One of Chinese Malaysian scared cows has been the memory of its local war martyrs. Through the deacdes since the war, they make strenous efforts to preserve respectful rememberance for the fallen heroes.
Lest we forget.
By war, the Chinese Malaysians mean the Second World War where they, among all Malayans, bore the blunt of the Japanese brutal atrocities in Malaya and Singapore, not unlike the Jews and gypsies in Europe under Nazi Germany.
I grew up in a village where in the evening its central social meeting place was a cenotaph dedicated to those martyrs. As kids we would gambol around the memorial but always mindful of those who sacrificed themselves for the community against the Japanese military invaders. We showed the greatest respect for them.
However, Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin has been terribly insensitive in callously lumping the anti-Japanese Chinese fighters together with the Malayan communists who also fought against the Japs.
Last Saturday, Zainuddin told Bernama that two war memorials dedicated to the Chinese Malaysian war heroes exist in Sarawak and Nilai, Selangor. But he showed his disrespect by saying, without proper investigation, that erecting such memorials were insensitive and disrespectful as many Malaysians were killed during the communist insurgency. He had implied those memorials are dedicated to communists.
Zainuddin said: “The people must remember that at one time, they were the nation's number one enemy” without even ascertaining whether those remembered for their sacrifices were communists.
It was a very hurtful insult to Chinese Malaysians to have their anti-Japanese heroes, who fought for the country and community, labelled as the nation’s number one enemy by a thoughtless minister. It made it even worse when the minister is one supposedly in charge of so-called information.
Organising committee chairperson of the monument Quek Jin Teck invited Zainuddin to visit the war monument in Nilai so that the insensitive minister can see for himself whether indeed the memorial is dedicated to communists.
Quek said the monument, written in five languages, was to commemorate heroes who fought against the Japanese invasion between 1941 and 1945.
Quek explained: “There was no mention whatsoever on any memorial service to communist. We will do our very best to brief and explain to the minister so that any misunderstanding can be clarified and cleared.”
Frankly, that (to brief and explain to the minister) is besides the point as the onus should be on the minister to find out what’s what before he opened his big fat bloody ugly mouth, just because the memorials are dedicated to some fallen Chinese Malayans.
Quek also added that several MCA politicians, such as Deputy Education Minister Hon Choon Kim, Deputy Tourism Minister Donald Lim, Deputy Domestic Affairs Minister Tan Chai Hoe, had attended a memorial service for those fallen heroes against the Japanese invasion.
Quek said: “We humbly urge the minister to refrain from blatantly treating those who fought against the Japanese aggression and invasion during the Second World War as communist.”
I believe that in the minister’s disgraceful, disrespectful and deplorable conduct there has been an element of racism as well. The very thought of acknowledging Chinese Malayan martyrs as national fallen heroes would be just too much for an UMNO minister to ever swallow. He had to rubbish that very idea.
Look minister, there is another side to the old Japanese coin. An unpleasant perception among the more elderly Chinese Malaysians, particularly those in Peninsula Malaya, has been that Malays in general collaborated with the Japanese invaders.
I don’t share such a view because I reckon the Malays being anti-British were unlikely to view the Japanese as hostile or invaders, least of all an enemy of the Malay States.
To the Malays, they reckoned the British deserved to be humiliatingly defeated, and if the Japanese were the ones to do that, all the more power to the men from Nippon. Thus if the Malays helped or weren't hostile to the Japanese, it was along that anti-British path.
The Japanese military overlords were also more tolerant of the Malays, though that's only in a relative sense to their main targets of abuse, the Chinese Malayans.
The Chinese were targeted by the Japs because of their ethnic affiliations. The Japs hated the Chinese with a vengeance and went about wantonly slaughtering them. During and after the war, the Chinese returned those feelings of hatred, an acrimonious emotional frame of mind that exists till today.
It was thus natural for the Chinese Malayans then, as the principal victims of the Japanese war crimes and oppression, to provide the main resistance against the Jap invaders. But there was no doubt the Chinese community weren't too impressed by the lack of Malay enthusiasm or support in their anti-Jap movement.
But Zainuddin’s insensitive and clumsy attempt to diminish the Chinese role in mounting virtually the main anti-Japanese resistance, while typical of the general UMNO attitude, has been an insulting slap in the face of today's Chinese Malaysian community.