The infamous leader of the Malayan Communist Party and one-time most wanted public enemy of the British Far East died aged 90 in Bangkok, denied a request to die in his home town in Perak.
Appointed leader of the MCP at age 22, he first fought in a guerrilla resistance against the Japanese Occupation forces in WW2, and later against the British and against the independent federation of Malaysia.
His exploits are stuff of legend – successfully evading the might of the British armed forces for 12 years, slipping in and out of the jungle without so much as a scratch – attending truce talks looking as if he had just taken a taxi to a boardroom meeting, and when the talks failed, slinking back into the northern Malaysian forests and just bloody disappearing.
The British colonial forces fought an outright decades-long war against Chin Peng and his insurgents in then Malaya, but preferred to call it an “Emergency” – denying Chin Peng and his comrades the honour of being conventional civil war combatants.
The legacy of the Emergency can still be seen today. You know our NRICs? Those were borne of the need to keep track of residents – anyone who was without an IC was a Communist suspect. My mother once disallowed me from going camping in Malaysia with my friends because she was afraid I would “kenah kidnap by Communists then you know”.
For all the ideological differences between Mr Ong’s comrades and the ones that built Singapore and Malaysia – I and many others consider Mr Ong Boon Wah, alias Chin Peng, a true patriot of the independent nations of Singapore and Malaysia. He fought tooth and nail for what he believed to be true and just – and held out for as long as his mind and body could muster – values we must admire.
My deepest condolences to the Ong family in Singapore and Malaysia.
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