The Borneo Post dated Thursday 28 July wrote in its story with the following introduction: “They fought and died for the freedom of their country. They were buried abroad and thought never to return. But some 50 years later, they are finally home.
“The 21 Iban trackers and Sarawak Rangers, who fought gallantly against the communists in the peninsula during the Malayan insurgency, were given top honours and accolades they rightly deserved during the burial of their remains at the Heroes grave of Jalan Budaya, Kuching.”
Historically, it is wrong to say that the Iban trackers fought and died for the freedom of their country. They were, in fact, mercenaries employed by the British to fight the communists in Malaya in the 50s.
Malaya was not their country. Malaya joined Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore to form Malaysia in September 1963. Later the trackers were absorbed into the Sarawak Rangers.
Bennett Jarrow of Kapit (he is my father-in-law) was one of those responsible for the recruitment of Iban trackers before and after 1950. Another one was Francis Bucking (or Baking).
Heroes like Menggong, Rentap and Kuyah, all from Lubok Antu walked all the way from Kanowit to Kapit to meet Jarrow.
Nothing has been mentioned about Jarrow’s involvement in recruiting the Iban trackers and later trained them in jungle warfare. However, his name is being mentioned in the war journals of the British Army.
Now we speak of these Iban trackers as heroes and honour them as well. But what about their immediate families? Anything for them?
Nothing! The government wants to politicise the whole thing and people like Alfred Jabu, Deputy Chief Minister blame DAP for not praising their (heroes) contributions to the security of this country.
Not only the families are not given anything, some of them have their native customary rights land taken away from them. Some have remained as poor, if not poorer.
Like Kanang Anak Langkau (the current hero), the families of these heroes should also be given land for them to farm or some monetary rewards as token of government’s appreciation to the families who have been suffering for more than 50 years.