Not quite dead enough

If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

The latest, and needless, controversy over the return of the ashes of Chin Peng to his home state of Perak is much ado over nothing. 

It was reported on Tuesday that the ashes of Asia’s last revolutionary and the former leader of the Communist Party of Malaya had been quietly returned in September and scattered, partly in the sea and partly in the jungles of Perak, his home state.

Ever since the peace agreement with the Malaysian government in 1989, various CPM leaders have returned home under the terms of the accord. All except Chin Peng who was refused entry despite his oft-stated wish to be, at least, buried there. 

It was not for want of trying. The unrepentant communist took his desire to return to court and finally lost in the Federal Court only because his lawyers could not prove that he’d been born in Malaya. 

Even when he died in 2013 – in Thailand, of cancer – he continued to remain in exile as the then-government barred the return of his ashes. 

Be that as it may, his ashes have not only returned but have been scattered in Malaysia. But the tumult over the matter is astonishing. OK, so some octogenarian ex-colleagues of the former insurgent may have brought back his remains without permission. 

That’s a crime?

It’s a waste of time and money to devote resources to investigate the matter. More astounding was the hypothesis put forward by at least one UMNO leader: that the return of said remains might somehow re-ignite a communist revival in Malaysia. 

That is about as absurd an idea as the notion of chocolate-covered ants.

First off, the communists were not at all popular by the time the 1970s rolled around. Although its movement persisted until the late 1980s, the fact that it agreed to almost all the Malaysian police’s demands showed that its back was broken and it was more or less a surrender, albeit an honourable one. 

The fuss over the late communist’s remains also underscores no little hypocrisy on the opposition’s part. The reason why the CPM lasted so long was because it was, for the longest time, supported by the Communist Party of China.

It is also something that all Malaysian governments – past and present – prefer to conveniently forget. When it comes to China, it appears, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

A resurgence of communism?


The collapse of the USSR has almost completely strengthened the hand of capitalism in one variety or another. Lenin is dead and the old Communist order represented by Chin Peng and his ilk have vanished along with the Berlin Wall and the Warsaw Pact.  

If you disregard a paranoid North Korea, the only remaining communist countries in Asia are the three that essentially practice state capitalism – China, Vietnam and Laos. 

It is clear that it isn’t an issue of communism, it’s just the politics of nuisance and race. 

“What do you expect us to do?” asked Dr Mahathir quite reasonably. “Pick up all his ashes?”


The man is dead after all. There is nothing left there but the ghosts of Communism Past. As the police chief character in To Kill a Mockingbird says towards the book’s end: “Let the dead bury the dead Mr Finch.”

“Let the dead bury the dead.”