Tuesday, December 08, 2009

My Blog to me is also my personal file. It is where i keep information which I have glean from the net. It is important for me to do so as what ever written is base on facts or could be back up by reports lodge. Here is more on Communism and about it in Malaysia written by various authors

Keeping promises to communists

3 Dec 09 : 8.00AM

By Deborah Loh
deborahloh@thenutgraph.com&#100&#101&#98&#111&#114&#97&#104&#108&#111&#104 at &#116&#104&#101&#110&#117&#116&#103&#114&#97&#112&#104 dot &#99&#111&#109

IT's not about giving sympathy. It's about honouring an agreement.

As I rode the bus back to Kuala Lumpur from Haadyai after covering Chin Peng's media conference on 30 Nov 2009 in conjunction with the 20th anniversary ceremony of the tripartite Haadyai Peace Agreements, I could not help thinking. I tried to wrap my head around the different sentiments that various groups feel over this controversial man.

Original footage of the signing of the tripartite Peace Agreements on 2 Dec 1989
at the Lee Gardens Hotel in Haadyai. Footage made available to media representatives
by the 21st Century Malaysia Friendship Association, which comprises former CPM
comrades now resettled on both sides of the Thai-Malaysian border

Have sentiments against his return been blown out of proportion? I think they have. But for saying that, I know that I too, will be vilified. After all, I never lived through the Emergency. I don't have relatives in the police or armed forces who fought against the communists. I've never known the pain of losing a loved one to war. I don't walk with shrapnel in my arm or with a limp from stepping on booby traps.

I do try to imagine what the pain of such loss might feel like. I know my feeble attempts will never come close to what those who suffered at the hands of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), of which Chin Peng was secretary-general, have experienced. And I am sure it is not so easy to say, as Chin Peng is asking us to do, "Leave the past behind."

Whose history?

Chin Peng's memoirs
So what do I know? I'm just a young journalist who interviewed Chin Peng, now a dying octogenarian. But in covering the peace agreements anniversary, I've had to learn more about Chin Peng's side of the story. The Court of Appeal, in denying his return, said that "Chin Peng's memoirs cannot be accepted as the gospel truth. Anything can be written in the memoirs." But there is also a well-known saying: "History is written by the victors."

I just know that this is probably how the young look at the issue today. If you say that Chin Peng shouldn't be given sympathy, can the same also be said of those who chose to be in the armed forces, who fought against the CPM?

We definitely honour the memory of those who fought against the communists. But unless one is drafted or is a kidnapped child soldier, don't soldiers join armies willingly, knowing the possibility of death on the battlefield? Don't police officers who opt to protect society as a career choose the risk of injury or death in the line of duty?

As a journalist, I know that by choosing this profession, I face the risk of being criticised for my writing. That's nothing compared to detention or death, which is the reality for my counterparts in more repressive countries, or even in a neighbouring country like the Philippines.

Making choices

The point is, we all make our own choices. Chin Peng made a choice — the path of revolution. Personnel from the armed forces and the police also made a choice when they enlisted. And both sides lost lives.

The only one on the Malaysian side today who can openly admit this is former Special Branch director Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor, who led Malaysia's peace negotiations with the CPM.

Chin Peng takes a moment of silence to remember
those who died in the armed conflict
"To me in any war, in an armed conflict, big or small, there must be casualties ... If you say the army, police personnel and civilians suffered the most, ask the CPM [and] they would say the same thing: 'What about me and my people?'

"So to me, views expressed by [associations representing] veterans and ex-police [personnel] are just emotional," said Rahim, who later became inspector-general of police.

Honouring agreements

Now you may ask, what about innocent civilians who died needlessly?

All I can say is that the same question is probably asked in every conflict worldwide. Yet, that doesn't stop governments from signing peace treaties to end wars. If all sides to a conflict were to dwell on the question of innocent civilians, no agreements would be signed. If emotions were always allowed to get the better part of arguments, no rational decisions would ever be made.

War sucks. But it happens. I'm lucky not to have lived through it. But should one come to our shores, and if I lived through it, I would hope that the people my government signs a peace treaty with would uphold it to the letter.

The young today may have a weak grasp of history. But values like honesty and honouring promises endure through time.

I hope the young today don't look at the Malaysian government as an example, but will learn instead from figures like Datuk Seri Yuen Yuet Ling. Yuen fought during the Emergency and survived assassination attempts by the communists. But he can still argue for Chin Peng's right of return in his comments on The Nut Graph.

