Chin Peng’s farewell letter: Dare and Duties

What is your view on Chin Peng? A brave freedom fighter who fought alongside British forces in the Second World War and defeated the Japanese? A colonial villain whose ambition was to drive out the British to establish a communist state in Malaya and Singapore? An unrepentant and unpardonable terrorist who was responsible for atrocities in the 40-year conflict in Malaysia?

In his death, Chin Peng wanted to be remembered “simply as a good man.”

“My comrades and I had dedicated our lives to a political cause that we believed in and had to pay whatever price there was as a result. Whatever consequences on ourselves, our family and the society, we would accept with serenity.”

“In the final analysis, I wish to be remembered simply as a good man who could tell the world that he had dared to spend his entire life in pursuit of his own ideals to create a better world for his people.”

From the memorial booklet of Chin Peng, titled “In Everlasting Memory: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Sacrifice.”

Chin Peng’s memorial booklet, “In Everlasting Memory: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Sacrifice,” is in three languages: Chinese, English and Malay. The translation of the Chinese and English texts on the cover grabbed my attention. In English, the message “Dare to Struggle, Dare to Sacrifice” focuses on his fearlessness and his consuming passion.

The Chinese text, however, focuses on his patriotism and dedication. 鞠躬尽瘁 (jū gōng jìn cuì) means that he “bends his back to a task and totally exhausts his energy.” The connotation of this famous Chinese expression is that Chin Peng was a patriotic and loyal man who had performed his duties to serve his nation.

Chin Peng's Farewell Message in English, Chinese and Malay.

Chin Peng’s Farewell Message in English, Chinese and Malay. Image via Sin Chew Daily

鞠躬尽瘁 is actually only half of the Chinese expression. The full expression is known as 鞠躬尽瘁,死而后已 (jū gōng jìn cuì ,sǐ ér hòu yǐ)–  Bow to exhaustion, until his death.

This classical Chinese expression is derived from a well-known passage called 出师表 (Chū Shī Biǎo)by the statesman 诸葛亮 (Zhūgě liàng), the prime minister of the State of Shu in the Three Kingdoms period.  Zhūgě liàng devoted his life to his monarch Liú Beì, and later to his incompetent son, Liú Shàn. in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Liú Shàn is also infamously known under his childhood name as ā Dǒu (阿斗) , synonymous for an incompetent person. You can read about the origin of this Chinese idiom in this blog about Chinese proverbs.

Chin Peng’s farewell letter in full:
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“My dear comrades, my dear compatriots,

When you read this letter, I am no more in this world.

It was my original intention to pass away quietly and let my relatives handle the funeral matters in private. However, the repercussions of erroneous media reports of me in critical condition during October 2011, had persuaded me that leaving behind such a letter is desirable.

Ever since I joined the Communist Party of Malaya and eventually became its secretary-general, I have given both my spiritual and physical self in the service of the cause that my party represented, that is, to fight for a fairer and better society based on socialist ideals. Now with my passing away, it is time that my body be returned to my family.

I draw immense comfort in the fact that my two children are willing to take care of me, a father who could not give them family love, warmth and protection ever since their birth. I could only return my love to them after I had relinquished my political and public duties, ironically only at a time when I have no more life left to give to them as a father.

It was regrettable that I had to be introduced to them well advanced in their adulthood as a stranger. I have no right to ask them to understand, nor to forgive. They have no choice but to face this harsh reality. Like families of many martyrs and comrades, they too have to endure hardship and suffering not out of their own doing, but out of a consequence of our decision to challenge the cruel forces in the society which we sought to change.

It is most unfortunate that I couldn’t, after all, pay my last respects to my parents buried in hometown of Sitiawan (in Perak), nor could I set foot on the beloved motherland that my comrades and I had fought so hard for against the aggressors and colonialists.

My comrades and I had dedicated our lives to a political cause that we believed in and had to pay whatever price there was as a result. Whatever consequences on ourselves, our family and the society, we would accept with serenity.

In the final analysis, I wish to be remembered simply as a good man who could tell the world that he had dared to spend his entire life in pursuit of his own ideals to create a better world for his people.

It is irrelevant whether I succeeded or failed, at least I did what I did. Hopefully the path I had walked on would be followed and improved upon by the young after me. It is my conviction that the flames of social justice and humanity will never die.

