to retreat into the jungles where they set up guerrilla resistance. The two guerrilla groups were distinguished by the stars they wore on their caps—the KMT supporters had one star, while the communists had three, to symbolise that the Malays and Indians were also with them. They wanted to show they were Malayans and not just Chinese communists. Among the Malays in their ranks was Rashid Maidin who, together with Chin Peng, the Secretary-General of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP),  was selected to attend the Victory Parade in London after the war. They had been leaders of the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army or MPAJA, which collaborated with the British during the Japanese Occupation. When World War II was being fought, the British had been quite willing to supply both the one-star and three-star guerrillas with weapons and rations. They also set up a third stealth force, Force 136, which was almost purely Malay. Besides local recruits, Malay students studying in England and other Malays living abroad were also brought in to help with the resistance.
British officers parachuted into the jungle as designated liaison representatives for the guerrilla groups. Malay members of Force 136 from abroad were either parachuted into the jungle or brought in via submarines. Among those who landed on the shores of Peninsular Malaya was Tun Ibrahim Ismail, an officer of the Johor Military Force who had been sent to Dehradun, the British military college in India and who later rose to become Malaysia’s third Chief of Armed Forces. Two Kedah Malay students who qualified as engineers in England were also parachuted into the jungles. They were Mohamad Yusof, who later became the first Malay director of the Federation’s Public Works Department, and Abdul Hamid who returned to Kedah to join the Department there. Tun Hussein Onn, too, served in the British Indian Army. All these locally-based guerrilla forces were readying themselves to support an Allied landing and to recapture Malaya from the Japanese.
The Allies had planned Operation Zipper involving some 100,000 troops to be landed in the Peninsula. While the invasion force was still on the high seas, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed, forcing the Japanese to surrender on 16 August 1945. As soon as news of the surrender broke, the Chinese guerrillas started to behave differently. They emerged from the forests and occupied several police stations in remote areas, arrogantly claiming that Malaya was now under their rule. This resulted in clashes with Malay villagers whom they accused of collaborating with the Japanese. We were told that over 2,400 Chinese, Indians and Malays were killed by the guerrillas. Among those who were taken away by the guerrillas was a close friend of mine, Sithampalam. He was working in the police force and was suspected of collaborating with the Japanese Military Police, the kempeitai . After he was taken, we never saw him again.
Where government should have stood, there was only a power vacuum. An all-out bloody war between the Chinese guerrillas and the Malays was avoided only because British forces, after landing in Selangor and Penang, were quickly deployed to areas where tension had arisen between the Malays and the Chinese.
British liaison officers who had been working with the Chinese guerrillas were able to convince them to leave the jungle and to disarm. In Alor Star, guerrillas in full uniform, after much persuasion, laid down arms in the field near the old palace of the Sultan, adjacent to the Japanese school where I had once studied. But the British knew that a substantial number of arms previously supplied by them had not been surrendered. This was a mistake that would be repeated around the world in years to come: supplying heavy-duty arms and training friendly forces that would later turn hostile. Meanwhile, the guerrillas were hedging their bets. They did not quite trust the British, who were aware of the MCP’s