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Tan Sri Dato Seri Yuen Yuet Leng SPCM, DPCM, PNBS, JMM, KMM, AMN, PPC, PBS,CPM
The three photographs Show Dato’ Seri Yuen Yuet Leng at different stages of his fascinating life, the first two with the police from 1950 to 1984 and the third in retirement, but still a public figure actively working for the good of Malaysia and its people. On the left we see him as Probationary Asian Inspector (PAI) of police in his first few days of training at the Police Depot in December 1950. He was one of 54 trainees in Squad ‘C’, made up of 22 Malays, 19 Chinese and 13 Indians, “a racially healthy combination” as he describes it. The centre picture shows him as Commissioner of Police Sarawak in 1984, his retirement year, after extended and devoted service in support of his country. On the right is a formal portrait taken in his home in 2008.
Yuen Yuet Leng was born in Larut Matang on 15th September 1927 and at the age of 7 he joined Primary 1, King Edward VII School, Taiping. However his education was interrupted by the war and the Japanese occupation of Malaya. So in 1942 he found himself in a Japanese Youth Training Institute and Mining Vocational School in Ipoh. Here he remained until he and his friends were sent to Selangor Higher Teachers Training Institute, Kajang in 1945.
After the Japanese surrender, Yuen, an awoken politically conscious youth ventured to China early in 1946 for a naval scholarship which did not materialize. He visited the Lingnan University in Canton; experienced the decadent social and economic life in Canton city and later hiked into the China hinterland noting the poverty of the rural population. Disillusioned he returned to Malaya in early 1947 and rejoined the King Edward School. On completion he was awarded a Technical College scholarship in 1948 but soon after had to abandon it to earn money to help to support his family.
His first work was with the Malayan Railways, but he soon turned to teaching. In 1949 he was a Primary School Teacher (probationary) in King George V School, Seremban. The same year he was transferred to Gemas to the newly set up Government English School. But teaching was not for him especially with an on-going communist insurgency and a spate of murders of civilians. Attempts were made to murder Chinese community leaders like MCA leader Tan Cheng Lock. Responding in 1950 to calls to take up the fight against communist terrorists and encouraged by government recruiting efforts, and much against his parents’ wishes, he joined the Police as a PAI (Probationary Asian Inspector). Training was a short six months and in 1951 he was first posted to the CID and then to No. 20 Federal Jungle Company (FJC) at Tanah Hitam, Chemor. He was then transferred to Platoon 2 No. 16 FJC, Titi Gantung. 1951 was his year of ‘Baptism by Fire’. He was shot at in Chemor, almost ambushed outside Sungei Siput and in December was shot and wounded in Bukit Tanggor when raiding a Communist Terrorist (CT) Camp.
From then on the rest of his service with the police reads more like an MGM thriller than the life of a real policeman and includes such episodes as tracking Chin Peng the Malayan Communist Party leader, District Special Branch Officer (Grik 1953 and Ipoh 1956 destructing terrorist units and their support organizations in the area, and on a number of occasions posing as a CT (in a uniform made by his wife who never knew what it was to be used for) in the jungle to infiltrate the terrorist groups, ambushes, shootings, grenades and bombs, much of which contributed to his award of the Colonial Police Medal in 1957. A great honour bestowed on a great policeman.
But the story is really only beginning, promoted to Assistant Superintendent and District Special Branch Officer, Sungei Siput in 1957 he primarily planned and mounted an anti-terrorist operation (Operation Ginger) described as an ‘all-out war’ which almost wiped out the entire Communist organization in Central Perak. 156 terrorists were eliminated in 16 months. In 1960, Ipoh and Central Perak were defined as a ‘White Area’ (free from CTs) and that year the Malayan Emergency ended. Yuen was posted to Bukit Aman Police HQ and continued his work with Special Branch, attended Intelligence and Psychological Warfare courses in UK with a spell in Belfast studying the IRA terrorism there. But the Communists may have been ‘Down’ but they were certainly not ‘Out’! There was a major CT ambush of Special Branch officers across the Thai border in 1966 and following the May 13th riots in 1969 there was an increase in Communist activity south of the Thai border. The 2nd Emergency had commenced.
In 1971 ACP Yuen was posted to Sarawak where there was also an increasing threat from the North Kalimantan Communist Party where he played a pivotal role in successfully tackling them. By early 1972 their three important NKCP military commanders across the Indonesian border had all been eliminated. He returned to Kuala Lumpur. But in 1972 Yuen found himself back in Sarawak (Sibu) as head of Special Branch and Head of Joint Intelligence with the task of eliminating the Communist threat once and for all. This was achieved with the establishment of the Rejang Security Command (RASCOM), and returning to society of more than 500 ex-terrorists. Of course there were more attempts on his life, which he ‘brushed off’ and got on with the job. Returning to Bukit Aman in late 1974 as Deputy Director Special Branch he commenced to plan the tactical and strategic war against the various returned terrorist and multiple underground communist organizations.
