A first-hand view of fighting the communist terrorists — Hussaini Abdul Karim August 30, 2011 AUG 30

  1. A first-hand view of fighting the communist terrorists — Hussaini Abdul Karim, August 30, 2011
  2. AUG 30 — A week before we received our Agong‟s commission, which was to be held on April 14, 1972, all Royal Military College (RMC), Sungei Besi, Kuala Lumpur graduating officer cadets of Short Service Commission Intake 20 and Regular Commission Intake 14 were required to make our choices on which corps in the army we wished to serve.Tensions were very high among us even though we were all fully trained and equipped and were fully fit and ready to fight the communist terrorists (CTs) face-to-face in both West and East Malaysia. The training we went through was very tough. We were all very anxious to know where each of us was to be posted to, especially those of us who had made our choices to join the Infantry, Artillery or the Reconnaissance Corps in the army, all commonly known as the “Fighting Units” of the army. We were repeatedly briefed and reminded about the communist atrocities and how ruthless they were and part of our training was to get us all psyched up to defeat them, our national enemy and a threat to our developing nation. We had to stop them from destroying our country and our people to ensure a prosperous and peaceful future for all Malaysians.

Hussaini Abdul Karim

The writer receiving his Agong’s commission as Lt Muda (2nd Lieutenant, Malaysian Artillery Corps) from Sultan Abdul Halim at the RMC Sungei Besi on April 14, 1972.

I still remember very well the nervous smile of Officer Cadet Elias Ramli, a vertically challenged but stout fellow from Kangar, who was to be posted to 1 Ranger Regiment in Sarawak, the hotbed of the CTs at that time, as well as the sour face of Officer Cadet A. Rahman Koya, a tall and dapper fellow from Rantau Panjang, who was joining another Ranger battalion, also based in Sarawak. Officer Cadet Sallehuddin from Penggerang, Johor, who joined the Royal Malay Regiment, was another graduating cadet who I noticed was feeling very nervous. About an equal number of officers from our graduating class were sent to units operating near the borders of Malaysia/Thailand and Malaysia/Kalimantan to join the respective fighting units we were posted to. Two hundred graduating cadets were posted to the fighting units and the remaining number of newly-commissioned officers was posted to the services and administrative units. I was posted to the 3rd Artillery Regiment in Kuching, which was our temporary base and I was there for just over one year. My parents were less than happy when I told them about it. My second stint there, for about 11⁄2 years, was between early 1974 and mid-1975. Our permanent base was in Kamunting, Taiping.

Lt Muda Elias Ramli, Lt Muda A. Rahman Koya and Lt Muda Sallehuddin as well as a few others did not enjoy the privilege of the four-day break we were given between the time after accepting our commission as 2nd lieutenants and joining our respective units. They had to pack up immediately and were flown or sent by train or Land Rover trucks to Kuching and to other destinations like Ipoh, Sungei Petani, and Bentong that afternoon itself upon completing the passing-out parade. They were to join their colleagues to fight in the country‟s jungles due to a shortage of officers, especially in the infantry units, at the front lines in both theatres.

On April 15, the very first day of active service, we received the very sad news of the first casualty, Lt Muda Sallehuddin, then only 18 years old; the youngest to be commissioned, died after drowning in the Rejang River in Sibu during one of the pursuits of terrorists in his unit‟s area of operations. Over the years there were many more casualties, all young men, who were killed, injured, paralysed, maimed or crippled fighting the communist CTs. Some died or were injured from gunshot wounds or

accidents and some from air crashes after the Nuri helicopters they were in were shot at, all fighting for the country to wipe out the communists. A classmate at RMC Cadet Wing, Lt Fuad Chong from the Engineers Corps, had to have one of his legs amputated after badly injuring it upon stepping on a booby trap in an operation to clear booby traps set up by the CTs in the Perak jungle. My very good friends, Trooper Suandy, a soldier from the elite Commando Unit (MSSU) and Lt Muda (U) Wee Kong Beng, a co-pilot of a Nuri helicopter, died in one of the crashes with seven others including the aircraft‟s captain. In one of the major operations which I was involved in, the Bentong airstrip was even busier than Subang Airport with various types of aircraft such as the Caribou, Cessna, Nuri and Alouette regularly landing and taking off every day.

One officer from our batch, Lt Muda Basri, an infantry officer from 4 Ranger Regiment, was awarded the Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) for bravery after successfully leading his platoon to defeat a group of CTs in 1973. This guy had burning red eyes and he always was full of spirit; though he was among the quieter ones at RMC, from his determination and passion shown when competing in team contests and games during our training sessions, I knew that one day he would be a hero. Another officer who was also a classmate by the name of Basri, also from the Royal Engineers Corps, a very affable fellow, was also awarded the PGB and he has since retired with the rank of Lt-Colonel.