Tan Cheng Lock (Public domain;
Wiki commons)
I hope the young will also use leaders back then as role models; like Rahim, who believed in the sanctity of written agreements. And the late Tun Tan Cheng Lock, who sought to make peace with Chin Peng at the 1955 Baling talks, even though he was on the receiving end of a communist hand grenade.

Life is never black or white. People, too, are complex in nature. Rahim is the same police chief who admitted to beating up Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in custody after the deputy prime minister was sacked and detained in 1998. If we were to judge Rahim solely on that incident, we would not discover other sides of his character, such as his principle about keeping a promise.

The pain of memories and personal demons is a private battlefield. But because the larger world is complex and history can be subjective, written agreements are meant to be binding as a way out of the confusion and to restore order. However, they are only as good as the parties that keep them.

Deborah Loh ponders the meaning of forgiveness.

The voice of the Malay communists

4 Dec 09 : 8.00AM

By Deborah Loh
deborahloh@thenutgraph.com&#100&#101&#98&#111&#114&#97&#104&#108&#111&#104 at &#116&#104&#101&#110&#117&#116&#103&#114&#97&#112&#104 dot &#99&#111&#109

Former CPM chairperson Abdullah CD
arriving at the commemorative
ceremony for the 20th anniversary of
the peace accords

THE issue of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) is definitely one that is framed according to the racial lines that divide us as a nation. For example, the prevailing myth is that the CPM was an all-Chinese illegal organisation even though there is enough literature about the party's Malay members and leaders.

At the same time, there is also the perception of selective racial treatment . Former CPM members who are Malay enjoy the right to return to Malaysia, as guaranteed under the 1989 Haadyai Peace Agreements. But the same right is not extended to former CPM secretary-general Chin Peng.

Interestingly enough, despite the Malays being "favoured", not every Malay communist has chosen to return. Not only that, while they are made near invisible by official history and hence not vilified in the same way that Chin Peng is, these former CPM Malay members still have reason to be critical of the Malaysian government.

No conditions

Abdullah (right) receiving an old friend and comrade, Wang
Hai Zhi, at his hotel room in Haadyai during the interview

Former CPM chairperson Abdullah CD is one of them. At 86, he is likely the highest-ranking ex-CPM Malay cadre left alive. He was a signatory to the 1989 peace agreements. But he tells The Nut Graph that soon after signing the treaty, he was not convinced that the Malaysian authorities were sincere about letting senior leaders like him return.

Abdullah was given Thai citizenship and has been living in Kampung Chulaborn 12, Sukhirin, one of the four "peace villages" in southern Thailand where former CPM cadres have resettled after the 1989 peace treaty. He is allowed to enter Malaysia, and has visited Parit, his birthplace in Perak, and Kuala Lumpur.

Abdullah says the Malaysian officers tasked with facilitating the return of ex-guerrillas imposed conditions on their return home.

"Saya kata, kalau soal syarat ini, saya tak mahu lah. Ramai lagi yang balik. Saya tak bersetuju syarat," Abdullah says in an interview in Haadyai on 30 Nov 2009 where he was attending the peace accord's 20th anniversary commemoration.

"Apa syarat yang tak setuju?" The Nut Graph asks him.


"Syarat dia Akta Keselamatan. Saya tak mahu. Apa-apa syarat, saya tak mahu. Syarat-syarat tak ikut perjanjian. Kalau ikut perjanjian, takde soal syarat."

His answers seem to corroborate Chin Peng's own recollection of attempts to make the resettlement process difficult. In Chin Peng's memoirs, Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History, he wrote that the CPM suspended the returnee programme until then Special Branch chief, Tan Sri Norian Mai, agreed that asking the ex-guerrillas to sign confessions was unfair.

Additionally, under the peace treaty, the Malaysian government was not to apply the Internal Security Act, or the Akta Keselamatan Abdullah was referring to which allows for indefinite state detention without trial, against former CPM members for past activities.

Malay, Muslim, and communist

Book cover of The Memoirs of
Shamsiah Fakeh: From AWAS to
10th Regiment

History about Abdullah's left-winged beginnings with many prominent Malay leaders before he joined CPM is well-documented in his memoirs which includes his experiences leading the CPM's 10th Regiment. The 10th regiment mainly comprised Malay-Muslim cadres. But even before the Emergency was announced in 1948, many Malays already supported the leftist struggle against the British and Japanese occupations.

"Banyak jugak orang Melayu dalam CPM. Dulu pun dah ramai dalam KMM," Abdullah says in the interview, referring to the Kesatuan Melayu Muda nationalist group.

