Wednesday, June 26

Remembering fallen war heroes with wreaths

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Yee laying the wreath yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: No speeches were needed. Wreaths laid in front of the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Monument were enough to tell the story.

And after a minute of silence, the sound of trumpet solo of the ‘Last Post’, a song that symbolises the end of soldiers’ lives, could be heard at the background, creating a sombre effect to the special day to commemorate those who perished during World War II.

Facing the monument were dignitaries led by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai and the High Commissioner of Australia to Malaysia, Miles Kupa, as they waited for their names to be called out to lay the wreaths.

And although the wreath laying at the memorial, erected along Jalan Tugu, here, is practised annually, one cannot help but to feel emotional, especially reminded of the sufferings endured by the fallen heroes.

Australians and New Zealanders recognise April 25 as a ceremonial occasion to reflect on the cost of war and to remember those who fought and lost their lives for their country.

Commemorative services are held at dawn, the time of the original landing, mainly at war memorials in cities and towns across both nations, as well as in Sabah.

Prior to the wreath laying here, a special run dubbed the ‘Lest We Forget’ was organised, luring some 250 participants coming from 30 contingents comprising school students, undergraduates from higher learning institutions, as well as government personnel and non-governmental organisation members.

The five-kilometre run was jointly organised by Athletics Australia and the Returned Services League of Australia, and is simultaneously held across Australia. It is designed to capture the Anzac Spirit.

In Sabah, the run reminds us of the most brutal and senseless slaughter of defenseless men in war. Over 2,400 British and Australian prisoners of war (POW) were taken from Singapore after the capitation of Singapore in 1942 to build an airstrip in Sandakan where they endured the most appalling conditions in the Japanese POW Camp at Mile 8.

After months of torture, the POWs were forced to march a torturous 160 miles from Sandakan to Ranau between January and August 1945. Only six survived the death march.

The ‘Lest We Forget’ is a reminder of the allied heroes during the liberation of Sabah who made the supreme sacrifice so that future generations live as free people today.

It is also to cement the bond that Sabah share with Australia ever since the Japanese occupation.

Also present at the event were City Hall director-general Datuk Yeo Boon Hai, Deputy High Commissioner of Australia to Malaysia, Grag Chittick, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Peter Pang, deputy state police commissioner SAC II Datuk Tan Kok Liang, Major John Sembilan representing the Fifth Infantry Brigade, and Commander Choong Chin Aun from the Royal Malaysian Navy.