Farewell, my dear Comrades!

Farewell, my dear Compatriots!

Farewell, my dear Motherland!”

From the memorial booklet of Chin Peng, titled “In Everlasting Memory: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Sacrifice.”

KING'S African Rifles in the Federation Malaya. Two men of "A" Company, 3rd (Kenya) Battalion checking their compass bearing during a jungle patrol. C. 1951© IWM (K 13960)

KING’S African Rifles in the Federation Malaya. Two men of “A” Company, 3rd (Kenya) Battalion checking their compass bearing during a jungle patrol. C. 1951© IWM (K 13960)

The image above from the Imperial War Museums described how the Communist terrorists launched a campaign of murder, arson and destruction on the Federation of Malaya. From the imperial viewpoint, the aim of the communists was to disrupt the economic life of the country, instill fear into the hearts and minds of the people and then seize power. The Imperial War Museum concluded that “The Communists failed because the people of Malaya refused to be intimidated or to accept a doctrine which is repugnant to them. ”

A convoy of vehicles of the Malayan Armoured Corps, led by a Ferret armoured car, move along a road through the jungle. © IWM (K 14063)

A convoy of vehicles of the Malayan Armoured Corps, led by a Ferret armoured car, move along a road through the jungle. © IWM (K 14063)

It was Chin Peng’s wish to be remembered as a good man, who fought from camps deep inside the jungle of Malaya.  He was an absent father and also a son who failed to perform filial duties to his parents. What is your view about Chin Peng?

The Chin Peng series was inspired by Blog Exercises: What story should I share? by Lorelle VanFossen. You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

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22 thoughts on “Chin Peng’s farewell letter: Dare and Duties

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Thank you. It seemed to me that Chin Peng was determined to be remembered by the people in the soil that he so loved, since his name was almost wiped out in the history books. People are now trying to analyse the most difficult period in the Malayan history, thanks to the fact that Chin Peng’s remains are not allowed into Malaysia , prompting much sympathy and dismay even from people who once disagreed with him. A painful history involving tens of thousands of lives lost, it would take a lot of courage to judge this man and his comrades fairly.

      Reply
      1. William Lim

        How Chin Peng is to be judged depends whose side you are on. Also it does depend on the your Race and your political beliefs. He did sacrificed his life for something he believed in and that does make him great. He had to endure so much and had very little to gain even though the odds to win was very remote. I think he drew a lot of inspiration from the Viets fighting against the French. He could have easily done well for himself materially, but such is the decision of very strong will people, they are extremely tough and resilient even in the face of certain defeat. I think anyone looking at the situation at that time can easily see that there was very little hope for him and his party to win.

  1. ShimonZ

    It is so hard to judge the motives and the works of a controversial leader from a foreign culture. It is even hard to judge those we know… but still harder those we don’t know. Thanks for sharing this story.

    Reply
  2. marshland

    Many leaders fought alongside the British against the Nazis or the Japanese and as soon as the world war ceased, it didn’t take a genius to work out that the French and Dutch were in no condition to oppose a fight for independence and the British were badly stretched and saw Europe as far more important than Singapore, India and Malaya. Tito of Yugoslavia and Aung San parlied with the British for possible independence once he realised the Japanese had lied to him. Whether their aspirations were purely for independence for their people or whether it was partly for the power that came as part of the package, is and always will be a bone of contention.
    Interesting post, thanks.

    Reply
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  9. KL

    Thank for sharing a series of Chin Peng’s story and the Malayan Emergency. I would like to borrow a quote which reflects my thought on Chin Peng:

    “I fought a liberation war. To ask whether I would do it again is idle talk. I was a young man in an entirely different setting. But the realities and the lessons I learned from that time comprise a body of values I can share with the young who may wish to look beyond their palmtops and understand how history is shaped. I would like to be involved in a forum. It is the exchange of ideas that ultimately moves the world. The barter of views still exhilarates me. You can tell me I was wrong. You can tell me I failed. But I can tell you how it was and how I tried.”

    – quoted from CHIN PENG, MY SIDE OF HISTORY, Media Masters, Singapore.

    Your question also reminded me a short but memorable years which crossed my life: From dusk to dawn 从夜暮到黎明: 人生三几十 – 学运热潮

    Reply
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