Friday, July 18, 2008

We liked the British.

They came, they saw and they conquered. And we (the Malays) subjugated ourselves to them.

When I read in an eGroup (which I am a member) about what happened in a kampung (village) in Pahang, Malaysia, after the WW II and just before the Malayan Emergency of 1948 or about, on how they formed groups to fight the British in the Administrative District where my kampung (village) was situated, then I begin to recollect what happened in my own kampung (village) at about the same time.

Those trying to fight the British were what I might call anti-British. They were branded as bandits and Communists by the British rulers. But in my own kampung (village) and in the neighbouring kampung (village), we were pro-British. The anti-British kampungs (villages) were only about 10 miles downriver from our kampong (village). In those days paved roads were rare commodities, travel was always by the main rivers, in this case the wide and slow flowing Pahang River.

Let us start with the village school, a primary school where 6 years to 12 years old went, and I went there in my childhood days. The British Doctors & nurses used to come to the school to medically examine us and to take care of our health. They brought medicines, powdered milk and distributed (for free) the milk to the pupils.

Our lives were basically under (and ruled) the British. And I had the impression that we liked them. The British District Officer (looking after the District Administration and the Land Office) used to come to our kampung (village) once a year during the collection of land revenue. And he was a chatty chap as well, though he talked with a very strong English/British accent. Small in stature and almost fair haired, I remember him as smoking a pipe, young guy, in white shorts, whiter shirt, white stocking up to about just below the knees and wearing a sort of leather shoes, and carrying a walking stick. And he was always there to supervise the collection of the land revenue. He came in a house boat (pulled along by a diesel engined boat) similar to what the Sultan then had.

And we used to be given free film show every month, well almost, on showing how bad the bandits (Communists) were. Propaganda that was. Of course there were other films showing development for the country, and even Charlie Chaplin films which the folks loved best.

We had British soldiers coming into the kampung (village) showing the kampung folks how to use shotguns (and sometime semi-automatic weapons). They always seemed to have biscuits to be given to the children, I was one of them; but we could not really tell whether they were dog’s biscuits. And at time Gurkha soldiers used to march through our kampung (village). No British or Gurkha soldier got shot in our village, though in some other villages a few miles away some people did not took to much liking that the British and Gurkhas soldiers who visited those villages.

Our village is by the wide and slow flowing Pahang River. And about 3 to 4 miles inland the British buffalo bombers were bombing nests of bandits (Communists) in the jungle and by the hills. Later, in life, after reading the book My Side of History by Chin Peng (the Communist leader of Malaya), it was his men that the British was bombing.

Why I conclude that we were pro-British? We never made the British and Gurkha soldiers felt unwelcome. And we never took pop shots at them. And our Penghulu (village head man) was on very friendly terms with them. The British provided him with a revolver which he carried around for his self (and probably family)protection, though he was not (as far as I knew) given a personal bodyguard. But his house was well fenced up, and many thick stockades were built on the inner side of the fencing and the villagers took turn to guard his house at night. The bandits (Communists) used to come many times at nights to try to capture him (the Communist has high price on his head), but they mostly only managed to shoot into the air, it was too dark to see their target. Over the years the Communists came many times on many nights. And the villagers guarding his house fired back, using whatever shotguns they had. And in the morning we children then used to go to the ‘fort’ to hear what happened the night before, the men boasting about their shooting experience, and to collect whatever bullets that got stuck in the trees surrounding the ‘fort’, bullets from the shooting the night before. No villager got killed and until today I do not know if any of the Communist even got killed. And the penghulu (village headman) went about managing the village in the day time as though nothing happened the night before. In fact in the day time it was very safe in the village then, the village folks just went about their business, planting padi or tapping rubber trees.

The penghulu (village headman) must have been a brave man, and the British liked him. In fact in some ways he tried to please the British by being very good to them and speaking in a soft tone to the British and to the villagers, just like the English speaking their language in the colonies.

In the neighbouring village, the same thing happened and again to the best of my knowledge no fatalities occurred, even though the Communists attacked that penghulu’s (village headman) house more often than that at our village. Now this penghulu (village headman) was more dignified looking, he had been given a revolver and an armed bodyguard by the British. He used to dress like the British, white shorts, white shirt, white stocking up to just below the knees, walking with a walking stick (British gait), hair well greased and combed back, and sometimes wearing a hat, but in most cases wearing a songkok ( the Malay velvet head gear). He was on a higher wanted list than the penghulu (village headman) of my village. This neighbouring penghulu (village headman) guy was a proper coloured colonial whiteman then.

Our two villages were the model pro-British village in the Administrative District then.

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