Certainly there will be a lot of activities organised such as parades, funfairs, sports and games to celebrate our Merdeka. But how many of us realise, especially the younger generation, that what we enjoy today – peace, prosperity and harmony – is due on the main to the sacrifices made by our security forces – the Army, the Air force, the Navy, the Police, the Field force, the Border Scouts and especially the ordinary and unarmed people.
During the height of insurgency in Sarawak, the Sarawak Communist Organisation (SCO) which together with Indonesia opposed Sarawak joining Sabah, Singapore and Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. Indonesian National Army (TNI) working together with TNKU (Tentera National Kalimantan Utara) and SCO conducted armed raids into Sarawak’s territory. Communist terrorists (CTs) and TNKU were active in the then First Division, Second, Third and fourth Divisions.
We were fortunate that the British soldiers including the famous Gurkha soldiers helped to defend Sarawak. They worked very closely with the Police Field Force and Sarawak Border Scouts platoons which were formed by the famous Iban trekkers during the communist insurgency in Malaya in the 1950s. Although they scored many successes against the enemy, many among them also lost their lives in the defence of Sarawak.
But there were also unarmed civilians and ordinary people who had lost their lives just because they refused to cooperate with the communist terrorists. Instead they sacrificed themselves by supporting the government. I am thinking of people like Penghulu Imban of Sekuau and Penghulu Andok of Sarikei, Tua Kampong Bunseng Anak Munan of Kpg. Stunggang, Simin Anak Saji of Kpg. Sebamban and Jihos Anak Ginon, all of them from Lundu; Kulaw Anak Mawang of Kpg. Nibong. Serian, and countless others.
I recall being sent to Sarikei as a reporter to attend the funeral of Penghulu Andok who was cruelly and mercilessly murdered by the communists. That was in the 70s. The same fate befell Penghulu Imban. He was dragged from his longhouse in Ng. Skuau, and shot in front of the longhouse people. It was meant to be a public execution to warn the longhouse people not to support the security forces.
Had the people supported the CTs, Sarawak would have become a communist state by now. But the people refused to be intimidated. Rather the deaths of the Penghulus and Tua Kampong in the hands of the terrorists made the people in longhouses under their control not only very angry, but also inspired them to cooperate with the security forces. Their cooperation resulted in many terrorists killed as well as leading to communist terrorists’ surrender. The victory was celebrated in Simanggang in March 1974 and to mark the occasion, Simanggang was named Sri Aman.
It was due to unarmed people like Penghulu Andok and Penghulu Imban and so many others that we now enjoy peace, security and prosperity. But it seems that the government has forgotten the sacrifices made by these people. What is sadder still is that some of the terrorists and rebels who were once considered as the people’s enemy number one and who had murdered hundreds of civilians and security forces personnel and who had caused untold sufferings to thousands of Sarawakians, are now being upgraded, promoted and even recognised as heroes. Some have been given privileges to become rich, while others are now occupying or have occupied senior posts or highest post in the government.
The Malaysian history appears to be upside down now – terrorists are now considered as heroes, and the heroes are made to become villains. Worst still, their descendents’ NCR lands are being taken away and are given to big companies whose CEOs and personnel of these companies were once the backers and sympathizers of the CT organisation. Now their descendents are not fighting the CTs anymore, but ironically are fighting the state government and oil palm and timber companies that had once spawned communist terrorism.
Sad isn’t it for us who know history and truth? Nevertheless during this Merdeka day celebration, let us spare a thought for these unsung heroes and express our sympathies for those heroes who are still around and for their descendents regarding their current plight. Let us pray for the repose of the souls of those who had departed. This is the least that we can do for them. - The Broken Shield