THE Malaysian Army celebrates Army Day on March 1 every year.
For the 87th edition this year, Sabah was chosen as host for the national-level celebration themed ‘Army with the People, Ready at all times’.
Army chief General Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Ahmad Hasbullah Mohd Nawawi officiated at the event.
Sabah was chosen because of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) based in Lahad Datu.
To mark Army Day, programmes had been carried out since Jan 19, culminating in the actual celebration on March 1.
Among the activities were Convoy Battlegroup (a road tour of military tanks and armoured combat vehicles) from Tawau to Kota Kinabalu, visits to schools, Battle of the Bands competition, and military tattoo acrobatics performance.
In Sarawak, Army Day was celebrated on March 1 at the Eastern Field Command in Muara Tuang, where some 1,650 Kuching Zone officers and personnel took part in the marchpast while chief of staff Brig Gen Datuk Kamarul Fauzi Mohd Said read out the messages.
First Division Infantry commander Major Gen Datuk Md Din Abu said the celebration was very special to the officers and personnel of the Royal Ranger Regiment (RRD), which was honoured as an exemplary corps, as well as those who have served and are still serving with it.
“In Sarawak, we have a major gala marchpast. It’s an appreciation of all our fighters as we look back at how the Sarawak Rangers was formed into an army and became a dominant military power in the Malaysian Army.
“RRD is considered dominant because it’s the biggest apart from the Royal Malay Regiment Army (RAMD). We want to honour all RRD members who have served and who are still serving with the regiment.
“This is, indeed, a great honour for the regiment, especially those who had served in the earlier days under the British colonial government and were known as the Sarawak Rangers. Even after the name has been changed to RRD, they are still very much part of us.”
Narrating the history of the RRD, Md Din, who is also RRD chairman, said the formation of the outfit came about after the dissolution of the Sarawak Rangers in 1862.
“In the Malaysian Army organisation chart, we have our command functions. I’m the chairman of RRD, which is recognised by the Rulers’ Council. Our Royal Ranger Regiment (RRR) is under the Raja of Perlis, His Royal Highness Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullail. For RAMD, the highest ruler in-charge is the Sultan of Kedah.
“During the colonial days, the Sarawak Rangers was formed by the British as trackers to help them during World War I and II. When Malaysia was formed, the army formed one battalion – the First Battalion – in September 1965. At that time, not all Sarawak Rangers joined the battalion.
“In fact, during the colonial days, apart from the Sarawak First Rangers, Sabah also had theirs – the Second Rangers. That was how the war cry of the Sarawak Rangers came about – ‘Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban’ (As long as I live, I will fight) which is still used today by RRD.
“For the Sabah Rangers, their war cry is ‘Osiou Oh Kamanang’ (Who dares wins).”
RRD for all races
Explaining further, Md Din said RRD is one of the infantry corps under the same flag as RAMD but RAMD is only for the Malays as per the enactment of 1936, whereas all Malaysian citizens – Malays, Chinese, Dayaks, Kadazandusun, Orang Ulu, Indians, Orang Asli, etc – could join RRD.
“RRD is the battalion for all races in Malaysia but the First Rangers during the colonial days was only for Sarawakians. That was the development from 1963. And for 57 years, it was parallel with the Malaysian Army.
“As of now, RRD has 10 battalions throughout Malaysia but only two in Sarawak. We might be small but we are strong. Our weapons are more – and sophisticated – so we are parallel with RAMD in terms of assets.
“Whatever they have, we also have – from Battalion Mekanize (parachute teams), warships, and tanks. For exercises, we can join forces with them.”
Md Din expressed his appreciation and gratitude to the Iban leaders in the army, who helped to form and make the Malaysian Army what it is today, especially in Sarawak.
“On this Army Day, my deepest gratitude goes to Iban army leaders such as Lt Gen Datuk Stephen Mundaw, who has won the highest award of the Malaysian Army.
“My appreciation also goes to an old friend, Col (R) Dunstan Nyaring, who was my boss when I joined the army, and another colleague, Lt Col (R) Robert Rizal Abdullah, to name a few of the great Sarawakians in the Malaysian Army.”
According to Md Din, one of the highest awards, presented by the government to the Malaysian Army, is the Panglima Gagah Berani (for bravery and valour).
It is given to army personnel who showed exemplary courage and gallantry in combat and is made up of white, blue, yellow, and red diagonal stripes.
The latest recipient was the late Temenggong Datuk Kanang Langkau.
Md Din said the highest honour goes to those Iban trackers and Sarawak Rangers who left their families behind to help the British soldiers fight the communists in Malaya and Singapore during the Emergency.
“Our utmost gratitude for their sacrifices and their services will always be remembered. Our gratitude also goes to Robert Rizal, who never ceased in his efforts to get help from the government to have the remains of the fallen Rangers sent back to Sarawak.
