Tragedy of war

Doc­u­men­tary Su­atu Ketika...Kawad MautSan­dakan and minis­eries Su­atu Ketika...Ak­in­a­balu re­count World War II atroc­i­ties.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TV - By SHAMALA VELU San­dakan Ak­in­a­balu Su­atuKetika...KawadMaut Su­atuKetika...

WHEN peo­ple think of atroc­i­ties that took place dur­ing World War II, con­cen­tra­tion camps usu­ally come to mind. How­ever, the Ja­panese mil­i­tary was equally bru­tal, car­ry­ing out ex­ces­sive car­nage dur­ing the war in South-East Asia.

Among the tragic events were the San­dakan-Ranau Death Marches which claimed the lives of 2,428 pris­on­ers of war (POWs) be­tween 1943 and 1945.

San­dakan in North Bor­neo (now Sabah) be­came the prison com­pound for Aus­tralian and Bri­tish POWs af­ter the fall of Singapore in 1942.

They were sent to San­dakan to help build a mil­i­tary airstrip for the Ja­panese. The POWs were not only forced to work at gun­point, but were also se­verely beaten and not given proper food and med­i­cal treat­ment. Many per­ished and those who sur­vived were even­tu­ally too weak to con­tinue work­ing.

In Jan­uary 1945, when the Al­lies were mov­ing closer to vic­tory, the Ja­panese de­cided to move the large group of pris­on­ers from San­dakan fur­ther west to Ranau. Two groups of de­bil­i­tated and starv­ing men marched 260km through the jun­gles.

Those who were too sick to leave San­dakan were left to die at the camp while hun­dreds per­ished dur­ing the two death marches. By the end of the war, only six Aus­tralians sur­vived the or­deal.

The story of the tragic war and deaths is the fo­cus of Su­atu Ketika ... Ak­in­a­balu on Astro Ci­tra. There is also a love story set against the back­drop of war.

The new minis­eries pays trib­ute to the POWs in­volved in the San­dakan Death Marches.

Di­rec­tor Kabir Bhatia said many Malaysians seem to be in the dark about this very dis­turb­ing chap­ter of World War II.

“The Death Marches de­pict the mad­ness of war and its cru­elty, and the strength hu­mans have in the face of ad­ver­sity,” said Kabir, 41.

“There were only six sur­vivors but they were not will­ing to talk in-depth about what took place. I guess the scars are deep and most ac­counts have been sketchy,” he said, adding that the data col­lected were based on his­tor­i­cal facts as well as ar­chive re­search.

“More im­por­tantly, Su­atu Ketika ... Ak­in­a­balu also por­trays how Saba­hans helped the POWs who were treated like an­i­mals by the Ja­panese. They paid heav­ily for their brav­ery.”

The biggest chal­lenge, ac­cord­ing to Kabir, was mak­ing sure that the set and sur­round­ings looked real. For that, Kabir roped in ac­tors from Bri­tain to play the key roles.

“Find­ing ac­tors to play the Saba­hans and the Ja­panese was also chal­leng­ing,” he said, adding that the char­ac­ters in the minis­eries are fic­tional.

Astro Ci­tra chan­nel man­ager Shoba Devi said: “It’s im­por­tant to re­mind the young gen­er­a­tion of Malaysians to ap­pre­ci­ate our his­tory and re­mem­ber the atroc­i­ties suf­fered by thou­sands of sol­diers dur­ing World War II.

“Al­though Su­atu Ketika ... Ak­in­a­balu has been fic­tion­alised for dra­matic ef­fect, the essence of the story is still very real and com­pelling.”

The ac­tors play­ing the lead roles are Dira Abu Za­har, Gavin Sten­house, Aaron Aziz and Munif Isa.

Ac­com­pa­ny­ing this drama is the doc­u­men­tary on Astro Prima, Su­atu Ketika ... Kawad Maut San­dakan, that is based on the San­dakan Death Marches.

It fea­tures nar­ra­tion by sur­vivors and lo­cal res­i­dents who re­called the tragedy. It is di­rected by Basir Siswo. n Doc­u­men­tary

pre­mieres on Astro Prima (Chan­nel 105) on Sun­day (4.30pm) and

airs on Astro Ci­tra (Chan­nel 131) on Sun­day (9pm).

Dis­turb­ing chap­ter: Su­atuKetika...Ak­in­a­balu, which tells of the San­dakan-Ranau Death Marches, will air on Astro Ci­tra on Sun­day.

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