Thursday, June 20

Upgrade, promote memorial to tourists – Lajim

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BEAUFORT: Beaufort member of parliament Datuk Seri Lajim Ukin wants the Startevich Memorial here to be upgraded and promoted as a tourism product to attract visitors, especially Australians.

Lajim also called on the Sabah Tourism Promotion Board (STPB) to develop a special package for tourists which will include a guided tour to the memorial site, in addition to other places of interest in Beaufort.

“STPB should come up with a package which allows tourists to stay here and visit the site so that they can learn about the history of this area,” he said to reporters yesterday when met after a service at the memorial site.

Startevich Memorial was erected to remember the gallantry of Australian soldier Private Leslie Thomas “Tom” Starcevich, who in the World War II single-handedly destroyed four enemy machine gun posts near to where the site is now.

Beaufort together with Weston played important roles during the Borneo campaign of 1945.

After the Australian Ninth Division re-captured Brunei and Labuan from the enemies, they turned their attention to mainland Sabah as part of the final phase of their campaign, with the re-capture of Weston and Beaufort amongst the main objectives of their advance.

During the capture of Beaufort, the leading section of Starcevich’s unit came under fire from Japanese machine-gun posts and had suffered casualties.

Starcevich, a Bren-gunner, moved forward and assaulted each post in turn, killing five enemies in the process and causing the rest to retreat.

When the section was held up again, Starcevich adopted a similar tactic and single-handedly captured two more posts disposing off seven enemies.

For his bravery, Starcevich who grew up and later lived at Grass Patch, north of Esperance, Western Australia, served as a private in the 2/43rd Battalion of the Australian Army and was awarded with the Victoria Cross (VC).

The ‘VC’ is the highest decoration for gallantry “in the face of the enemy” awarded to members of the British and Commonwealth armed forces.

Lajim, who is Deputy Housing and Local Government Minister, said war memorials such as the Starcevich’s, hold interesting stories which can appeal to curious visitors.

He said it was only appropriate to further enhance and value-add the site, not only for the purpose of attracting visitors but also in appreciation of the entire heroic effort, courage and gallant sacrifice rendered by the soldiers, particularly the Australians who fought in the then North Borneo during the Second World War (WWII).

Lajim said Sabah had several historical heritage sites that could be improved, maintained and promoted as tourism destinations.

He suggested the Tourism Ministry work with other agencies, including the Archives Department, to properly develop, catalogue and package these sites into tourism products.

The deputy minister also urged related departments to work on attracting investors to Beaufort to develop tourism facilities and accomodations.

He said there was also need to improve existing facilities at tourism spots in the district, especially along the Klias River, which is a popular destination for white water rafting enthusiasts.

Speaking at the memorial service earlier, Lajim on behalf of the State Government, expressed gratitude for the heroism of the Australian forces in combating the Japanese during WWII in Sabah.

“We are deeply indebted for their sacrifice and bravery. It was timely and justified that we render the heroes respect by giving them a ceremonial service.

He said the Starcevich Memorial is an important historical heritage site in the state and the State Government had declared the Startevich Memorial a cultural heritage in 1998 to ensure the site is preserved in perpetuity.

The Starcevich Memorial has enhanced the strong linkage, friendship and relationship between Malaysia and Australia.