Malaysiakini Letter

Hatyai peace accord - a benchmark if only it is honoured

Lim Chong Keat  |  Published:  |  Modified:

The recent coverage about Chin Peng and the anniversary of the Peace Agreement of 1989 gives a sadly distorted account, based on a private and privileged interview with him in Bangkok in October.

As I happened to be present at the same hotel as observer, I noted that Chin Peng was essentially responding frankly to the question about his remorse at the unwitting or unavoidable tragedies of the armed conflict; he did not ask to publicise any request for ‘forgiveness’. This has led to several personalities pontificating about sincerity and whether or not he should be forgiven - as if they were to be judge and jury, if not deities.

The key issue is the honouring of a valid tripartite agreement, at which all aspects of admitting the return of Chin Peng and others would have been thoroughly considered by our government - notwithstanding the reservation or objection by those who are unable to forget personal losses.

There is also the matter of denial of Chin Peng’s (Ong Boon Hwa's) birthright and strong public perception of machinations to obstruct his return and to render him stateless.

It is still possible for the Malaysian government to earn more ‘merit points’ by stopping the nonsense, and to let him return, advisedly on a very private basis, and without undue fanfare or politicisation - also shielded from bad reportage or editorial opportunism.

I have met enough Malaysians who feel similarly, and who have no regard or sentiment about his racial coloration. He remains a historical figure, while obviously preferring to be an elderly private person in his assertion of his rights.

I happened to be at the Bangkok hotel and it became an opportunity to meet and converse with a historic figure, now at the age of 85. He was cordial 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 Hatyai agreement would be honoured.

As the state of play of his legal recourse is well-known, the facts and spirit of the Peace Agreement of Hatyai are nevertheless the focal aspect still to be considered and appreciated not only in Malaysia and Thailand but also 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.

We would have put aside hatred for those responsible for intended or incidental atrocities by the Germans, Russians, Japanese etc (and even the Americans or the British) in the bad periods of history.

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 Communist Party of Malaysia represented by Chin Peng.

This was a signal example of the effective ending of armed conflict - which does serve as an important precedence in the light of today's seemingly irreconcilable confrontations in the Middle East, Africa and Afganistan - and south Thailand. If only a leader emerges to hold to an agreement that would be honoured, and if we give up the thought of blasting away dissidents.

As to the personal aspect, Ong Boon Hwa is a humble old person who considers himself Malayan, now Malaysian, in 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 agreement 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 - and serve as that example for other peace accords globally.

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