Friday, April 07, 2006

A secret conversation between two martyrs

As I said earlier, one of the figures who appears here and there in most of the important Malayan wartime memoirs of Malay, Chinese and English sources is the mentor of Chin Peng and Rashid Maidin, Toh Lung San (1922-1943).

It is now known for sure that Lung San was executed by decapitation in Ipoh's Ampang area in 1943 at the age of 21.

One of the last persons who met Lung San and talked to him was Sybil Kartigasu, another resistance heroine whose memoirs No Dram of Mercy has recently been reprinted (Kuala Lumpur, Prometheus, 2006) and its Chinese translation published (Kuala Lumpur, Prometheus, 2005) for the first time last year.

That was how Sybil Kartigasu remembered the encounter and conversation in Chapter 14 of her memoirs (pp.115-117) :

One evening I heard a fine voice singing Mandarin song in a neighbouring cell. " Who is that?' I asked the sentry.

'I don't know his name, but he's supposed to be connected with the guerillas."

'Do you think I could have a word with him?'

He moved off and I heard the sound of a door being unlocked. He returned a moment later with a young Chinese whom I did not recognise. His face was deeply lined; he seemed to have suffered a great deal, but there was a look of determination about him which made me think he must be a match for the Japanese.

'Good morning, Madame," he said in Cantonese. "I have heard a lot about you and am very sorry to see you in such a condition."

"Are you Lai Fook, known as the Captain?"

"Yes, I am."

"Do the Japs know?"

"They didn't at first, but a traitor recognised me and informed them."

"What are they doing to you?"

"They nearly killed me with their tortures, but I told them nothing. Now they are trying what kindness will do. I have good food and comfortable bed. They have offered me an important position, a big house and plenty of money, girls, and so on, if I will work for them. They will be wasting their time. I suppose they will start their torture again, and killed me in the end."

"I am proud to have met you. Please don't let them know that you have spoken to me. If they tell you I have admitted meeting you it will be a trick. I too can hold my tongue."

"I understand," he replied, and was taken back to his cell.

I did not see Lai Fook again. Later I learned what had happened to him. His forecast had been correct. Temptation had proved no more effective than torture, and at length Kunichika had given up hope of breaking down his resistance. One morning the Chief of Police had called at the police station, with an escort, taken the guerilla leader to a deserted place outside the town, and himself beheaded him with his sword.

Not long after the war had ended, Sybil Kartigasu herself died in Britain as the result of injury suffered in the torture chamber at the hand of the Japanese secret police. To fulfil her last wish, her body was flown back and buried at Ipoh's St. Michael cemetary just beside the St.Michael Church.

Memoirs of Ipoh’s WWII heroine being reprinted


Blogger Arena Green said...

Thanks for sharing snippets of Malayan history with your readers. These are things we never learn in school, which is really sad for those who have demonstrated their patriotism and love for this country with their very lives.

As a public service, I hope you will continue to write about unheralded heroes in your Blog.

5:34 AM  
Blogger James Wong Wing-On said...

Thank you for your compliment and encouragement. I will certainly try to do my best to present those parts of the alternative side of the history of our land and people that I know. Of course, there are certainly parts I don't know.

12:32 AM  

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