Saturday, 7 July 2018

70 years later, Malayan Emergency’s legacy lives on

Political compact that emerged from the conflict and defined post-colonial Malaysia's governance and race relations is now under review

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Malayan Emergency, an undeclared war fought between the Communist Party of Malaya’s (CPM) guerrilla army and the former British colonial government of Malaya. Modern-day independent Malaysia would emerge from the tumult.

Over the course of the 1948-60 conflict, ethnic minorities were granted citizenship for the first time and Malaya’s first municipal and district elections were held, developments that fostered the political alliance that would define Malaysia’s post-colonial landscape.

While the period saw an ideological division widen in relation to Malaya’s place among the rival blocs of the Cold War, another struggle with links to the present also manifested: the tussle for a viable political compact capable of effectively governing Malaya’s complex multiracial society. Seven decades on, after historic elections on May 9 this year, that long-held compact is now under review.

Leading the armed communist revolt for Malayan independence was Ong Boon Hua, an ethnic Chinese political activist better known by his alias Chin Peng. Years before becoming the British Empire’s most wanted man, he was one of Britain’s most dependable wartime allies, helping to drive invading Japanese forces out of Malaya during World War II.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at