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Sarawak snubs hero’s last wishes

Joseph Tawie, FMT
KUCHING: The state government’s refusal and dismissal of an Iban hero’s last wish to be buried at the Heroes Grave in Jalan Budaya here has angered his family, fellow police officers and the Dayak community in the state.
Retired Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Wilfred Gomez Malong, 63, died of colon cancer on Saturday and the family was forced to bury him at Kampung Entingan Cemetery after their bid to honour his last wishes was rejected by the state government without a reason.
Gomez, who was awarded the Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) medal at a young age of 24, was buried this morning with full police honours.
Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar and Deputy Home Minister Abu Seman Yusop were among those present. Sadly, none of the state ministers or Dayak ministers was present.
The Heroes Grave was first set up as a memorial park for 21 brave Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers who fought against the communists in Malaya during the communist insurgency.
The first restoration of the grave took place in 1981 and was officially launched on April 11, 2011.
The last person to be buried there was Warrant Officer Kanang Anak Langkau who had the distinction of being awarded the nation’s two highest honours – Sri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP) and Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) early last month.
The Taib Mahmud-led state government had also earlier rejected a request to bury another SP awards recipient Inspector Reggie Deli at the Heroes Grave. Deli died on July 12, 2012 and was buried with police honours at Batu Kitang Anglican cemetery.
The state government’s outright refusal to honour its own heroes has rattled folks here.
Disrespectful of King
Said a former Sarawak deputy chief minister Daniel Tajem: “It is not right for them to refuse to bury him at the grave.
“By refusing to give him such an honour, the state government did not respect his PGB medal.
“It means the state government also did not respect the Yang di-Pertuan Agong who personally signed the warrant of conferment of the award and that is tantamount to being disloyal to the Agong,”
Tajem, who was also a former High Commissioner to New Zealand, also accused the state government of being very selective as to who should be buried at the graveyard.
“You cannot look at a person with a jaded eye,” he said.
A former police officer Tedewin Ngumbang, who succeeded Gomez in December 1975 to lead the Special Branch Probing Unit (SBPU), said Gomez had done so much for Rascom (Rajang Security Command), the state government and the nation.
Ngumbang said Gomez’s successes against communist terrorists in the Kanowit district had actually broken the terrorist backbone in Rascom. His successes in  destroying their camps and recovering food dumps and weapons which led to several arrests were historical feats.
“The mere mention of Gomez’s name in SBPU operations frightened the terrorists,” said Ngumbang.
He added that Gomez walked bare-footed and led highly skilled border scouts in countless contacts with the enemy.
“They’d spent weeks in the jungle, tracking the terrorists. His unit easily killed seven to eight communist terrorists,” he said.
‘Opposition’ leanings
Gomez was awarded PGB as a result of his contact with 18 terrorists in June 1973. His unit later received the General Ibrahim Ismail award for having killed the most number of communist terrorists.
Ngumbang noted that the refusal by the state government could be due to political reasons.
“Firstly, Gomez was not a PBB man like Kanang Anak Langkau. And secondly, he was secretary-general of the defunct Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak and had fought an election against Douglas Ugah in the Betong constituency,” said Ngumbang.
He suggested that the police force has its own “Heroes Grave” to cater for the scores of its personnel who have been awarded gallantry medals, if the state’s Heroes Grave is meant only for the military personnel.
Meanwhile, blogger and consultant Dr John Brain Anthony said that several border scout personnel who had served under Gomez during the days of Rascom had expressed deep regret that their “boss” was not given a place in the Heroes Grave.
Gomez and his men were fighting to liberate the people and the nation from the threat of communist terrorists, he said.
“The peace that we have now especially in the Rascom area was the result of their sacrifices. The nation and the people are forever indebted to people like Gomez,” Anthony said.
Meanwhile, Gomez’s longhouse chief Tuai Rumah Mandau Anak Chabu of Lampaong, Betong has asked the state government to explain its decision.
“We want to ask why. We are proud of him. He should have been accorded the recognition he deserved,” said Mandau.
Too many police heroes unrecognised
He suggested that there should be a committee to look after the Heroes Grave and it should comprise members from the Iban community, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Malay and Chinese communities.
The committee, he said, should practise “1Malaysia concept” where every race is treated equally and not discriminated by race, religion and political affiliation.
Chairman of the ex-policemen’s association, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, also lamented the fact that Gomez was not given a place at the Heroes Grave.
“It should not matter whether the honoured person was a soldier or a policeman,” said Wan Junaidi, who is the Deputy Speaker in Parliament.
He said many policemen had fought long and hard against communists decades ago and deserved equal recognition as that bestowed on the army.
“Far too many police heroes have gone unrecognised, but here is the place we shed our blood. We did not fight in Lebanon, Turkey or Africa. We shed our blood in the state, so why is it so difficult to recognise?
“Those people in the higher-up should sit down and decide a policy,” Wan Junaidi said, calling on the IGP and the Home Ministry to appoint someone to look into the matter.
[photos from PDRM Facebook]


