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Tim Hardy: special branch, Sarawak, December 1961-March 1968.

Part of Tim Hardy's unpublished memoirs give a fascinating insight into their author and into Sarawak's Special Branch from 1961 to 1968, revealing snippets of information now hidden away in inaccessible archives. (1) All un-attributed quotations are from his memoirs, which are quoted from extensively to retain the memoirs' original flavor. For clarity, in those quotations the term "O" used by Tim Hardy and the Sarawak communists is replaced by SCO (Sarawak Communist Organisation), the term initially used by the Sarawak Government. The views, opinions, and versions of events given by Tim Hardy in his memoirs and hence in this paper are given without demur or necessarily acquiescence. This foreword, the introduction, and the endnote are, it should be noted, not taken from and are independent of Tim Hardy's memoirs.


The Special Branch (SB) in Sarawak, a section of the Constabulary, was formed in June 1949 to collect intelligence on secret societies and subversive activities. (2) At that time there was a vocal anti-cession movement within the Malay community seeking to overturn the cession of Sarawak to Britain by Rajah Charles Vyner Brooke on 1 July 1946. But this movement quickly faded into irrelevancy after 3 December 1949, when a secret group within the anti-cession movement assassinated Duncan Stewart, Sarawak's second British Governor. (3) Also at that time communist ideology was being propagated openly and the impact of communism principally among the Chinese community was to occupy much of the resources of the Special Branch for the next fifty years. Attempting to curb the spread of communist propaganda, in January 1951 the Special Branch raided the office of the Chung Hua Kung Pao, a Chinese newspaper that promoted communism, leading to its closure. On 5 August 1952 a raid from Indonesian Kalimantan by a group purporting to be the Sarawak Peoples Army raised concerns of communist militancy. By the end of 1961, a proposed anti-communist federation of the states of Malaya, with Singapore, Sarawak and British North Borneo as states with special rights, was moving forward rapidly against growing opposition from all left-wing forces in those countries, supported vociferously by Indonesia.

Tim Hardy arrived in Sarawak at this time as the Deputy Head of the Special Branch, becoming the Acting Head two weeks after arrival. (4) He was born on 18th June 1922 in Nottingham, England, joined the British Territorial Army on 31 August 1939, and was mobilized three days later immediately after war was declared on Germany. On 5 June 1944 he was parachuted into Normandy with the 6th Airborne Division, one of the advance parties in the liberation of Europe. He also took part in aborted Operation Zipper to liberate Malaya on 9 September 1945. After the end of World War Two, he returned to civil life in England, joining the Malayan Police in Malaya as a cadet in 1950. There he served as an Intelligence Officer from 1951 to late 1956, followed by service in Tanganyika (1957-1961) in a similar role, before taking up his appointment in Sarawak.

Settling in as Deputy Head of the Special Branch

On a series of familiarization tours, meeting officials, community leaders, and members of the general public throughout Sarawak, Tim Hardy found a general consensus that the Constabulary's 1,465 personnel was adequate for peace-keeping. The Constabulary included a 271-personnel paramilitary Field Force to deal with civil disturbances and any internal militancy. (5) But underlying the tranquility Tim Hardy quickly learned that elements of the Malay community, principally the BMP (Barisan Pemuda Sarawak--Sarawak Youth Front) and the SCO (Sarawak Communist Organisation) had a common cause: resistance to Sarawak joining the proposed Federation of Malaysia. With the situation further complicated by Indonesian President Bung Sukarno's threats to crush Malaysia, Tim Hardy writes that "Early 1962 wasn't, therefore, the best of times to walk into the office of Sarawak's security intelligence chief."

The Sarawak Communist Organisation (SCO)

Tim Hardy soon decided his main interest was in the young Chinese who were turning to communism. He empathized with their "dream of creating a high-minded 'government of the proletariat' that would distribute Sarawak's wealth equally and without regard to race or class." But concluded their cause was doomed to failure for many reasons. He wrote that few Chinese would become fully committed to the cause and neither the Malays nor the indigenes would give their support. And "what support there was ... came not from its advocacy of Maoism ... but from its uncompromising opposition to plans to federate the country within Malaysia, a prospect that left the majority of Chinese fearful of Malay domination." Further, an agrarian Sarawak "just wasn't the right territory on which to wage a proletarian revolution."

Tim Hardy also reasoned that Indonesian President Sukarno, although "he approved of Sarawakian opposition to both colonialism and to the Malaysian concept," would "have seen an independent 'communist'-dominated government in Kuching in its racial [Chinese], not political, clothes and he'd have moved like lightning to have crushed it." (6) At that time, Tim Hardy points out, Sukarno's ambition was for a Jakarta-centered empire of Indonesia, Malaya, and the Philippines and "he was ordering Chinese in his own country to remove the outward signs of their racial identity by adopting Indonesian names."

Special Branch Sources of Information on the SCO

Tim Hardy reports that the Special Branch obtained almost all its information about the SCO from
 documents either recovered from imperfect hiding places, purchased
 for cash from informers, confiscated during police raids or
 intercepted on their way through the SCO network. There were
 clandestine newssheets, samizdats, ... 'rolled slips' (... sealed
 with wax to ease their transportation within one of the courier's
 body orifices), study notes ... journals, diaries, self-criticism
 statements, 'work plans,' letters, periodicals and even love
 letters ... all of it hand-written ... How could one not admire
 such ingenuity and zeal?

