By Andrew Loh
On 16 September, Chin Peng, the former secretary-general of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), died in a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand.
5 days later, on 21 September, the Chinese newspaper, Sin Chew Jit Poh, reported that “Mr and Mrs Tan Wah Piow” had sent a wreath to Mr Chin Peng’s wake.
Mr Tan was the former president of the University of Singapore’s Students’ Union in 1974. He was said to have been involved in “campaigns, protests and strikes against the Government.”
Mr Tan was “purportedly involved in an industrial dispute which led to his arrest in Nov 1974 for unlawful assembly and rioting”, charges which he has denied.
Eventually, he left Singapore for the United Kingdom in 1976. He has been living in exile eversince.
Mr Tan was fingered by the Singapore government as the mastermind behind the 1987 “Marxist conspiracy” involving 22 social workers.
It is an accusation which Mr Tan, and the 22 social workers, have always denied and rejected.
The 22 were arrested under the Internal Security Act and were incarcerated for as long as 3 years. None of them were ever tried in open court.
The Sin Chew Jit Poh report was also carried on the paper’s website, [See here] and was accompanied by a photograph of the wreath with the wordings:
"My deepest condolences to the family of Mr Chin Peng, From Mr and Mrs Tan Wah Piow".
The caption of the photograph says, "The wreath from Tan Wah Piow sent to the funeral parlour drew much interest from the crowd."
However, Mr Tan has issued a statement to say that he did not send any such wreath.
“It came as a shock to me,” Mr Tan says, “that a mysterious force saw it fit to impersonate me in sending a wreath to Chin Peng's wake in Bangkok.”
“I first knew about this wreath and the report on the [26th of September] when I landed in Kuala Lumpur after our holidays at the Lake Kenyir Resort in Trengganu.”
Mr Tan says his suspicion about the person or persons behind the “mysterious wreath” falls on his “detractors in that island state”, referring to Singapore.
“[The] Singapore Government had for many decades tried unsuccessfully to accuse me [of being] a Communist,” Mr Tan says, “when Chin Peng himself in his ‘My Side of History’ said categorically that I was not a member of the Communist Party of Malaya.”
“[The] Sin Chew report was carried in a Singapore Chinese evening newspaper, and also publicised in a Singapore blog which was devoted to demonising me and those detained in 1987 Operation Spectrum as ‘Marxist conspirators’”, he says.
Mr Tan describes the Sin Chew report as ‘a sleek piece of dark propaganda with the sole aim of embellishing the Singapore government’s lie about my political affiliation.”
“Maybe in recognition of the important role [Chin Peng] played in the anti-colonial struggles against Japanese occupation, and for independence, which was described by one prominent Malaysian lawyer as equivalent to that of Ho Chi Minh and Sukarno, I ought to send a wreath or even attend the funeral,” Mr Tan says.
“The fact is that I did not, but my detractors did it for me for their own political agenda.”
It is unclear who the sender of the wreath is – or why the person chose to do so apparently in Mr and Mrs Tan’s name.