The remains of 21 Iban trackers who served the British gallantly during the colonial era and Confrontation finally arrived in Kuching. Family members of some 21 brave Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers, can finally find closure after about 50 years of separation.

A wave of honour, respect and pride swept through the hundreds who went to the Malaysian Air Force Base here yesterday to await the arrival of the remains of the heroes who were killed in action between 1948 and 1963.

After lying in graves throughout the peninsula and Singapore for years, the remains were flown back under Operation Mai Pulai (“come home” in Iban) in urns in wooden boxes draped in the Jalur Gemilang to be reburied in the state.

Accompanied by war veterans led by decorated Iban warrior Temenggong Kanang Langkau, the remains arrived at the base here at 1.15pm on a C130 military transport aircraft.

Officers on the tarmac saluted as the urns containing the remains of the trackers and rangers were carried out of the plane. Some came back only in name, as their bodies could not be retrieved.

Present to receive them were Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, Social Development and Urbanisation Minister Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom and Sarawak veterans head Lt-Col (Rtd) Robert Rizal Abdullah, the man who initiated the operation.

Upon arrival, Kanang led in a ritual known as miring turun sembilan – nyambut bujang brani. The whole ceremony was handled by the state Customs and Traditions Council of the Chief Minister’s Department.

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  1. Some people feel that the bringing back of the remains of the fallen soldiers defending Malaya from communist insurgency 1948-1960 was a long overdue exercise; whilst others are of the opinion that the graves of those fallen heroes should remain in Malaya but relocated to a decent cemetery so that the Malayans would always be reminded of the role played by Sarawak and the Sarawak Rangers and Trackers in particular in defending Malaya in critical times. Both views have their merits.

    Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rizal @ Robert Madang, who was personally involved and in fact instrumental in getting the Federal and State Governments into motion in getting the remains of the fallen soldiers for a decent reburial at the War Hero Cemetery in Kuching, is something that would always be remembered in the annals of our humble hearts. It’s a commitment for a very noble cause by Robert, who was a soldier himself.

    The arrival of the remains was received not without tears: tears of mixed joy and sadness. It was a joy to see the remains brought back for a decent reburial close to home; and it was also a sadness that the much awaited meeting was no longer in persons but just with remains contained in jars. The only but great consolation is that their deaths were not in vain. It was a death to let others live in peace and comfort. It is often said that there is no greater love than to die for others. If there is a line to describe their sacrifices, it is this: their sacrifices are beyond purchase.

    I hope the Malayans by now would have been amply reminded that their comfort today is attributed to the sacrifice of the Sarawakians, and the Sarawak Rangers and Trackers in particular. It is not uncommon to hear the Malayans belittling the Sarawakian, an attitude that I often observe. Without the sacrifices of the Sarawak Rangers and Trackers during the communist insurgency from 1948-1960, probably Malaya would have been a communist state and the Malay royal house would have been just a history. The only Malay Regiment or Askar Melayu that existed at that time was in no way could match the more organized Revolutionary arm of the Malayan Communist Party. It was the combined forces of the Sarawak Rangers and Trackers and the British Army that had saved Malaya from communist rule. And once again in May 1969, the 1st Battalion of the Malaysian Rangers (formerly the Sarawak Rangers)was summoned to Malaya to end the bloody ethnic riot often known as May 13th Riot. All Malayans, without exception, owe the Sarawakians their lives and continue to owe the Sarawakians their financial well being from oil and gas extracted from the territory of of this bountiful land. I don’t mind repeating for the sake of emphasis and clarity that the Malayans should cease once and for all having attitude of arrogance in their social intercourse with people of Borneo especially the Sarawakian; and most of all Sarawak deserves to get what is due to her politically and economically.

    It’s not motivated by pride that I have said the above but arising the desire for a fair play and equality. I rest my case.

    • Hi Mr Henry Joseph, thank you so much for this well written comment. We in Bombastic Borneo need more people like you and look forward to see more of your comments in our future posts.


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