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(Lapuran akhbar The STAR bertarikh 18.09.2010) Veteran communist fighter denied pension Stories by SIMRIT KAUR firstname.lastname@example.org Pictures by CAPTAIN MUKHTIAR SINGH, UTUSAN MALAYSIA & UUBAN/The Star
An ex-serviceman who played a heroic part in combating communist insurgents laments being denied a pension because of a technicality.
Veteran communist fighter Captain Mukhtiar Singh regards his years in the police and army with a mixture of pride and indignation — pride because he fought fearlessly, and indignation because, despite the sacrifices, he has been denied his rightful pension.
In 1948, Mukthtiar, 16, was like many teenagers his age. He studied hard at Batu Road School in Kuala Lumpur and helped his grandfather with chores. To earn extra money, he worked part-time as a night watchman.
Mukhtiar was known as a top marksman and won many shooting medals and awards during his career.
Mukhtiar’s parents, who were farmers in Punjab, had sent their eldest child at the age of four to Malaya to get an education. The outbreak of the Emergency, however, changed everything as he was drafted into the police force. “When the Emergency started, the management of the company I was working for took all the watchmen to the Campbell Police Station and gave us a rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition.
We were made Special Constables but we did not know how to use the weapons as we had no training,’’ he recalls. In 1950, Mukthiar received a telegram that his mother was seriously ill. He left for India but she died before he could see her.
A heart-broken Mukthiar returned to Malaya hoping to continue his studies. His dreams were dashed, however, when he was forced to take up arms again. “I was riding my bicycle when my English boss, Mr Swan, at Wilkinson Process Rubber Company in Ipoh Road, stopped me and asked me to rejoin the police. I told him I wanted to study.
However, he informed the OCPD of Kepong of my return. I was told to rejoin the police force or be sent for national service in Kulai, Johor,” says Mukthiar, who was soon made a Special Constable again. Still wanting to leave, he started reporting sick in the hope that he would eventually be discharged.
However, he was told that he would end up in the lock-up if he continued to shirk his duties. That proved to be a turning point for Mukthiar because, from then on, he embraced his fate and devoted himself to the police force, quickly rising up the ranks.
Mukhtiar was made temporary inspector in 1954 and led a 36-man platoon, the Police Special Squad Group Number 4, to two Selangor Battle Defensive Shields. To get the shield, platoons were awarded points based on the number of communists killed or captured and weapons seized. A dead communist earned the highest points: 25. British High Commissioner to Malaysia Sir Donald MacGillivray presenting the Colonial Police Medal for gallantry in action to Mukhtiar on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II
Feats of courage
Mukhtiar had several close encounters throughout the 12-year Emergency. Patrols were dangerous as many of the constables were untrained and did not have proper equipment for jungle warfare. “Instead of breaking up into groups, we tended to walk together. We were always afraid of getting lost as we had no maps or compasses,” he remembers. Despite this, Mukhtiar’s team of irregular semi-trained Special Constables managed to produce excellent results.
His platoon was responsible for the death and capture of 18 communist terrorists. Amazingly, Mukhtiar was never injured. Once, he was shot at by a terrorist who managed to hit his turban, which fell off. Two of his men were wounded.
Mukhtiar almost lost his life again when he was alone and came face to face with two insurgents in the Damansara area, near the Subang Jaya airport.
“The first bandit shot at me and I shot back and injured him but he escaped. At that time, the second bandit aimed at me but I quickly fired a shot which went right into the nozzle of his gun which caused a lightning effect. His bullet ended up at my feet. My shot killed him,” he says.
The wounded bandit surrendered the same day at Pilsmoor Estate and was sent to hospital. Mukhtiar went there to question him. “As soon as he saw me, he jumped from his bed and said, ‘Ini Benggali tembak saya’. “(Sikhs are erroneously called Bengalis, who are from Bengal, when they actually originate from Punjab). The wounded bandit then gave information of four friends still at large in the Damansara jungle.
“The next day we carried him on our shoulders into the jungle to capture the four others. For this, he was given $15,000,’’ Mukthiar recounts. On Jan 2,1958, Mukhtiar led a patrol to Rawang with a surrendered bandit to check on a communist food dump.
While there, he managed to shoot and capture a wounded communist leader named Yap Keow Sin, who was later sentenced to death.
Mukhtiar with wife Pritam Kaur
Mukhtiar is most famous for his role in helping to make Selangor “white” or free of communists. The year was 1959, and the Emergency was drawing to a close.
Chinese New Year was coming, and the authorities were anxious to capture the four remaining communist terrorists believed to be hiding in Selangor. “We thought the communists might come out then to look for food.
