Mat Indera & MPAJA – your hero could be my villain

September 3, 2011

The Malayan People Against the Japanese Army, MPAJA, played the role of a resistance movement, during the Japanese occupation of Malaya. Now, after 60 years, Mat Indera, a key member of the Johore MPAJA is the subject of a controversy. Should the MPAJA/Mat Indera  be honored? Is Mat Indera a hero, a freedom fighter? Such debates  if done without  chauvinism and cynicism could be healthy . Unfortunately, that is not often the case. The cynicism and chauvinism that skew rational arguments are too visible.

If only  Malaysians could discuss the subject openly and rationally, it would reflect well of a maturing, self-assured nation, with diminishing insecurities. Malaysian should be confident and magnanimous to recognize the roles of the many people from all sides of the divides who charted the history of the country.

Was the MPAJA effective in fighting against the Japanese, to merit honor? The Japanese surrendered because of Hiroshima. The  MPAJA was no match for the might of the Japanese Imperial Army. But, neither was the last stand of the platoon led by Lt Adnan of the Royal Malay Regiment in defending Bukit Timah.

It is not about winning or the right match to merit honor. It is the courage, the spirit, the patriotism, the valor, that are to be admired and earn  a place in the honour’s roll.

To the proponent of the MPAJA , the sales pitch has been to tell the people that  the 3 star symbol  signify the three main component races of the then Malaya. But it has been well understood that  it is the same  red stars of the Communist Party of China. The British knew very well that the organization had been infiltrated by the communists but they were pragmatic  and smart  enough to exploit the anti Japanese sentiments amongst the Chinese, exploiting the deep resentment of the Japanese after  the massacre of Nanking.

It did not help the MPAJA cause  that it was disproportionately represented by the Chinese with a sprinkling of Malay fighters one of which was the BATU PAHAT born Mat Indera. The communist inclined MPAJA did not appeal to the Malays. The frustration and the resistance and the retaliations by both sides proved to be MPAJA’s undoing in Batu Pahat, the hot bed of anti Japanese and anti MPAJA movement in Malaya.

To honor means, to give high respect, credit and distinction. However, before honoring people with hero status let us examine the quality of heroes we want.  We want our heroes to be having  distinguished courage or ability, admired for brave deeds and posses noble qualities.

If we apply the above test to the MPAJA, the group would have easily qualified for courage, ability, brave deeds but unfortunately they failed in the noble qualities test. Even their patriotism is suspect to some, because of the link with the anti communist led  Japanese movement of CHINA.

All over the country there are still living custodians of history, with first hand experience of going through hell, being at the receiving end of the MPAJA.  Before HIROSHIMA, there were just too many fellow Malayans, who suffered for refusing  to support the likes of Mat Indera and Chin Peng. THE MPAJA failed miserably  to win the hearts and mind of the people particularly the Malays. The chauvinism amongst many chinese in the MPAJA did not help either.

In Johor, particularly in Parit Sulong, Sri Medan, Bagan, Batu Pahat the atrocities of the MPAJA, the banning of religious related activities amongst the Malays and the notoriety  of  Mat Indera, not to mention the numerous Chinese, resulted in the uprising against the MPAJA led by Panglima Salleh. Dato Onn the district officer of Batu Pahat at that time, was the person responsible to arrest the uprising from flaring further before law and order was restored.

The people themselves revolted against MPAJA without the Police or Government intervention.  The Malays established a self defence movement named the GERAKAN MUHAMADIAH. They did not fight for the Japanese nor was it on behalf of the British. They were fighting against the notoriety of the MPAJA. This revolt was more widely known as Perang Parang Panjang  and it stretched over a few years and not just the period after the fall of the Japanese.

Mat Indera and the MPAJA were just too atrocious to the Malays. The communist streaks were laid bare, the Malays were given a baptism of fire by the MPAJA who by then were inspired by what was happening in China and further motivated by the fall of Japan. Because of their notoriety they became enemies of the people.

The Perang Parang Panjang has often been wrongly projected as a chinese-malay  racial clash. No it was not, there were many innocent victims, no doubt. It was a faith-based fight to protect their own interest and their rights against the communist ideology. The big picture was the fight against the suppression, the chauvinism and  notoriety of the communist inclined MPAJA. The account  of the war is best and fairly narrated and recorded in the book Red Stars over Malaya.

To classify Mat Indera and MPAJA  as a   resistance movement   should be acceptable ,a notorious, communist inclined resistance movement,  but  to make heroes out of them, in my opinion is rather misplaced.


Flight Information System, Syntetic Vision, Highway in the Sky and Terrain Awareness Warning System

February 6, 2010

Notes ; I found a new hobby, learning about special mission helicopters. To the experts out there pardon my shortcomings. This jottings are my way of learning about this wonderful machine and the associated systems.

