Sunday, 4 February 2018

In memory of Che Maarof bin Haji Zakaria (1)

Che Maarof was a young Malay lawyer and bank director. He set up the first Malay bank. However, he was killed and hung up a tree when his remains was discovered. The mystery of his demise has never been solved. Just like Jalil Ibrahim's murder in Hong Kong which was never fully resolved and properly narrated to the Malaysian public, Maarof's story has also gone cold.

Any crime story that has to do with money or wealth always ends up in murder of an innocent man. I am a concerned mother as I too have a son who is about Jalil's age when Jalil was murdered. A man who works in the banking, taxation and such industry, is bound to discover a lot of truths and untruths. Working out cases, find the truths and hidden wealth siphoned is a special job and requires special skills, along with secrecy, as with most jobs of this nature.

When I wrote about Jalil Ibrahim, I had already met him when he came to meet his wife, my class teacher. The next I heard about him, he had died. Awestruck, I lived with that memory of a murdered teacher's husband all my life. I was already reading Sherlock Holmes as a teenager in high school. But Jalil's murder was too much for me to accept. I read up about his murder whenever something came up on TV about him. I don't recall reading about him in newspapers.

As for Che Maarof, he too was young and died young and knowledgeable. In 1947, Malaya was still under the British and that period was referred to as British reoccupation. It was a period of Malay uprising against the British colonials. It was a difficult time and the Malays wanted to rule their own country and not be ruled. However, the British rulers disfavoured Malay uprising against them and curbed such activities. So when Che Maarof operated his own Malay bank, the British rulers opposed.

So who would want Che Maarof off the list? From my Sherlock Holmes reading, I would say the British. They wanted him dead and the Malay banking system vanished. Then who actually killed Che Maarof? I don't have all the details. There are stories out there about how he was killed. Now we have forensic sciences and services. So we should have some answers on Che Maarof's murder when we can find forensic evidences and piece all the jig-saw puzzle pieces together.

If we find out the real murderer of Che Maarof, what can we do today? Can we hold the British officers then as murderers? I think we can but they cannot be persecuted. Colonials have a protectionist agreement that they will not be sued for their past actions. So we cannot punish them. Anyway, the British officers then (eg in their 20s in 1947) would be in their 90s today. There is no need to hang them. But a letter of apology to Che Maarof's family and descendants would be more appropriate. That way, we will not have to seek revenge for an evil past.

I hope, that colonists and colonial officers have the heart to learn and learn to live with us, the Malays. Coming to conquer a peaceful country and enforcing the white man's ways and laws onto the Malays are something unforgivable, unthinkable and should not have happened in Malaya. The Malays have never gone to conquer a white man's country and forced Islam upon them.

Another thing I want to bring up is Maarof's wife. I have on my list of Early Malay Doctors, a Malay girl's name. When I asked around about her, I was told she quit medical school. I was told she married Che Maarof who was later murdered. She remarried but to a graduate doctor, our first Director-General of Health Malaysia. I was told she is still alive the last time I enquired. But since she didn't graduate as a doctor, I didn't seek to interview her.

Che Maarof is remembered by a road named after him - Jalan Maarof. It is a short stretch of road in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. I remember looking up that road but I was stricken by his murder that I refused to write about him at the time. I may have a photo taken of it too, unknowingly.

Yes, now I recall her name. She is Khamsiah bt Mohd Ali. I had her name down as Dr Khamsiah bt Mohd Ali as I thought she had graduated with the rest. But she quit medical school after second year. There are 2 photos of her in medical school in Singapore before she quit. One was a dinner photo and and another was a group photo of the medical and dental students before dinner. Dr Salma bt Ismail was among them.

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