In 1975, disaster struck in Perak. The Communists assassinated the Chief Police Officer (CPO) Datuk Khoo Chong Kong and in November of that year Yuen took over as CPO Perak. Literally a case of ‘Dead Men’s Shoes’. This again was a difficult posting to say the least with kidnappers and would-be assassins all waiting to strike at the CPO and his family and despite his daughter Susan having an armed escort, one particular abduction threat led to her being sent away to UK for safety. But despite three assassination attempts, the former CPO’s murderers were arrested, tried and hanged and over the next 5 years the Communist threat was once again put into retreat by the CPO in the important and vital Perak bastion while a number of his former team were deployed in especially Kuala Lumpur, Pahang and Kelantan still working in coordinated success and effective containment of the terrorist threat. The formal Haadyai Peace Accord was not signed until 1989.
For his dedicated service to this country and its people he has been awarded a range of honours from both Federal and State, culminating with DPCM Perak (Dato) and PNBS Sarawak (Datuk), both in 1978 and the following year, SPMP Perak (Dato' Seri). Many believe that he deserves far more than these.
In 1981, Yuen was transferred again to Sarawak as Commissioner of Police where he made a great improvement in policing by persuading the authorities that more recruits and facilities were needed. He retired from the force in 1984. A remarkable career of a remarkable man.
In his retirement Dato' Seri has also authored two books about his life's work. The first, published in 1998, deals exclusively with the successful "Operation Ginger", while the second, "Nation Before Self" from 2008, deals more widely with his life from before the Japanese Occupation to the present day, and concludes with his thoughts on the Nation's future.
Describes Him Thus:
“I see Dato Seri Yuen Yuet Leng as a man with THE indomitable spirit who without an iota of hesitation, unknown to the ordinary man on the street, has "given" his whole life to the nation.
He worked under tremendous pressure and in extreme conditions to keep Perak from falling into the hands of the Communist Terrorists realizing that if the State fell, the rest of the Peninsula would be affected. Only a small, privileged, group of people knew just how hard he worked - in the field, from his office, from home and even from hospital, to crush the Communists and their underground subversive network, operating from across the Thai border. In the war against the Communists, he is unmistakably one of the Heroes of the Nation.
His well-coordinated plans in the fight against the Communists in Perak enabled the people to enjoy freedom and the business community, especially the planters, loggers and miners, "economic progress". Dato’ Seri Yuen had been a trusted beacon with exemplary leadership qualities, not only to his men but also to society at large.
Having worked alongside with this man of total unselfish devotion, I will without any reservation still do what needs to be done with him in the interest of the Nation.
His daughter's speech during his 80th Birthday dinner very aptly describes how she sees him as her Father and Man to his fellow men!”
“I remember my formative years, when the times we shared as a family, though scarce, but were quality and precious moments. How I cherish those moments.
Though you had spent endless hours and days at your work, which was important to you, the importance of it was not your job, but your passion for the country, your family and your men. You had been misunderstood many a time by others, sometimes even family, but you had the tenacity to push ahead, being single minded, with only one objective in mind. Your sense of duty to the country is everything to you and for that you would gladly lay your life down as a sacrifice, such that the country would be a better place for us to live in.
Mummy and I understood you and we respected you deeply for your belief. Without your belief and what you stand for, you would not be who you are - and it is so important to be who you are for that is your identity. We understood how important to you fighting for a cause is - It is like the blood that pumps the heart, without it, the heart will not beat. That is why we never questioned. We accepted for we believe in you.
Daddy, you showed me:
You are a magnanimous man and you give beyond what you receive I thank God for being your daughter. I thank God for giving me a father like you.
In my childhood, at an early age, I had to live independently from you and mummy because of the nature of your job and I was not as fortunate as other children for we did not spend as many hours in my growing up years together. Yet the little moments we had, between father and daughter were adequate to give me a firm and solid foundation of what I should be when I grew up.
I am proud to be your daughter and equally proud to thank you for the years of love and guidance, without which I would be a lesser person. I am glad to say that I am my father’s daughter.”
To read more aboutKing Edward VII School, Taiping , click here.
To read more about the book ‘Nation Before Self’, click here.
To read more about the book ‘Operation Ginger’, click here.