Baling Talks - The Talks

The Talks

The talks took place in the Government English School at Baling on December 28. They lasted more than eight hours, and were spread over two days. The MCP was represented by Chin Peng, the Secretary-General, Rashid Maidin and Chen Tien, head of the MCP's Central Propaganda Department. On the other side were three elected national representatives; Tunku Abdul Rahman, Dato Tan Cheng-Lock and David Marshall.

In his opening remarks, Tunku Abdul Rahman thanked the Communists for the confidence they had show in coming to the meeting. He reminded them that his task was to explain the amnesty terms but not to stand in judgement over them. He then detailed the political changes which had been taking place in Malaya and explained that his election victory was based on the promise that "colonialism must end and that this country must be given freedom." He then mentioned the High Commissioner's announcement in the Legislative Council on 30 November that the British Government no longer considered "the Continuation of the Emergency" as "an obstacle to the Federation's advance to self-government". The British Government intended to enter the London talks in January "on that understanding". Since then the UMNO Assembly had passed a very important resolution to the effect that independence for Malaya must be given by the 31 August 1957.

The Tunku then explained to Chin Peng that the objective of his Party was to bring peace to the country. But, in his opinion, there would be no way of bringing about peace other than to offer suitable amnesty terms for the surrender of the Communists. The Tunku reiterated that if the Communists accepted the amnesty "everyone would be pardoned." The Tunku then explained the amnesty terms in full. He added that the Government had carried out its part of the terms with regard to local ceasefires but that the Communists had continued offensive action. As a result, ceasefire arrangements had been suspended by the Government, although the Security Forces would like to know the reason. The Tunku also reminded Chin Peng that he did not come to the meeting as a spokesman for the British Government, he came "neither as the stooge or running dog of colonialism" but as a "servant of the people".

Chin Peng replied that it was because he realised that the Tunku was not "the spokesman of the British Government or the running dog of the British Government" that they were prepared to meet them at a risk to their lives.

Chin Peng explained that he had not come to the meeting to argue questions of ideology but to search for peace "so that the misery of the people can be reduced". Chin Peng pointed out the MCP rejected the amnesty offer because it did not permit Communists to "enjoy equal status so that those that genuinely intended to be loyal to the Government would be "helped to regain their normal position in society." Chin Peng then mentioned the past statement by the Tunku that if the MCP stopped the armed struggle, then they could enjoy a status that would enable them to fight for independence by constitutional means. The amnesty terms did not contain such a point.

To this the Tunku replied that the amnesty specifically declared that Communists who gave up communism and showed that they genuinely intended to be loyal to the government would be "helped to regain their normal position in society". First, however, the communists would have to show their loyalty to Malaysia. In his view, simply to be anti-British was not sufficient to show that one was loyal to Malaya. The Tunku pointed out that the Malayan people regarded the Communist activities as something entirely foreign to the Malayan way of life. They regarded the Communist Party as belonging to a power outside the country and considered that its members gave allegiance to that foreign country and not Malaya.

During the second session, the discussion revolved around the question of loyalty to Malaya and recognition of the Malayan Communist Party. Chin Peng asked the Tunku to explain the actual meaning of "loyalty to Malaya." The Tunku stated that one of the things the Malayan people expected was that the Communist should give up their Communist activities. Loyalty to Malaya would include acceptance of the position of the Rulers and agreement to uphold their dignity. Dato Sir Tan Cheng-Lock added that if a man wanted to live in Malaya, he should assume the responsibilities and duties of a good citizen. David Marshall defined loyalty as "loyalty to the government of the day, and loyalty to the constitutional processes in bringing about such changes for the welfare of the people.

The talk then turned to the question of the recognition of the Malayan Communist Party. Chin Peng asked for recognition of the Malayan Communist Party. He asked the Tunku whether the giving up of Communist activities meant the dissolution of the Malayan Communist Party. The Tunku answered that it did. Chin Peng stressed the point that, as a member of the Malayan Communist Party, they were not prepared to be forced by others to give up that ideology, but wished to put their ideology to the people to decide, if that were possible. The Tunku replied that if the Malayan Communist Party was allowed to take part in free election, the people would choose the Alliance. The Tunku continued that the Communist and Malayan ideologies were not the same. The Malayan people preferred their own way of life, and the Communists must accept the way of life accepted by the majority. Chin Peng admitted that during the last few year, political progress had been made in Malaya and it was because of that he believed that the time had come when the Communist should come to the meeting with sincerity in the hope that they could solve their problems. However, he reiterated that he could not accept the amnesty conditions as they were then, because those conditions required them to dissolve the Malayan Communist Party. When asked by Chin Peng on what other means the emergency could be ended, the Tunku replied that Chin Peng and the members of the Malayan Communist Party must give up their communist activities and prove themselves loyal to the country.