Abdullah's wife, Suriani Abdullah was also a CPM central committee leader. Another prominent Malay woman leader was Shamsiah Fakeh, who earlier led the women's wing, Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya.

Other prominent Malay CPM leaders included Abu Samah Mohamad Kassim, another 10th Regiment leader and CPM central committee member, and Rashid Maidin. Rashid, also a central committee member, was on the negotiating team with Chin Peng at the 1955 Baling peace talks. He was also a signatory to the Haadyai peace accords along with Chin Peng and Abdullah.

Cover for The Finest Hour

Dr Collin Abraham, in his book The Finest Hour: The Malaysian-MCP Peace Accord in Perspective, cites these as examples of how the Chinese-dominated party did take pains to give Malay members important roles to deal with perceptions of racial discrimination in the CPM's rank-and-file.

Abraham also notes how the British used Islam as propaganda to prevent Malays from joining the CPM, when actually, the party viewed religion as a personal choice. When The Nut Graph asks Abdullah how he could be Muslim and a communist, he declares: "Pertama, saya orang Melayu. Bermula di KMM. Kemudian parti komunis. Takde soal, takde soal."

A "false independence"

A relatively unknown CPM story is that of Syed Hamid Ali, 66, the younger brother of Parti Keadilan Rakyat deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali. An active student leader at Universiti Malaya in the late 1960s, he became a guerrilla to avoid arrest.

"Because of my activities, my passport was confiscated while I was travelling. There was the threat of the Internal Security Act. I joined the CPM because I had nowhere else to turn to.

"I took up arms first, before officially joining CPM in 1976. I never wanted to be a communist. But there was nowhere else to go at the time," says Syed Hamid who resettled in Malaysia in 1991 and now lives in Batu Pahat. He, too, spoke to The Nut Graph in Haadyai.

Syed Hamid was in the 10th Regiment before being transferred to other units. He says even though Malaysia had already been independent for 19 years when he joined, the CPM considered it a "false independence".

Claude Fenner
(source: rmp.gov.my)
Syed Hamid disagrees with the argument, still used against the CPM today, that they continued armed resistance against a sovereign state even after the British left.

"After Merdeka, we continued to rely on British defence and police. Our own police and army worked for and were paid by the British. We inherited their repressive laws like the ISA. The first Inspector-General of Police until 1966 was British, Claude Fenner. Umno continued the policies of the British. What sort of independence is that?"


From the perspective of these former CPM members, denying Chin Peng's return is not the Malaysian government's only broken promise according to the 1989 peace treaty. Syed Hamid says the continuing demonisation of CPM by government officials and the media also contravenes the spirit of the peace accords where both Malaysia and CPM agreed not to vilify each other.

It was on this basis that Chin Peng sued the government for defamation in 2005 but lost.

Chin Peng
Chin Peng
In contrast, the Thai government not only ensured that the CPM's image was not tarnished, it also provided land and resources for former CPM members to resettle in southern Thailand.

With that as a comparison, and considering all that the Malaysian government has done and continues to do, it is clear that if we only understand the CPM issue along racial lines, we would be fooling ourselves. Not only were there Malay Muslim communists in the CPM, these former communists have as much to be discontented about with the Malaysian government as does Chin Peng. favicon

Was Chin Peng played out?

1 Dec 09 : 8.00AM

By Deborah Loh
deborahloh@thenutgraph.com&#100&#101&#98&#111&#114&#97&#104&#108&#111&#104 at &#116&#104&#101&#110&#117&#116&#103&#114&#97&#112&#104 dot &#99&#111&#109

Chin Peng arriving at a hotel in Haadyai for a press conference

MORE puzzling than the Malaysian government's current myopic reaction against the idea of Chin Peng's return is the sketchy outline of events soon after the Haadyai Peace Accords. The peace treaty was signed on 2 Dec 1989 to end hostilities between Malaysia and the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).

If Chin Peng's version of events is to be believed, it would appear that he was played out, and quite soon after the ink had dried on the peace agreement.

The government's defiance of the signed agreement today is unsurprising given the political climate. But did Malaysian officials, in the early years after the peace accords were signed, intentionally cause delays in order to frustrate Chin Peng's attempts to return?

Chin Peng now believes he was "tricked" and "played" by the Malaysian government, as he tells Malaysian journalists from the Chinese-language media and The Nut Graph at a press session in Haadyai on 27 Nov 2009. The press conference was called in conjunction with the 20th anniversary commemoration of the peace accord. Chin Peng now lives in Bangkok.

