Monday, May 22, 2006

Chin Peng honours memory of Sybil Kathigasu

I have just finished reading the 20-page essay by Chin Peng, The Papan Guerrillas and Mrs. K in a new 240-page book, Faces of Courage (Singapore, Media Masters, 2003) which he co-authors - once again - with Ian Ward and Norma Miraflor. While already freely available in Singapore since a few weeks ago, Faces of Courage has not been approved for release by the Home Ministry in Malaysia.

All the names of Ipoh's street Chin Peng mentions are certainly familiar and intimate to me because I was born and grew up in that part of the town.

Although Mrs. K or Madam Sybil Kathigasu passed away in Scotland 14 years before I was born in Ipoh in 1962, she has never been a strange or alien character to me because when I was very young, grandmother had taught me to be forever grateful to the Christian Eurasian woman who gave father free medicines and treatment while he was a sickly and poor young refugee in Papan.

The legend of her courage and dedication to help the oppressed and fight oppressors had also been an important part of my informal moral education around No.24, Clare Street during the early years of my character-formation.

I also remember Uncle Ho Thean Fook @ Moru as a occasional customer of our coffeeshop in the 1970s.

Despite the differences in belief-system, political philosophy, ethnic background and lifestyle, Madam Sybil Kathigasu obviously admired the courage of the communists who fought the fascists. She had always been respected by them. By remembering and honouring the sacrifice of the "incredibly God-fearing" woman, Chin Peng reaffirms the tradition of my old neighbourhood.

Last August, many grateful residents of Ipoh gathered at the Yok Choy Old Boys' Association to pay respect to the great Christian in conjunction with the launching of the Chinese-language translation of her wartime memoirs No Dram of Mercy as well as the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Japanese fascism and liberation of Ipoh.

Another 'Chin Peng book' held up

Memoirs of Ipoh’s WWII heroine being reprinted

May the name of Madam Sybil Kathigasu liveth forever more