On one side of the oblong cenotaph located opposite the Town Hall along Jalan Panglima Bukit Gantang Wahab is a hastily cut black marble plaque with an inscription “IN MEMORY OF THE GALLANT MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES, POLICE AND CIVILIANS WHO SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES DEFENDING THE NATION DURING THE MALAYSIAN EMERGENCY 1948-1960, INDONESIAN CONFRONTATION 1962-1965 AND THE REINSURGENCY PERIOD 1972-1990.”
The plaque is “squatting” on the memorial built for those from Perak who died during the First and Second World Wars. Three of the four original brass plates on the cenotaph which bore the names of the dead and military units have been vandalised and stolen. Thus, they were substituted with one dedicated to the dead during the wars, and another during the Malaysian Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation.
Are the sacrifices of the members of the Commonwealth and Malaysian security forces, as well as civilian workers in Perak worth just a mention on a plaque? Thousands of them had given their lives to ensure peace and progress in the country since the Emergency was declared following the killings of three European planters in Sungei Siput in June, 1948.
Certainly, the dedication and sacrifices of those men and women of all races and religions must always be looked upon with pride as we strive to mould a united Malaysian nation. Therefore, they deserve to be remembered in a manner more deserving than just a plaque on a cenotaph that was not even built for our fallen heroes of the Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation.
I have always advocated the erection of a monument specially dedicated to the members of the security forces and civilians in the four decades of combating communist insurgency in the country. Perak took the brunt of the threat and was deprived of the much needed development until the peace accord was signed in December, 1989.
Their sacrifices, which eventually brought peace and security to the country, must be immortalized to remind us how close we were to losing our freedom. In so doing, we will also show to future generations how the various races had united to face a serious threat to the sovereignty and integrity of the country and instill a sense of pride and patriotism among all Malaysians, especially now when the loyalty of the non-Malays are being often questioned by some people with a political agenda.
In my book, “Turbulent Years in Perak – A Memoir”, I had also called for the monument to be set up, preferably along the East-West Highway in Upper Perak, which had withstood the terrorists’ attempts to sabotage it. It should be located prominently on Banding Island, which is linked by two of the longest bridges along the highway, so that travellers and tourists will remember how the highway and the Temenggor Dam were constructed in the face of the threat from the communist insurgents.
A gesture such as this would be a small tribute to those who had responded beyond the call of duty and would serve as a reminder to us of their deeds and sacrifices. It would also make travelling along the East-West Highway more interesting, apart from being a tourist attraction.
The Malaysian Army had taken the cue and erected a small monument at the entrance to their camp at Banding in March, 2009. It was a decommissioned V-150 “Commando” armoured vehicle surrounded with plaques containing some heroic episodes of their fighting men. At least, the Army has recognised the deeds of its men. Others, like those in the plantation industry and Malaysian and Commonwealth veterans, are also continuing to observe a remembrance day at the “God’s Little Acre” in Batu Gajah in June, every year.
What has the state government and the people of Perak done in appreciation of the role played by members of the security forces and civilian workers? It has been over two decades since the battle against the communist insurgents was victoriously concluded, yet there is no outstanding monument anywhere in Perak dedicated to those men and women except for what appears to be a half-hearted plaque at the cenotaph.
Even the few small monuments along the East-West Highway, which mark the scenes where serious incidents had taken place, have been neglected. I fear that soon, all their dedication and sacrifices will be forgotten and mentioned only in some books found on library shelves.