By Abdul Rahmat Omar
November 13 2017
LAST Sunday, diplomats as well as Armed Forces and Police Veterans of the Commonwealth gathered at the Kuala Lumpur Cenotaph located within the Tugu Negara complex.
I happened to be present as well – my first for such event since 2009 when the Malaysian Warriors’ Day was no longer celebrated there the following year, a sad case of having civilians intrude in the traditions of the armed forces and police.
What also saddened me this time is the absence of any figure representing the Malaysian Government, save for three senior Malaysian Armed Forces officers (a Navy Rear Admiral, an Army Major-General and an Army Brigadier-General).
Veterans who attended represented the three services of the Malaysian Armed Forces, the Royal Malaysian Police, former British, Australian, and Fijian Army; some foreign veterans wore their Pingat Jasa Malaysia (Malaysian Service Medal) proudly – a poignant reminder that they too had played a role in saving this blessed nation from being turned into the Communist Republic of Malaya on the 3rd August 1948 as planned by the Communist Party of Malaya (R.W Komer, 1972).
Perhaps, to many, Remembrance Sunday is only about the Commonwealth Forces, the two World Wars, and the Malayan (First) Emergency.
There is a general misperception that Malayans were not involved in the First World War.
The truth is far from that. At the outbreak of the First World War, the Taiping-based Malay States Guides derived from the Federated Malay States Police Force served with distinction alongside the Aden Field Force together with Thomas Edward Lawrence (otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia) against the Germans and the Ottomans.
The bond that had been created between the servicemen of Malaysia and other Commonwealth countries is such that even Britain’s Prince Charles who was here just over a week ago, was surprised that the current Patron for the Northern Ireland Branch of the National Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association is a Malay from Malaysia!
It was also during the First World War that the Federated Malay States donated a battleship to the Royal Navy.
HMS Malaya was commissioned in 1916, saw action in the Battle of Jutland, and also served through the Second World War until she was broken up in 1948. She was the only ship that had served in the Royal Navy flying the Federated Malay States insignia.
Brave men of the 1st Battalion, Malay Regiment (now Royal Malay Regiment) fought against the Imperial Japanese Army gallantly. ‘C’ Company led by Kajang lad Lieutenant Adnan bin Saidi held Bukit Chandu for more than 10 hours on the 14th February 1942 before going down in fierce hand-to-hand combat.
During the 12-year Malayan Emergency, the Federated Malay States police force lost more men than any of the Commonwealth Armed Forces put together.
They also had the most number of killed and captured members of the Communist Party of Malaya.
The police continued to lead in the fight against insurgency for three more years after Merdeka, followed by the Malaysian (Second) Emergency that lasted 20 years from 1969 through 1989.
Those above who died protecting this land were not fighting for the British; they were the respective Sultans’ men who were led by British officers who were here by virtue of treaties between the Malayan states and Great Britain.
The Government must do more to create better awareness among the masses of these sacrifices or it would all be in vain.
Borrowing from a poem by Laurence Binyon that is inscribed on the ‘Batu Tenggek’ War Memorial in Teluk Intan:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.