Kalabakan tragedy tested our unity, say Malaysians
TAWAU: The tragedy in Kalabakan on Dec 29, 1963, is still fresh in the minds of Sabahans, especially former security members involved in the fight to defend the state from invasion by the Indonesian National Armed Forces.
The incident showcased the unity of the security forces from Sabah, Sarawak and the Peninsula just months after the formation of the Malaysian Federation on Sept 16 that year.
A battalion from the 3rd Royal Malay Regiment in peninsular Malaysia, the Police Field Force, Sabah Home Guard and villagers in Kalabakan united to fight off the attacks.
The intruders were dissatisfied with Sabah and Sarawak for joining the federation.
The Kalabakan incident resulted in the deaths of an officer and seven men from the Royal Malay Regiment while 18 other personnel were injured defending the military base that was on the border with East Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Former Sabah Home Guard personnel Dewan Husin, 74, said today’s generation should be thankful that they were born at a time when peace and harmony had already been secured, inheriting a safe and developing nation.
“The formation of Malaysia motivated people from the numerous races in the country to work together to uphold its security.
“I urge Malaysians to always treasure the peace earned from the sacrifices made on the road to independence and the formation of Malaysia,” he said.
Dewan said that following the incident, a curfew was imposed and the residents of Kalabakan were instructed to shelter in dugouts and to keep all lights off at night – it was a difficult time.
Retired teacher Imran Omar, 71, said there were many lessons to be learned from the history of the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation, particularly the tragedy in Kalabakan.
“Following the formation of Malaysia, Royal Malay Regiment personnel were dispatched to ensure that the border at Kalabakan and Wallace Bay (Pulau Sebatik) were well guarded.
For former Tawau district head, Salleh Sallabi, 79, the confrontation tested the combined strength of Sabah, Sarawak and the Federation of Malaya against Indonesia which launched the “Ganyang Malaysia” war campaign and the Philippines which claimed Sabah as its territory. — Bernama