Thursday, 13 November 2008

Mission: Bringing The Remains of the Iban Warriors Home

MISSION: BRINGING THE REMAINS OF THE IBAN WARRIORS HOME They died fighting for a cause - helping the Commonwealth Forces fight the communist terrorists to prevent Malaya from falling into their hands from 1948 to 1960. They served with distinction and displayed their uncanny tracking skill and unparalleled courage. They were acknowledged by Sir Gerald Templer as the world's best. Between them, they earned numerous bravery awards and medals, including the highest ever given to a civilian. Tracker Awang ak Rawang was awarded the George Cross, an equivalent of a Victoria Cross, for saving a British soldier in the face of enemy fire. In that 12 years of fighting the insurgency war, their casualties were exceptionally low - 20 killed in action and 25 wounded. Their graves are scattered all over the country including two in Singapore. The location of Lance Corporal Ungkok ak Jugam's graveyard in Alor Setar is a real shocker. He was killed in action on February 13, 1955. Overtaken by development and worsened by the unconcerned and uncaring attitude of the authorities, the graveyard was seemingly reduced to becoming a "milestone". See the pictures.
The grave stone of LCpl Ungkok ak. Jugam at Km 4, Jalan Langgar, Alor Setar, Kedah

My heart bleeds when I saw the picture. I vowed to take the matter up to the highest authority. It became my mission. I was warned a week earlier about the launching of my books by the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud on November 6, 2008 at his office in the State Legislative Assembly building. I prepared the necessary letters and documents that I wanted to hand over to the Chief Minister, including the shocking photographs of the grave. The day finally came. After the book launch I had time to chat with the Honorable Chief Minister and this was the opportune time for me to bring the matter up. The Chief Minister was supportive to my suggestion in bringing back the remains of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers and rebury them in a Heroes' Grave in Kuching. However, there is a big BUT - ALL the next-of-kins must give their written consent for the remains to be exhumed and reburied in Sarawak. On November 11, 2008, I emailed the list of Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers killed in action and the locations of their graveyards to the Head of Armed Forces Veterans Department, Sarawak Branch, for him to trace the relatives. On November 12, 2008, I extended a copy of the letter I gave to the Chief Minister of Sarawak to the Director of Veterans Affairs in KL and at the same time requesting for LCpl Ungkok's grave to be relocated to a more respectable location. It is my hope that all the relatives will agree to the proposal to move the remains of these heroes back to the home where they rightly belong. Let their souls be among their loved ones. Follow-Up Actions/Progress November 18, 2008: Mej Suhaila from Jabatan Hal Ehwal Veterans ATM (JHEV) called me this morning to say that they have received my letter. They were thankful and was surprised to see the grave by the roadside. They didn't know anything about it and nobody had talked about it either. They will try to locate the next-of-kin and meantime find out about relocating the grave to Taiping or Batu Gajah. Let's hope it wouldn't take them ages to relocate the grave

December 2, 2008: Apparently, the location of LCpl Ungkok ak. Jugam's grave was raised by the Malaysian Historical Society (Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia), Kedah Branch on April 17, 2006. In replying, Malaysian Ex-Services Association (Persatuan Bekas Tentera Malaysia), Sarawak Branch gave the name of his nearest NOK to Persatuan Sejarah Malaysia, Kedah Branch.

As I do not have access to corresspondences thereon, I do not know what transpired between the two organisations and whether there was any plan to relocate the grave elsewhere.

Anyway, two years had gone by and the grave is still where it was - there had been no actions by either organisations.

Today, I called Major Suhaila of Jabatan Hal Ehwal Veteran ATM on the outcome of the letter I sent them earlier on. She told me they have located the nearest NOK, (the same name given to the Historical Society Kedah Branch two years ago. She is from Ng Jela, Lubok Antu, Sri Aman). They have instructed Pengarah JHEV ATM Sarawak, Major Monday, to contact the NOK and inform her of the situation and seek her approval to relocate the grave to a more respectable location. I had suggested Batu Gajah or Taiping, where his comrades were laid to rest. LCpl Ungkok died a bachelor.

January 6, 2009

I called on a JHEV staff to find out on the progress of trying to relocate the grave of LCpl Ungkok ak. Jugam to a more respectable location from the shoulder of a highway in Alor Setar (see picture above).

The attempt to trace his NOK has hit a snag. The NOK identified by the Ex-Services Association of Sarawak could not be found.

I asked them what happen if no NOK is found? They said they will seek the advice of the Kedah State government on the next course of action and the legal implications involved.

So, it looks like LCpl Ungkok's case and the plan to bring back the remains of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers buried in Malaya and Singapore will take a long time to materialise.

