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The Malayan Emergency (Communist Insurrection), A Brief History 1948-1960
The picture shows a poster issued by the Department of Information, of Malaya, probably during the early years of the Malayan Emergency – in late 1948 or in 1949.
On 16th June 1948, A E Walker, the Manager of the Elphil Rubber Plantation (in Sungai Siput, Perak), was shot by communists terrorists in his office. Barely recovering from the shock of Walkers death, a few hours later J M Alison (of Phin Soon Estate) and his assistant Ian Christian were also murdered; their store was also torched. The High Commissioner Sir Edward Gent then declared a state of Emergency in Perak and Johor, later extending it to the whole country.
By July 23rd, the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) was declared illegal. Previously, Chin Peng had been elected the Secretary General of the MCP in 1947 and the communists were more determined to defeat the ‘enemy’ – the British Colonialists. Since the murder of the European planters (and other locals later on), security in Malaya had increased; searchers by the police were stricter, especially at the borders and entry points of towns and villages.
Another countermeasure taken by the British Government was the formation of the Special Constabulary, which were given arms and employed in guard duties. Colonel W N Gary, who was the IG of the Palestine Police, was appointed Commissioner of the Malay Federation Police Force. Besides obtaining arms for his men, he also established radio networks which linked all the police stations. This way, the police were on guard whenever there was a Communist attack.
A national registration system, which initiated the use of identity cards, was introduced. This identity card was issued to everyone over the age of 12; it was to be carried at all times as police checks were frequent. The MCP members tried to convince the people to tear up the cards but it was useless. With the frequent and rigorous checks, the MCP hierarchy went underground into the jungles.
The MCP leader at that time, Lau Yew, commanded attacks on police stations; some were successful, others were not. There were instances where the CTs were outnumbered by the sergeant and constables who defended the police stations; the CTs were also fighting against the British and Gurkha troops, which were (at times) aided by aircraft. Lau Yew then had the (Communist) Headquarters relocated to (then a small town) Kajang. When he was eventually killed in a clash with the Security Forces (Armed Forces, Special Constables and Home Guards), Chin Peng succeeded him
The other hindrance to the CTs was the relocation programme – The Briggs Plan. The Briggs Plan was initiated in 1950. The idea was to resettle the ‘squatter’ Chinese who had become easy targets for the guerrilla raids. Lieutenant-General Sir Harold Briggs thought up this plan as a way to undermine the ‘Min Yuen’ – the non-uniformed Communists. For the CTs and the Min Yuen the rural settlers were their source of food and supplies, as well as a source of information and recruits.
The war against the insurgents became more severe with the appointment of Sir Henry Gurney as the High Commissioner. Intense campaigning led to hundreds of guerrillas being captured or killed. The British and Commonwealth soldiers fought the CTs by playing their own game – living out in the jungle while planning an ambush. The CTs in turn retaliated by destroying rubber trees and intimidating the plantation workers. Then the CTs become bolder – by assassinating the High Commissioner (Gurney) at Frasers Hill.
Gurney’s successor, Sir Gerald Templer, arrived in Malaya in 1951. He found that the Briggs Plan had relocated almost 1 million Chinese into over 600 new settlements (‘New Villages’). These villages had double-barbed wire perimeter fences which were guarded; there was also a curfew imposed, between the hours of 6am and 6pm. Templer now was not only the High Commissioner but also the Director of Operations (a post previously held by Briggs).
Templer introduced local elections and village councils. There was also the merger of the War Council with the Executive Council. The Chinese were given citizenships and ranks in the Malayan civil service; this was one of the ways Templer used in addressing the political and economic grievances. The cooperation of the security forces and the people somewhat caught the CTs by surprise, since the CTs had hoped the people would join them in their ‘mission’. This, and the soldiers employing the guerrilla-method of fighting, began to reduce the Communist influence; forcing Chin Peng to move the MCP headquarters to Thailand (in 1953).
After Malaya gained her Independence in 1957, the war became less intense. 2 years before Independence, the Government had offered amnesty and a number of terrorists surrendered. The hard core terrorists however still continued, carrying out their attacks from the Malaya-Thailand border; they (CTs) were finally defeated in 1960. On 31st July 1960, the Malayan Emergency was officially declared over.
Communist activities, however, still continued in the Northern States of Malaya; up until December of 1989, when 2 Peace Accords were signed in Haadyai(Thailand) between the Malaysian Government and the MCP.
In memory of the fallen, during the Emergency as well as the Second World War and Konfrontasi (Borneo-Indonesian Confrontation), a Remembrance Service is held annually by the Planters Association of Malaysia. This service takes place at Gods Little Acre, in Batu Gajah, Perak.
To know more about A E Walker, click here.
To know more about J M Alison, click here.
To know more about Ian Christian, click here.
To know more about Sir Gerald Templer, click here.
To know more about the Briggs Plan, click here.
To see a picture of a Communist Terrorist Cap, click here.
To see a sample of a Curfew Permit, click here.
To read more about Gods Little Acre, click here.
To read more about the Home Guard, click here.
To find out more about the role of Special Constables, click here.
To know more about the Peace Accord in Haadyai, click here.