KUCHING: The Iban warrior cry of “Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban”, meaning fight until death, and a strong sense of comradeship were the bond that bound the late national hero Datuk Temenggong Kanang Langkau and other former soldiers who had fought bravely for the nation, especially during the communist insurgency.
In paying tribute to the nation’s most decorated soldier, the government’s decision to accord Kanang a state funeral in Sarawak and subsequent burial at the Heroes’ Grave, here, was most apt, said Malaysian Ex-Servicemen’s Association, (PBTM) Sarawak branch advisor Major (R) Peter Runin.
He said it was very rare indeed in Malaysian history that a soldier like Kanang, whom he described as a “personal friend”, had been awarded both the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP), the country’s highest award for gallantry, as well as the Panglima Gagah Berani (PG) medal.
The retired first warrant officer of the Eighth Batallion Royal Rangers remained the first and only person in the Malaysian Armed Forces to have received two gallantry awards.
He passed away early today at the Sarawak General Hospital here, aged 68, and is survived by his wife, Datin Brawang Chunggat, six children and eight grandchildren.
Despite his heroic stature, the veteran Kanang was a jovial person, full of humour and mixed around easily, Runin told Bernama, here.
“We were not just former comrades, we kept in touch and he (Kanang) was very supportive of our (association) activities,” he said, alluding to the stint when both served together in the Rajang Security Command (Rascom) headquarters in Sibu from 1985-1986.
Best remembered for his role in leading his batallion’s Combat Intelligence Platoon which tracked down and killed five communist terrorists during the Perak fire fight at the height of the communist insurgency, Kanang again made headlines after rescuing a baby orang utan from captivity and handing it over to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre, here, three years ago.
And to add another feather to his beret, he was conferred the Panglima Gemilang Bintang Kenyalang (PGBK) award which carried the title of “Datuk” by Sarawak head of state, Tun Abang Muhammad Salahuddin Abang Barieng, in conjunction with the latter’s 90th birthday on Sept 24, 2011.
He was also the current temenggong or paramount chief of the Iban community in Sri Aman division, in charge of more than 100 Iban longhouses, which are scattered in Lubok Antu, Engkilili, Sri Aman, Pantu, Lingga and Skrang.
Working closely with the Sri Aman Resident’s Office to provide government assistance had also given him an insight into the tremendous changes that had taken place in the people’s socio-economic living standard, especially since Sarawak achieved independence within Malaysia, he had said in an interview with Bernama previously.
Recalling the hardship endured by the villagers, including his remote longhouse in Julau, he had said that his childhood memories of the 1950s and early 1960s were of small flickering oil lamps being used to light up the longhouses at night, which greatly restricted any communal activities or gatherings while few rural schools were in existence then.
As the nation’s pride due to his bravery, he had also confessed to feeling more at home in the deep, hostile jungles fighting communist insurgents than strolling down the streets of Malaysia’s modern and bustling cities.
His untimely demise is not only a great loss to the nation but also deeply felt by his immediate family members and the entire local community in Sarawak.
His widow, Brawang, said Kanang had suddenly fainted around midnight and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance from their home in Kampung Sungei Apong Baru, here. – Bernama