Friday, September 23, 2011

Bukit Kepong heroes gain recognition after 61 years

IN APPRECIATION: Najib (right) sharing a light moment with Bukit Kepong policemen's relatives at the Raya open house
IN APPRECIATION: Najib (right) sharing a light moment with Bukit Kepong policemen's relatives at the Raya open house

Anugerah Wira Bukit Kepong

KUALA LUMPUR: After 61 years, the Bukit Kepong policemen and family members who perished staving off Communist insurgents on Feb 23, 1950, finally received recognition for their heroic effort.

Sixteen families of slain policemen yesterday received the Anugerah Wira Bukit Kepong, presented by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak during Umno’s Raya open house at the Putra World Trade Centre.

The Bukit Kepong tragedy shot to prominence again after PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu allegedly said the men who attacked and killed the policemen and their families at Bukit Kepong near Muar, Johor were heroes because they were fighting against the British.

The Pokok Sena MP, better known as Mat Sabu, later clarified saying those who attacked Bukit Kepong were freedom fighters. This was not because they attacked Malay policemen.

Yesterday, Najib said the country knows who the real heroes and patriots at Bukit Kepong were.

“Who are the real national heroes? The founders of Umno, police, the army and those killed at Bukit Kepong and other incidents. They are the true freedom fighters we must appreciate and defend. I also agree with the opinion of Umno Youth chief (Khairy Jamaluddin) that if others insult them and ignore their sacrifices, then let Umno and Barisan Nasional become defenders of their dignity and welfare,” he said.

After the award ceremony, one of the slain policemen's family members, Ahmad Jamil told The Malay Mail that his father, Bukit Kepong police chief Sarjan Jamil Mohd Shah, was 35 when he died.

“I was six years and 10 months old when my father died. I don’t remember much about the incident but I felt sad I lost my dad. I am moved and thankful to Umno for the remembrance and inviting us here. We are glad the recognition though long overdue is still something,” said Ahmad, 68. He said he was grateful to Najib for taking the time to appreciate the heroes of Bukit Kepong.

Mohamad Mokhtar Yasin was four when his father, Korpral Mohd Yassin Wahab fell at Bukit Kepong.

“I do not want anybody to be indebted to my father, but I do not appreciate what Mat Sabu said because my father sacrificed his life,” said Mohamad Mokhtar.

Sarjan Jamil Mohd Shah’s grandson, Haizad Ibrahim, still feeling the pain when first watching the 1981 movie Bukit Kepong after a clip of the film, directed and starring Tan Sri Jins Shamsuddin, was shown during the ceremony.

“My family is moved because there are still those who remember the sacrifices made by my grandfather. It still hurts to watch the movie even today," said Haizad.

“But my focus is still on their graves. We are, however, scared the gravesite wall will collapse in heavy rain because there isn’t any proper drainage there.”

Haizad alerted The Paper That Cares on the deplorable conditions of the Bukit Kepong cemetery after family members and relatives of the fallen policemen found part of the cemetery wall collapsed when they visited the Bukit Kepong Muslim graveyard in Muar during the Hari Raya celebrations.

The wall has since been rebuilt and Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar said police were looking into turning the Bukit Kepong cemetery into a historical landmark.

In the 1950 incident, 25 policemen and their family members were killed. Those who perished comprised of 14 policemen, four village guards, three auxiliary policemen, and the wife and three children of a surviving policeman. There were 13 survivors, made up of four policemen and nine family members including wives and children.

The Communist attackers, led by Muhammad Indera, were some 200-member strong, and about 40 of them were killed. Muhammad Indera was later arrested, tried and found guilty. He was hanged on Jan 30, 1953 at Taiping Prison in Perak, aged 33.

No compensation for Bukit Kepong warriors

THERE is still bitterness in the heart of Sarjan Jamil Mohd Shah's eldest daughter who's disappointed it took so long to get her father's sacrifice recognised.

Siti Salmah Jamil was 10 when her father was killed during the ambush by Communist insurgents on the Bukit Kepong police station in 1950.

Jamil was survived by four children. His fourth child, Md Nor Jamil, was only seven days old at the time.

Siti Salmah said her family made the most on their father’s pension for a limited time. Then her mother began receiving a pension a few years after his death although no compensation was made to the families by the federal or state governments.

“For much of the past 61 years, nobody cared about us. During those decades, we only received an invitation to watch the Bukit Kepong movie in 1981. That was all,” she told The Malay Mail.

She said initially the family survived on the monthly pension RM70. Despite that, she completed her Form Five studies.

“We then asked the government for financial support but we received no aid at all. After we finished our SPM, mother did not receive any more pension. It was only after Mat Sabu's controversial remarks did people begin to take notice,” said Siti Salmah, adding she is not angry but saddened by the PAS deputy president's unkind remarks.

“It was Mat Sabu’s comments that forced people to recall events at Bukit Kepong.”

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