ETIN Bijan, Sarawak’s sole surviving recipient of the nation’s highest gallantry award Seri Pahlawah Gagah Perkasa (SP), has called for greater recognition and appreciation of the sacrifices of veteran policemen and border scouts in defending the country and the state.
The 79-year-old said they had sacrificed their life and limbs to protect the country and Sarawak during the days of the Confrontation in 1963, and the communist insurgency.
Speaking with the aid of his eldest daughter Linda, the soft-spoken and now
partially-deaf veteran said he was appreciative of being awarded the SP, but he also hoped his homeland Sarawak would accord recognition to veterans or their families who had sacrificed so much.
“There should be better welfare programmes for police veterans,” said Etin, who retired from the then-Police Field Force 25 years ago.
The Dayak hero from Engkilili now lives with his family in a humble terraced-house not far from his beloved battalion in Miri, where he has served with for 31 years.
Like many families of members of security forces, his family has lived with their life on edge during the days of the Confrontation and communist insurgency.
“In our field, we didn’t know what might happen next and we just yearned for the end of day, month and year back then,” he said, recalling that he had seen his comrades fall in their line of duty.
On April 27, 1972, Etin’s team led by Sgt Ngalinuh Bala @ Killah Ratu was ambushed by a large group from the Clandestine Communist Organisation (CCO) while escorting personnel from the Public Works Department, who were sending three caches of explosives on board a lorry, to a quarry at Jalan Ulu Oya.
As his comrades provided cover fire, he charged forward through hails of bullets and grenades lobbed to shoot dead one communist and injured an unknown number of enemies.
This also led to the recovery of valuable intelligence documents and prevented the explosives from falling into the hands of communist guerrillas.
Ngalinuh was shot in the right thigh in the battle, which was only over after reinforcement had arrived and forced the enemy to retreat.
Ngalinuh and Etin were later conferred the SP Medal by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong in 1972.
Ngalinuh passed away last month at age 79. He was given a state funeral.
Linda, meanwhile, said her father would always be her hero as he had won many more battles than just against the communists.
“He quit smoking in his 70s – his iron-clad discipline was simply amazing to me, and the doctor who told him so,” she said.