BY NIA NATASHA HASENAN
KUCHING: A survivor of the Batu Lintang WWII prisoner of war (POW) camp hopes that the younger generation will learn more about the historical events that occurred here.
Jeli Abdullah @ Dandi Michael Tiong, now 80, said it was important for the younger generation to read more and learn what had happened during the war.
“I hope children will have an interest in history. Nowadays, they focus on gadgets instead of what had happened many, many years ago,” he told reporters when met at the commemoration of the liberation of the Batu Lintang WWII POW camp and Sarawak, at the Batu Lintang WWII Memorial Square yesterday.
Recalling his experience at the camp, Jeli explained that this happened when he was just a year old when he and his adoptive parents were interned.
“I was too young to really understand but there was an occasion when my brother and I came across a beehive and my whole body got stung.
“I ran home crying to my mother to only realise the sting I got from her was far worse than the ones I got from the bees. She was furious,” he quipped.
He shared that he was adopted by an Australian missionary couple when his mother passed away due to labour complications and his father did not know what to do with him and his twin brother.
“He was confused, he was a man…what would he do with the children. And so there was a missionary couple who lived quite close to the village and he asked them whether they could look us until we were old enough to consume solid food…around four to five years old.
“When I was old enough, the couple returned my twin brother and I to our father but he was no longer interested, and asked the couple to take care of us,” he reminisced.
From that time onwards, Jeli was more or less introduced to the European way of life.
Japanese forces arrived in Sarawak in Dec 16, 1941.
According to Sarawak Tourism Federation Heritage Development Committee adviser Datuk Lim Kian Hock, there were about 3,000 prisoners at the camp, consisting of locals and Europeans, including some British citizens.
After the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima on Aug 6, 1945 and Nagasaki on Aug 8, 1945, Japan finally surrendered unconditionally under the Postdam Conference Declaration.
The Japanese army in Sarawak signed the surrender documents, received by Australian army commander Brig-Gen Thomas Eastick at Pending Point here on Sept 11, 1945, the Batu Lintang camp was liberated.