I happened to be in Bangkok a fortnight ago where Mr B. H. Ong or better known as Chin Peng was being interviewed by some members of the Malaysian and Singapore Press. It became an opportunity to meet and converse with a historic figure, now at the age of 85.
He was cordial and responded to questions in an open and frank manner, and I felt that I could discern his sense of destiny and philosophic equability, still holding on to the hope and expectation that the terms of the historic Haatyai Peace Accord would be honoured.
As the state of play of his legal recourse is well-known, the facts and spirit of the Peace Accord of Haatyai are nevertheless the focal aspect still to be considered and appreciated. Not only in Malaysia and Thailand but also, I believe, worldwide.
Understandably there would be many in Peninsular Malaysia and Thailand who cannot forget the horrors of the Emergency, but nevertheless there should also be enough of other Malaysians who would believe that civilisation requires us to overcome the desire for vengeance or retribution after sustained peace has been attained. Just as we would have put aside hatred for those responsible for intended or incidental atrocities by the Germans, Russians, Japanese etc in the bad periods of history. More recently, this would include our friends, the Americans and the British.,
The key issue which should be addressed, notwithstanding the position taken by the courts, is the honouring of the agreement signed by the highest representatives of Malaysia, Thailand and the CPM, represented by Abdullah C.D., Rashid Mydin and Chin Peng. This was a singular example of the effective ending of armed conflict – which does serve as an important precedent in the light of today’s seemingly irreconcilable confrontations in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan – and south Thailand.
We should all celebrate when a a leader emerges to initiate and uphold an agreement with a view to it being honoured. Likewise, the sooner the better if we give up the misguided thought of blasting away dissidents. The Americans are only now beginning to realise this.
As to the personal aspect, Mr B.H. Ong is now a humble old person from Sitiawan. He has always considered himself Malayan, now Malaysian and is of undeniable lineage and roots; his family has after all been free in their liberties as Malaysians.
He will not want to be a rallying point for politicisation and would appreciate the privacy of his remaining years if and when he were to return. I believe he would prefer such privacy and to maintain a low profile, which we should respect.
The Prime Minister is surely in the position to decide to uphold the Peace Accord made on behalf of Malaysia by one of his predecessors, and to facilitate the overdue freedom to return, as several others of the movement have been allowed after the signing. This act would not only revive the honour of the pact, but would also be humanist and civilised. Undoubtedly, it will and can serve as an example for other peace accords globally.