Posted: 03 Sep 2013 03:52 PM PDT
(Reuters) - At a crucial point in the film "Tanda Putera", ethnic Chinese youths urinate on a pole flying the flag of a Malaysian state, setting off events that push the country into a deadly race riot that still haunts the national consciousness four decades later.
The publicly funded movie, which opened recently in Malaysia after a long delay, is stirring up racial sentiment at a sensitive time over its depiction of the ethnic Chinese minority as the aggressors in the violent events of May 13, 1969.
Posted: 03 Sep 2013 03:16 PM PDT
A Malaysian hero reminisces on his dangerous life as an anti-communist fighter.
Alfian ZM Tahir, FMT
Death, or the threat of it, is nature's way of telling you to slow down, according to Terry Pratchett.
But how was Yuen Yuet Leng to know? He was an anti-communist fighter long before Pratchett began writing his novels. Despite being shot several times and surviving seven assassination attempts, he never slowed down until he retired from the police force in 1984.
He once even defied his superior's order and trekked into the deepest part of the Sarawak jungle for a powwow with the leader of the North Kalimantan Communist Party (NKCP).
Now 86, Yuen spends most of his time reading and relaxing, only occasionally accepting an invitation to deliver a speech at some event or granting a press interview.
During such an interview with FMT recently, he said he joined the police force precisely to fight communist terrorists. The British recruited him into a squad of police trainees composed of 22 Malays, 19 Chinese and 13 Indians.
"When I was a teenager, I was given the chance to go to China to study, and I went. However, I was shocked to see the political situation there. I did not finish my studies and came back to Malaya.
"I was a teacher in Seremban when I applied to join the police."
A few years after completing his training, Yuen was involved in a battle in Grik and was shot in the thigh, buttocks and his back. The bullet that went into the back is still there.
"After the attack I was rushed to a nearby hospital. There was no doctor there, only a medical assistant. They forgot to take out the bullet in my back. Perhaps they didn't even know it was there. There was no X-ray machine then."
He said he came to know about the bullet only in 1982 during a medical check-up. "The doctors were surprised to see a bullet still in my back after so many years," he said, smiling.
Yuen became a Special Branch officer in 1953 and was awarded the Colonial Police Medal in 1957 for his intelligence work, which he carried out at great personal risk. When he was assigned to Sarawak in 1971, he had already attained the rank of Assistant Police Commissioner.
He returned to peninsular Malaysia in 1975 to take up the post of State Police Chief in Perak. Subsequently, he served in Kuala Lumpur, Pahang and Kelantan.
He was moved back to Sarawak in 1981 to take up the post of State Police Commissioner.
During the interview, Yuen seemed to relish his memory of serving as an intelligence officer. He once headed the Special Branch.
A spy in the camp
"Many people don't realise how important the Special Branch is," he said. "It was because of us that the communists were halted. Not many know how hard it was for us to come up with vital information. Many of my men died during dangerous operations.
"When I was heading the Special Branch, no one knew where we were at any one time. Not even my family knew what I was doing. My men and those from other police units did not know one another. That was how good we were."
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