By James Gough
Every June, they come to remember. This is a solemn time as High Commissioners from United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal; Malaysian Military, Police and Veterans’ representatives converge in Ipoh for the Veterans Remembrance events which are held at Taiping, Ipoh and Batu Gajah.
“We should always remember and honour them for the sacrifices they’ve made.”
The services, which are held over three days, have seen a number of Commonwealth Veteran Clubs such as the Malaya-Borneo Veterans Association of Australia religiously attending over the last several years. The presence of these Commonwealth veterans prompted the Perak State government to host a “Veterans’ Night” dinner last year in recognition of their past contributions.
Remembrance Ceremony at God’s Little Acre
God’s Little Acre is a cemetery located at Batu Gajah, which holds its annual remembrance ceremony on the second Saturday of every June.
Interred here, besides army and police personnel are civilians, tin miners and planters who were killed during the Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960).
According to R. Sivalingam, Chairman of the God’s Little Acre sub-committee as well as Chairman of the Malaysian Palm Oil Association, Perak Branch (MPOA), the original memorial service was organised as part of Police Week celebrations in 1982 by the then OCPD of Batu Gajah Dato’ R. Thambipillay. Subsequently in 1984, the Perak Planters’ Association (now renamed MPOA) took on the role to organise the annual event.
Among those buried here are the three British planters, Arthur Walker, John Allison and his young assistant, Ian Christian, who were shot by communist guerrillas on June 16, 1948 at Sungai Siput, 18 miles north of Ipoh.
The cold-blooded murder of these planters prompted the government to declare a state of emergency, initially at Ipoh and Sungai Siput and subsequently over the whole of Malaya, two days later.
Before the remembrance services became an annual affair, there was the Warriors Day event which took place at the cenotaph located at the grounds of Ipoh Railway Station. However, this was not scheduled as an annual affair.
After the God’s Little Acre ceremony was organised annually, with regular attendance by the Commonwealth dignitaries, the event at the cenotaph was added as part of the programme.
The other locations that participated in the annual remembrance ceremony included the Kamunting Christian cemetery at Taiping. Those interred here are British, Australian, New Zealand army personnel and a few Sarawak Rangers who perished during the Emergency (1948-1960).
At Kem Syed Putra, Tambun Road those laid to rest are Gurkha soldiers that died during the Emergency, as well as during the Confrontation with Indonesia (1962-1965).
On one of the four walls of the cenotaph is a plaque citing the “Gallant Members of the Armed Forces, Police and Civilians who sacrificed their lives defending the nation during The Malayan Emergency 1948-1960, Indonesian Confrontation 1962-1965 and The Re-Insurgency Period 1972-1990”.
Indeed for most of the post-war Emergency period, a lot of activities took place in and around Perak. After the war there were food shortages and high inflation causing civil unrest which, ultimately, led to the declaration of Emergency in 1948.
Perak had been the major contributor to the country’s economy largely through its tin wealth and was considered as “economically important to the Federation”. As such the state became a hotly contested target for the government and the communists.
As an indication of the amount of Emergency activities that took place in Perak, the blackest areas throughout the Emergency were those around Sungai Siput and Ulu Kinta. In fact, they were the last in Malaya to be declared “white”.
The Briggs ‘Resettlement’ Plan
One of the initiatives introduced by the Government then was the Briggs Plan whose strategy was to cut off all supplies to the Communists be it food, money, information, and even recruits.
The plan was to create new villages and resettle the rural squatters there. The new village perimeter would be fenced with 10-foot high barbed wires and a curfew imposed from 6pm to 6am. Residents were body searched when leaving for work in the morning and were allowed to take food for one individual for one day.
This social engineering plan involved almost 1 million Chinese squatters and created settlements such as Kampong Bahru Rapat, Kampong Bahru Bercham and Ampang Bahru, to name a few. The other strategy was to provide a sense of security for the residents in the hope that they would provide support and information for the government.
The Emergency ended on January 14, 1960 when the whole of central Perak was declared “white” at a ceremony at the Ipoh Town Padang.
The Re-Insurgency (1968-1989)
While the Emergency was fought most gratefully alongside Forces from the Commonwealth, the Re-Insurgency, which lasted from 1968 till 1989, was fought by our very own Malaysian Armed Forces and Police personnel.
The Communist Terrorists who had escaped to the sanctuary in South Thailand in 1960 returned in 1968 by launching an ambush against Malaysian security forces in the Kroh-Betong salient in upper Perak killing 17. The attack marked the start of the Re-Insurgency sometimes referred to as the 2nd Emergency.
The Re-Insurgency lasted till 1989 during which time, the mettle of our Malaysian security forces was tested through terrorist acts of sabotage and assassinations.
One particular daring act was the assassination of Perak’s Chief Police Officer Tan Sri Koo Chong Kong in 1974.
Koo was on his way home at Jalan Tower off Jalan Raja DiHilir for lunch in his official car and had stopped at the traffic lights along Jalan Hospital when two men on a motorcycle, dressed as students in white uniforms, opened fire at him. Koo’s bodyguard cum driver died on the spot. Koo was rushed to the hospital 100 metres away but was mortally wounded. Koo’s assassination was one of many targeted at police and Special Branch personnel.
In the book, ‘The Turbulent Years in Perak’, memoirs of former Perak NST Bureau Chief Jerry Francis, he described the many instances of communist terrorist activities right at our doorstep. They took place “at such unsuspecting areas as the Kledang Hill jogging site and populated areas in Menglembu and Buntong”.
Francis’s accounts, which covered security operations extensively, also talks about communist camps at the Bukit Kinta Forest Reserve and a few kilometres south at Kramat Pulai. It mentions the joint security operations along common borders by Thai and Malaysian forces thus disrupting communist logistic operations. It also describes the construction of the east-west highway as “a success for the people and government in winning the battle of wits against the communists”.
In December 1989, a Peace Accord was signed between Thailand, Malaysia and the outlawed Malayan Communist Party at Hatyai, Thailand which concluded the Re- Insurgency period. Some 1200 communist members laid down their arms and were given the option to either return to Malaysia or remain in Thailand.
A monument was built to remember these troubled years. The monument, named The Malaysian Army Insurgency War Memorial (Dataran Juang Tentera Darat) was erected in 2009 and is located at Kem Banding close to the bridge at Lake Temenggor.
Having lived all my life in Ipoh it surprises me that there were so many battles and skirmishes taking place all around me while I was growing up. Thankfully, for peace-loving Ipohites like us, our safety is assured owing to the presence of these brave security personnel. We should always remember and honour them for the sacrifices they have made.