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Sunday, March 28, 2010
In HAI-O TNPOD 8581 : BEAUTIFUL POWER formerly known him SSM ROBERT RIZAL ABDULLAH. You are my inspiration.... (DDM Meor Saiful Nazli beside him)
KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 — When the remains of 21 Iban warriors make their final journey home to Sarawak sometime this year, one of the country’s highly-decorated soldiers may just weep.
For the past 20 months, retired Lt Kol Robert Rizal Abdullah has been on an emotional mission every since he read the plea of a Sarawakian woman who had spotted on a blog that the grave of an Iban tracker was on a roadside in Alor Setar.
“My heart bled when I saw the picture. I vowed to take the matter up to the highest authority. It became my mission,” Robert Rizal wrote in his own blog (pgbwarrior/blogspot.com).
The task was code-named Ops Ngerapuh, the latter an Iban word which means moving the remains of the dead.
In an interview with Bernama, Robert Rizal, 61, appears very much relieved because for a while, Ops Ngerapuh seemed stalled.
“It is moving now. I am confident that this will be done by this year, we are trying by September, but it will be this year,” said the retired soldier who is working with the defence ministry and the Sarawak Government on this.
“A site has been identified in Kuching but I also heard that there are some bidders for the land because it is in a prime area,” he said.
The 15.4 acre (6.2 hectare) plot of government land is located in Kota Sentosa, amid several army camps at the 7th mile of the Kuching-Serian road.
Robert Rizal was formerly Robert Madang Langi, an Iban warrior himself who received the Panglima Gagah Berani medal, the nation’s second highest military gallantry award, after a courageous attack on communist terrorists in 1973 in Sarawak during his 25 years in uniform.
Ops Ngerapuh is firmly on track after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak pledged last month to send home the remains of the warriors, who were trackers and rangers recruited by the British colonial forces.
Robert Rizal said the prime minister was informed of it by Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu during his visit to Kuching.
“Once the land is confirmed by the state government, a memorial will be built and after that, the exhumations can be done easily,” he said.
Robert Rizal said of the 21 who were all killed in action between 1951 and 1963 during the country’s first emergency to fight communist guerillas, only the remains of 12 were left, the whereabouts of the rest were unknown.
Four were buried at the Batu Gajah Christian cemetery, two in the Kamunting Road Christian cemetery in Taiping, another four at the Cheras Christian cemetery in Kuala Lumpur while two were interred at the Kranji Military Cemetery in Singapore.
“The other nine are the names of eight whose names are etched at the Terendak Military Camp in Melaka and that of Ungkok anak Jugam whose gravestone was the one by the roadside in Alor Star that triggered this,” said Robert Rizal
Ungkok’s gravestone was moved to the side of the road at KM4, Jalan Langgar, Alor Setar, when a dual highway was built more than a decade ago, and the gravestone was left smack in the middle of the highway.
Robert Rizal said the gravestone was moved to the St Michael’s Catholic Church cemetery also in Alor Setar last April, and despite scanning a 100m radius, there were no bones detected in the vicinity of the original site.
He said so far, contact had been made with the next-of-kin of 18 of the deceased except for three — Private Empati anak Dugu, Private Letan anak Kusing and Border Scout Utot anak Tangang.
Discussions would be held with the families on how their warrior heroes would be re-buried.
“Some of the families have converted to Islam, there are some who are Christians and some still [animists]. We will follow their wishes,” said Robert Rizal.
Traditional Ibans use the ‘miring’ ceremony to ward off bad spirits and bade luck and such a ceremony was performed when Ungkok’s gravestone was shifted.
“I am doing this for the future generations of Ibans to remember the sacrifices of their forefathers and what they had done, it is a legacy for young Ibans,” said Robert Rizal, who has four grandchildren.
He resides in Taiping with his wife, Raja Noriah Raja Shahrome, a great grand-daughter of Sultan Abdullah who ruled Perak before. — Bernama