restricted access 4. The Emergency: Rebellion and Retrogression
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CHAPTER FOUR The Emergency: Rebellion and Retrogression NEARLY an impossible challenge: to discover generally accept­ able terms of inter-communal relationships. No reliable blue­ prints were available, no guidelines how to proceed. Even at the highest levels of British administration there was a notable lack of agreement. The High Commissioners—and there were four in rapid succession—were generally fascinated by the ideal of a homogenized polity. Their momentum had been restrained; nevertheless, they still were motivated by a desire to accomplish, perhaps in the distant future, a political system where the in­ dividual or at least non-ascriptive groups would serve as the salient components. The Commissioner General for South East Asia, Malcolm MacDonald, meanwhile pursued a different line. He was prepared to recognize the legitimacy and long-term per­ sistence of communal groups. He wanted to bring their leaders together, to get them talking and perhaps negotiating. Both ap­ proaches were pursued, but both were soon overshadowed. All political planning had to be subordinated to the exigencies of the State of Emergency. Communist Insurgency Indeed the MPAJA cadres had not disbanded; they had not given up their political goals nor the methods of violence they believed so efficacious. Rapidly, their challenges to government escalated from chronic industrial violence1 and widespread banditry to a systematic intimidation of urban and rural work­ ers, a program of assassination against (Chinese and European) businessmen and plantation owners, and a series of attacks in company strength on police stations as well as other govern­ ment installations, all culminating dramatically in the ambush ι During 1947 there were some 300 major strikes at a loss of 696,036 working days. (Harry Miller, The Communist Menace in Malaya, New York, Praeger, 1955, p. 74.) S4 A POLITICAL SYSTEM ESTABLISHED and murder of the High Commissioner Sir Henry Gurney on October 7, 1951.2 Neither the Federation nor Britain had any intention whatever to concede the country to the Communists. Confronted with accelerated challenges to public order, they were determined to restore the full authority of government. First, the government moved decisively to expand its capacity to control by a build-up in its coercive resources. The relatively modest police force of 10,223 officers and men, and the army garrison of eleven un­ dermanned battalions and a Field Regiment3 were rapidly aug­ mented both through the development of internal and by the infusion of external resources. In less than three years the regular police force was more than doubled, including some new "hunter-killer" platoons4 and a Special Constabulary of 39,000 Malays was established. Meanwhile, the Malay Regiment was expanded to five battalions; two more were planned in 1952. Home Guard units were organized, their total member­ ship targeted at 420,000. The formation of a Federation Ar­ moured Corps was authorized and a Ferret Force comprised of former Force 136 officers with a special jungle training was established. As though this were not enough, the British govern­ ment decided to despatch further military reinforcements: first a battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and in an un­ precedented call, the 2nd Guards Brigade;5 then, Australian and New Zealand detachments, a Fiji battalion, two battalions from the Kings African Rifles,6 and finally units of Iban trackers from Sarawak.7 They were supported by additional air force and naval units. At the height of the Emergency, the Security Forces exceeded 350,000 men; the Communist insurgents at any time probably numbered less than 12,000 men and women.8 2For a detailed account of the sequence of events see: Miller, op. cit., and O'Ballance, op. cit. For a study of the motivations and common char­ acteristics of the insurgents see: Lucian Pye, Guerrilla Communism in Ma­ laya (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956). 3 The British Infantry battalions, six Gurkha Rifle battalions, three bat­ talions of the Malay Regiment and the 26th Field Regiment, R.A. 4 By the end of 1950 the police force included 418 gazetted officers, 617 inspectors, 400 British lieutenants and 23,656 rank and file—a total of 25,154· (Miller, op. cit., p. 199.) 5 Composed of the Scots Guards, the Grenadier Guards and the Cold­ stream Guards. 6The 1st (Nyasaland) and the 3d (Kenya) Battalions. 1 Miller, op. cit., pp. 97-98 and 198. 8 O'Ballance, op. cit., p. 164. THE EMERGENCY 85 Second, the government moved to expand its capacity to con­ trol by further centralizing its organizational structure. In April, 1950, all decisions regarding the...


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