If there are anyone out there who can help identify the NOK of the gallant warriors below, you can contact me at 012 - 2751171 or email:

(See the list at the top of the page)

February 3, 2009

I received an email from the Secretary General of Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) sympathising and expressing their shock at seeing the graveyard of LCpl Ungkok ak. Jugam by the highway in Kedah

It is a most welcomed email from the right organisation. With the involvement of SADIA, I hope to strengthen my effort to relocate Ungkok's grave and also to move all the remains of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers buried in Malaya and Singapore. SADIA can apply more pressure on the Sarawak Government, JHEV and PBTM to take a more positive and urgent approach in solving and handling the case. I will be hearing more from SADIA - hopefully.

February 5, 2009

I received the good news today from Major Monday of Jabatan Hal Ehwal Veteran Sarawak Branch that he has obtained the consent letter from the NOK of LCpl Ungkok ak Jugam (Puan Irene). The letter has been forwarded to Headquarters JHEV in KL for further action.

I immediately called Major Suhaila, a staff officer in Hq JHEV responsible for the case and told her that I would like to be around when they exhume the grave. She agreed.

I'm so glad the case is solved. The next course of actions are just procedural and administrative.

I felt a load off my shoulder.

Thank you Major Monday and Major Suhaila for helping out. LCpl Ungkok's soul will finally find a respectable resting place where he could rest in peace

February 16, 2009

Sheila Rahman from the Malay Mail picked up the story from my blog and published it in today's issue.

March 7, 2009

I received an email at about 4 a.m from one Haji Karim, the person who photographed LCpl Ungkok ak Jugam's grave by the side of a road in Alor Setar and highlighted it in the internet. It was a pleasant surprise. Now the picture is complete. I have been wondering who took the pictures.

I told him I will let JHEV ATM know. JHEV needs to thank him for his effort in highlighting the case. It would have worsened our reputation on how bad we treat our heroes and warriors, if the grave is neglected and remain there.

March 16, 2009

There seems to be all- systems go. The date of the exhumation is scheduled for April 28, 2009. JHEV Sarawak Branch has already made arrangement for a special team of Ibans to perform the "miring ceremony" on the grave during the exhumation.

I have informed the Malay Mail rep, Sheila Rahman and the man who first recorded the grave and highlighted it in a blog, Tuan Haji Karim.

The British High Commission have also been informed and their representative may be coming too. I am excited and looking forward to the occasion.

But looming large is a bigger one - will let you know when the time comes.

April 13, 2009

Exhumation and Relocation of LCpl Ungkok's Grave: All Systems Go!

D Day has been set for April 28, 2009. The Director of Jabatan Hal Ehwal Veteran ATM, the Royal Rangers Corp commander, the Police, Kedah State, the British High Commission representatives will be in attendance. The NOK of the deceased will also be there to witness the ceremony. The medias have also been notified to cover the event. The man who first photographed and published the pictures of the grave in his blog will also be there. Of course, I will be there as well.

A "miring ceremony" in accordance to the Iban custom and tradition will be performed.

However, a most disturbing news I received today was, the remains of the brave soldier could not be located - even after a special scan of 100m around the tombstone, including underneath the highway. No wonder there is an inscription of "lies somewhere near here" made on the tombstone. Was he "missing in action (MIA) ?". Who could shed the light on the mystery? The British Government? Afterall, they were the one who had wanted to move the grave in the first place but was unable to do so as they couldn't find the NOK.

April 20, 2009

I emailed one of "my comrades" in this issue, Rano Aylwino Akat in Sarawak, to find out certain querries from his contact in the British High Commission in KL.

1. How did LCpl Ungkok ak. Jugam died - the battle.

After this, the next big one is to exhume all graves of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers buried in KL, Batu Gajah, Taiping, Alor Setar and Singapore back to Kuching and rebury them in a Heroes Grave. The Chief Minister of Sarawak has agreed to the plan.

I see a hard and long working hours ahead as all the next-of-kins of the 10 Trackers/Rangers have to be found and their written consent acquired. My high regards and appreciation to JHEV and PBTM who will have to shoulder the huge responsibility.

April 28, 2009

On April 28, 2009, the grave of LCpl Ungkok ak. Jugam was relocated to the Christian Cemetry at Jalan Sultanah, Alor Setar. It was done with the full Iban tradition of miring. Puan Irene Kilat, Ungkok's close relative came for the ceremony.

The event was witnessed the Datuk Bandar of Alor Setar, Ketua Pengarah JHEV, Maj Gen Dato' Zulkiflee Mazlan, representative of Rejimen Renjer, Kol Steven Mundaw and Pengerusi of Historical Soceity of Malaysia Kedah Branch.