The Danger Within--A History of the SCO

To answer pressure for authoritative information on the communist threat in Sarawak from the governments involved in the formation of Malaysia, the Governor of Sarawak ordered a definitive paper on the SCO. The task fell to Tim Hardy, who spent almost three months collating information and writing the draft, which was ready by November 1962. Marked secret, the paper was circulated to responsible agencies in Canberra, Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu), Kuala Lumpur, London, Singapore, Washington, and Wellington. A few months later, the Sarawak Information Service published an abridged version entitled The Danger Within: A History of the Clandestine Communist Organisation in Sarawak. (7) This remains one of the most authoritative papers on the early development of the SCO. (8)

Pressure for Action against the SCO

With the United States, London, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore all asking what anti-communist measures were being taken, the Special Branch came under increasing pressure. Indicative of the division in "official" attitudes at this time, Tim Hardy and others argued that since weapons were not readily available in Sarawak, threats of an armed uprising had little substance. But Chief Secretary A. R. Snelus, considered extremely "hawkish" by Tim Hardy, held that the close rapport between Chairman Mao and President Sukarno, and their opposition to Malaysia also shared with the SCO, would result in Sukarno giving the SCO all the weapons it needed. (9)

Arrests of SCO Leaders in 1962

Tim Hardy records that Roy Henry, the substantive head of the Special Branch who returned to duty in June 1962, viewed the SCO as a movement that was breaking the law and had to be dealt with accordingly, not as "a mentally stimulating political phenomenon that threatened only lightly." By then the Special Branch had uncovered the identities of many of the SCO's politburo, including leading figures Wen Min Chyuan, his wife Wong Fuk Ing, and Bong Kee Chok. Tim Hardy writes: "Ergo, on 22nd June 1962 the three [amongst others] were arrested and deported to China. And that, we thought, was that."

The Cobbold Commission on the Formation of Malaysia

The British-Malayan Cobbold Commission toured Sarawak in July 1962, subsequently reporting that the majority of Sarawakians supported the concept of a Federation of Malaysia.
 Jakarta, Beijing and Moscow sneered at Cobbold ... there was to be
 a 'Maphilindo' (a federation of Malaya, the Philippines and
 Indonesia), a 'Beijing--Jakarta Axis', and then Pakistan joined in
 by voicing Islamic misgivings over Malaysia while Moscow condemned
 'neo-colonialism' ... consequently, Roy Henry continued to pit
 ninety percent of special branch against the SCO leaving only half
 a dozen Malay 'detectives' to look out for signs of unease among
 the non-Chinese population. In the corridors of power there were
 whispers about a worse case scenario: an invasion from Indonesian
 Kalimantan coinciding with a SCO uprising internally ... we weren't
 playing games any more."

The Brunei Uprising: 8 December 1962

Tim Hardy felt that at this time Brunei had "grossly over-fleshed military and police services backed up by an outsize special branch" and the Sultan "was hopelessly out of touch." He records that "a mercurial Brunei Malay/Arab," A. M. Azahari, dreamt of restoring the Sultanate to its former glory of an Islamic empire covering the whole of North Borneo and was by then "receiving assurances of Indonesian assistance to restore Malay Muslim--not Malaysian--domination over what was called 'British' Borneo [Sarawak and British North Borneo--now Sabah]." Tim Hardy also records that in November 1962, their man in Limbang began to hear tales of armed uniformed men in the Temburong jungle just on the Brunei side of the border. He sent a Special Branch officer to inform the Brunei Special Branch and
 The director of Brunei special branch, an aloof, old-school-tie
 Englishman, showed our man the door, saying that he wanted no help
 from Sarawak, thank you very much. The 'information' he said was
 mendacious; the only armed and uniformed men in Brunei were the
 Sultan's own and none were deployed in Temburong.

The armed uniformed men in the Temburong jungle turned out to be Azahari's recruits training to take over Brunei, Sarawak, and British North Borneo.

Armed insurgency erupted on 8 December 1962, Tim Hardy writing that
 two or three hundred 'soldiers' of the self-styled 'Tentera
 Nasional Kalimantan Utara' (National Army of North Borneo) overran
 police posts and oil installations throughout Brunei and were
 virtually on the point of seizing Bandar Sri Bagawan [Brunei town]
 itself when they stopped to await further instructions from their
 commander-in-chief, A. M. Azahari. The commander however had taken
 off for Manila there to await the call to return in triumph as
 Brunei's viceroy ... The rebels, who could easily have gone on to
 raise their flag above the capital's clock tower, instead sat down
 to wait for orders that never came.

 A battalion of British soldiers shipped hastily from Singapore
 found the Tentera [army] sitting in wayside coffee shops, sleeping
 in the grounds of the grand mosque and bathing in the river ...
 They were sitting ducks. Hardly a shot was fired.

 The rebellion was at an end almost as soon as it had begun. Not
 much blood and not a drop of oil had been spilled ... It was a
 bizarre little overture to Sukarno's Konfrontasi of Malaysia. (10)

The Immediate Aftermath of the Brunei Uprising

Tim Hardy writes: "complacency suddenly gave way to uproar." Emergency Regulations were introduced immediately. There was a rapid build-up of military forces and "for the first time since the end of the Japanese occupation, armed soldiers were seen on the streets of Kuching, Sibu and Miri." The Special Branch had identified only one notable Sarawakian, Abroad Zaidi, who may have been connected to the uprising and "as he was one of the most senior local officers employed by government, [he] was considered politically, to be out of reach." Therefore the Special Branch concluded the Tentera Nasional did not present any real threat to Sarawak. And as far as the Special Branch knew, the SCO had not been involved in the uprising nor "had they any guns." Nevertheless, there was a chance that the SCO "would be armed by Sukarno ... we had to do something about it." Tim Hardy comments that
 To its great credit the colonial government resisted calls for the
 imposition of martial law. And its successor, the Malaysian
 government similarly dismissed all appeals for it. Sarawak was to
 remain under civilian/political control, a factor that was to prove

The First Detention Camp

The first response to the perceived threat was construction of "the 'Across River' camp" to house up to 75 detainees. Tim Hardy recounts how
 that old veteran champion of human rights ... MP Fenner Brockway,
 flew out from England to look at it and said 'Heaven forbid that I
 should ever be a detainee anywhere in the world, but if it were so
 to be then I'd choose to be detained here in Kuching.'

The Special Branch then began picking up SCO suspects and, as Tim Hardy feared, was quickly "buried under a mountain of paper: arrest and search warrants, seized documents by the hundreds, [and] orders for detention" from which "for the next five years we were unable to dig ourselves."

Ahmad Zaidi

As noted earlier, the Special Branch had identified only one prominent person, Abroad Zaidi bin Muhamed Noor M.A. (Edinburgh), the Education Officer to the Second Division, as having close links with Azahari, the C-in-C of the Tentera Nasional Kalimantan Utara. Tim Hardy records Zaidi being stranded in Indonesia in 1942 by the Japanese Occupation, joining the Indonesian "liberation movement (not as much anti-Japanese as anti-Dutch)," and his appointment as a Captain in Sukarno's Tentera Nasional Indonesia. Special Branch intelligence suggested "Zaidi would have preferred Indonesian domination of Sarawak because he considered the 1960s Malaya to be neo-colonialist whereas Sukarno's Indonesia, unruly as it was, was at least a truly independent, proud Asian state."

