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Daily Express praised over the new Petagas massacre details
Published on: Monday, February 26, 2024
By: Sohan Das
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Daily Express praised over the new Petagas massacre details
Willie and Chia
LABUAN: The media has been urged to help uncover missing pieces in Sabah and Labuan’s war history before time makes whatever that happened 70 years ago impossible to gather and record anymore.

Former Labuan Tourism Association Chairman said the recent exclusive Daily Express reports on the only eyewitness account of what happened at the Petagas massacre on Jan. 21 1944 highlights the role that journalists can play in this regard.

He was referring to the reports quoting Derasik Midow, now 90, the son of the locomotive train driver, Midow Sahat, who was ordered by the Japanese to transport the 176 “rebels” for execution to the site before dawn that day.

“It is an important and previously untold story that adds a new gruesome chapter to World War Two tales of Sabah,” said Willie, himself a historian.

Willie organises the yearly Remembrance Day ceremony on the island to commemorate the war dead.

Our report on Jan 28, 2024,

He said much had been written about the Sandakan Death March which claimed 2,600 Australian and British troops and that the horror train story was equally shocking.

“The Daily Express reporters (Sherell Ann Jeffrey and Rahim Matnin) deserve praise for tracking down and interviewing Derasik who saw what happened as he joined his father on the train as it made its way from Melalap to Petagas with stops along the way.”

Willie noted that 130 followers of Albert Kwok’s “Kinabalu guerrillas” were despatched to Labuan after their arrest to face similar fate but only 11 survived.

“It is unclear what actually happened while they were detained in Labuan…whether they were similarly massacred and mass buried and where is the site”

He said it was interesting that Derasik mentioned about the Japanese using Javanese labourers to dig the pit where the Petagas massacre victims were buried.

“This is because the Japanese brought in 3,000 Javanese labourers to Labuan. That is the reason we now have a Kampong Java on the island,” he said.

“By the end of the war only 650 Javanese survived. As to what happened to the rest further research is necessary.”

Patron of Labuan Teo Chew association ST Chia echoed the views of Willie, saying Labuan is rich in World War history and that the Japanese surrender took place in Labuan.

Chia did his own research on Labuan’s World War forgotten hero Teo How whose huge tombstone in the Botanical garden is as an example.

Chia said research should be done the role Teo played in Labuan and a fact sheet put up at his burial site. “This will draw greater attention to Labuan’s war history.”

He said like Albert Kwok, Teo’s anti-Japanese campaign is recognised by many “but facts about him are missing”.

Likewise, he said, many in Labuan are unaware of the fierce battle fought along the main highway at Jalan Tun Mustapa, about 5km from town, during the closing stages of the war where many Japanese soldiers were killed.

“There should be an explanatory signage put up so tourists know the exact spot where these important historical events happened,” he said. 

He noted that there was suggestion to even name a street after MacArthur in remembrance of the famous US five-star general who walked through Labuan prior to liberating the Philippines.

“This will certainly draw tourists and there is a picture of him in Labuan.”

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