  1. A posting in Hornbill Unleashed in relation to the same article on Sarawak "heroes".


    Many writers inappropriately continue to display their ideological bias when writing about the separate communist led national independence struggles in Malaya (1948 to 1987) and Sarawak (1962 to 1990).

    However, in his Malaysia Today article “God King and Racism” controversial writer Raja Petra Kamarudin “’rubbished Umno’s claims that they had fought for independence”. He then made this comment which departs from the norm:

    “Umno did not fight anybody. The real fight started in 1941 when the Malay nationalists got together, Pak Sako, Mustapha Hussain and Ibrahim Yaacob. We also had Chinese nationalists like Chin Peng who wanted to fight for the independence of Malaya.

    “The fact that he was a communist is secondary. Ibrahim Yaacob was a socialist. Shamsiah Fakeh, a communist. Pak Sako, who is today celebrated as one of the greatest Malay writers, was a socialist.”

    RPK was politically unbiased here and did not resort to the unbalanced ideological demonizing the communists as “terrorists” as many “writer” constantly do. He considers them as “nationalists”. Logically the communists who fought the British colonialists for independence fall into the category of (unsung) heroes.

    Many readers may re-call the great Malayan Hero debate last year on who were the real heroes of “Malayan Independence” in Malaya where even PAS leaders came out to say that communists were patriots who fought against British colonial rule for independence. This debate has cleared the air some what on the demonizing of the role of the communists in post independence Malaya.

    Similarly it is an unspoken point that in Sarawak a nationalist party called the Communist Party of North Kalimantan led the armed struggle against Britain and Malaya for national independence.

    The CPNK was a nationalist party which fought against the imposition of “Malaysia” to continue the foreign imperialist domination of our country Sarawak and also Sabah by expansionist Malaya.

    The fact that it espoused communist ideology is secondary. We should not be distracted by the colonial demonizing propaganda from understanding that they were fighting for national independence. They fought for over 25 years under the most difficult and severe conditions of constant encirclement by British Malayan and Indonesian forces.

    None of their freedom fighters like Ubong anak Nuing the Commander of the Rajang based PARAKU force are yet to be remembered as heroes for fighting against Malayan colonial occupation which replace British colonialism.

    The 50th anniversary of commencement of the anti-British/Malayan colonialism and liberation war in Sarawak on Dec 8 1962 went by quietly over 2 months ago. Lest we Forget!

    Comment by ANTI-MALAYAN COLONIALISM! — February 8, 2013


    It is a telling point that the Taib PBB BN government did not allow the burial of W.G. Malong in the Heroes cemetery. Some wags in local Internet blog pages have joked that the “heroes graves” are being reserved for Taib and cronies.

    Or may be Taib PBB BN has no say on this matter as the cemetery is “Federal territory” since those buried there died fighting for Malaya. Perhaps permission must first be obtained from those who rule over us in Kuala Lumpur- even though it is Sarawak soil we are talking about.

    Many Dayak soldiers have died for the Malayan rulers campaigns against the underground Malayan communist nationalist liberation forces in Malayan from 1948. That they are just not acknowledged as heroes by the UMNO rulers. When there is a public outcry over the lack of recognition, UMNO grudgingly makes some concessions, such as promoting a Dayak to be “general”.

    Sarawak soldiers must see that they have been used as cannon folder and mine sweepers in the jungles by the UMNO rulers in their suppression of the nationalist liberation forces who fought against the British colonial rule both in Malaya (from 1948 to 1960s) and in Sarawak (from 1962 to 1990).

    They were not fighting to “liberate” Malaya or Sarawak from the communists but to prevent the nationalists from liberating Malaya and Sarawak first from British colonial rule from 1962 and from Malayan rule following the imposition of Malaysia.

    Their sacrifices was all for nought as this only strengthened and perpetuated UMNO's role as the replacement colonial master for Britain.

    Worst of all these Dayak soldiers were unknowingly (in most cases) helping UMNO extend its rule over Sarawak and ultimately to oppress and plunder Dayak land.


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