- 2009/05/29 Remembering Gerald Templer

During World War 2, the Japanese Imperial Army swept across the region and essentially booted out the colonial West. When the Japanese surrendered abruptly after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was a power vacuum.

In Indonesia, the nationalists quickly declared their independence and fought hard to expel the Dutch, which itself suffered from German occupation and was severely depleted. The Netherlands finally recognised Indonesia's independence in 1949. The Indonesian story also inspired Malayans to do the same. However, the efforts did not bear fruit as the British returned to reoccupy the land.

Image: General Sir Gerald Templer, British High Commissioner.
General Sir Gerald Templer, British High Commissioner.

During the Japanese Occupation, the invaders treated the Chinese ethnic group very harshly. Many retreated into the jungles of Malaya. They joined or supported the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), which waged a guerrilla war against the Japanese.

The MPAJA was trained and supplied with arms by the British. It was formed out of the outlawed Malayan Communist Party (MCP). After the war, the MCP wanted an independent government formed, with it playing a major role. The British would have none of it.

Violent means

The MCP resorted to armed conflict through its military wing, the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA), adopting guerrilla tactics to expel the British, thus triggering the first Malayan Emergency in 1948. The conflict was termed an 'emergency' rather than a 'war' against communist insurgents as the rubber plantation and tin mining industries would not have been able to claim insurance for losses incurred had it been a war.

The conflict proved difficult to resolve as the MNLA hid in inaccessible jungles and enjoyed the sympathy of about 500,000 ethnic Chinese (from the 3.12 million in total).

When Gerald Templer took over as the British High Commissioner, following the murder of his predecessor, Sir Henry Gurney by the insurgents, he ramped up the fight against the insurgents. He is well remembered for defeating the communists although when he left Malaya in 1954, the insurgency was far from over (that only happened in 1960).

Templer was well known for his 'hearts and minds' campaign: apart from military and psychological measures to combat the communists, he also won over the people's hearts and deprived the communists of their support.

He implemented the Briggs Plan which forcefully relocated some 500,000 rural folk, including some 400,000 Chinese into guarded camps to cut off supply of information, food and recruits to the insurgents. Though resentful at first, the New Villagers eventually got used to it because of better standards of living and the offer of money and ownership of the land they lived on. The Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) played a major role to ensure the relocation was done humanely and efficiently.

Templer honoured

Templer was conferred the title 'Tun' by the government in honour of his contribution. A road in Petaling Jaya is named after him. The Royal Military College's Main Hall is called Dewan Tun Templer.

Several property developments in the vicinity, such as The Templer Park Country Club, continue to use Templer's name.

Up in the Main Range between Selayang and Rawang, there was once a park named in Templer's honour, too. The park was renamed Kanching Recreation Park, after the Kanching Forest Reserve in which it is located. Some maps still call this Templer Park, though, as old habits die hard.

Interestingly enough, several property developments in the vicinity continue to use Templer's name, due to the park's original name. The Templer Park Country Club and Perangsang Templer Golf Club are found here, with the iconic Anak Takun hill for their backdrop. There are also Taman Bukit Templer, Templer Hills,Templer Bestari, Templer Villas, Templer Saujana, Templer Heritage and Pinggiran Templer.

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