Our group was assigned to an area near Sungai Selangor in Bukit Beruntung. I identified four possible crossing points across the river and stationed four of my men at each location. Six of us were on patrol when we found four bags belonging to the communists.
We knew they were on the run and would have to go to one of our ambush places to get across the river. “I fired a shot to make sure the running bandits got caught in our traps.
One of my men, a Gurkha, managed to shoot the first bandit. A female terrorist was shot, too. Both of them were wounded and jumped into the river while a third was shot dead.
When I arrived at the scene, I immediately captured the other two bandits who had jumped into the river in order to question them on the wherabouts of the fourth bandit. “I remember the female terrorist begged that we kill her.
The other wounded bandit died while being transported. All the bandits were high-ranking communist leaders. One was the state Selangor chief and the other two district Selangor chiefs.” The fourth bandit, surrendered at the Kerling police station later.
The group was responsible for the murders of Inspector Kartar Singh and 11 other policeman in a single incident in Bukit Beruntung in 1953 and also killed the OCPD of Rawang. Mukthiar was recognised for his role in ridding Selangor of communists during a special parade held to mark the end of the communist threat in the state.
Sadly, despite having served the government for 29 years, Mukhtiar Singh has been denied his rightful pension because of a technicality. When the Emergency ended, the Home Guards and Special Constables were disbanded, and the Territorial Army (TA) was formed. District Officer Yeop Mahidin was appointed director of the TA.
“Since there was a vacancy for instructors and administrative officers, I asked for a release from the police force and joined the Territorial Army as an instructor,” says Mukhtiar. In 1972, when a pay review commission was set up, all short service officers like Mukhtiar, were required to attend a weapons tactics course to become regular officers in the army. In 1975, when the officers went for the course, Mukthiar’s name was left out of the list.
The training officer told Mukhtiar he had forgotten to nominate him. “My commanding officer told me not to worry and said he would recommend me for a regular commission in order for me to get my pension.
Taking these officers’ words on faith, I continued with my duties but when I put my papers in for a regular commission, I was rejected for not attending the course. “I had done the course before when I became an instructor at the Port Dickson Army School and as a TA officer, I had also attended a similar course at its training school at Ipoh.” The irony is that Mukhtiar had been an instructor of the course for 16 years and was a renowned marksman who received 70 awards for his shooting prowess.
“My friends who attended similar courses were later recognised as regular commission officers and given pensions even though some of them did not complete 21 years of service,’’ he says.
Struggle for justice
The 78-year-old, however, has not given up hope that his services to the nation will finally be recognised, especially with the help of people like Lt Col (R) Mohd Idris Hassan who put together a dossier on Mukhtiar’s career to support his applications.
“I thank him from the bottom of my heart for his concern,’’ says Mukhtiar of Mohd Idris, a former student of his. From left: Major (R) Balwant Singh Munshi Nadhan Singh, Capt (R) Mukhtiar Singh Sodagar Singh and Major (R) Ajit Singh Gurdit Singh. “It’s hard not to mengenang budi (be grateful) to someone who taught you the first basic lessons of being a team player,” wrote Mohd Idris in a blog.
“How to march in step, to fire a rifle with the greatest accuracy or it may be the last shot you would ever fire; someone who taught you the art of warfare in hunting your enemy and seeing that the enemy does not hurt you.”
Others, like Mukhtiar’s brother-in-law Major (R) Ajit Singh Gurdit Singh, say that the reasons given for denying him a pension are unacceptable. “Others who served fewer years than Mukthiar and who did not do as much as he has in fighting the communists were given pensions. Look at his record, he deserves a pension based on merit,” Ajit says.
Major (R) Balwant Singh Munshi Nadhan Singh says that if the rules cannot be bent, then Mukhtiar should be awarded the Panglima Gagah Berani, the second highest award for gallantry, which comes with a monthly pension of RM1,500.
“He is a forgotten, unrewarded hero. His outstanding contributions seem to have gone unnoticed. It is time that Mukhtiar is duly rewarded,” says Balwant. “When I tell people, I don’t receive a pension, they think I must have done something wrong,” Mukhtiar says sadly.
The feeling of injustice becomes even more painful when he thinks of all the communist terrorists who became rich after turning informant. Mukhtiar remembers meeting the former terrorist who surrendered at Pilsmoor Estate.
“He recognised me and treated me to tea. He was very grateful that I had wounded him as he was given $15,000 as a reward by the government. “With the money he managed to buy two shophouses in Pudu. What did I get?” laments Mukhtiar.
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