Making peace

When asked why he thought the government signed the peace accords at all if it had no intention of letting him return, Chin Peng, who is no stranger to betrayal, offers a pragmatic view.

"The scenario then forced the government to sign the agreement with us. If they had been unwilling, they would have felt alienated by the people. We were also faced with the same situation," the former CPM secretary-general, whose real name is Ong Boon Hua, tells reporters.

A young Chin Peng (Courtesy of Farish Noor)
The decades in between the first failed peace attempt in Baling, 1955, and the Haadyai accords in 1989 was a time of flux for world communism. These global events affected CPM's own direction, Chin Peng recalls in his memoirs Alias Chin Peng: My Side of History, published in 2003.

In the later 1980s before Haadyai, Thailand also initiated peace negotiations with the CPM, which was hiding in its southern jungles. Chin Peng recalls that the Thai overtures were coordinated with similar advances for peace from Malaysia. He mentions then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad authorising Malaysian Special Branch contact with CPM representatives for exploratory talks.

Eventually, there were five rounds of private negotiations between CPM and Malaysia, with the Thais as mediators. Chin Peng notes that significantly, during the negotiations, CPM's role was recognised in the independence struggle leading to Merdeka.

Stalling return?

After the peace accords were signed, Chin Peng says he applied in late 1990 to return to Malaysia, but the application was rejected in December 1991.

Former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai has a different version. He recently told The Star that during the resettlement process in the three years after the peace accords were signed, Chin Peng never stated his intention to return to Malaysia.

Yet, the Home Ministry has also accused Chin Peng of failing to attend a resettlement interview that was fixed for 31 Oct 1992.

Chin Peng now says he "suspects", although he does not dare to accuse the Malaysian government outright, of intentionally reneging on the agreement. "I don't dare to assume that it was intentional ... [Whether] it happened in 1992 or much earlier, I can't remember exactly. I think I was being tricked to go for an interview. They asked me to go to this place, and then the government side didn't turn up. Then they asked me to go to another place ... from one place to another. As far as I can remember, I was being played by them," he tells reporters in Haadyai.

At 85 and of poor health, Chin Peng admits to having a patchy memory. He cannot recall dates of the supposed interview with Special Branch. He speaks slowly with long pauses, as if trying to jog his memory.

But he says he kept to the deadline to inform the Malaysian authorities of his intention to return. Under Article 5 of the administrative agreement of the peace accords, CPM members seeking resettlement in Malaysia had one year from the date of the signing of the agreement to notify the Malaysian authorities.

Chin Peng personally wrote to then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on 14 June 2004 to state that he had met the notification deadline. "It is a matter of record that in 1990 I applied under the guarantees of the Peace Accords to resettle in Malaysia. I had sought direction from the Haadyai-based Special Branch officer handling resettlement matters, and was specifically advised to wait in Haadyai for a call to be interviewed. This call never materialised. Subsequently, I received a letter stating my application had been rejected on grounds that I had failed to present myself to an interview."

The letter to Abdullah never received a response. It is among the correspondence by Chin Peng, his lawyers and the government tendered in court during the hearing for his 2005 application to be permitted to enter and live in Malaysia.

Government fudging

His memoirs
Chin Peng was to be stood up a second time. In his memoirs, he tells of an offer by a Special Branch officer in Yala in 1999 to "apply for a sightseeing tour". Chin Peng agreed to the offer and expressed wishes to pay homage at the graves of his grandfather, parents and siblings at a Chinese cemetery located near Sitiawan, where he was born in 1924.

He continues in his book: "For some reason or other, things have not worked out yet. It has been a frustrating wait."

Chin Peng and his lawyers followed up on the offer with a series of letters, even disclosing travel arrangements, in 2003 and 2004. Two letters were by Chin Peng directly to Abdullah in his capacity both as premier and as then home affairs minister. Other letters were by his lawyers to former Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Omar and then Home Affairs Ministry secretary-general Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, who is today the Election Commission chairperson.

On 25 Oct 2004, Abdul Aziz wrote to Chin Peng's lawyers a letter, without explanation, that their client's request to enter Malaysia was rejected. Chin Peng then began turning to the courts. He lost his final bid in the Federal Court on 30 April 2009.

In the light of these letters, the remarks by Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop in June 2009 should be evaluated for accuracy. Abu Seman claims that Chin Peng never resubmitted an application after failing to attend the 31 Oct 1992 interview, and thus violated conditions of the peace deal.

