For a long time Special Branch officers fought a silent war against the communist insurgency, keeping mum on the real threat so Malaysians could enjoy their long fought for independence.
However the truth is for some of these officers, independence didn’t come until 1989, when the Malayan Communist Party finally signed a peace treaty which ended the insurgency that had lasted for over 21 years.
Former police officer Supt Paul Kiong, who led the Special Branch against the communists’ second insurgency that began in 1968, described the period as a frightening one.
“I saw my friends killed by the underground unit in the town,” he said in an interview with FMT. “They (the communists) knew who were with the Special Branch. So they waited, ambushed and shot their targets whenever they had the opportunity.
“One of my friends was shot not far from the police station. He stayed in the police quarters in Johor. He was shot before reaching home.
“Another colleague of mine, also in Johor, was on his way home when he stopped over at a sundry shop to buy bread for his family. Afterwards, as he was getting onto his motorcycle, they came from the back and shot him.”
Many lives were lost during the insurgency and Kiong, despite being one of the lucky ones had several brushes with death, especially as he had taken the risk of going undercover as one of the insurgents.
He told of the time when he had to meet with a “hostile group” from Kelantan, accompanied only by the “reformed” group of communists he infiltrated.
“The question at the time was what happens if one of the communists in my group betrayed me?”
At one point Kiong also had to be a driver to three insurgents who did not know he was with the Special Branch.
“What would have happened if police stopped and checked the car? The communists in the car would surely fire at the police, and the police will return fire.
“What will you do then? Are you going to shoot the officers? Of course not. (But at the same time) you can’t be shooting at the enemies who are sitting at the back as they have an advantage.”
Luck however was on his side as his cover was never exposed. Others were not as lucky as blood of the innocents and the insurgents themselves were spilled on Malaysian soil all the way until 1987, said Kiong.
“There was a fierce firefight in ’87. My group went in, we had no choice but to eliminate the communists when we encountered them. It was the last major contact we had with the communists in the jungles of Perak.
“The security forces had put a lot of pressure in fighting the communists in the jungle who by then knew they couldn’t win the war, simply because they no longer had the support of the people.”
Having taken part in ensuring national security at a time when peace was just an illusion to many, Kiong said that he could now finally enjoy the true meaning of independence.
“Merdeka is very meaningful now. We have been successful in ensuring this, but the success did not come without a lot of blood and tears.”