With this relocation complete, this chapter is also closing down. A new chapter will be opened up for a bigger relocation of all Iban warriors buried in Malaya and Singapore back to Kuching.



  1. Total and utter disregard for human dignity, especially for those who have sacrificed their lives for lesser mortals like us.

    I cannot find any stonger words unless its vulgar to describe the insouciant attitude of the authorities. Malaysia is definitely not a place for gallant soldiers to be remembered.

    My heart bleed as well, as I see the photos.


  2. Hi Jeya,

    A friend checked with the British High Commission on this particular grave. What happen was, the British Army tried to find the next-of-kin but failed. Their ruling was, if no NOK gave the consent to exhume and rebury the remain elsewhere, the remain would be left where it was. That happen to LC Ungkok. But don't tell me we are that inflexible and insensitive to an absurd situation as LC Ungkok's grave by the side of the main road!!!
    This I don't understand!!!

  3. uncle..

    Very due respect..hope u will succeed in this noble mission

  4. Hi Jan,

    The big task is to find their next-of-kins and to get their consent. Sarawak government has given the green light for the go ahead.

  5. Robert,
    Yes, bring our son of the soil home to his long house in Sarawak. The British High Com do not have a say in this any more. We are in control of our own destiny.

  6. My eyes watered when I saw the picture.

    May he rest in peace.

  7. Hi Hansac,

    Yes. A very sad case. His soul must be very sad and crying why nobody is doing anything to find him a respectable resting place.

  8. Unlce,

    Must have next-of-kins consent. What gonna happen if no next of kins were found?

  9. Jan,

    That is the problem and that was what happened to this warrior Lance Corporal Ungkok ak Jugam. The British couldn't locate his NOK and his grave remain at that location until today.

    But there must be a way around this. I have kicked the ball to the feet of the Veterans Department in KL. We'll wait and see what they have to say.

  10. It is such a miserable sight!! Even if many are not the next of kin they would like to help give this guy a proper burial if they have the opportunity and "jalan". I am sure some of the Dayak Associations could rally up to help...and dig deep into their pockets to help you and any other who would initiate the move.

  11. Dear Chang Yi,

    I have awakened the Veterans Department in KL to this problem. They were surprised and didn't know it.

    Now that they know, we are waiting for their next move.

    I have told them what Sarawak intend to do - move all the remains of the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers who were buried in Semenanjung Malaysia and Singapore back to Sarawak.

    But first, the NOKs must be found and their consents sought for the reburial.

  12. Tuan.

    Closer inspection on the tombstone will reveal this

    "Lies somewhere near here"

    Perhaps the tombstone was just a marker, and the actual grave is unknown?

    Then the process of exhuming may be a little bit more complicated. If the body was buried without the protection of a hermetically sealed coffin, and the ground is acidic, then the remains would have been totally gone within 4 years. Swampy areas are acidic. The place being Alor Star, I think (I am just guessing here), that the grounds are slightly acidic.

  13. Hansac,

    That was my first impression when I read that inscription "Lies somewhere near here".

    A friend checked with the British High Commission on this particular grave and the problem was as I have commented earlier on - the British Army couldn't locate the next-of-kin of the deceased to get their permission to move the remain to a proper grave. Because they couldn't find the NOK, the grave was left where it was and where it had always been.

    You may be right - if the remains had not been properly kept in a coffin, the remains would have gone by now due to the acidic soil.

    The Veterans Department has been warned about this grave. Apparently they were not in the know until they receive my letter.

    I am waiting for their next action. I suggested they move the remain and rebury it either in Taiping or Batu Gajah, where his comrades were buried.

  14. Col…

    It amazed me that the local authority had done nothing to relocate that grave… From the looks of it, that grave is definitely atas rizab jalan thus they should had done something earlier… much much earlier...

  15. Hi Marc,

    It was a sad case.

    The British War Department/Office wanted to relocate the grave but couldn't find his next-of-kins to give their consent, so it remained where it was.

    The Historical Society Kedah Branch brought it up with Bekas Perajurit Sarawak. Again nothing was done.

    I saw the grave from one of the blog belonging to a Sarawakian - lamenting the sad case.

    On Nov 6, 2008 when I launched my books in Kuching by the CM of Sarawak, I highlighted this case and proposed that all the graves of Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers who were killed during the First Emergency and buried in Semenanjung and Singapore be exhumed and reburied in a heroes grave in Kuching.


    I wrote to Pengarah Jabatan HalEhwal Veteran to inform them of this case and what the CM of Sarawak had said.

    JHEV was surprised and didn't know about this grave.

    The matter is now with JHEV. I have given them the list of names of those buried in Taiping, Batu Gajah, KL, Terendak and Singapore.