Chin Peng stated that he did not see why since they were Communists they should "declare to the people that they were Communist. They did not wish to join other political parties and then do their scheming or intrigues. That is why they wanted the question of the recognition of the MCP to be settled"

Then Tunku said that he was not asking Communist to give up their ideology- "one's ideology is what one believes in" - but their activities were something quite different.

The Tunku reiterated that the Federal Government was not prepared to recognise the Malayan Communist Party because Communist activities had been associated with murder, with atrocities and with acts of violence of every kind. Furthermore, the MCP was composed of very few Malayan nationals. Chin Peng then asked whether the difference was because most of the members of the MCP in Malaya were Chinese. David Marshall replied that as far as Singapore was concerned that had nothing to do with it. The point was that the Communists were exercising violence. The Tunku added that in Malaya the situation was different because the Malays felt that the Communist owned their allegiance to Communist China.

Chin Peng put one more question before another adjournment. Was it necessary for any decisions made at the meeting to be approved by the British Government? The Tunku replied: "If I decide and Mr. Marshall agrees with me, that will be all."

The next session started at 6.30 p.m. and lasted until 8.05 p.m. Chin Peng returned with fresh vigour to the question of recognition of his party. One of several gambits turned on the question of whether his party would be accepted if its members were confined to federal citizens. "No", answered Tunku.

The talk turned to other aspects, such as the detention of surrendered terrorists for purposes of interrogation and investigation. The Tunku explained that investigation would be carried out very speedily. "We want to extract a promise from you that you will not carry on your activities, which we say are not loyal to Malaya and are prejudicial to the interests of Malaya and Malayans. We will want you to sign a declaration to that effect".

Chin Peng refused to accept this, declaring that for the "dignity of man" if this principle was insisted upon, then they would have to carry on with the struggle. This brought a question from Marshall, "Forgive me for asking, but what are you struggling for?" Chin Peng solemnly replied, "It is very simple, just for the dignity of man." Marshall exclaimed that using deed of violence to enforce their views on a population that does want them was hardly compatible with the dignity of man. Chin Peng admitted that their outlook on this question was quite different and he was prepared to argue on it.

It was at this point that the talk really broke down. Chin Peng came back time and again to the points on which the Communists insisted: recognition of the MCP, no detention, no investigation and no restriction on their movements after surrender. The Tunku made it clear that after investigations and the removal of restriction on freedom, those Communists who remained in Malaya could join recognized political parties and to take part in politics, but they would not allowed to form a Communist Party under another name. At the end of the session, Marshall pleaded with them to try to consider the question soberly and to remember that there must be some sacrifice on their part. The Chief Ministers informed Chin Peng that they would be prepared to meet again on the following morning.

The delegations met again at 10.30 the next morning, but from the very beginning, Chin Peng continued his cardinal requests for political recognition of his party and freedom for its members. For Chin Peng, the purpose of investigation implied surrender and was unacceptable. He considered it as a humiliation: "If you demand our surrender we would prefer to fight to the last man". The Tunku replied that some surrender was inevitable. "... if you do not come out to surrender, we would rather not accept you in our society. If you want to have peace in this country, one side must give way. Either we give in to you or you give in to us." The Tunku stressed that he was not prepared to allow a situation where Malaya might be divided as had happened in the case of Korea and Vietnam. Malaya was too small and he had, therefore, to be frank with them and say that is was they who must surrender. The Chief Minister, before leaving, then appealed to Chin Peng to think of the general welfare of the people and informed him that if, in the near future, the Communists were prepared to show any change of attitude, they would not consider their pride in coming to meet him again. Within an hour, Chin Peng and his colleagues were returning to Klian Intan. The next day he joined his bodyguard and disappeared in the direction of South Thailand.

Read more about this topic:  Baling Talks

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