As Tim Hardy points out, Zaidi was the President of the Barisan Pemuda Sarawak (Sarawak Youth Association)--"one of the largest open political organizations in the state" and had "considerable influence within the Malay community." Tim Hardy and Hamdan Sirat, another Special Branch officer, were charged with interviewing Zaidi in Simanggang finding not a firebrand but "a dignified, courteous intellectual living modestly in a house packed floor-to-ceiling with books on philosophy, religion and politics including a section on Marx for ... which ... we could have arrested him." Zaidi hinted that he would welcome a transfer to Kuching and "hinted strongly that he'd stay politically silent."

But when they were leaving, Tim Hardy writes that Hamdan courteously stooped to close the door of Zaidi's car, and noticed in the glove box "a document in Indonesian printed on the cheap parchment favored by underground organizations" which was "Zaidi's commission as a 'General' in Azahari's Tentera Nasional Kalimantan Utara." Zaidi immediately acknowledged the document's authenticity and "after some decorous parleying it was mutually agreed that Zaidi return with us to Kuching" where he lived with Hamdan under mild house arrest. A subsequent secret agreement was reached with the government, under which "he would be allowed to 'escape' across the border into Indonesia where he'd lie low until the end of Konfrontasi ... in return for government financial aid to his family. (11) Tim Hardy records that both sides honored the agreement and that Zaidi later became a convert to the Malaysian concept, returning to Sarawak in 1968, where by "1974 he was State Minister for Housing and Development and in 1985 he moved into the Brookes' old Astana as Governor of Sarawak."

Indonesia's Armed Confrontation with Malaysia

Sukarno's threats against the formation of Malaysia were backed up by deployment of Indonesian forces along Sarawak's 1,600-kilometer border with Indonesian Kalimantan, which was countered by a build-up of British forces. In early 1963 Chinese youths began to cross the border into Indonesian Kalimantan clandestinely to take to arms, with Indonesia exaggeratedly claiming in July that 1,000 had been given military training. Tim Hardy writes that
 The once niggardly treasury came up with staggering amounts of
 ringgits to pay for thousands of new constables, prison warders,
 propagandists and for the raising of an Iban vigilante corps to be
 known as 'Border Scouts' ... The rhetoric on both sides became so
 offensive that Konfrontasi [confrontation between Sarawak and
 Indonesia] became unavoidable.

Armed Konfrontasi began on 12 April 1963, when about 30 armed raiders from Indonesian Kalimantan overran the police post at Tebedu, a border post about 60 kilometers south of Kuching, "murdering several constables and looting the place. From that moment on anyone still harboring dovish views was well advised to keep them to himself." Responding to the first armed incursion, "a British army general was appointed Director of Borneo Operations" and "State Emergency Executive Committees were convened in Sarawak and North Borneo." Overdue for leave, in mid-1963, Tim Hardy left Sarawak for a three-month's holiday in Sussex.

Rapid Expansion of Intelligence Services: July-October 1963

By the time Tim Hardy returned in October 1963, Sarawak was a Malaysian state. He records that his small group at Badruddin Road was "already outnumbered by newcomers brought in ... to help cope with Konfrontasi, most of them Brits with South East Asia connections." London provided five "Military Intelligence Officers (MIOs), army officers trained for 'intelligence' work." The "intelligence community ... which, as always, accompanied the diplomats (Britain appointed a Deputy High Commissioner, America a Consul) also arrived," so the Special Branch had to deal with "MI5, MI6 and CIA people" who "had to declare themselves" and "were forbidden to do anything without" the blessing of Special Branch. Tim Hardy found the most effective help came from Kuala Lumpur, which provided "seasoned special branch officers" who had taken part in dealing with communist insurgency in Malaya and "ex-Malayan Communist Party cadres."

Special Branch Assessment of the Strength of the SCO in Late 1963

Tim Hardy found the army officers in the military's intelligence corps "more a millstone ... than a helping hand" as "virtually unemployed on purely military matters on the Indonesian border to which they were supposed to be limited" they "frequently turned their attention" to the SCO. Under pressure to provide an estimate of the SCO's strength, Tim Hardy argued even the SCO did not know, as "an underground organization wasn't going to keep membership records, was it," so how could the Special Branch be specific? Finally, approached by Colonel Farrar-Hockley, Chief of Staff to the Director of Borneo Operations, Tim Hardy presented his oft-repeated case that he was unable to give a realistic estimate of the SCO's strength, but, finally conceding the military also had a case, proposed that "we settle for an inspired guess--say two thousand." The Joint Intelligence Committee duly reported that "the local special branch assess active communist strength in Sarawak to be 2,000" and as Tim Hardy writes, "we had a figure and we lived with it," never knowing its accuracy or otherwise.

Assessments of the SCO's "Armed Struggle" in 1963

On 19 April 1963, the Sarawak Government issued an order that all arms and ammunition held by non-natives in the First and Third Divisions had to be handed in immediately, indicating official fears of the SCO turning to guerrilla warfare. Of this period, Tim Hardy writes that early in 1963 the Special Branch "began to confirm the disappearance from their homes of maybe hundreds ... of young Chinese." The Special Branch "assumed they'd taken to the jungle en route to Indonesian Borneo where they'd be trained and armed by Sukarno for participation in Konfrontasi." This was "the worst-case scenario: the Indonesian army raiding from without, communist guerrillas making trouble within."