“Finally, on July 26, 2013, the remains of the Iban trackers and Sarawak Rangers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Ops Mai Pulai were flown back to Sarawak in a Hercules C-130, which touched down at TUDM Kuching.
“Military honours were also accorded the fallen heroes by the Third Battalion RRD before the burials on July 27, 2013, at Heroes’ Grave at Bulatan Budaya in Kuching.”
Rangers’ war cry
On the war cry – ‘Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban’ – Md Din said it is still being used till this very day.
“We adopted it the day Sarawak Rangers was formed because, at that time, most of the Rangers were Ibans.
“According to my officers who worked with the Rangers back then, the latter were predominantly Ibans and our directives and notifications were written in Iban on one side and Malay on one side.
“So if you see our ceremonial colours (the flag), they are almost similar to the Sarawak colours. In line with our war cry – ‘Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban’ – our colours are red, yellow, and black (the Sarawak Flag colours) except the yellow is placed in the middle. That’s the only difference.”
The involvement and job scope of RRD range from being a fighting unit to looking after the Malaysian-Indonesian border.
Md Din said there is a Border Regiment in the Malaysian Army to patrol and look after the borders.
“For example, the 30th Brigade looks after the Malaysian-Thai border in Peninsular Malaysia while in Sarawak, there is the 31st Brigade. It’s still new – perhaps between four and five years old – and RRD is helping them to look after the border in the state.”
He also said in Sarawak, everything is under control, adding that the country has a good relationship with neighbouring Indonesia.
“Bilateral ties are very important in that both countries can share security intelligence and Kalimantan, Indonesia and Sarawak, Malaysia have such vast areas.
“There are many programmes we carry out together such as army training to enhance this relationship. We do patrolling together and exchange programmes. These are all very important.”
On the RRD’s next transformation, Md Din said this would depend on the Malaysian Army going to the next level – probably cyber warfare.
“We’ll follow the current development and I hope our military will be well trained in the years to come. You must learn to use the latest gadgets and as the man behind these gadgets, you need to be knowledgeable and well-equipped to handle any situation.
“You have to be fit and smart. In general, be an expert in your job. If you don’t know your basics, go back to basic and train, train, and train.”
On welfare, he said this is very important for the army, especially in terms of housing, salary, and health benefits, among others.
He added that benefits for the army were considered one of the best in the country.
“When you’re in the army, we’ll take care of you. Even if you retire, we will still help you through good and bad times.”
A monument would be erected at Kampung Opek, Biawak, in Lundu, to commemorate the fallen RRD heroes who were ambushed in the kampung area on March 26, 1972.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg is expected to officiate at the unveiling ceremony on March 21.
On the ambush, Md Din related on that fateful morning, three vehicles – a land rover and two Bedford trucks – left 7th Tactical RRD in Lundu for Biawak Camp.
According to him, Cpl Salleh (welder) was in the land rover driven by Md Desa – both from No. 3 Engineering Squadron based at Penrissen Camp, Kuching.
They were to inspect the repairs at the Biawak Camp, which served an ATM/Army Joint Position, besides helping 7 RRD with repair works.
For this purpose, some members from the carpentry division joined the team to Biawak. They, together with several members from the Regiment, served as escorts in two three-ton Bedford trucks, each carrying nine members. The group was led by Sgt Basha Sulaiman.
After the repairs and lunch, they left for Lundu at about 3.30pm. The engineering team was to spend a night in Lundu before leaving for Kuching.
The weather was hot and conditions were tough, especially for those in the roofless Bedford trucks with dust from the un-tarred road flying about during the drive from Biawak to Lundu.
The road to Kampung Jangkar was about 5km from Biawak Camp and 10km from Titi Akar Camp. It was a straight road and the terrain on both sides was about the same height as the land rover. A few metres from the cliff to the edge of the jungle were relatively clear – without any bush.
At about 3.45 pm, the vehicles passed this straightway, then suddenly bang … bang … bang. The RRD team was attacked by a communist group (known at that time as Parti Guerilla Rakyat Sarawak or PGRS).
The guerrillas opened fire at all three vehicles. Salleh ordered his driver to rush to Titi Akar Camp to get reinforcements from 1 Peninjau.
During the ambush, one of the Bedford trucks overturned and ended up on the left side of the road which was also an enemy position.
Ranger Zainuddin Ahmad was shot three times – in his left knee, right index finger, and chest under his armpit. Blood flowed out of his mouth and he died shortly after.
The others were also wounded, some seriously, and some died from their wounds.
In the ensuing turmoil, the guerrillas descended from their positions onto the vehicles to seize the weapons and radio sets.
“These were some of the scenarios our RRD had faced. It’s not always a smooth road. In the line of duty, some were badly wounded and some died from their wounds. Some families lost their breadwinners and children lost their fathers.
“They deserve our utmost appreciation, gratitude and respect for laying down their lives to protect our country and the people,” Md Din added.