be rewarded with $250, 000 while those who capture or kill his assistants will be rewarded with $200, 000. Templer had successfully made Chin Peng the public enemy in this way.
The Malay Sultans and officers also played an important role in this warfare by telling their people that those who helped the communists will be considered as a national traitor. The Malays were also reminded of the cruelty of the communists during the takeover of the country by the Three Stars army after the surrender of Japan. The Malays were urged to help the government eradicate communism in the country. The government also made efforts in producing hate towards communists in the citizens by calling them terrorists.
14The government then reinforces the food ration rule which force the communists who cannot obtain food to plant their own food. However, the government failed their plan by spraying poison all over the crop area, leaving them to starve until they surrender. At the same time, pamphlets calling the communist terrorists to give up their fight were also given out with the help of the Air Force.
Templer’s psychological warfare can be said to be one of the factors for the success of the government of the Federation of Malaya in ending the communist revolution. This encouraged the people of Malaya to work together with the government to eliminate the communist terrorists.
DECLARATION OF AMNESTY
The government offered amnesty to encourage communists to surrender themselves to the government. About 40 000 pamphlets and 12 000 amnesty pass were given out in Chinese, Malay and Tamil. The Malaya Radio will also broadcast the conditions of the amnesty offer daily. Posters were put up everywhere and advertisements and movies are used to help citizens encourage communism terrorists to surrender.
Communists who surrendered.
THE MEETING IN BALING
In the federal legislative council election in 1955, the Alliance Party had come up with a manifesto which promised immediate independence and ending the emergency. Tunku Abdul Rahman also promised that if given credential, he will negotiate with the communists. Chin Peng then wrote a letter to him confirming the negotiation and the negotiation was held in an English school in Baling, Kedah on the 28 and 29 of December 1955.Tunku Abdul Rahman, David Marshall and Tun Tan Cheng Lock represented the government while Chin Peng, Chien Tien and Rashid Maidin represented MCP.
In the meeting, Tunku Abdul Rahman requested Chin Peng to disband MCP, lay down their weapons and to surrender themselves. Chin Peng agreed to surrender and to lay down their weapons with the condition that MCP is to be recognized as a valid political party by the government.
As Tunku Abdul Rahman realized that communism is not suitable for our multi-racial society, he turned down the offer and the meeting was considered a failure. As a result, the conflict between the government and the communists increased causing other Commonwealth countries to send troops to Malaya to aid British in ending communism.
16 Although the negotiation failed, Tunku Abdul Rahman stated that he is ready to negotiate with the communists again under the condition that it is the communist’s desire to meet him and that they are prepared to surrender themselves. Although many attempts were made by the communists to resume peace talks with the government, they will not surrender and therefore was not entertained.
On 31 August 1957, Malaya gained independence when the emergency law was not over yet. With the independence of Malaya, MCP lost its influence in the people. The last serious resistance from MRLA guerrillas ended with a surrender in the Telok Anson marsh area in 1958.
The remaining MRLA forces fled to the Thai border and further east. (Extracted from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malayan_Emergency)
The Malayan government declared that the emergency was over on 31 July 1960. Chin Peng moved to Beijing where the Chinese authorities placed him in the International Liaison Bureau, where many other Southeast Asian Communists Party leaders were accommodated.
THE EFFECTS OF EMERGENCY IN MALAYA
The British government declared a State of Emergency throughout Malaya on the 18th of June 1948. This state of emergency ended officially on the July 31st 1960 and its effects were seen politically, economically and socially.
The British granted citizenship to the non-Bumiputeras particularly the Chinese who made the bulk of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). Chinese citizenships were bestowed to over half of the Chinese population in Malaya and they were able to enter the Malayan Civil Service for the first time. Since the government had stressed the need for a united Malayan nation, the creation of communal parties had been viewed. Communal parties such as United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) successfully contested in the Kuala Lumpur municipal elections of February 1952. Subsequently the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) comprising of the Indian community formed a coalition with UMNO and MCA into the Alliance Party in 1954. This was cited as a positive step towards the creation of a united Malayan nation. The victory of this unity was demonstrated in the federal elections of July 1955 where the Alliance won 51 of the 52 contested seats. As a result of this victory, the Alliance party’s views were given prominence by the Reid Commission, formed in 1955 to prepare a constitution for an independent Malaya.
18The Emergency Law implemented by the British was also seen as a way to curb the left-winged radical parties. As a result of this rule, it gave rise of what we have today that is the Malaysian race which means a single nationality in which all persons qualify as citizens of this country. This is so either by birth or by fulfilling requirements of residence, language and oath of loyalty. This further induced the Chinese and the Indians in particular to cooperate with the government so as to have a win-win situation.
The economy took a downturn. The country’s wealth was spent to suppress the communists’ activities in Malaya. The government spent about 250,000 to 300,000 a day during the Emergency Rule. This was with regards to upkeep the peace and safety of the people during that time. The money used was to further enhance and expand the police force as well as the home guard. On the contrary, the development of the rural areas was neglected. The government’s focus was on the “New Village”, hence failing to raise the living standards of the people of Malaya.
19The state of emergency which was declared to deal with the danger revealed some of the serious ethnic divisions existing within the community. This happened during the struggle of the British government trying to attain economic goal in the export earnings coming from rubber and tin industry. The Chinese were initially recruited for work in the tin mining industry; the Indians were assigned the task of working on the rubber estates; and the Malays were directed towards providing food for the growing economic machine. These considerations allowed a few privileged members to rise above the economic functions allotted to their particular ethnic groups. By 1957, when the independent Federation of Malaya was announced, the communist threat had faded. But the communal threat remained a legacy of colonial rule which would determine the unity and the survival of a new nation.
The Emergency Rule saw the destruction of about 21,230 lives which included the general public, whereas 6133 dead were communists. This rule also jeopardized the lives of many. They lived in fear and poverty because of the communist threat. The farmers could not plough their lands due to the laws. Rationing of food forced people to depend on food like tapioca and yam, just like what happened when the Japanese ruled.
A new body known as Communities Liaison Committee (CLC) was established to foster unity and close ties among the different races in Malaya. The government also introduced a new national education syllable which is Malaya oriented in hope that it will produce patriotic young generations. Besides that, the usage of the same national language was hoped to be able to produce understanding among the multi-racial society.
From this emergency incident, we can see how important it is for the citizens to not only work with each other but also to cooperate with the government in achieving an aim. Without the support of its people, Malaya will never be able to get free from communism.
Malaysians today should keep this in mind and be grateful to the sacrifice made by our ancestors in order to get us here today, in this peaceful society.
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