But Special Branch thought that this would mean "an ultimately decisive drop in" the SCO's "already weak mass support." This was supported by a copy of a report that came into the hands of the Special Branch in Miri, in which the SCO's Fourth Divisional Committee "advised the politburo to consider the racial consequences of going into 'armed struggle.'" The report held that the Chinese would "be the losers" as the 'armed struggle' would become a racist struggle because they would be blamed for any bloodshed as "the only people who supported the SCO." As Tim Hardy points out, government's issue of shotguns to "Ibans in remote long houses" clearly showed no mass insurrection was feared. (12)

Tim Hardy surmises that from the SCO leadership's perspective there was "good reason for believing that Lenin's 'revolutionary situation' already existed in Sarawak and that the time, therefore, was ripe for 'armed struggle,'" since "some local revolutionary fervor" had been aroused by "Azahari's nearly successful coup in Brunei": President Sukarno was threatening to "pitch a hundred million Indonesians into Konfrontasi"; Manila was claiming "a bounteous slice of Malaysia" (Sabah); Pakistan was objecting to the Malaysian concept; "Moscow, Beijing, Havana and the rest of the socialist brotherhood" were waging a "diplomatic onslaught against Malaysia"; there was a "solid core of anti-Malaysian sentiment" in Sarawak; and "anti-colonialism [was] still being generated by Afro-Asian-Latin American countries."

Driven by "their slavish adherence to the gospel according to Mao Tse Tung," Tim Hardy held "it was inevitable that the SCO should reach for the gun." Without any "liberated territory" as a base and without reliable weapons, "most of the SCO's 'soldiers' sought refuge and support in Indonesian Borneo," where "inevitably ... they were forced into servitude to the Indonesian military." Of those who stayed in Sarawak, mainly in the Third Division, Tim Hardy writes they "fared little better." They believed that the "peasant masses would turn to the SCO for protection" against the "hirelings of imperialism," the mainly British soldiers "then entering Sarawak in numbers." However, the indigenous population in "the longhouses greeted the white strangers [British soldiers] with open arms," whereas SCO insurgents were "unable to go near a longhouse for fear of being informed against." Thus the SCO insurgents "had to grub down in appalling conditions on the edges of urban areas from which they could cadge food." Also they lacked the weaponry "to take on either the army or the police," their ingeniously-crafted home-made shotguns being "more likely to damage their owners than their intended targets."

Indonesian Incursions

"What we'd feared most," a SCO-led insurrection supported by Indonesian military "didn't materialize." In early 1964 there were an estimated twelve Indonesian army battalions along the Sarawak and Sabah borders facing a lesser number of "British, Australian, New Zealand and Malaysian troops," who were "vastly superior ... in firepower, air and sea support, equipment, supplies, medical services, food quality, leadership and, crucially, morale." Tim Hardy reports that "only one of the six Russian helicopters in Indonesian Borneo was ever able to fly and even then only when fuel was available which wasn't often."

In the twelve months following the raid on Tebedu, 120 incidents were recorded along Sarawak's border with Indonesian Kalimantan. (13) Tim Hardy reports the raid on 29 September 1963 as "the most daring and successful penetration, an incursion of about 100 miles into the 3rd Division by a crack Komando unit" that, "murdered a good many unsuspecting" security personnel. (14) He also tells of a "bizarre attempt to infiltrate the Sarikei area of the 3rd Division by sea" on 3-15 January 1964 by Indonesian irregulars who "got no further than the mangrove on the beach." Then on 27 June 1965 "there was an attack by Indonesian soldiers guided by SCO guerrillas upon the police post at the 17th mile bazaar on the Kuching-Serian road, killing among others the brother of the Chief Minister." Finally, an attempted incursion that began on 4 June 1966 by a Komando unit "aimed perhaps at Kuching airport ... only to be easily and bloodily driven off." Tim Hardy records that "by far the most common Indonesian offensive activity ... was ... to move close to the border, lob a few mortar bombs ... and then scarper fast."

Signals Intelligence

British military intelligence-gathering equipment played a major role in the military response to Indonesia's armed confrontation along the 1600-kilometer border with Indonesian Kalimantan, and Tim Hardy writes that the British brought in the latest signals intelligence system, "Sigint," to intercept Indonesian military communications. Indonesian field "wireless packs" were "second-world-war" vintage using "old fashioned crystals ... which, in defiance of all military rules, they never altered." Tim Hardy was told that changing the crystals weekly virtually eliminated any chance of interception. The result was that the British were able to listen to Indonesian army communications in the field throughout Konfrontasi.

Operation "Claret"

Tim Hardy writes that "with 'Sigint' locking on targets with pin-point accuracy, our military ached to have a go." In April 1964, the Commander-in-Chief Far East reported that Indonesia had adopted new infiltration techniques "to secure a threat in combination with the SCO" and advocated pre-emptive action (Dennis and Grey 1996:214-16). After deliberation, "London and Kuala Lumpur authorized a super-secret military operation codenamed Claret" that permitted military incursions up to 2,000 yards into Kalimantan, with the proviso that the incursions were "unattributable" and no trace was to be left that could prove territorial violation.

After that "Konfrontasi was turned on its head because it was our soldiers ... not the Indonesians ... who did most of the border crossing." "Small bands of lightly armed, wellbriefed soldiers would dart across the border [and] shoot a few Indonesian soldiers whose location had been fixed by Sigint." The early raids "were conducted with all the restraint the politicians had insisted upon." "Jakarta didn't make a row about the violations," nor did the Indonesian military "swear to revenge the slaughter of its young men." "The more gung-ho military officers" then pressed "for more frequent, deeper and bloodier raids" and in January 1965 incursions of up to 10,000 yards into Indonesian Kalimantan were approved.

The 22nd Special Air Services Regiment (SAS) was part of the command of General Sir Walter Walker, the Commander of British Forces in Borneo. Tim Hardy describes Operation Claret as "tailor-made" for the SAS in providing "jungle training with an edge of danger, physical toughening and shooting practice with new weapons aimed at live targets." The SAS "built a secret longhouse known as 'The Island' off a remote beach to the west of Kuching" and "secretly supplied by MI6 with Iban 'guides'" made incursions into Kalimantan, "where guided, or so they claimed, by Sigint intelligence, they slew Indonesians." Tim Hardy tells of their returning with "gory trophy heads which hadn't, I suspected, belonged every time to the Indonesian military." (15) Describing the SAS operation as Walker's "secret weapon," Tim Hardy reports that "while other units taking part in Claret (Malaysian forces never did) stuck more or less to the rules, the SAS did much as it pleased."

However, Tim Hardy writes that
 None of which criticism gainsays the fact that without the military
 shield the Indonesians would have been in Kuching within days of
 the Malaysia declaration and that, imperfect as the Malaysian
 solution may have been, Sukarno's would have been a thousand times
 worse. The soldiers provided the fortification behind which the
 politicians and administrators were able to build.

