The circumstances that led to Op Sri Aman and the fi rst of a series of peace treaties between the communist insurgents and the Sarawak govt
THROUGH a personal letter addressed to then chief minister Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub, dated Oct 10 1973, director and political commissar of the North Kalimantan Communist Party (PARAKU) Bong Kee Chok stated that he and his colleagues would agree to lay down arms “for the realisation of peace in the State and cessation of war to carry out reconstruction and development”.
The realisation had been a long time coming.
Internal struggles within the Party Central Committee in what was then, First Division, along with growing disheartened revolutionists resulted in many of them surrendering, including the leader of 330 combat unit, Sim Kian Peng and Bong’s own secretary, Bong Sai Yung and her husband Fam Kuok Kion on Sept 30 1973.
With their surrender, vital intelligence on his movements and his whereabouts had also been given up, effectively numbering the days for him and his men.
A massive encirclement cutting off all communication and supply routes had been cut off to Bong’s unit.
The former director and political commissar of the PARAKU realised he was cornered. After some deliberation with his subordinates, there was only one thing they could do: hold peace talks. But first, they had to contact the leaders of the other factions.
Bong Kee Kwan and Tiong Hoe Hung were sent out with two letters each. O n e for the chief minister, and the other to the leaders of other factions – Overall Military Commander of the First Division Bureau Military Unit Bong Kee Hiu and Hung Chu Ting, Deputy Director of PARAKU and Overall leader of the Second Bureau operating in RASCOM.
Their intention was to inform them of their resolution for peace talks, and to ultimately surrender.
Before they could reach the other factions, however, both emissaries were captured by the police at Engkilili on their bus routes to their separate destinations.
They were subsequently taken to Kuching for a meeting with the chief minister and met him at his residence on Oct 13, 1973.
He expressed his willingness to meet Bong and agreed to the peace talk.
Almost a week later, Bong emerged from the jungle accompanied by his two emissaries Bong Kee Kwan, Tiong and his bodyguard Chai Ai Yew on Oct 19 and proceeded straight to the Residency in Simanggang where he would talk with Abdul Rahman.
Their first meeting was deliberately casual, allowing both sides to gauge the others’ intentions and character.
On Oct 20, formal talks were held with the meeting being concluded on Oct 21 with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding.
At the MoU ceremony held at Simanggang (later renamed Sri Aman to commemorate the event),Bong proposed that PARAKU units under his command would lay down their arms and rejoin society under the following considerations:
1. That Malaysian citizenship status of PARAKU members be guaranteed and PARAKU members who were Indonesian nationals be granted Malaysian citizenship upon application.
Abdul Rahman explained that there were three categories of persons involved in the issue of citizenship.
The first category referred to those who were Malaysian citizens.
Secondly, those who were Indonesian nationals wanting to be Malaysian citizens and lastly, foreigners, if any who wanted to be Malaysian citizens.
2. That members of PARAKU would be given opportunity to participate in the management of the Sarawak coalition government.
In his response, Abdul Rahman replied that it would be entirely up to the component parties’ concerned to decide on the nomination of the candidates.
The candidates, he added, would not be chosen by the government.
Thus for ex-communists to be nominated as candidates depended entirely on the respective component parties.
3. That those who were detained under Preservation of Public Security Regulations (PPSR) should be released and be allowed to return to society as a result of the realisation of peace.
Abdul Rahman argued that the PPSR gave power to the authority to detain any person whose activities in Sarawak threatened the security of the country.
He added that the government had from time to time reviewed the detainees’ cases and many of them had, in fact, already been released.
Abdul Rahman said those who were still retained would certainly be considered for release, provided that the government was satisfied that they were no longer a threat to national security.
4.That the controlled areas would be abolished on restoration of peace.
To this request, Abdul Rahman assured that upon the restoration of complete peace in the state, favourable consideration would be given to the abolishment on controlled areas.
Under the MoU, 321 PARAKU members from the First and Second Divisions withdrew in 69 batches. However, 16 of these PARAKU members decided to return to the jungle and rejoin their comrades.
Therefore, the actual number of those who rejoined society after the Sri Aman peace talk was 302. Under the peace deal, a total of 2245 firearms, 4390 assorted ammunition and 28 mines/grenades/bombs were destroyed at Bukit Siol in Kuching.
Following the announcement of the peace treaty, the government organised and carried out a series of successful peace rallies throughout Sarawak.
The aims of the peace rallies were twofold. Firstly, it was to provide opportunity for the government to explain the Sri Aman Peace Treaty to the masses with the view to recondition their thinking towards new political development.
Secondly, it was desirable to take the full advantage of the favourable political situation to mobilise the general public towards ensuring that the remaining Paraku members would withdraw completely from the jungle.
These peace rallies were met with excellent public response and enthusiasm.
When Op Sri Aman I was terminated on June 12 1974, it was surmised that the 52 remaining PARAKU members in the First Division who refused to come up to join their fellow comrades were the cream of its armed force preparing for a second armed struggle in future.
Hung held on in the jungle. Guided by Mao Tse-Tung’s armed revolution theory, he believed that the only course of revolution open to them was to seize political power by force by surrounding the city from the rural areas.
Although he did not criticise Bong and Wong Lee Seng for taking part in Op Sri Aman, he was determined to see their armed struggle to the end.
However, the remaining members fi nally laid down their arms on Oct 17 1990, finally concluding three decades of armed communist insurgency in Sarawak.
PARAKU was the armed wing of North Kalimantan Communist Party (NKCP), a communist based in Sarawak founded on Sept 19, 1971.
Before that, the group operated under the name of Sarawak Communist Organisation led by Wen Min Chyuan, previously a leading member of the Sarawak United People’s Party from 1960-64.