Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Plights of Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers

Unau ak. Sauh (FF 1386) was one of the last intakes of Iban Trackers sent to Malaya in 1952 to help the Commonwealth Forces fight the Communist Insurgency. He was in the same platoon with the famous Corperal Menggong ak Panggit who was awarded a George Medal (a civilian equivalent of a PGB) by King George V for his feat in attacking a CT camp. His British platoon commander was killed in the attack and he had to assume command of the platoon.

Soon after his training in Port Dickson, he and his comrades were attached to a British Battalion and were involved in Search and Destroy operations to eliminate the communist terrorists in Johor, which included freeing the town of Labis from their clutch.

The Iban Trackers had been a success. On 1 January 1953, they were reformed into two experimental platoons of Sarawak Rangers (Malayan Unit) – to give them a full military status. They continued to serve in the front line as trackers with the various Commonwealth Forces. On 31 March 1960, Sarawak Rangers (Malayan Unit) was disbanded and reformed into Sarawak Rangers (Far East Land Forces) to become a part of the British Army. Like the Gurkhas, they could now be sent to any war theatre anywhere in the world. On 15 September 1963, however, they were disbanded. On 16 September 1963, in conjunction with Malaysia Day, they were reformed into the modern-day 1st Battalion The Malaysian Rangers.

Tracker Unau went on to serve in Malaya for 8 years. Finally, in 1959, after many encounters and battles he had had enough and returned to Sarawak.

Unable to simply watch the communist insurgency in Sarawak, he joined the Police in 1972 as a Border Scout. Similar to what he had done in Malaya, he also played a key role in helping infantry units in tracking down terrorists.

Finally on 31 December 1988, at the age of 55, he called it a day and retired. Unau had been at the front line for 25 hot years. Sad to say, he was not given any pensions. It was a slap in the face – his sacrifices and services had not been recognised. In 1998, he moved to live with his children in Johore Bharu. A year later in 1999, his whole family embraced Islam. He adopted a muslim name Abdul Rahman Unau Bin Abdullah.

There are many ex-Trackers and Sarawak Rangers who are living similar lives as Tracker Unau. Seemingly, their services and sacrifices are not recognised. Those who are still alive today are living on meager allowances paid out by the Veterans Department. It defies my logic that fighters like Unau are not eligible for a pension, even though he had given the prime of his life to the nation. For the few who are still alive, can’t we appreciate they had done? Give them some form of pensions / monetary aid or whatever you may want to call it. After all, they have very little years left to see the daylight on this planet. Let them be happy and in the knowledge that the services they had rendered to the nation is well remembered and appreciated.

Tracker Unau in his heyday as a young Tracker in Malaya in 1952
Abdul Rahman Unau Bin Abdullah as he is today
Penghulu Jinggut (2nd from right) together with Malcom McDonald, Temenggong Jugah and Penghulu Sibat
Datuk Temenggong Jinggot ak Penghulu Atan today. He was one of the earliest Trackers to be sent to Malaya in 1948.
Tracker Maja with Sgt George Swetman of 1st Bn The Manchester Regiment.


  1. Sir,

    Was Sarawak Rangers trained by scottish?? What i can see, Royal Rangers have some similar tradition to the scotts like bagpipe band..

    O yea, could you explain why only Rangers have hackles on the berets and they use black buttons and black collar dots on their no. 3 uniforms??

  2. Lt Peh,

    Sarawak Rangers had been trained by the British Army personnels, either during the Brooke era or in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency 1948 - 1960. Even the first three Malaysian Rangers Battalions, namely 1st Rangers, 2nd Rangers and 3rd Rangers were raised and trained by the British before they were handed over to the Malaysian Government.

    They were modelled after the light infantry regiments of the British Army. It is therefore not strange that the modern Rangers have many similarities with the British counterparts in terms of equipments, clothings and traditions.

  3. Squad,

    As I said in my blog, 'pengiktirafan negara kepada yang mengharumkan nama negara...bukannya yang berkorban demi untuk mempertahankan kedaulatan negara'.

  4. Squad,

    We can only bark. Hopefully our barkings can be heard by the right people.

  5. In Malaysia, they do only for their convenience of their political survival. They will recognize people who will provide their campaign and tea money.

    Unless veterans learn how to organise and use their votes to change the system, you will be used till the day you close your eyes for the last time.

  6. I hope my attempt to bring back the Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers home to Sarawak do not go to waste.

  7. Hello.

    Does anyone know the whereabouts of Unau Anak Sauh today?

  8. Anonymous,

    Unau is now residing in Johor Bharu with his siblings and have embraced Islam. His new name is Abdul Rahman Unau Bin Abdullah.

    1. Unau @Abdul Rahman Unau Bin Abdullah passed away on February 2014 in home in Ulu Tiram, Johor Bharu.

  9. hello.

    do you know where he is stayin in JB? any contact or emails or fb of his children or family?


  10. Are you still intouch with Sgt George Swetman ?