Tuesday, May 24

Bario marks 73rd anniversary of landing of Special Allied Team Z

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Mundaw shakes hands with Kelabit community leaders upon his arrival at the event.

MIRI: Bario residents on March 25 celebrated the 73rd anniversary of the landing of eight paratroopers of the Special Unit from the Special Allied Team Z, named ‘Semut 1’ which was led by Tom Harrison on March 25, 1945, in Bario.

The fifth official memorial service held in Bario was attended by representatives of David Henderson, son of Tom Henderson representing Commando Jack Tredrea – the only Special Unit Z member – his family friends and local Kelabit heroes who worked with them.

The ceremony was also attended by Mulu assemblyman Datuk Gerawat Gala, First Infantry Division commander Major General Datuk Stephen Mundaw, Rurum Kelabit Sarawak president Dr Philip Raja, 9th Infantry Brigade commander Brigadier General Datuk Dzulkafli Mustaffa, officers from First Infantry Division headquarters and 9th Infantry Brigade headquarters, 20th Royal Malay Regiment personnel stationed in Bario, community leaders and the Kelabit community.

The Kelabit community then presented Certificate of Honour to Tredrea, who was also awarded the traditional Kelabit name ‘Balang Makat Temurun’ and made a member of the Kelabit community for his sacrifices, friendship and contributions.

At the same time, Mundaw was honoured with the Kelabit name ‘Balang Dita’ (Great Hero).

“War is a terrible time – many lives were lost unnecessarily. History has taught us that peace can come at a high price, so we should not only appreciate it but also remember those who fight and die for it.

“Lest we forget, more than 2,000 locals were deployed under the operation Semut 1, Semut 2, Semut 3 and Semut 4 in Bario, Baram and Rajang valleys. These were brave people who fought for peace and freedom,” Mundaw said.

Meanwhile, Dr Philip said the Allied Forces landing at Bario marked an important chapter in the struggle for freedom as well as a starting point for the progressive community at Kelabit Highlands.

He said shortly after the war, Harrison returned to Kelabit Highlands – building his first school at Pa Main in 1946 and from his first batch of students, he had developed a small group into heroes and a pioneer of progress.

“These pioneers have returned to serve the society and made great progress, and then the second, third and fourth wave of progress was achieved through education.

“Today, there are university professors, medical doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers, corporate executives and artists from the Kelabit community,” Dr Philip said.

The event started with a minute’s silence in honour of the fighters killed during the Ops Semut, followed by the raising of the flags of Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia.

Mundaw, Gerawat and Dr Philip (seated front, fifth, sixth and seventh left respectively) and others gesture at the end of the ceremony.