Although Abu Samah, 79, is usually a reticent man but his life has been extraordinary, epitomising the evolving nationhood.

For a start, he was sent to fight the Japanese invasion in December 1941 in Kota Baru, Kelantan at the age of 14, as a soldier of the British-sponsored Federated Malay States Volunteers Force.

But after his force lost grounds and morale, he went to Singapore and ended up in the Heiho, a reserve unit of the Japanese troops. However, in March 1945, he escaped to return to Malaya where he contacted the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) led by the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).

Since March 1948, Abu Samah has been loyal, through thick and thin, to CPM - and was made a member of the central committee of the party since 1975 - although he joined Umno between 1946 and 1948 and was a committee member of Temerloh's Umno Youth division.

After the proclamation of the 'Emergency' on June 20, 1948, Abu Samah led a group of left-wing Malay youths into the jungle and to take up arms against British colonialism. They joined Abdullah CD's 10th Regiment.

Abu Samah was born in February 1926 in the Semantan district of Temerloh, Pahang. His full name is Abu Samah Mohamad Kassim and is the fourth child in a family of six.

He is a distant descendant of a 19th-century anti-colonial Malay hero, Dato' Bahaman @ Abdul Rahman of Semantan, Pahang. According to Abu Samah, since at a very young age, he had been told stories about the heroism of Bahaman who resisted the attempt by British colonialists to control Pahang.

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