Friday, August 19

First steps towards peace



FORMER Simanggang Assemblyman and Iban Temenggong Michael Pilo Gangga, a District Offi cer of Kanowit District from 1971 to 1972 relates his involvement in a Special Branch Project in 1971 luring members of Pasukan Rakyat Kalimantan Utara (PARAKU) operating in Sungai Ngemah, Kanowit to surrender and return to society.

I still remember Oct 21 1971 like it was yesterday.

It was a bright Thursday morning, just a little after 10 when the late SAC Datuk Lawrence Lim, who was then the Police Divisional Special Branch Officer of Sibu Division, and I were travelling along the Ngemah River towards an agreed meeting point in the vicinity of a village called Rantau Dilang.

At any point during that trip, we could have had our heads shot off.

Members of the Pasukan Rakyat Kalimantan Utara (PARAKU) were known to operate along the Ngemah River but that didn’t stop us.

Although we were prepared for any eventuality, this was a mission based purely on trust.

Six PARAKU members had promised to come out of the jungle peacefully. Three months prior, I had written a letter to PARAKU to persuade them to surrender.

I sent the letter through one of their wives, a woman known as Imba, whom we fondly called Ibo.

It was a tenuous situation. I wrote several letters in Iban, going through the content several times with Ibo to make sure the communist insurgents and her husband understood my messages.

Thankfully, Ibo was very co-operative and I appreciated her willingness to act as our mediator courier.

Without her, our project would not have been successful.

As the result of my letters, the insurgents finally agreed to come out and surrender peacefully.

And so it was on that bright Thursday morning when we spotted a long boat carrying those six PARAKU members.

I took my hat off and waved them to slow down. They did so, and together we moved towards the Rantau Dilang Primary School jetty to meet in a more formal manner.

When we disembarked, the members shook hands with Lawrence and I, handing over the weapons in their possession, an assortment that included two Sterling guns with 120 rounds of 9mm ammunition, one carbine with 40 rounds of ammo, one rifl e with 60 rounds of ammo and two shotguns with 50 rounds of SG9 ammunition.

Their surrender was led by the leader in their area named Phang Nam Cheong, Ibo herself from Ulu Ngemah, Lai Fuk Chung from Sibu and Lim Ah Fook who now resides in Serian. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the names of the other two guerrillas.

After that, we escorted them to Sibu for their official surrender to the government.

Once it was over I was glad that I had done my part and my job towards securing the safety of the state and country.

It is sad that Lawrence, who was so much younger than I, is no longer around. He was an excellent offi cer and a true gentleman.

Without his companionship, dedication, bravery, intelligence, our peace efforts would not have been successful.

We had many adventures together when I served as a government offi cer in the Kanowit district and the memory is still fresh in my head.

I wish I could meet up with those insurgents members again.

The 79-year-old Pilo now spends his retirement on his farm in Sri Aman.