restricted access Recollections of My Time in Malaya (1945–1956) Part 2
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Recollections of My Time in Malaya (1945–1956) Part 2 *


The Jelebu district, shut off behind a range of hills and isolated from the rest of Negri Sembilan, was comparatively unimportant. We had no one to send there and for a week or two after our first arrival it was left to its own devices. However, two items of news from Jelebu brought it to attention. First, the Undang of Jelebu, Dato’ Abdullah, had died—from natural causes and at a considerable age—in August 1945. It would be necessary to elect a successor without the long period of wrangling, which usually delayed such an election for months or even years, as the new Undang would be required as one of the necessary signatories to the treaty that MacMichael would bring to Negri Sembilan in November. Secondly, the local MPAJA, deeply suspicious of the local administration, had removed all the records, including the essential land registers, from the District Office and had destroyed them. This was a serious blow to the machinery of administration (though throughout Malaya the land registers were closed and would remain so for months). As there was no one else available, Calder asked me to visit Jelebu and take temporary charge in addition to my duties in Seremban.

I set off on 23 September 1945. The roads throughout Negri Sembilan were in surprisingly good condition. The Japanese had not done much to maintain them, but the pre-war PWD had done a good job. I had no difficulty in getting the aged Humber Hawk which I used for my journeys up the steep and winding road to the Bukit Tangga pass. At the top I paused to admire the magnificent view of Negri Sembilan stretching away to the Malacca Strait—everyone pauses there, including the dozen police who were to be ambushed by the MPAJA and massacred there in December 1949. At Kuala Klawang, the district headquarters, I found the Malay District Officer (I think his name was Baba) at his house. We went together to the District Office, which was literally stripped clean of every scrap of paper it had ever contained. I remember that when I asked the DO for a list of his staff I had to tear a leaf from my notebook so that he could write the names on it. He was quite positive that the MPAJA had burnt the missing land registers. The Japanese had used the District Office as their headquarters and the MPAJA had deemed it necessary to destroy everything in it in case it should be Japanese. This was the second major loss of records suffered in Negri Sembilan at this time; the other was the loss of the greater part of the State Secretariat files in Seremban. In that case the Kempeitai, who had used part of the building, sent a military fatigue party under a sergeant to burn their records before the arrival of British troops, and the [End Page 53]sergeant, uncertain as to what was intended, burnt almost everything in that wing of the Secretariat building—again a pointless destruction of irreplaceable records.

To return to Jelebu—it was plain that the entire district administration had come to a halt and the District Officer was obviously very apprehensive for his own safety. Kuala Klawang itself is a small trading centre, and the main Chinese settlement is Titi, a tin-mining centre a few miles away. I felt that I should see—and be seen at—Titi. So the DO, protesting faintly, got into the car and we went off to Titi. Here the MPAJA were established at the police station and were flying their ‘Tiga Bintang’ flag (3 stars—one for each of the main communities of Malaya) at the flagpole. L. K. L. Siaw in his Chinese Society in Rural Malaysia: A Local History of the Chinese in Titi, Jelebu, published in 1983 almost 40 years after these events, presumably relied on local Titi traditions—somewhat vainglorious—in describing the foundation of a communist republic at Titi which remained defiant until the arrival of a battalion of British troops brought it to an end. This is pure fiction...