Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Launching of my Books in Kuching, Sarawak.

The Launching of My Books in Kuching, Sarawak by YAB Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, on November 6, 2008.
It had taken me a few long years to finally complete my autobiography "My Adventure". The second book, an anthology which contains about 100 poems, was written in one and a half years. Then the second obstacle was getting the money to print the books. Lucky for me, I had a good Samaritan friend in Kuching who had helped me find a sponsor (Yayasan Sarawak). In a double-quick time, I had the two books published. This good Samaritan friend went further to organise the launching of the books in the State Legislative Assembly by the Chief Minister himself! Wow! That was too good to be true. I was told that it is never easy to get the CM to officiate in a function, unless he thinks it important. Did he think my books were important? I'm flattered. The date was November 6. 2008. I could only stay for 4 nights. This good Samaritan friend then filled up the four days to the brim with promotions of the books in the major hotels and book stores in Kuching - tiring but most satisfying. In between the promotions, we were even taken for a tour of the Cultural Village in Santubong and a little shopping in the border town of Serikin near Bau.
Publicity in the local media
YB Datuk Talib Zulpilip who organise the occasion with some of the ex-servicemen who attended the launching.
YAB Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, the Chief Minister of Sarawak launching the books.
YAB CM reading some lines from the anthology
I handed over my autobiography "My Adventure" over to the Chief Minister.
Tea after the launching
Another report in the local media on my book presentation to the YAB the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
I caught him as he was leaving the National Intergrity Seminar 2008. I presented him with both my books. He was pleasantly caught by surprise. Managed to tell him I would like a second launch in KL by him.
Pak Lah reading my autobiography.
My anthology
Some of the VIP visitors to my kiosk
Another VIP visitor, the Resident of the Fourth Division. He invited me to an international poetry event, organised in Miri in a couple of days time
Another familiar VIP - Dato Putit Matzen. He bought a pair.
Over all, it had been a busy and most rewarding schedule. I would like to thank YB Datuk Talib Zulpilip for the splendid organisation, planning and administering the four days' programmes. Thank you for the VIP treatment for me and my family. We had thoroughly enjoyed our four nights of stay in Kuching. You had made us craving to come again.

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: rizalbob@gmail.com/

(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.