Life in the army then was very tough and in my case, I spent most of my active military service in the country‟s jungles in Sarawak, Sabah, Perak, Kedah and Pahang, sometimes at a stretch for as long as six months. Of course, there were many like me. We young officers were still bachelors and were considered by our superiors that leaving us in the jungle for a long stretch of time didn‟t really matter. The married officers who had families had shorter stints. Sometimes, I did feel angry with myself, with a tinge of regret for joining the army instead of one of the universities like many of my classmates who completed pre-university did, and be able to sleep on very comfortable Dunlopillo latex foam mattresses, enjoy good food, had girlfriends and enjoyed the bright city lights.

We slept on makeshift tents created using our rubber “poncos” from branches of small trees and depending on the duty roster, we either slept during the day or at night. Sometimes, when there was not enough time, we just slept on the ground with the ponco used as a ground sheet. As we were always on the move, the tents had to be dismantled and the area cleared after every short stay of between two and three days. Our food was the dry rations supplied to us and sometimes, when we camped near rivers, we did manage to get fish and fresh vegetables. There were, among the soldiers, some very good cooks who were able to prepare delicious dishes from these fish, vegetables and some other fresh leaves eaten fresh like ulam. It was quite normal for us to camp on high ground near flowing rivers as the clean waters allowed us to bathe and do plenty of cleaning, cooking and washing. During the annual but short Hari Raya Aidilfitri periods, the food spread was quite large and we had lemang, ketupat, rendang and a good variety of kuih raya and that could last up to a week. Sometimes we found photos of young girls of about our age; they were volunteers who helped prepare the food packs who must have cheekily placed them in those packs just to cheer us up and that actually did the trick. However, morale of the soldiers was high and we were always supporting and comforting each other particularly when we received sad and devastating news about casualties and deaths of our friends and colleagues. Every time I heard news like these, I felt very angry, frustrated and most vengeful. I felt like, if I ever happened to encounter them, I would catch them, wring their necks until they could not breathe, hang them by their feet and make them suffer enough before shooting them. I had books and past newspapers delivered to me by my very considerate commanding officer, the late Maj-Gen Datuk Johan Hew, of and on and I read them all from cover to cover over and over again; including all the advertisements and notices, in the case of newspapers, until the next delivery. The news I read were sometimes a week old at best. Other reading materials included the Quran and some kitabs.

In one of the fire fights that I was involved, a supply convoy consisting of 12 vehicles escorted by a reconnaissance troop with Ferret scout cars and V-150 APCs was ambushed by CTs along the road flanked by sloping hills with thick undergrowth not very far from our Maong Gajah base camp in Kedah near Pedu Lake (before the dam was constructed) and very near to the Thai border. Casualties on our side were several and most of them were seriously injured but nobody was killed. The counter attack mounted by the RMR infantry company didn‟t come back with any captured or dead terrorists. My troops fired round after round of high explosive ammunition every night for the next three nights covering a very large area but there was still no captured or dead terrorists. Another

incident was near Kampung Lallang in the Sungei Siput area in Perak where a small group of CTs, three of them actually, was sighted on a small hill and the field commander ordered us to cordon the area with a two-layer, shoulder-to-shoulder, man-to-man ring surrounding the „target‟ with the aim to capture the enemies alive instead of killing them. When we closed in on the target, the enemies were nowhere to be seen and we were all puzzled. We were very sure that the sighting, based on our intelligence report which was categorised as A1, was accurate. That led to many theories and one was that they escaped via a tunnel somewhere in the jungle and the other was that these people had special powers and could hide behind leaves. We searched but did not find any tunnel. Many of us however, believed in the latter theory.

An artillery troop equipped with 105mm Howitzers in the „position ready‟ position. Firing starts upon orders received from the gun position officer (GPO).

The mode of operations those days required each infantry brigade involved in the search and destruction of CTs in both East Malaysia and the peninsula to have one three-gun 105mm Howitzer- equipped artillery troop to flush out CTs from their hideouts and we were engaged in many harassing fire missions and fired hundreds of rounds of high explosive ammunition, normally at night, at all the areas suspected to be CT hideouts but we never knew if there were any casualties among them. However, all the time, search-and-destroy operations carried out after the guns ceased firing rendered zero findings. Our jungles are very thick with severely undulating grounds and many meandering big and small rivers and it was very difficult and dangerous to carry out search-and-destroy operations. The situation was a lot worse when it rained and we had to face inclement weather quite regularly. The air force also assisted in the operations either by providing airlifting operations using Sikorsky (Nuris) helicopters to fly in the troops, guns and supplies to the designated gun positions in the heart of our jungles in Perak, Kedah, Pahang, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak, which were not accessible by road or foot, as well as “Eye Observation Posts” (Eye OPs), an air reconnaissance artillery gun control operations using the smaller Alouette helicopters. Communication was by means of fairly obsolete equipment and the PRK 55 mobile signal units. Most of the times we took turns to crank the batteries by hand continuously to provide power for the signal equipment because communication had to be maintained uninterrupted for 24 hours every day. Despite the shortcomings, we still managed it. Orientation was assisted by accurate topographical maps, compasses, rulers and protractors.

