Chin Peng was a controversial but important figure in Malaysia and Singapore. He led the resistance against the Japanese occupation during the Second World War; and then subsequently, against the British colonial forces in the late 1940s and 1950s. As an independence fighter, he was called by some as “Malaysia’s version of Myanmar’s Aung San, Indonesia’s Soekarno and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh”.
But his campaign to establish a communist state which led to many years of civil war also made him unpopular.
He lived in exile in Thailand even after a peace agreement was finalized with the Malaysian government in 1989.
Malaysian officials have rejected the request to bring home the ashes of Chin Peng by claiming that he was not a Malaysian citizen. Furthermore, they are worried that a memorial could be erected by Chin Peng’s followers.
Before his death, Chin Peng wrote a letter to family and friends. Below is an excerpt of the letter:
I have given both my spiritual and physical self in the service of the cause that my party represented, that is, to fight for a fairer and better society based on socialist ideals.
I wish to be remembered simply as a good man who could tell the world that he had dared to spend his entire life in pursuit of his own ideals to create a better world for his people.
It is my conviction that the flames of social justice and humanity will never die.
But Barrie accused Chin Peng of being a terrorist:
It makes me sick to the bone whenever I read articles or news that claim Chin Peng was some hero to be worshipped. Isn't this like glorifying and making a hero out of Hitler? Or for that matter, Osama bin Laden?
Redbean explains how Chin Peng could be seen either as a good or bad patriot:
Chin Peng was a good man turned bad for fighting the British. If one is a member of the British Empire, Chin Peng was bad. If one was anti colonialism, Chin Peng was a patriot.
Koon Yew Yin echoed Chin Peng’s desire to return to his homeland:
…he yearned to return to his homeland and to die in his birth place. He also emphasised that Malaysia is a rich country and that the Chinese must work together and cooperate with the Malays to make Malaysia a better country.
Meanwhile, Azeem Abu Bakar agrees with the decision not to bury Chin Peng in Malaysia:
Should his ashes be allowed to be buried in Malaysia? No, because the tomb will be hailed by certain quarters. Indeed, the ashes could not resurrect and threaten our lives. He should be buried at sea away from anybody’s reach. It would be deemed offensive to Malaysians, even more so to the families of the brutally killed victims, should his remains be brought into the country and hailed like a hero.
Miyagi praises Chin Peng:
For all the ideological differences between Mr Ong’s comrades and the ones that built Singapore and Malaysia — I and many others consider Mr Ong Boon Wah, alias Chin Peng, a true patriot of the independent nations of Singapore and Malaysia. He fought tooth and nail for what he believed to be true and just — and held out for as long as his mind and body could muster — values we must admire
Malaysian opposition MP Tian Chua went to Bangkok to pay his last respects to Chin Peng:
I came as a friend and family and also as a Malaysian. We have our evaluation of his role in the country even if we agree or disagree over his ideology. We must recognize that he was part of Malaysian history. He and his generation have shaped what we are today. And together with other leaders in Southeast Asia, they shaped the map of Southeast Asia
Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi elaborates on the decision not to allow the return of Chin Peng to Malaysia:
We know that if his body or ashes are brought back, there will be some who will deify him as a warrior-hero or make a monument to him. This will further break the hearts of our veterans and their families on top of the cruelty of Chin Peng and the communists.
MP M Kulasegaran clarifies that he is not in favor of communism but he believes the ashes of the late communist leader must be brought home to Malaysia:
I contend that the CPM's struggle against the Japanese during the latter's occupation of Malaya was valiant and their resistance to the British colonials after the defeat of the Japanese hastened the grant of independence to Malaya in 1957.
For that reason and also in deference to the terms of the 1989 peace accords, Chin Peng’s ashes should be allowed the courtesy of entry into the country and internment in the place of his wish.