The paper trail of letters culminating in the rejection letter of 25 Oct 2004 suggests otherwise.

Another remark that warrants scrutiny is Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Dr Abdul Latiff Ahmad's statement that it was the CPM, and not Chin Peng himself, which had disarmed, according to conditions under the peace accords.

Explaining in Parliament why Chin Peng was still listed as an enemy of the country, Abdul Latiff was quoted by Bernama: "This is because during the signing of the peace accord with the CPM in 1989, he did not sign the agreement to lay down arms. Only the CPM agreed to do so and not Chin Peng."

Considering that Chin Peng's signature and party position as secretary-general are recorded at the end of the peace accords documents, one wonders what Abdul Latiff means.

A copy of the 1989 administrative agreement to end hostilities signed by Chin Peng on behalf of CPM,
together with then Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor's signature

No regrets

Terrorist to some and freedom fighter to others, Chin Peng seems to care little of how history will remember him. He remains convicted of the CPM's struggle, which, from his perspective, was to free Malaya from colonialists, whether Japanese or British. It wasn't an "emergency", it was a war, he declares in his book. As for the armed struggle after independence in 1957, CPM considered that to be a "false" independence by the British.

"It would be arrogant of me to say how I hope history will judge me. It should be left to the people of Malaysia to decide on what I have done with my life," he tells reporters in Haadyai.

"In politics, we all have our own stand. Those who hate me will certainly not want me to return. But whether they like me or not, I think there is no reason for them to oppose my wanting to pay respects to my ancestors in Sitiawan."

He says he would choose the same path of armed struggles against the colonialists if time were turned back. But he adds: "If we had thought that there would be another way at the time, we would have chosen it."

He remains steadfast in the belief that communist principles can form an egalitarian society with the freedom of self-determination. "I have never wavered in my communist belief. Any movement that can bring change to the world will have to face obstacles. This is nothing strange," Chin Peng tells the press.

Hu Jintao (kremlin.ru; source: Wiki commons)
On the visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Malaysia, he says, "It is a good thing for China and Malaysia to establish friendly relations."

Determined to return

Chin Peng says he has no regrets except for one: that he was "fooled" into thinking he could resettle in Malaysia. He returns to the topic of going back to Sitiawan repeatedly throughout the press conference, chuckling resignedly at times and even managing to smile.

"I have reluctantly accepted [that I will not be allowed into Malaysia]. It is my fate. But I will still push the government to accept me. I am getting older and older and I want to set foot on my hometown. And if they want to arrest me, let them arrest me, banish me.

"I will try to go back to the land of my birth. I will try every way. Smuggle in also can. I don't know if I will succeed, but I want to try."

Perhaps, just as strong as Chin Peng's desire to return home, is his desire to know that he has dealt with honest men. Mahathir, under whose administration the peace deal was signed, now sides with the political status quo not to let Chin Peng return. Former IGP Tun Haniff Omar now considers Chin Peng to have no legal standing in his 2005 suit against the government for defamation, citing the CPM's illegal status. Yet, it was Haniff who signed on behalf of Malaysia in the 1989 agreement to end hostilities.

In his 14 June 2004 letter to Prime Minister Abdullah, Chin Peng wrote: "I also wish to be reassured, before it is too late, that my signing of the Peace Accords on [2 Dec1989] was not a futile exercise. I still wish to believe that solemn undertakings expressed by Malaysia in international agreements are readily recognised as pledges of honour to be respected and that the injustice done to my 1990 application was a misdeed limited in its culpability."

