The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.
– Thomas Paine, English-American born political activist
I have written numerous stories of natives at war but few people realise the role of a group of “unsung” Chinese heroes.
For decades the urban society took peace for granted while a group of brave plainclothes policemen from the Special Branch (SB) went underground for the sake of the country’s security.
For this reason, I decided to help SB officer deputy superintendent Lim Chian Seng write his memoir to honour dozens of dead or injured SB compatriots.
If all goes well, the book will be published by the end of the year.
Called “running dogs” by the communists, the atrocities they committed were no less the most dastardly “war crimes” during the 27-year Sarawak insurgency.
DSP Peter Lim Chian Seng, 82, was among the top SB officers on the “hit list” after Tan Sri Koo Chong Kong was assassinated in Ipoh in 1975.
Lim’s story is about how he survived three two assassination attempts by the elite PGRS communists in 1971 and survived.
Lim recalled that at 1pm on July 31, 1971 he and his wife left his station at Bau for Kuching on a quiet Sunday.
His wife, teacher Chua Kin Tee, accompanied him to Kuching to buy special formula milk for their first child, five-month old Kek Seng.
He rarely travelled alone, but on this occasion, he had a premonition that trouble was brewing and handed his wife his loaded 38 Smith and Wesson pistol with six rounds.
For months CTs had been watching Lim’s movements because he had been making several arrests of key individuals and had to be eliminated.
Said Lim: “They knew I had to travel by my old Volkswagen along the narrow and winding Bau Road to get to Kuching.
“Apparently, the informer contacted the PRGKU group who set up two separate ambushes along the same road to ensure I didn’t escape.”
After about 20 minutes, Lim reached the first ambush site at the Buso junction where the first group of CTs armed with a Sten gun and rifle waited.
As his car came into view, the CTs opened fire, riddling his vehicle.
“I shouted to my wife that it was an ambush and stepped on the pedal, but 25 yards ahead a second group of four to five CTs with shotguns went in for the kill.
“I was hit on the right eyebrow by a pellet that shattered my sun glasses with splinters entering the eye. The same pellet was embedded in my skull.
“Another pellet also grazed my left chest while a rifle bullet went through the car.
“As the blood blurred my vision, I lost control and my car which skidded and crashed into a telephone pole at the top of a steep ravine where my wife and I were partially trapped there.
“I came out of the car into the open and my wife followed suit as we took cover in the ravine. My shirt was soaked in blood, and a uniformed CT emerged from the jungle who thought I was mortally wounded, and wanted to finish the job.
As he approached, my wife passed me my Browning and I shouted in Mandarin to the CTs not to approach as I was heavily armed.
Thinking I had two pistols, the CT commander called his comrade back and they disappeared into the jungle.
“I was prepared to fight it out to the end and reserved my last bullet for myself, in case I was captured alive,” added Chian Seng, who was familiar with the fate of captured “running dogs”.
Later, he learnt that the CTs were members of the hardcore PGRKU or Pasokan Gerilya Rakyat Kalimantan Utara whose specialty was torture and mutilation before killing.
As the minutes passed, Lim realised the CTs had abandoned their plans and had fled from the scene.
Five minutes later his wife finally managed to stop a passing PWD truck and they both hitched a ride to the Bau police station three miles away.
“I must thank my brave wife. It seemed like ages before anyone was willing to stop and give us a lift.
“My wife stood by the roadside desperately waving down passing motorists, while I stayed hidden in the valley.
“It was still touch-and-go because the CTs could have been still around. I had six rounds and made sure that if I had to fight them, I had to leave at least one bullet for myself.
“I can imagine what would have happened if they had captured me alive!”
Lim was operated on, his pellet removed and two weeks later he was back on duty.
Four months later, another attempt was made on his life at the Bau-Jugan junction, a stone’s throw from the Siniawan police station.
In the second incident Lim and a convoy of policemen were travelling by Land Rover from Bau to the Siniawan police station when they were ambushed by gunmen at a sharp corner near the junction.
“After my first experience I was better prepared. When they opened fire I ordered the driver to step on the pedal and we just made it around the bend without crashing.
“Two minutes later we were at the police station where we got reinforcements. I returned on foot with some men through the jungle to see if we could make a counterattack. But they had fled.”
At the scene they found eight home-made “Molotov cocktail” bombs (bottles with petrol or kerosene which had to be lighted and would incinerate on explosion).
A year later on July 14, 1972, the same group murdered a young Johnny Lee, 21, at Tondong on suspicion of being a “running dog”.
After organising a “public trial” Johnny was tortured, tied to a tree in the town centre and set on fire.
However, in a twist of fate, the PGRS commander and master of torture was killed in a botched CT ambush at Jalan Sebatu not far from Bau!
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.
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