Military Pressure to Resettle Rural Chinese

Indicative of the pressure on the Special Branch and civil authorities for action against the SCO, in July 1964 General Walker proposed regrouping and resettlement of rural Chinese and "other dissidents," reminiscent of resettlement in Malaya during the communist insurgency (Dennis and Grey 1996:214-16). Tim Hardy writes that the military believed the "underlying threat" was not the Indonesians who were beaten before they even started," but "international communism." Since "Malaysia's Internal Security Regulations gave the security forces a free hand," the military, questioned why they were being denied "the means of dealing with a threat that was growing every day." Roy Henry and Tim Hardy spent "hour after wearisome hour" rejecting military and police "pleas to round-up 'communists.'" Tim Hardy would argue that all "the real communists" had already crossed the border into Kalimantan or were "already in custody." Also, apart from a few "score" in the Sarawak rainforest, who were "easily contained by the constabulary field force," only the "weak-willed, poorly-led novices" remained who, if detained, would be "'steeled' by the hard-core 'professional revolutionaries'" already in detention.

Time after time Tim Hardy pointed out that "the Internal Security Regulations did not give the security forces a free hand," nor was it "true that evidence wasn't required or that the word of an army officer was good enough." Tim Hardy told them that if the military "delivered suspects" to "the constabulary" with evidence providing "a strong case," those suspects would be detained. Without that evidence, the Special Branch would release them "as fast as" they were picked up, which "would be bad for the morale of the army, the constabulary and the population alike." Tim Hardy would argue that for every suspect picked up, their families and everyone associated with them would be alienated. Finally he would remind them of "the basic strategy: the military would defend the borders against incursion while the civil authority dealt with internal matters." Tim Hardy recalls that Brigadiers and Colonels (and on one occasion General Walker himself) would leave their meetings with the Special Branch talking of "making representations elsewhere."

Military Expenditure

Tim Hardy cited the use of helicopters as an example of ways "the military squandered men, materials and, consequently, money." He writes that although helicopters were "undeniably the best means of supplying jungle outposts ... staff officers wishing to cut a dash" abused their use. Instead of using "their air-conditioned cars" for "journeys of an hour or so" and domestic flights, they used helicopters to make "bravura entrances and exits." But, Tim Hardy writes that
 Trying as its [the military] presence was, it's worth repeating
 that by comparison with the Indonesians who pulled the final
 curtain down on Konfrontasi by slaughtering half a million
 home-grown 'communists,' Walter Walker and his men behaved like
 saints [see Cribb 1990].

The Constabulary and the Politicians

Tim Hardy writes that the Constabulary too took "advantage of Konfrontasi" by "almost overnight" increasing its complement to "something like ten thousand." This was made up of "a four-fold increase" in its "paramilitary" (Field Force) and the regular constabulary, together with "a few thousand 'Border Scouts'--a sort of vigilante corps with a presence in every longhouse in the border region." He also writes Konfrontasi led the Commissioner to "concentrate his extended force against what the state called 'communist terrorists' and what the SCO called 'freedom fighters.'" But "most of the 'terrorists' had flown the country," few "stayed behind in Sarawak and few of those ever came to light." The result was "a grossly underemployed constabulary" with little to do, leading to pleas to be allowed to "have a go at the 'communists,'" with pressure for harsher interrogation of suspects and more stringent conditions for those in detention. But Roy Henry and Tim Hardy "were senior enough to instruct the rest of them to keep quiet."

Tim Hardy records that "Some of the local politicians also favored witch-hunts [as] having had no previous experience in the arts of governance they weren't too understanding of its niceties." He writes that pre-Malaysia the Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP) "had been the first political organization of any significance" with "simple" aims of "independence and liberalism" but with a major "weakness ... its membership was almost exclusively Chinese." The "leaders" of the SUPP, Ong Kee Hui and Stephen Yong, "were able, highly respected Sarawak-born Chinese" who were "fiercely jealous of Sarawak's individual identity" and consequently opposed to Sarawak joining Malaysia. However, both were "busy professional people" with "little time to oversee the day-to-day business of their party" and consequently "guidance" of the party "fell into the hands of young Chinese ideologically close to the SCO." Kuala Lumpur "viewed with alarm" the SUPP's opposition to Sarawak joining the Federation of Malaysia, since the SUPP was "the only serious political organization in the largest state in the [proposed] federation" and "was Chinese to boot."
 To counter the SUPP the Malayan government (pre-Malaysia days)
 more or less openly promised to bankroll any political party that
 would do its bidding in Sarawak ... Five brand new parties
 registered in quick succession, each claiming to represent group
 interests but each in truth doing no more than provide the screens
 behind which opportunists hoped to lay hands on Kuala Lumpur's
 money and influence. KL knocked them all together into a
 pro-Malaysian 'Alliance' which by 'winning' the 1963 general
 election cleared the way for KL and London to claim that absorption
 within a Malaysian federation was confirmed as the choice of the
 majority of Sarawakians.

Thus after the 1963 elections and the subsequent formation of Malaysia, "the only genuine political consciousness resided in the minority opposition party," the SUPP, "while the state government was in the hands of novices." Chief Minister Stephen Kalong Ningkan "had moved almost directly from longhouse to the residence of the former Colonial Secretary" and the Federal Minister for Sarawak Affairs Temenggong Jugah "overnight swapped his" native dress for the "robes of a cabinet minister." "In assuming the appurtenances of high office they supposed that they'd acquired the powers that went with them." They felt that "if they felt slighted by an opponent they could turn to the Commissioner of Constabulary for redress," seeing "the Internal Security Act as giving the Commissioner the power to arrest and detain anybody they didn't like the look of." Tim Hardy records that "happily however the authors of the federal constitution had posited authority over state police forces with the PM [of Malaysia], not with state governments."

Secret Surveillance Begins

To obtain information about the activities of the SCO, Tim Hardy writes of a highly secret operation that began with the clandestine renting of a large, well-concealed house off Pending Road in Kuching as a secret surveillance center. Then covert night flights by the Malaysian air force brought in "strangers carrying false Sarawak citizenship papers, specially equipped automobiles bearing bogus registration plates, tons of technological gadgetry, [and] even household furniture and appliances." Specialists from KL installed this "technological gadgetry" in the Pending house, "for tapping telephones, intercepting mail and bugging premises." The secrecy of this operation was maintained, "despite fears that it couldn't be done in a place like Kuching."

