by Foong Thim Leng (The Star - June 11,2011)
The Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) Perak Branch has received the approval from National Land Finance Cooperative Society, which owns Sungai Siput Estate, to put up a monument at the site of the killings that triggered the Malayan Emergency in 1948 .The monument, costing RM21,985, is to commemorate the planters, members of security forces, workers and their family members, and civilians killed during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) and the Reinsurgency (1973 -1989).
MPOA Perak Branch chairman R. Sivalingam said a gallery costing RM49,064 was built near the monument last month. Arrangements are now being made for landscaping, artifacts and photographs to be exhibited in the gallery. The project is made possible by donations mainly from the plantation groups and well-wishers, both local and overseas, he said.He said the MPOA Perak branch will hold a commemorative ceremony today for those who fell in the Malayan Emergency and interred at the cemetery in Batu Gajah, which the planters had fondly named God’s Little Acre.
It was a triple murder which some locals in Sungai Siput still talk about today, despite it happening six decades ago. And why not? The killings by Malayan Communist Party guerillas triggered off the Malayan Emergency on June 16, 1948. On that day, Elphil Estate manager A.E.Walker was shot in cold blood at his office desk in the Sungai Siput area at 8.30am.
About 1.6km away, manager JM Alison and his assistant Ian Christian of the Phin Soon Estate were tied and killed by 12 terrorists about 30 minutes later. In memory: The monument put up by Malaysian Palm Oil Association - Perak banch to commemorate the planters, members of security forces, staff and their family members and civilians killed during the Malayan Emergency.
Sixty-three years on, former estate workers could still vividly remember the difficult times they went through when Emergency was declared. A former tapper M. Palinimappan, 75, of Phin Soon Estate (now known as Sungai Siput Estate) remembered that June 16, 1948 was supposed to be a pay day.
Instead, he said a curfew took place from 3pm to 6am the next day. A barbed wire fence was put up around the workers quarters following the killing of Alison and Christian. Another worker S. Poongananam, 67, who was a student in 1948, remembered that there was food rationing at the workers quarters.
Each man in a family was allocated five katis (2.5kg) of rice for a week while the women got three katis (1.5kg) each.Soldiers would often search the quarters to ensure that we did not hide food to support the guerillas, he said. The workers, he said, supplemented their meals by eating tapioca.
Poongananam said several Indian workers were jailed for supporting the guerillas although some had done so out of the fear of being killed. He said among the guerillas known to the workers was someone named Perumal, a lorry driver from Elphil Estate.
According to leaflets dropped from the air by the British, Perumal was a vicious man who had the power to make himself invisible. It was said that Queen Elizabeth wanted him captured alive. There was a story that Perumal shot dead a worker named Mudaliar who refused to heed his order to get off a lorry which he later set ablaze, he added. Palinimappan claimed he saw Perumal and a group of guerillas at the workers quarters on one occasion. He was in khaki uniform and he distributed sweets and chocolates to the children, he said.
Another former tapper M. Maggamah, 64, said Perumal was her mother’s cousin. We were told that he was a good person who acted for the workers whenever they were bullied by someone, she said. Maggamah said Perumal was shot dead by the guerillas when he wanted to surrender to the Government.She said Perumal’s wife and children were later sent back to India.