Sabah’s history from 1946 to 1963 needs documentation – Professor

KOTA KINABALU: There is a need for more local historians to document what happened in Sabah from 1946 to 1963, according to local historian Professor Dr Danny Wong Tze Ken.

This was because no documentation was carried out during this period of 17 years, Wong said in his keynote address at the Sabah Society’s 50th anniversary dinner on Saturday night.

While there were documentations like the work of Tan Sri Herman Luping and the late Datuk James Ongkili to refer to, there was not much else because historians have not started working on this period, Wong said.

Therefore, more Sabahan historians needed to do research on Sabah’s history, especially about time after the World War II, Wong said in his address entitled “Recent Development in the study of Sabah’s history”.

He began with the colonial era and the Chartered Company days which to the locals was the beginning of social transformation from tradition to modernity.

“Many began to attend schools and those who received modern education moved on to occupy white-collared jobs. This is an important transformation that was suddenly taking place. So by the time the Japanese army came in 1942, a sizable number of locals have been educated and then formed the nucleus of a group of elite that would emerge after the war as an alternative to the traditional elite that was based on lineage and family,” he said.

According to Wong, the Japanese occupation ended the Chartered Company rule in Sabah. However, despite its importance, the knowledge of this period was very sketchy.

There were some publications on this period but still insufficient to provide a larger and clearer picture, he said, adding that the lack of information on the war was of course caused by the massive loss of lives that happened during the closing stage of the war.

“With the destruction, many individuals as well as collective memories were lost. Most of what we know today were information about what happened during the war collected from archives abroad to reconstruct the history of that period,” he said.

Wong also pointed out that the attention on the war had been drawn to the plight of the allied prisoners of war (POWs) who were interned in Sandakan and the Death March.

“Even Sabah Society organized an expedition to retrace the route of the death march but the local involvement with the POWs however has not been given sufficient attention. We have one or two pieces of work but still more needed to be done so that a more comprehensive view of the event could be achieved.

“Another event that occurred during the war that affected us so much was the uprising in Jesselton against the Japanese army, ‘Kinabalu uprising’ which triggered off a series of chain reaction that ended with the people in Sabah paying a very high price for it.

“Of all so many events that took place in Sabah during the war, this is the only event that made it into the national school textbooks. For me, this is a very interesting and important event because it was probably the only locally organised armed resistance in the country and it had a multi-ethnic set-up,” he said, adding that this was surely a lesson to others of how people from different ethnic groups coming together working against a common enemy.

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