The Holding Center

Tim Hardy also writes of the Special Branch's Holding Center, "a designated place of detention in which we could hold and interrogate half-a-dozen 'communists' at a time." This was a rented "sprawling, ramshackle old place lying behind thick bush on the top of a hill off McMahon Road" where the "latest in electronic gadgets" were installed. There the Special Branch set up a "frequently changing team of four or five" ex-members of the Communist Party of Malaya (MCP) assisting Mr. and Mrs. Hardy, "an aged Chinese couple" who had been given this code name "years earlier." Mr. Hardy was a "distinguished looking, silver-haired gentleman" and his wife "a plump grandmotherly figure who kept excellent house for everybody in the holding center."

Mr. Hardy had been a member of the Central Committee of the MCP and had waged "armed struggle" against the Japanese, British and Malayans "for "ten years." Finally concluding that "the 'armed struggle' was doing the masses more harm than good," he "fled from the jungle and volunteered to work for the Malayan government trying to persuade his old comrades to give up." In this he had "a lot of success." The role given to him in Sarawak was to uncover "the special strain of Maoism that ran through the SCO" and then to arrive at "an antidote." This would enable the team to "ideologically reclaim" SCO members already in detention, who would then be sent out "to induce their comrades to abandon the 'armed struggle.'"

By the middle of 1965, Mr. Hardy's program, coupled with a major operation that intercepted SCO messages, was informing the Special Branch "straight from the horse's mouth that the SCO in Indonesia was in desperate straits." Under Indonesian control, they were virtually prisoners in their camps, underfed, ill-armed, and inadequately dressed. Seeking help from China but unable to make contact through Indonesia, the SCO's "politburo-in-exile" decided to establish contact via Sarawak and Hung Kong. In what was a great coup for the Special Branch, the reply from Beijing was intercepted, copied, and passed on. The reply bluntly told the SCO that although it had Beijing's spiritual support, no material assistance would be provided, tempered with propaganda from Mao's writings and "triumph with the assistance of outsiders would be no victory at all."

The contents of the message were quickly relayed to a few "top people," some with mixed feelings as it proved "one of their articles of faith--that Mao handed guns to every third-world troublemaker who asked for them--was, simply, untrue." Tim Hardy felt that this "article of faith" had been exploited to "support their continuous--and successful--clamour for more weaponry." However, the importance of the message was underlined years later when General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley (deceased 11 March 2006 aged 81), who as previously mentioned was the Chief of Staff to the Director of Operations in Borneo in 1965, wrote to Tim Hardy saying the "SCO--Beijing secret had been, for him, the most dramatic event of the Borneo 'war.'" (16)

Of the Holding Center off McMahon Road in Kuching, Tim Hardy writes
 While there's no such thing as a good prison and while 'Mr
 Hardy's' cerebral approach to interrogation didn't always pay off,
 the McMahon Road house was a civilized place from which scores of
 young Chinese went free still clinging to their dreams of building
 a better, more equable society, but convinced that in Sarawak's
 circumstances their dreams could never be realized through the
 barrel of a gun.

Operation Hammer: 1965

Operation Hammer left a lasting negative impression on Tim Hardy, as he "failed, massively, to argue against the action" which he held was "vindictive, unjust, small-minded, politically daft and materially wasteful." This operation was the outcome of a cross-border raid from Kalimantan on 27 June 1965 (see Porritt 2002). Tim Hardy recounts how shortly after nightfall "logs with upturned nails were strewn across the road at the 16th mile" and a rocket damaged one of the supports of a bridge at the 18th mile to delay any military response. "Two young men mistakenly identified by the attackers as police informers were murdered, one of them most bestially in front of his family." The raiders overran the 18th Mile police station, lined up the constables on duty and robbed them of their possessions, shot and killed the sergeant in charge, wounded "several" constables, and took all the weapons from the stations' armory. A hijacked lorry took them "as far as it could be driven" towards Pedawan, "en route, presumably, to the Indonesian border."

As Tim Hardy recounts, the military services, then overwhelmingly British, were unwilling to accept that "their frontier shield had been penetrated by marauders from Indonesia," claiming local communists were more likely to have carried out the raid, for which the Constabulary had to be held to account. Initially the Special Branch was inclined to that view, as was Chief Minister Stephen Kalong Ningkan. Understandably Ningkan was very angry, as the murdered sergeant was his younger brother. Constabulary Commissioner Roy Henry might have been able to restore objectivity but was on leave. Henry's stand-in, David Goodsir from Johore who had "weathered many worse days during the Malayan emergency without being savaged in unison by the media, the public, politicians and the military," was nonplussed by what he saw as an over-reaction to the raid and "stunned by Ningkan's fury."

Goodsir and Tim Hardy were summoned to the Chief Minister's residence, arriving just after the delivery of his younger brother's corpse, which was in the hallway surrounded by the immediate family and relatives, all uninhibitedly displaying their grief. Later on in his private room, the Chief Minister charged Goodsir and Tim Hardy "in the name of the people" with complete responsibility for the events at the 18th Mile. He said the perpetrators must have been in the area for months planning the raid and must have been seen and even fed by the local people, yet the Special Branch had not uncovered any prior information, closing with claiming the Special Branch had "failed him" and asking what was done with all the secret funds with which it had been provided. Since no excuses could be offered at the time, Goodsir and Tim Hardy did not try to counter the charges, confining themselves to tendering their condolences with Goodsir promising a "fitting Constabulary funeral for his brother." With some satisfaction Hardy writes, "it wasn't long ... before we were getting apologies."

