Remaining prisoners unaware Kwok, others put on pre-dawn train for execution
Published on: Sunday, June 05, 2022
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The remains of Double Tenth suspects who were sent to Labuan and died there being brought back in 1949.
AMONG those who carried out the decapitations was the son of a Japanese businessmen killed by the guerrillas on the night of the uprising. He was said to have wielded his Japanese military sword and hacked repeatedly at one of the prisoners (Mochizuki 1995: 60). Not much else is known of what transpired at Petagas after that, but news of the executions soon spread to Jesselton and the entire west coast. It had a profound impact on the morale and spirit of the people, striking fear in them. At the Batu Tiga prison the fate of those who had been sent to Petagas on 21 January was known to the remaining prisoners the following afternoon. Though the men were aware that Albert Kwok and the 175 men had been taken out and put on the train, they were under the impression that the men were being transported to another place to serve their prison sentences. 

On 8 February 1944 the remaining prisoners, whose numbers had been increased by those arrested after 21 January, were once again taken out to squat in the prison compound. The same name-calling process was carried out. This time, 131 names were called, all Chinese. 

These men were those determined by the Japanese to have been involved with the guerrillas, but in minor roles. Among those called were Liew Chi Nyen of Tuaran, Chong Pen, the father of Chong Kui Fah who had organised the guerrillas’ food supplies, and Shek Chun Feng, the brother of Shek Chun Fah. These men were transported to Labuan for long-term imprisonment. 

Upon arriving at Labuan, the 131 men were paraded and humiliated before the Labuan population as a warning. There, the men were put to hard labour on public works. The Japanese did little to care for their welfare and many succumbed to fatigue and illness. As the Japanese did not provide them with sufficient food, many suffered from malnutrition. Most of the prisoners eventually died of severe diarrhoea, a result of consuming coconuts to supplement their diet. Deprived of food and medical supplies, the men could not carry on with their work. They simply stopped and were left to die slow, painful deaths. 

Only 11 of the 131 survived the war and returned to Jesselton: Liew Chi Nyen, Fung Kon Ming, Yong Kin Siong, WongYen Chin, Chin Kon Fah, Voo Yen Chong, Lo Long Chin, Lo Si Biang, Chong Nai Shu, Ho Si Man and Chong Shi. 

After the war, survivors from Labuan lodged a complaint against the local policemen at Labuan whom they accused of torturing the prisoners and for their negligence, resulting in many deaths. The policemen were put on trial by the post-war Allied war crime tribunals. Several of them were found guilty and were given prison sentences.”

Throughout the entire process of the guerrillas’ capture and detention, and subsequent execution or imprisonment, none were put on trial; none had appeared before a judge and given a fair hearing.

The prison at Batu Tiga continued to receive more prisoners long after the execution at Petagas and the initial sentencing of the guerrillas and their supporters to prison terms. 

In fact, it went on till mid-1944. Wong Yun Tsh-in reported that more than 700 or 800 were arrested and interned at Batu Tiga. Some were detained for more than six months and many died of wounds from torture and starvation. 

A Catholic memorial service for the victims at Petagas in 1947.

Albert Kwok

In June a further 70 were sentenced to death and executed in the prison. Many of the remaining islanders belonged to this group. The remaining prisoners were only freed in September 1945 after the Japanese had surrendered. 

Killing of the Islanders. Apart from the guerrillas and the Chinese community, the Japanese also went after the people from the various offshore islands. A week after the uprising, an expedition force under the command of Lieutenant Ogata arrested Orang Tua Panglima All of Sulug Island and about 10 of the Panglima’s men. They were taken to the mainland via Kinarut from where they were made to walk to Jesselton with their hands tied behind at the thumbs (Awang Sahari 2004: 15). Two weeks later, another group of 30 Japanese soldiers and 20 native policemen visited the island again. This time, the Japanese machine-gunned all the male inhabitants they could find and burned down all the buildings. According to a witness, 54 people were killed that day, out of a total of 114 living on the island. Of the 60-odd survivors, 30 women and children were exiled to Bongawan to work in the paddy fields; 25 of them died from malnutrition and ill-treatment (Hall 1949: 146).

A team of 12 Japanese soldiers and six native policemen also visited the nearby Oudar Island shortly afterwards. Twenty-nine people were massacred. Out of the remaining 35 of the island’s population, 15 women and children were exiled to Bongawan to work in the rice fields. The Danawan islanders also suffered the same fate. The Japanese arrested all the men on the island and took them to Batu Tiga Prison. After interrogation and investigations, the men were taken back to Dinawan and executed by machine gun in the presence of their wives and children (Hall 1949: 146-147). 

The Japanese reprisals against the Mantanani islanders took place on 11 February 1944. A Japanese force initially landed on the island under the pretext of looking for Lim Keng Fatt and to arrest Chinese guerrillas. When no guerrillas were found, the Japanese arrested 58 males and took them back to Jesselton; all perished at Batu Tiga Prison. Two days after the first visit, the Japanese made a second visit to Mantanani. 

This time, according to Hall and Lim Keng Fatt, they massacred all the adult males, leaving only the women and children.” An eyewitness account of the actions of the commander of the troops who went to the island, Second Lieutenant Kiyogi Shimizu (at that time, a Warrant Officer) told an even more poignant tale of the fate of the islanders. 

As stated in an eyewitness account, during the second trip to the island the Japanese gathered all the inhabitants they could find, including women and children, and placed them near the mosque. They were then ordered to remove their jewellery and other valuables, which were taken by the Japanese soldiers. The islanders had their hands tied behind their backs and were strung together on a rope which was then made fast to the pillars of the mosque. 

The islanders were machine-gunned in this position. The Kempeitai shot those not killed by the machine guns with their pistols. According to Hall, 80 islanders died that day (Hall 1949: 149). The Japanese, however, claimed their actions were a form of defence measures after an attack by the islanders resulted in a skirmish in which two Japanese — Sergeant Major Hank) Kiuchi and Corporal Keishi Inaba — were wounded.

A third visit by the Japanese a few weeks later found the island deserted. However, on the mainland opposite Mantanani they found eight or nine islanders, including two adult males who were survivors of the massacre. The Japanese arrested them and a few weeks later, they too were executed. Accordingly, the population of Mantanani Island was reduced from 430 to 125, of whom not more than 20 were adult males (Russell 1958: 263). 

The total number of islanders killed by the Japanese is difficult to ascertain. Apart from those killed on the six islands, others, including women and children, died while working as forced labour in Bongawan. 

Hall estimated another 289 islanders died during imprisonment in Jesselton (Hall 1949: 147). Some were killed together with the guerrillas at Petagas on 21 January 1944. Despite their sacrifices, only about 50 of the islanders’ names — those executed at Petagas — were included in the name lists on the Petagas War Memorial. Like their Chinese, Bajau and Dusun counterparts, many were not accounted for. – Extracted from “One Crowded Moment Of Glory” by Danny Wong Tze Ken (Univ. of Malaya Press)


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December 20, 2014