    I'm hoping they will not sit too long on the case.

  16. We understand the situation Sir… Nonetheless, I still believe that apart from the said action taken, there must be other alternative which does not involve / need the N.O.K signature…

  17. Marc,

    The British ruling was they MUST have the NOK's consent in relocating the grave, otherwise the grave remain.

    The Malaysian system? Let's wait and see what JHEV can do.

    I understand Ungkok died a bachelor and he has one lone relative somewhere near Sri Aman.

  18. Thanks to Sheila for highlighting the case. Though we do not get Malay Mail in our part of the world in Sarawak she has been pretty active in helping with publicity on Sarawakian blogs. I hope I can be of some assistance in helping locate the relatives with the help of the District Office in Lubok Antu if such assistance is needed.

  19. Thanks Desmond for taking an interest in the case. Definitely, after we have finished Ungkok's case, we will go to the big one - bringging the remains of the 20 Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers from Malaya and Singapore to Kuching. We need to identify their NOK (relatives)and get their written consents before the project can get off the ground. For this we need all the help we can get.

  20. Saya terharu dengan usaha yang Encik Robert Rizal Abdullah telah usahakan. Moga mendiang dapat dibawah ke tanah tumpah negerinya untuk disemadikan & semoga ahli keluarga mendiang gembira dengan perkabaran ini.

  21. Terima kasih Tuan Haji. JHEV sedang membuat kordinasi terakhir sebelum "exhume" perkuburan tersebut. Jika mayat ada, ia nya mungkin akan dipindahkan ke tempat yang sesuai di Alor Setar.

  22. Colonel,

    When they plan to remove the body? I think I want to be there as well...pls let me know..Thank you...

    p/s I am proud with what you do...


    Rano Akat

  23. Hi Rano,

    They plan to exhume the grave on 28 April 2009. Not sure about the exact timing yet. Are you going to fly all the way from Kuching for the occasion?

  24. Colonel,

    Thanks for the info. On 24th, I will have meeting in KL and hopefully can plan something about going to Kedah as I have a friend there.

    God's willing, I am hoping to be there.

    Maybe if possible I can meet you there (Kedah) on the 27th evening for dinner? I will confirm with you through a phone call...

    I will inform the date to my contact at British High Commission, as I felt which is good if any of their reps can be there, in the honor of the L/Cpl Ungkok, who died fighting for the British Army ....

    Keep me posted sir about the date changes, if any..


  25. Hi Akat,

    Thanks for writing in. I will inform you of any changes. I prefer we meet over lunch on 28 March 2009, as I will be putting up at my daughter's house in Penang.

    My fear is, the remains are not under the tombstone (which has the words "lies somewhere near here".)

  26. Ok Colonel, will do. Keep in touch...

  27. Tuan,

    Sori, too busy...
    Received your books and i hope you received my payment. Still 39 days to go...

  28. Good. I was worried they might have gone to the wrong address. Yes payment received. Thanks.

  29. Dear Sir,

    Aku besampi ngajik ka kitai gerai nyamai, lantang senang, betuah-limpah, bekebung baka langit, betuchonng baka bukit, bulih pengaya, bulih pengeraja, bulih pemansang, bulih penatai-pemisik, bidik-lansih dalam semoa pengawa, maju-mansang dalam semoa pengidup!!! Selamat Maju Jaya Bansa Dayak Berengkah Ka Ari Tu! Hoo…Haa!!!

    Duoh Suo Ingan Ni Rawang Madis! Hoo…Haa!!!


    Capt (Rtd) Dr George Kurka & Family

    Weblog: GKM2020

  30. Well done Sir,

    My father, MAJA ANAK BAREK (Panglima Bintang Gagah Berani) Ex-Police (PFF Service No: 1507)/Ex-Iban Tracker who has served well with the 1st BN Worcestershire Regiment in 1948 (the Iban Warrior Awang Ak Rawang (George Cross) was his junior); 1st BN Manchester Regiment (1950); 1st King's African Rifles; Sarawak Ranger, Border Scout, etc is still strong until today though he's old.

    I'm very proud of him. He is also a cousin to my late uncle ASP Menggong Ak Panjit (Victoria Cross and 2x PGBs), uncle ISO Banting and other Band of Iban Tracker serving and sacrifice themselves to achieve our peace and Malaysia Independence. I guess his the last Iban Tracker Warrior who has served both the British & the Malaysian Army/Police.

    Forward for your info.

    Best regards,

    Capt (Rtd) Dr George Kurka Anak Maja, DBA
    President/Group CEO
    ASIA BANCORP LTD, Offshore Bank New Zealand
    Weblog: GKM2020