Chin Peng, sympathy, injustice and sanctity of contract

DEC 8 — The day I had a lunch appointment with a friend at the central business district in Sydney was one of those pleasant summer days.
With blue sky and time aplenty, I walked the distance, which was about a mile or two from my home. As I approached the restaurant, my cell phone beeped. It was a message from the friend. She requested for an hour worth of postponement.
With me already among streams of people crisscrossing the city centre minding their own business, I switched direction and headed toward Hyde Park to visit a prominent war memorial.
Inside, on the wall carved the word Malaysia, along with other places where Australian forces had fought long ago. My mind immediately raced toward a period when communist insurgency was running high in Malaysia. Years have gone and sympathy for communism should be dead by now but it is has not.
The dishonourable path the Malaysian government takes with respect to former communist militants may unnecessarily fuel the fire of communism and the general political left in the country.
Communism is a disagreeable idea that restricts liberty.
Its goals are arguably dreamingly nobly utopian. Its means are not however; its opposition to private property right is enough to demonstrate how communism is anti-liberty. Furthermore, good intentions and goals are never enough. History has shown how communism failed in all four corners of the world.
Wherever it still exists, it is a façade supported by capitalism, it exists side by side a ruined economy, its promises unfulfilled, or it only exists within the framework of democracy that communists in the real world — not mere theoreticians who failed to account for reality — long ago considered as an anathema. Communism simply fails to confront real world problems.
In great contrast, capitalism in one form or another continues to be the best system to ensure prosperity despite all criticism that have been lobbed at it and despite painful crashes that we see every now and then. It has been performing better at delivering prosperity than any form of communist solutions that any communist can realistically hoped for, so far.
A stronger statement is possible: it has been performing better at delivering prosperity than any other system, so far. In the face of this observation, those who still cling to the promises of communism are being hopelessly romantic, bathed in stubborn denial and doomed for ideological failure.
The truth is self-evident yet, former communist militants — more so its former head Chin Peng who is unrepentant of past transgressions and his failed ideology — continue to receive sympathy from far too many individuals in the country.
For all the pain communism had caused all around the world and especially in Malaysia, only those on the political margin should be expressing sympathy to either communism or former communist militants, and not those near the centre. Yet, many close to the political centre do so.
When those near the centre do that, then something is definitely amiss. It is worrisome for such sympathy to blossom in the mainstreams section of our society because such sympathy can sow the seed for future growth of communism.
At the very least, it creates a groundswell for strong support for the general political left in the country. Communism may be a weak movement here in Malaysia but in the future, especially with the proliferation of greater democratic culture, that statement does not have to be true, even if we are living in the age of Fukuyama’s end of history.
It can be the seed because a short-term factor may override dire long-term consequences of communism when individuals consider the issue. That factor is a linchpin for the sympathy former communist militants currently enjoy. That linchpin is injustice. A sense of injustice is the reason why there is sympathy for Chin Peng and other former communist militants.
It is a short-term factor because some time in the near future, the issue will be academic since nobody lives forever. Nevertheless, the refusal of Malaysian government to allow for the former leader of a defunct militant — some would say terrorist — movement to return to the land of his youth will no doubt be an example of injustices communists and communist sympathisers may highlight as part of their populist rhetoric to attract new acolytes for the hive.
It is an injustice because by refusing Chin Peng the right to return, the government is reneging on its obligations arising from the peace treaty signed between it and the communist. That treaty specifically calls upon the government to allow former communist militants to return to the country if the application is made before a deadline, which Chin Peng met.
That turns the matter into an issue of sanctity of contract. As much as communism is an enemy of liberty, the idea of sanctity of contract is a cornerstone of liberal societies.
Indeed, one of the reasons for the establishment of a state in liberal tradition is the need to enforce contracts entered voluntarily, as long as those contracts do not violate individual liberty.
When the state goes back on its words with impunity, it inevitably raises a very serious question regarding the legitimacy of a state. In a more concrete term, it undermines public trust in the Barisan Nasional federal government, which does not have a sterling reputation to start with.
One does not need a lecture on the importance of sanctity of contract in liberal tradition. One does not need to be a liberal to understand the idea of sanctity of contract in wider traditions. Surely, at some point in time, our parents or our teachers have impressed on us on the importance of keeping to our promises. Being true to our words, generally, is good ethics.
Opponents to the act of honoring the agreement among others cite that Chin Peng deserves no forgiveness for all the heinous crimes he committed. Furthermore, Malaysia would have been a very different place if the communists had succeeded. We might as well have been another North Korea. For that and more, Chin Peng may indeed deserve no forgiveness and in fact, continuous denunciations.
Nonetheless, in the words of Tunku ‘Abidin Muhriz of the Malaysia Think Tank in an email exchange regarding this very matter among several libertarians, “the issue of forgiveness and honoring a contract are separate.”
Our refusal to forgive a person should not be the basis of us refusing to fulfil our obligation to the other person as stated in a contract. Therefore, there is a liberal case for allowing Chin Peng to return, unless there is proof that he has violated the 1989 Hatyai Peace Accord.
More importantly, by allowing the former militant leader to return and hence, fulfilling the obligation imposed on the Malaysian government, it removes injustice from the equation. Without injustice as a factor, there is little reason for those close to the political centre to sympathise with Chin Peng and thus, killing the seed for greater support — however small the increase is — for communism and the general political left in Malaysia.
The writer is a fellow at the Malaysian Think Tank.


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