Recalling the ‘successful’ counterinsurgency
Do we not care about the massacres of our lifetime?
December 1948 was just six months into a 12-year campaign to crush communists, who were trying to drive British occupiers out of the Malay Peninsula.
From 1874 to mid 1950s, the British struggled to suppress resistance to occupation. The brutality of some British forces in the Malay Peninsula drove many ethnic Chinese to communism. People who supported communists were literally fenced in. People who opposed communism were co-opted and their communities offered food, medicine and protection. The guerrillas were starved out in the jungle with the gorillas.
“Did the soldiers bring you outside all at once or in groups?”
“I cannot remember, I fainted. The spirits pushed me. They shot us.”
He was not well in his 70s. He went to the spot where he fainted and fell from British bullets that killed 24 of his fellow workers 55 years before. The rubber trees these deceased tapped were felled long ago. Only stumps remain of the “rumah kongsi” that was once their communal home. His wife had throat cancer. She could eat only un-spiced fish and vegetables. She remembered the brutalities. She was 16 then, a fiance to the man. Another survivor, in her 80s, could recall seeing her husband, the estate supervisor, led out and shot in cold blood with the others.
“The British said that the man who had a receipt for fruit was supplying communists with food. ” “They shot him.” “I wanted to stay and die with them.”
“So cruel those British, so cruel.”
The British soldiers came in trucks and accused the villagers of helping communists. The men and women of the village were separated. The women were loaded onto trucks to be taken away. The younger woman asked where the men were. The soldiers said the men would have to be shot. She remembered watching as the men were led out in groups of four and five, told to turn around by the waiting troops and shot in the back. After two days, she returned to look for her fiance. The bodies had been mutilated, heads hacked off and genitals smashed.
This was 8 months after the massacre of 250 Palestinians on 9th April, 1948 in the village of Deir Yassin in the district of Jerusalem in British-occupied Palestine. The soldiers who made Batang Kali into a killing field in December 1948 were not illegal illegitimate immigrant thugs of the Haganah, Vladimir Jabutinsky’s Irgon, Abraham Stern’s the Stern gang, Palmach and Golani supported and funded by Anglo-American Zionists in the premeditated and systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. They were British Scots Guards struggling to hold on to imperialism, colonialism and may be even Zionism in the face of widespread resentment and resistance. This killing field in the Malay Peninsular as brutal as the Sharpeville massacre of 69 young demonstrators in apartheid South Africa in March 1960 was not unlike so many killing fields made by Americans up north in late 1960s. It was worse with the massacre of 150 unarmed Vietnamese at My Lai on 16th March 1968. It was so much worse with the massacre of at least 1000 unarmed Palestinian refugees in September 1982 at Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon ordered by Ariel Sharon as Israeli defense minister conspiring with Elie Hobeike’s Lebanese Forces militia, and another Israeli proxy, Major Saad Haddad’s South Lebanon Army after the American-backed invasion of West Beirut.
Justice was never seen to have been done about these massacres and many more. The killers are still at it in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan.
Are we not weaklings held to account for indifference or inaction?
These, our deceased, had the right of resistance; they might be labeled communists or terrorists, but they were our people, dead or alive; anytime anywhere they were braver than those people who shot them in the back.