Within minutes of the news of the raid being received, Tim Hardy sent his "brightest officer," Koo Chong Kong, to the 18th Mile. (17) With those constables who had not been injured and their families, Koo repeatedly re-enacted the raid. This quickly established that the few words spoken by the raiders seemed to be Malay spoken "without the slightest Chinese inflection." But when demanding the constables hand over their wristwatches, the raiders had repeatedly demanded their arloji tangan--Indonesian for wristwatch. (18) As Tim Hardy points out, although Malay and Indonesian are basically very similar, this was "one of the words in general usage that differed totally from the Malay," as a wristwatch in Malay is jam tangan. Indeed, since arloji tangan was so rarely heard in Sarawak, failure to understand what the raiders were demanding may have led to Ningkan's brother being killed. This pointed to the raiders being Indonesian, supported by the fact that the SCO had not succumbed to stealing since they had "been indoctrinated" that their "armed struggle" must be "in the strictest accordance with Mao Tse Tung's '3 rules and 8 points': 'Do not take a single needle or piece of thread.'"

Koo then ordered a large Field Force unit to search the area intensively, uncovering such things as empty cigarette packets distributed in Indonesian army rations. Also he spoke to a local Chinese teenage female, learning that she had helped "a young Indonesian soldier who'd broken his shoulder" when firing the rocket at the 18th Mile bridge support. After finding the lorry that had taken the raiders towards the Indonesian border, the Special Branch considered it had sufficient evidence to virtually prove "that Ningkan's brother had been killed by Soekarno's soldiers."

Tim Hardy writes that the Special Branch was vindicated and comments that the military had in fact kept the border well-sealed since the Indonesians "had broken through only once or twice." But "the worst and most lasting effect of the 'the 18th mile incident' was the way in which the hawks exploited it" with a cry for "revenge." A special meeting of the State Security Executive Committee was summoned on 1 July, dominated by the Inspector-General of Police, Claude Fenner, a "burly figure" with "a short fuse" who "was a dictator" in the post-raid atmosphere. Fenner, who "until the day he died ... carried enormous influence and respect in KL," told the meeting that he was speaking "for the cabinet in KL." He demanded that the communists in the area of the raid "be 'hammered' (di longkan): smashing his huge fist repeatedly on the table he shouted 'Hammer, Hammer, Hammer.'" Tim Hardy records that the effect was dramatic and there and then "it was resolved ... to mount a punitive operation code-named Hammer."

Tim Hardy says that his "lone, feeble voice appealing for a short delay" to confirm the 17th Mile residents were not involved in the raid
 might have given the committee pause but it was silenced with
 expressions of contempt. Fenner had wound them up, the mood was
 too ugly for reason to intervene; evidence was not an issue, right
 or wrong were not considerations; all that needed to be done was
 to determine the form and degree of punishment to be meted out ...
 in a throw-back to the darkest days of the Malayan emergency the
 17th mile bazaar was ringed around with a high barbed-wire fence
 and designated as a 'new village.' Curfews, searches without
 warrants, harassment and even rationing of foodstuffs were the
 order of the day. All Chinese within a given radius were ordered
 to live within the perimeter fence and permitted to attend
 livestock and cultivation outside the wire only during specified
 daylight hours. It was a cruel and unnecessary chastisement of
 people I knew to be innocent of the crimes for which they
 were to be harshly punished; in retrospect it was harsher still
 because the punitive apparatus was still intact and functioning
 when I left Sarawak a good three years later. 'Hammer' was
 vindictive, unjust, small-minded, politically daft and materially
 wasteful but, since I was a foreigner in the service of a
 sovereign Asian nation whose cabinet decided policy for me to carry
 out and, having failed, massively, to argue against the action, I
 had to keep my opinions to myself. (19)

A Visit to a SCO Outpost

In 1967 Tim Hardy visited a typical "revolutionary outpost" on the outskirts of Sarikei in the Third Division typical of several uncovered during Konfrontasi. He describes its primitive conditions: half-an-hour's crawl through one of its slime-floored entrance cum exit cum escape burrows cut through the dense secondary jungle (belukar) to reach "a clearing the size of a ping-pong table." This was circled by five sleeping places also hollowed out of the belukar; a slime-floored burrow to the latrine, "a stinking, waterlogged hole;" a "larder" of split bamboo holding half-a-dozen four-gallon tins, four large glass jars and several plastic boxes, all containing food; a kitchen with a "one-ring oil burner, bottles of kerosene, one small saucepan, one or two enamel mugs and a dozen chop sticks;" "a sealed jar containing aspirin, iodine, mepacrine tablets and bandages;" oilcloth sheets for protection against the rain; and "a tin full of documents" aimed at filling their readers with revolutionary zeal.

Tim Hardy was "overwhelmed by the awfulness of the place." He wanted to call back the "four or five proletarian revolutionaries" who had occupied the camp for months before it was uncovered "for a hot meal in town, talk to them, listen to them, and take them back to their mother." Fortunately he kept his feelings to himself as soon afterwards he "was 'helicoptered' to Sarikei town to view the hideously mutilated corpses of three Chinese merchants who'd almost certainly been murdered by the young guerrillas who'd occupied the camp." (20)

The End of Konfrontasi
 'Hammer' leg a bad taste in my mouth but '[Mr.] Hardy' sweetened it
 somewhat, giving me plenty of full-bodied intelligence to pass on
 to the Emergency Executive Committee which loved being sworn to
 secrecy (you could see them puff out their chests and sense their
 increased alertness) and which was overjoyed to hear my description
 of the SCO's sorry plight. I remember Jugah, he of the elongated
 ear lobes, coming up to me at the end of one meeting, bubbling over
 with glee at having heard me going on about the comrades' misery.
 To Jugah, who liked nothing more than hearing bad news about
 Chinese and Malays and who'd been brain-washed for years by British
 officials preaching to him about the evils of 'communism', word of
 Chinese communists suffering was bliss indeed.

 The Indonesian army turned its back on Malaysia and aimed its
 weapons at its own people. Declaring that it was putting down an
 internal 'communist' insurrection, it slaughtered hundreds of
 thousands of Indonesians. The whole country was turned into an
 abattoir. In Kalimantan, for example, the Dayak population was
 encouraged to return to its old practice of head-hunting, the
 only condition being that the beheaded should be 'communists.'
 Konfrontasi was over and done with but for those who lived close
 by Indonesia there wasn't much to rejoice about for the news
 from just across the border was horrifying. The Indonesians behaved
 even more appallingly than our own overcharged propaganda had
 alleged at the height of Konfrontasi [see Cribb 1990].