Unlike high altitude aircraft flying above the clouds, A helicopter often flies low, in the weather, hugging the terrain. In the tropics he flies just above the jungle canopy which in mountainous tropics his vision is all green minus the horizon. He depends on the senses always on the lookouts for visual cues and potential hazards.

Just like Alaska, the weather in the tropics can drastically change without notice.

What do you do? Turn back, abort the mission? Find a landing spot? Pull up? Unfortunately that is the very stressful situation that we put pilots in

I cannot imagine myself in such a situation. It is like driving into total darkness minus your headlights and not knowing what is ahead of you,. Yet you cannot just pull over. You are on a rescue mission and you are so mission oriented, high on adrenalin and you want to save lives.

Much is the progress in aviation technology putting pieces of metal flying in the sky, without the assurance that I know where I am with respect to the environment around me, that piece of metal is no more then a flying coffin traveling at high speed.

I do not want to be a pilot. I will only fly if I know where I am with respect to the terrain, I want a safe highway in the sky, I want to know options available to choose my route, I want to know the weather within my vicinity, I want to be warned of imminent dangers.

They call it situational awareness.

And I am lazy. No I am not lazy, i just want to be smart, i want to be safe, i just want to live longer. At the speed I am flying, I need to unfreeze my brain for just decision making not the storage of data and remembering. I need to be free from stress and my brain must not be overloaded with mundane stuff. I am focused on safety. I should be focussed on what to do next having given the big picture of the situation.

Give me the BIG picture. They talk about HELICOPTER VIEW but am I getting it?

Towards a more effective RMAF – what to do with the flying assets

January 31, 2010

I do not envy those top brasses of the RMAF. There are just too many issues they inherit.

It has been very confusing. I am referring to the abundance of ideas that has crowded the Malaysian Defence aeroSPACE industry or should I say the minds of the thinkers and planners at the Malaysian Pentagon. I am being kind, but not the politicians in the other camp. They call it flip-flop, they call it lack of clarity and direction, they call it abuses of the process and power. Not very kind indeed.

I like ideas.  All leaders like ideas. As a leader one must encourage creativity, the expression of thoughts. Ideas, particularly those unthinkable outside the box stuff, properly analysed, fairly and objectively decided upon are gems waiting to be polished. So this posting is about OBJECTIVES, what I think should be the AIR FORCE clear objectives.

Of prime importance is the unwavering resolvedness that The  Air Force must not be the loser. The Nation MUST gain. The lives of the pilots must not be compromised.We must try to  understand and share the anxieties of young mothers, lovers, letting go of their brave, loved ones at the door for their flying missions.

But the political masters and the  paid  spin doctors have their answers ready. The cocktail of fighters in the inventory they say is  Malaysia  way adopting a multilateral defence strategy. We make friends with all the superpowers. How do we make them happy? we buy their military hardware. It does seem to work, in this time of peace, but the number of aircraft types in the inventory is stretching the abuse of the RMAF too far.

How about this piece of cynicism.  We are just  continuing our old diplomatic ways of paying “tithe” or “UFTI” to the superpowers. It used to be “bunga mas” but now it is Ringgit or USD, and in return we get a few adult toys for our amusement. ouch!!

Objectively, Malaysia needs to reduce the cocktail of fighters to a manageable aircraft types. It is a logistic nightmare. It is a flying nightmare switching from one cockpit to another, although the masochistic flyboys would not admit that. Seven or eight fighter types are just NOT manageable. Let us not fool ourselves.

Objectively, Malaysia needs a new rotary wing fleet. Let us not over politicize this issue at the expense of the lives of the pilots. The NURI or S 61 was a 1959 design. It has been upgraded several times. The environment it was designed for was different from the new demands of climbing mountains, hugging terrains. Get on with the E725 contract.

With the meagre purchase of 12 aircraft, the NURI is still needed. period.

In many NURI accidents Pilot errors have often been cited. Have we ever thought how stressful it could be at the cockpit of an aging aircraft? Let us not overwork them like what the old birds, the NURIS have been subjected to. There are obsolescence, and once the functions are compromised the pilot assume that responsibility which equates to added stress. Once  obsolescence is addressed, availability is the yield and combine that with available technology, the NURI would be safe.

Objectively, we must not discard the NURI for the time being. We must make it safe. We must improve its airworthiness and availability. A very clear  and practical role has to be established for the NURI and the RIGHT enhancement be engineered and carried out. If for whatever reason, a practical move is to downgrade its role to purely non- special missions, so be it . Risk taking with an old set of birds is  irresponsible and is  pure act of indiscipline.

Those are some of the primary objectives which needs uncompromising resolvedness. It is tough in view of the limited budget and conflicting demands, but leaders are supposed to have balls of steel, and able to distinguish between  follies and wisdom.