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A 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 Lok.

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 irrevocably lost.

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ISBN: 1-9211-1813-X
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 218
Genre:
  Fiction

 

 


Author: Ray Wilson 
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2006
Language: English

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Author Biography  

Although Ray Wilson has had two books of poetry published and one of his plays performed in several repertory theatres, A GARLAND OF JASMINE is his first novel. 

Born in the UK and with an educational background teaching and lecturing in English, Ray completed his National Service in the Royal Army Educational Corps in Malaya at the time of the Emergency. Based in a Jungle Training Centre in South Johore , 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 GARLAND OF JASMINE.  

Ray now lives in Queensland   - near Brisbane and most of his family. Apart from writing, he enjoys reading, travelling, singing, gardening and chess.

CHAPTER ONE  

 

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 Banjang New Village .

            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.

When the 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 Banjang New Village , South Johore, Malaya . 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 from China 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 New Village ; 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 New Village , 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 maladies. The New Village 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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