A Timely Offer of a Transfer to Fiji

In December 1967 Tim Hardy was summoned to Kuala Lumpur and told it was politically unacceptable for a non-Malaysian to be head of the Special Branch in Sarawak any longer. However, he could remain with the rank of Assistant Commissioner designated "Adviser" to the new Head, Koo Chong Kong. Returning to Kuching, he received a telegram from London offering him the post of head Special Branch, Fiji, which he accepted. A round of farewells followed: formal dinner at the police mess in Fort Marguerite, dinner with the Governor at the Astana, lunch at the Aurora Hotel with Chief Minister Tawi Sli, a dinner hosted by "Bruno" Nazaruddin and his officers all in full dress uniform, and farewell get-togethers in Simanggang, Sibu, Miri, and Limbang.

The most emotional for Tim Hardy "was a grand dinner attended by just about every special branch employee in the state." By chance, Temenggong Jugah, the Minister for Sarawak Affairs looked in, and learning that Tim Hardy had been replaced, "swore that he'd get the order changed; he'd fly to KL first thing in the morning and demand that the Minister change his mind." But he calmed down when Tim Hardy said it was time for a change and he wanted to leave. Tim Hardy records the saying that "you may leave Sarawak but Sarawak will never leave you," adding that "Nowhere else in the wide world have I felt as much at home as I did in Kuching." Later Tim Hardy reflected: "those years in Sarawak were the only ones in my entire colonial career that made me feel that I truly earned my keep." In the following Agung's birthday honors list, Tim Hardy was made a "Kesatria Mangku Negara"--Officer of the Noble Order of the Defender of the Realm.

Tim Hardy's Own Postscript to This Part of His Memoirs
 Indonesian abandonment of Konfrontasi, followed by the bloodbath of
 'communists' drove the SCO (by that time blooded enough to call
 itself the North Kalimantan Communist Party) to flee Indonesia and
 settle into jungle bases in Sarawak. To add to the inescapable fact
 that 'armed struggle' had failed and couldn't be regenerated it
 became clear that there was no political way forward either. In
 short, from 1972 onwards the SCO was on its own in opposing
 Malaysia, a far cry from what had been the position nine years
 before and furthermore it was disowned by China, the Soviet Union
 and Indonesia. Friendless, the SCO was finally reduced to a corps
 of 3-400 Chinese adrift in the pitiless jungle, hopeless. On
 October 21st 1973 nearly 500 'communists' laid down their arms.
 It was all over.


During Konfrontasi, an estimated 114 members of the Commonwealth Forces were killed, as well as 36 Sarawak civilians and 590 Indonesian troops. During the SCO's "armed struggle" between 1965 and 1973, an estimated 190 SCO members were killed in Indonesia and 340 in Sarawak. As far as the writer is aware, total losses of Malaysian armed forces personnel during the "armed struggle" have not been made available and are not readily extracted from published reports since adverse information was tightly controlled. Although on a much-reduced scale, the "armed struggle" actually continued until 1990, when the last 55 insurgents laid down their arms. Tim Hardy subsequently served in intelligence roles in Fiji (1968-1971) and Hong Kong (1971-1982), before retiring and settling in Shropshire, England with his family.


(1) As there are two persons with the name of Hardy in the memoirs, to avoid confusion, Hardy of the Special Branch is always referred to as Tim Hardy, and ex-MCP member code-named Hardy as Mr. Hardy.

(2) On 5 August 1948 the Colonial Secretary had warned all British colonies of the threat of communism.

(3) The Special Branch had failed to uncover the secret group consisting of members of the Pergerakan Pemuda Melayu (PPM-Malay Youth Movement), which was proscribed after the assassination.

(4) Tim Hardy was promoted to Assistant Commissioner of Constabulary, head Special Branch, Sarawak, the third-ranking police officer in Sarawak in mid 1965.

(5) Commonwealth forces based in Singapore were responsible for the defense of all British territories in Southeast Asia.

(6) The communist movement in Sarawak was predominantly Chinese (Porritt 2004).

(7) The time is overdue for release of the unabridged version and all other records involving the SCO to at least 1973 when the SCO and the Sarawak Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

(8) Tim Hardy objected to the title as too melodramatic but was overruled.

(9) Snelus retired on 16 September 1963 immediately after Malaysia was formed.

(10) During the uprising, Azahari's army and followers took over Limbang and Bekenu in Sarawak and Weston in British North Borneo. Four local policemen and five British Marines lost their lives in the occupation and reoccupation of Limbang.

(11) Two "official" biographies (Ritchie 2000, Sanib 1991) give less plausible accounts of how the late Tun Zaidi, while under Special Branch surveillance, managed to leave Sarawak secretly on 15 August 1963 with an SCO escort.

(12) In 1962 the Chinese made up 31.5% of the 780,000-plus population of Sarawak, and the Ibans 31.1%.

(13) Department of Information (1965:47-66).

(14) For a full account of this raid in which 8 Border Scouts, 2 Gurkhas, and 2 policemen were killed, see Harold James and Denis Sheil-Small, The Undeclared War: The Story of Indonesian Confrontation 1962-1966 (1979:81-85). In the subsequent follow-up operations by Commonwealth forces, 34 Indonesians involved in the raid were killed.

(15) The illegal but age-old headhunting tradition of the Ibans appears to have been condoned by the military.

(16) General Farrar-Hockley's obituary in the Daily Telegraph states "he helped to organise secret operations inside Indonesian territory which brought about the end of President Sukarno's "Confrontation" with Malaysia."

(17) In 1975 communists murdered Koo in the Ipoh area of Perak in peninsula Malaysia.

(18) Tim Hardy writes that he had forgotten the words arloji tangan, although "etched on my brain for years."

(19) British military leaders and the head of the Malaysian Police Force are understood to have pressed for the immediate resettlement of some 60,000 Chinese but resettlement was limited to some 8,000 living in the vicinity of the raid, conceding to the views of Acting Chief Secretary John Pike (Porritt 2006:68-90).

(20) This incident occurred on 30 April 1967 (Sarawak Tribune, 1 May 1967).

Vernon L. Porritt

Honorary Research Associate

Murdoch University

Western Australia 6150


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Author:Porritt, Vernon L.
Publication:Borneo Research Bulletin
Geographic Code:9INDO
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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