Templer's first necessity was more information. He got it the hard way by ordering the jungle villagers, on whom the Communists preyed for food, to cooperate or be punished. Templer made an example of the village of Tanjong Malim. In an effort to uncover the names of a gang of terrorists who had slain a dozen British soldiers in the neighborhood, he decreed collective punishment (a 22-hour curfew and reduced rice rations) until the villagers talked. Back in Britain there were howls of alarm, and when other villages were disciplined, the Manchester Guardian cried, "Odious." "Contrary to British ideas of fair play," snapped the Socialist Earl of Listowel. But Templer's grim methods worked.
As soon as they learned that it was safe to be on Templer's side (and uncomfortable not to be), Malaya's villagers found courage to resist the Communists. Three hundred former terrorists joined the British forces and led an expedition that killed a dozen of their former comrades. Peasants hid their food so that the terrorists could not get it; others, at his suggestion, started writing letters to Templer, who read them all himself.
Heartening Sign. Lashed by Templer's tongue ("We've got some bloody bad soldiers in Malaya"), British, Gurkha and Fijian infantry carried the war to the enemy. Paratroopers slid down from low-hovering helicopters to take rebel concentrations by surprise; low-flying aircraft strafed the jungle clearings. The campaign was long and arduous, fought in a sea of undergrowth that was infested with leeches and pythons. But slowly it paid off. On Templer's pitiless Scoreboard, the "average monthly killing rate" rose from hardly any at all to 93 per month ("A most heartening sign," said Templer). Casualties among British troops were reduced by 30%, and in nine of the eleven Malay states, large areas were shaded "white" to denote that they were Communist free.
By last week the British score was 4,947 Communists killed, 2,559 wounded, 1,359 surrendered. But in the depths of the Malayan rain forest, the low-lying Reds are still on the warpath.* The remaining Communist leaders, says General Templer, "listen in to Moscow and Peking radio . . . and from this they take their party line." Should Indo-China be lost, Templer expects more terrorism in Malaya, but unless and until the Malayan guerrillas get help from Red China, the British think they can handle them. The Communist Party effort in Malaya, Templer could say confidently last week, "is concentrated on bare survival."
Templer's military success revived Malaya's morale. Dejection and hopelessness gave way to confidence. In armored car and helicopter, Templer swooped down on hundreds of jungle villages, scores of tiny towns. The people not only heard of him; they saw and heard him themselves. In the early days Templer would arrive in a kampong (village), line up the elders and bark at them: "Create your own home guards, stop food going to the enemy, help yourselves . . . or else." But as the initiative passed to the government, the High Commissioner seemed to mellow. "How's your local council?" he would say. "Everybody happy? Have you built a school?"
Templer's greatest asset was his unsuspected humanity. He would drop in on a Malay wedding and drink to the health of the bride; sometimes he staggered subordinates by doffing his mask of harshness and leading them ("Louder . . . louder") in some ribald army ballad. Once when a Malay woman complained that her policeman-husband had stopped her allowances, Templer replied in person. Within days the policeman reformed.
One Nation. Templer's favorite theme, in kampong and city alike, was Malayan nationhood. He saw no way of reconciling the 2,000,000 industrious Chinese (who dominate the economy) with the 2,700,000 easygoing Malays (who dominate the politics), except in a sense of common patriotism. To break down the color bar, Templer forced the diehard British to open their posh clubs to men of all races. To give the Chinese a stake in the country, he pressed for (and got) common citizenship, entitling the Chinese to vote. The Malays, appalled, called Templer pro-Chinese, but he turned round and slapped on a tax that hit the wealthy Chinese hard. They called him pro-Malay.
Templer saw plainly that there could be no real prospect of uniting and strengthening Malaya unless its people, of all races, had the hope of political freedom. With the full approval of the British government, he junked the outmoded notions of imperialism and promised, in their place, that "Malaya will become, in due course, a self-governing nation . . . within the British Commonwealth." Templer pushed through a constitutional revision which will 1) permit national elections, 2) give the National Assembly a narrow majority of elected (over appointed) members. In principle, at least, the new constitution is a big step towards nationhood.
Legend in the Kampongs. At his last press conference, Templer introduced his successor. He is capable Sir Donald McGillivray, 47, the Scottish diplomat who had been Templer's political deputy since 1952. McGillivray's appointment symbolized the changeover from a largely military to a mainly political emergency in Malaya. Said Templer generously: "I couldn't have done without him."
How Malaya would do without Templer was anybody's guess. But the hard, lean soldier would not be forgotten. "Templer left his impression on the whole country," wrote a Malayan. "Perhaps he will be a legend in the kampongs. They will remember the spare, striding figure, the smile that lit the eyes . . ." The source - Time Online
* This week they killed the chief police inspector in the state of Kedah.