For­mer head­mas­ter re­calls ten­sions of the Con­fronta­tion

The Borneo Post - - HOME - By Jude Toyat re­porters@the­bor­neo­post.com

Ev­ery time the mor­tar was fired, the school would close and when the sit­u­a­tion calmed down, it re­opened be­cause dur­ing that time only Ba Kelalan had a school for the con­ve­nience of stu­dents from sev­eral sur­round­ing vil­lages. — Penghulu Den­nis Yahya At­ing, for­mer head­mas­ter of pri­mary school in Ba Kelalan

MIRI: In 1963, prior to the for­ma­tion of Malaysia on Sept 16, and un­til Au­gust 1966, Sarawak and Sabah – then North Bor­neo, faced an un­de­clared war known as the Con­fronta­tion, which stemmed from In­done­sia’s op­po­si­tion to the for­ma­tion of the new nation.

Much of the fight­ing took place in ar­eas be­tween the bor­der of Kal­i­man­tan, In­done­sia and Sarawak and Sabah.

Among those who ex­pe­ri­enced the Con­fronta­tion first-hand was Penghulu Den­nis Yahya At­ing – for­mer head­mas­ter of a pri­mary school in Ba Kelalan.

The school – lo­cated near the bor­der with Long Bawan, In­done­sia – faced threats from mor­tar fire at least once a week.

“Ev­ery time the mor­tar was fired, the school would close and when the sit­u­a­tion calmed down, it re­opened be­cause dur­ing that time only Ba Kelalan had a school for the con­ve­nience of stu­dents from sev­eral sur­round­ing vil­lages,” he said.

When con­di­tions wors­ened, he de­cided to close the school tem­po­rar­ily.

“The sit­u­a­tion be­came so heated that I told my­self that I must learn to be­come a sol­dier, and at that time there was an in­take for Bor­der Scouts train­ing at my vil­lage in Long Se­madoh,” he said.

“My heart could not stand it. I told my­self that I must join the vil­lagers to de­fend our­selves against enemy at­tacks. I went back to Long Se­madoh to meet the of­fi­cials ex­press­ing my de­sire to join the Bor­der Scouts.”

How­ever, his ap­pli­ca­tion was ini­tially re­jected.

“After the of­fi­cer found out that I was a teacher, they re­fused be­cause they said I needed to work.

“I told them that I can­not af­ford to live and see my beloved Long Se­madoh and Ba Kelalan con­tinue to be at­tacked, my wish was then granted,” Den­nis ex­plained.

Although they would not pro­vide him with the then 150dol­lar train­ing al­lowance be­cause he was a teacher, Den­nis still in­sisted on sign­ing up.

“I told them that I did not mind to not re­ceive the al­lowance as it was more im­por­tant for me to be ac­cepted,” he said, adding that he un­der­went train­ing in Long Se­madoh for a month.

Den­nis said dur­ing the con­fronta­tion, Ba Kelalan and Long Se­madoh were filled with Bri­tish and Gurkha sol­diers.

“Among my most un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ences was when I was on duty in Long Se­madoh, we were in­formed that the enemy in­fil­trated into Long Lup­ing. The in­for­ma­tion was de­liv­ered by the vil­lagers after they were forced to feed the rebels who were all hun­gry after a long stay in the woods.

“We then went to Long Lup­ing. In the op­er­a­tion, a Bor­der Scout was shot,” he re­called.

Den­nis served as a Bor­der Scout for a month be­fore be­ing asked to re­open the school.

“An ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer from Lawas came to meet me in Long Se­madoh. He asked me to re­open the school that had been closed for some time.

“I then re­turned to Ba Kelalan to con­tinue work­ing as a teacher, but I was al­ways ready to re­turn to work as a Bor­der Scouts if the need arose,” he said.

Now aged 76, the father of eight chil­dren aged 27 to 57 still re­mem­bers clearly the strug­gles of de­fend­ing his coun­try.

“It is im­por­tant for us to main­tain the se­cu­rity and in­de­pen­dence we have to­day.

“In Long Se­madoh, many have joined the Peo­ple’s Vol­un­teer Corps (Rela) to demon­strate our love for our coun­try,” he added.

Den­nis now serves as penghulu to 12 vil­lages in Long Se­madoh.

DEN­NIS YAHYA AT­ING

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.