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Rear Admiral Thanabalasingam, a great and distinguished Malaysian, recently wrote a most eloquent letter in a local newspaper which neatly sums up the angst amongst our servicemen over the Chin Peng controversy. There’s no denying the terrible price our servicemen paid to defend the country against the communists during the Emergency. The pain and the anguish of servicemen who lost their comrades and those who carried the scars and wounds of battle for the rest of their lives is real enough.

As a diplomat, I have lived in or travelled to a number of communist countries. From firsthand observation, I would say that most people found communist rule hard to endure. Communism just never lived up to its promise; all it brought was tyranny, hardship and an appalling disregard for human life and human dignity. Indeed, the history of communism is littered with the corpses of thousands upon thousands of people who died in vast gulags or of mass starvation.

We all, therefore, owe a huge debt of gratitude to our servicemen for defending our freedom and saving us from the horrors of communism.

A suspect narrative

Admiral Thanabalasingam, as well as others, also sounded the alarm that attempts were being made to revive communism and called for greater vigilance against an ideology that is “incompatible with our democratic principles and our Federal Constitution.” He went on to add that “the revival or propagation of the communist ideology must never be allowed…” and that “there should be no compromise whatsoever on this.”

There is, of course, no argument about the incompatibility of communism with our democracy and Federal Constitution, and as he rightly put it, there should be no compromise whatsoever on this.

The real question, however, is whether the threat of a revival of communism in Malaysia warrants serious discussion.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone would think it even remotely possible to revive communism in Malaysia. We have long gone past that stage where communism as an ideology holds any attraction to Malaysians. We are firmly set as a constitutional democracy and no one, not even those who are unhappy with aspects of our nation’s development or political evolution, would ever think that communism is a better alternative.

In any case, the predominantly Muslim character of our nation would seriously mitigate against such a prospect. It is, therefore, more than passing strange that we are suddenly worrying about a possible revival of communism in this day and age.

That concerns about a revival of communism following a gathering of mostly Malaysian Chinese to commemorate the Hat Yai Peace Accord (an asinine idea, by the way) come at a time when there are also concerns that a group of Malaysian Indians are attempting to revive the defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) should additionally arouse suspicions.

Why now? Who is pushing these narratives and why? Where is the evidence that these threats are real and imminent? Could it be that all these threats, imaginary as they are, are being played up to discredit the Pakatan Harapan government and feed the narrative that since the fall of UMNO the country’s security and the position of the Malays are being endangered by non-Malay groups?

It is all the more telling, as well, that there was no outcry, no expressions of concern from our political leaders or our security agencies when UMNO invited the Communist Party of China (CPC) to attend its annual general assemblies or when the MCA sent its members for training at the CPC’s cadre training school.

If anything, those actions should have set off alarm bells but UMNO apparently thought it was all kosher. Yet today, they string together a few isolated and minor events and make it out to be the beginning of a major communist conspiracy against king and country.

Until such time as the authorities can convincingly demonstrate that there’s a concerted effort to promote communism in Malaysia or revive a long defunct Sri Lankan terror group, the obvious conclusion would remain that all this has more to do with domestic politics than actual reality.

Threats to the Constitution

And while we are on the subject of threats to the Constitution, why are other threats to the Constitution – the Ketuanan Melayu ideology, for example, or the efforts of PAS to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state – not as vigorously opposed, talked about or investigated?   They are, after all, far more real than the threat of a communist revival or an LTTE resurgence.

Ketuanan Melayu statements like Malaysia for Malays directly challenge provisions of the Federal Constitution that guarantee the fundamental equality of all citizens irrespective of race or religion as do attempts by PAS to alter the secular foundations of our democracy.

The threat posed by returning ISIS and al-Qaeda fighters is another serious security challenge. These are, after all, hard-core terrorists who have killed and maimed hundreds of civilians, Muslim and non-Muslim. And yet, our politicians are not sufficiently seized of the matter, not calling for a national debate on how we should respond to returning terrorists.

Let’s not get so distracted by non-existent, politically motivated threats to national security that we lose sight of the real dangers that stalk our nation. It dishonours the valour and sacrifice of our servicemen, creates needless resentment and diminishes the credibility of our security agencies. The problems and challenges that confront our nation are real enough; let’s not waste any more time on imaginary ones.

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 13th December 2019]