SANDAKAN: The friendship between Australia and Malaysia has in part been shaped by the common and bitter experience of war.
Governor-General of Australia Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd) said in the last months of World War Two, almost 2,500 Australian and British prisoners-of-war were forced to march over 250 kilometres in Sabah.
“This was a war we can never forget, a war we will never forget because what happened here so long ago continues to matter.
“This is why we are here today. To remember, to honour, and to pay our respects to those who sacrificed it all,” he said at the Sandakan Memorial Service at the Sandakan Memorial Park here today.
This year’s memorial service marks the 70th year of what is now known as the “Death Marches,” through which prisoners-of-war were made to walk from Sandakan to Ranau towards the end of the war.
Peter said only six of the over 2,000 men survived the war.
“Following the marches, so many futures were cut off and dreams and aspirations left unfulfilled. And of course the lives of families left behind forever. Those were cruel times.
“And the people of Sabah also suffered. Australia is forever grateful to them for the support they showed to those in captivity. These brave men and women participated in the resistance, aided those in captivity and sheltered the
few who managed to escape.
“Their example of courage and humanity is a story to tell our children and we remember them just as we remember our own,” said Peter.
Sabah was represented by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Raymond Tan Shu Kiah at the service. -Bernama