GARLAND OF JASMINE
Terrorism, racial and family
conflict, intrigue, treachery, betrayal and romance set against the background
of the 1950’s Emergency in Malaya – ‘The Forgotten War’.
Richard Watson, a British
Resettlement Officer, finds himself – somewhat unexpectedly - attracted to Ah
Ying, the beautiful, headstrong daughter of Chinese village patriarch Koh Eng
The scene is set for a dramatic
denouement when the couple’s romance collides with the old man’s sons, Yap
Chee – fervent member of the jungle guerrillas – and Chau Kum, the devoted
son, dreaming of a united and integrated Malaya.
‘Schoolie’ Ron Ward, a true ‘innocent
abroad’, faces his own struggle while completing his National Service in this
troubled country. Schoolie finds his universe turned upside down. A lonely,
treacherous jungle road – a terrorist ambush - and Schoolie’s innocence is
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|Author: Ray Wilson
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2006
Although Ray Wilson has had two books of
poetry published and one of his plays performed in several repertory theatres,
OF JASMINE is his first novel.
Born in the
and with an educational background teaching and lecturing in English, Ray
completed his National Service in the Royal Army Educational Corps in
at the time of the Emergency. Based in a Jungle Training Centre in
, Ray taught and mixed with soldiers who had first-hand knowledge and experience
of fighting the Communist terrorists. It is this intimate and personal knowledge
of the Emergency that is evident in his vivid depiction of setting and
characters in A
now lives in
and most of his family. Apart from writing, he enjoys reading, travelling,
singing, gardening and chess.
The first glimmerings of dawn cast their uncertain shadows; oil lamps
were extinguished and bicycle lamps turned on as, one by one, the villagers left
their homes and headed towards the police checkpoint.
Another day was beginning in
As the desultory line of workers - men, women and children - wheeled
their ramshackle bicycles towards the police station, the two young mata-matas
on duty prepared for the daily ritual. As
they were still rather sleepy, they felt little inclination to search
thoroughly. But the approach of
Sergeant Abdul Ismail prompted a more professional reaction and the mata-matas
straightened up, hastily adjusting their uniforms.
Sergeant Ismail looked on critically as the
villagers first of all handed in their identity cards, and then were body
searched. The water bottles were
shaken and from time to time the contents sampled while the villagers waited
phlegmatically. The bicycles were inspected, the seats checked and the tyres
pressed. Nothing was found and
Sergeant Ismail began to feel more kindly disposed towards his two subordinates,
the villagers and life itself. He
had occupied his present post for almost one month and was eager to do well. He
intended to rise in the world; he was unashamedly ambitious.
It annoyed him whenever he heard the usual complaints against his fellow
countrymen; he did not intend to be of their number; tidapathy was not in his vocabulary.
A pretty Chinese girl was approaching the
checkpoint. The Sergeant eyed her and decided it was time to assist his men.
Stepping in front of the girl, he took her identity card then gestured
with both hands. Her face remained
expressionless as she raised her arms and Sergeant Ismail ran his hands slowly
and deliberately over her body. He
felt a sudden fire in his blood as he stroked her small but firm breasts which
were only lightly covered by her thin cotton samfoo.
The girl remained unmoved and even slightly amused; she had endured much
rougher and more intimate handling from the young mata-matas.
last of the villagers had passed through the checkpoint, the perimeter gates
were closed and locked. In another
hour they would be re-opened and remain so until dusk.
Then the curfew would resume.
It was Tuesday, 2nd of April 1957 and the start of another day in
, South Johore,
. The Emergency was nearing the end of its ninth year and Banjang had just celebrated its fifth anniversary. The Resettlement Plan had begun in March
1950 and by the end of 1952 more than half a million people - mostly Chinese
squatters - had been resettled in almost five hundred camps and villages. These
squatters had been living on the fringes of the jungle or the borders of rubber
estates and tin mines. They were mostly Chinese, many of them recent immigrants
who had fled from political unrest, overpopulation and starvation, in the hope
of finding a better life. They were philosophical, patient and hard working but
they were an easy prey for the Communist Terrorists (C.T’s) - again mostly
Chinese - who had been operating in the jungle since the end of the Japanese
Occupation. Government propaganda insisted that Resettlement was in the best
interests of the squatters - they needed protection from the terrorists - but in
truth the Resettlement Plan was an important part of the war strategy against
the terrorists, an attempt to deprive them of food, supplies and, most
importantly, recruits. So the squatters were caged behind high barbed wire
fences and police, home guard and military posts were established at both ends
of a village where sturdy wooden gates - also heavily decorated with barbed wire
- were closed and locked during curfew. So it was that just before sunrise the
villagers came awake and prepared for a near mass exit to the nearby rice
fields, rubber plantations or tin mines. At the checkpoints they would be
searched for food or supplies - anything that could be of assistance to the
jungle terrorists - from a handful of rice to a pair of hockey boots, from a
penknife to a piece of soap.
The villagers of Banjang - many of whom worked as tappers on the nearby
Ulu Tiram Rubber Estate - were allowed to take only one bottle of water -
unsweetened - and no food so that from six in the morning till two in the
afternoon when they returned this was all their sustenance. Of course, sometimes
the mata-matas on duty were less than thorough in their searches and food was smuggled out, either for the terrorists or for the tappers
themselves but it was always a great risk and the penalties were severe.
In 1952, as part of the Government’s psychological warfare, the term Resettlement
Camp was changed to
; but the people were not so easily deceived. Somewhat incongruously the title
of Resettlement Officer remained. This Officer, invariably British, was
responsible for the setting up, organization and hopefully smooth running of the
village. It was his job to liaise with the local Malay police, the British
police, the Army and the politicians. On top of that he had to keep the peace
between the villagers for the Chinese themselves were divided in their
allegiance to their adopted country. It
would not be an exaggeration to state that each
, however small or isolated, was a hotbed of political, social and racial
tension set in the middle of a country that was suffering from the same
was a microcosm of the country and within the village any one family might
itself be a microcosm of that village.
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