To be honest, I met Chin Peng, the leader of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) several years before his death.
It was one of the most petrifying missions in my career as the crime journalist.
The sole purpose of my task was to get his response about his wish to return to Malaysia despite getting a lot of objections from the people back then.
It was not a simple mission as I did not know where he stays and if my safety would be at risk if I meet the communist leader.
I was presented with the golden opportunity when I got the information that he would be attending an event to commemorate the peace deal they signed with the Malaysian government in 1989 in Hatyai, Thailand.
It was the Lee Gardens Hotel, the exact venue the peace deal was sealed.
I can still recall that day. Together with a good friend, we took an express bus from Puduraya at midnight and we reached Hatyai town at around 8.00 am the next morning.
Although we had intended to stay at the hotel, we had to abort our plan the last minute as there was no vacancy.
To cut the long story short, both of us reached the Lee Gardens Hotel in the evening.
We were shocked to find more than 500 individuals attending the event, which caused the lobby to be jammed packed with people.
It was even more shocking to find that almost all of them were from Malaysia and they were former communist members who had surrendered.
After a half an hour wait, we caught a glimpse of Chin Peng.
The hundreds of communist members cheered and clapped their hands the moment they saw their former leader… it was like a fan club meeting instead!
The situation got a little out of hand when all of them were fighting to get near to greet their idol.
I took that moment to get close to Chin Peng and introduced myself to him.
He looked slightly dazed at that moment, as if he could not believe that I am a journalist.
“Are you truly a journalist? If you’re the police, you might as well admit it,” Chin Peng told me. I was surprise that he could speak Malay fluently although he has fled the country for decades.
I then took out my media identification from the Department of Information. It drew a smile from his face but he declined my invitation for a drink at the café so that we could talk further.
I only managed to ask him two questions before his escorts brought him out of the venue.
The first question was, how do you feel when you are not allowed to return to Malaysia? He said, why can’t he return? He was born in Malaysia and he really wanted to visit his parents at their graves.
The second question, why were you so cruel that you had to kill so many of our police and armies? Chin Peng answered briefly: “Sir, in a battle, if we don’t kill, we will be killed!”
Although I only managed to ask two questions, I was very grateful that I managed to carry out my assignment although I could not write much about our meeting.
I was bombarded by many questions from my friends right after I returned to Kuala Lumpur. They wanted me to share about my experience meeting the communist chief.
I could still remember… I told them that Chin Peng was a neat, handsome and stylish man!
Seriously, when I met Chin Peng, I could not sense a trace of ‘evilness’ in him. At a glance, he looked like a senior government officer who just retired!
He had fair and clean skin, he wore buttoned long sleeves shirt, dark slacks and black leather shoes. He also looked like a successful businessman.
It was after that I knew that Chin Peng has long ditched the forests when his comrades were fighting to their deaths in the jungle.
That was the story.
Chin Peng fled from Malaya to China in mid 1961.
He left from the Thai-Malaysia border in a car towards Bangkok. He stayed there for two nights before travelling to northern Thailand until he reached Mekong. It was a secret journey.
He then took a boat from the Mekong River to Laos. The Vietnamese government was informed about Chin Peng’s arrival when he was in Laos.
The Vietnamese government then sent a helicopter to fetch Chin Peng from Laos to Vietnam. He stayed in Hanoi for a week.
Then, the Chinese government sent a special jet to pick him up in Hanoi.
He was well taken care of in China. The Communist Party of China had prepared a luxury bungalow for him at the International Liaison Department (ILD), where he resided.
It was a two-storey bungalow. There were four rooms upstairs, two rooms downstairs, including a huge dining hall.
Chin Peng was given two secretaries; A personal secretary and a publishing secretary who assisted him with publications such as documents and brochures.
The Chinese government also gave me a cook, butler, driver, bodyguard and a car called the Red Flag.
From that moment on, all CPM activities were headquartered from that mansion.
The Central Committee meetings were held there. The selection of delegates to attend meetings and international communist conventions also started from that house.
They communicated through three methods. First, through postal.
In Beijing, the agents can send their letters to an address. It was a secret address unknown to many except for a few. The letters could only be written in number codes.
The second method of their communication was from secret letters sent by certain people or their representatives.
The third way of communicating was coming in person from Singapore, Indonesia and even London. They made their way to see Chin Peng and conveyed their messages to him.
Each report sent to Chin Peng was scrutinised and he would then issue an order about the things that he subordinates needed to do at their own stations.
When his comrades were fighting to their deaths in the forests, Chin Peng was merely ‘playing chess’ from his luxury mansion in China!
After the peace deal, Chin Peng stayed in Thailand until his final days.
These secrets were revealed by Musa Ahmad, the former Chairman of CPM in a book entitled Baling Membuka Jalan Damai written by Wahba in 1994.
No wonder Chin Peng immaculate when I met him. He has been a ‘King’ for decades.
His followers sang praises to this ‘King’, willing fight, live and die together with him!
‘How true’ that was. –MalaysiaGazette