Only the CPM members would know the number of casualties they suffered.

In all of our further and advanced training sessions, courses, briefings and debriefings, we were told and reminded that our enemies were members of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and their two illegal organisations viz the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), a group formed for their armed struggle, and the Malayan National Liberation League (MNLL). Another organisation was the CPM Marxist-Leninist Faction (CPMML) which was responsible for the constitutional struggle and certain aspects of the illegal or “militant” struggle and there was also the Malayan Communist Youth League (MCYL) recruited from youths aged between 15 and 30. In East Malaysia, we were fighting the North Kalimantan Communist Party (which had no direct links with the Malayan Communist Party), an offshoot of the clandestine communist organisation that was waging a guerilla campaign against the government. Names like Chin Peng, the CPM secretary-general, Rashid Mydin, Abdullah CD, Wahi Annuar, Shamsiah Fakih, Siu Cheong alias Ah Soo, P.V. Sharma, Ah Hoi alias Chen Jui, Sun Chek, Lim Chau, Soh Chee Peng alias Shi Meng and Musa Ahmad were regularly mentioned.

They were not fighting to liberate the country, which they claimed, but their aim was to form a communist republic to be known as the Malayan Peoples Republic and anyone who went against them, regardless of race or religion, shall be killed. We lost many soldiers, mostly young Malay soldiers (there were very few Chinese, Indian and people of other races in the army then), and we also received news that some civilians were also killed. I also remember reading a report about the communists in the early „50s, not long after the Japanese surrendered, and the „60s, where killings were also carried out in towns like Muar, Kluang, Ipoh and Sungei Petani, among others. In 1971, the then-IGP Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim was assassinated at the junction of Lorong Weld and Jalan Tun Perak Kuala Lumpur on June 4, 1974; his driver was also killed and about 16 months later another senior police officer, Perak CPO Tan Sri Khoo Chong Kong, was gunned down together with his driver at midday in Ipoh. These assassinations were carried out by members of the 1st Mobile Squad of the CPMML, a squad formed to carry out assassinations. Two other planned assassinations of the then-Chief of Armed Forces Staff, General Tan Sri Ibrahim Ismail (now Tun), and the then Singapore Commissioner of Police, Tan Sri Tan Teik Khim, were thwarted after two CPMML members were arrested and sentenced to death for the murders they committed earlier.

An artillery troop command post with the gun position officer (GPO) giving firing orders using a megaphone.

The communists were trained, both physically and mentally, to be brutal, ruthless and unsympathetic they‟d kill just anyone whom they wanted to. Killings to them were a duty and it was like food for them and they did it without feeling even an iota of guilt.

God save us if they were to take over and rule this country.

I was promoted to Captain in 1976 and left the army in 1979 to continue with my studies and to pursue other interests after feeling fully satisfied and my ambition fulfilled and that I have done my duty and contributed in whatever miniscule way to the continued peace and prosperity of our most beloved country. In my relatively short tenure in the army, I served the 1st Brigade, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Brigade, 4th Brigade, 5th Brigade, 6th Brigade, 8th Brigade and Rascom and my last attachment was with the 3rd Field Ambulance in Kinrara, Selangor.

All my former classmates at RMC, Sungei Besi April 1972 graduating class have now retired and many made the army or the air force their career and held very senior ranks and positions and they are my very close friends such as Lt-Gen Tan Sri Wan Abu Bakar, Royal Malay Regiment (former director of military intelligence), Lt-Gen Datuk Seri Bashir, RMAF (former Deputy Chief of the Air Force), Maj-Gen Datuk Mokhtar Parman, Royal Artillery Regiment (former director of training), Maj- Gen Datuk Che Yahya, RMAF (former Chief of Staff, RMAF) and Maj-Gen Datuk Che‟ Hasni, Royal Armoured Corp (former director of army training). The others held ranks of no less than Lt-Colonel.

No, for whatever reasons, we must never allow Chin Peng or any of the still surviving members of the CPM to return to this country. They are all traitors!

We, former members of the security forces, can still feel the hurt and pain, both physically and emotionally, whenever we recall the terrifying years dealing with them.

Even though retired, we will take up weapons again and defend our country against any communist threats either by their members, supporters or sympathisers and I will be the first one to do that!

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

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