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Thursday, August 16, 2007

1972 March 25 RASCOM

On March 25 1972 the whole of the Third Division of Sarawak was declared a special security area administered by Rajang Security Command (RASCOM) with its CEO or Director of Operations who is the Chief Minister of Sarawak.

What was not known to the people at that time was that Third Division was no longer just an administrative division adminstered by a Divisional Resident who has "normal" powers. Sibu or
Third Division was under special powers.

The main reason was because the Communist threat was still there and the government feared the brutal acts of terrorism on innocent citizens.


Growing up in such a political environment with a lot of fear and threats was not easy at all.

Most of my relatives who had been living innocently along the riverine villages of the Rejang were very affected: education of the children was interrupted, suddenly some of the adults were arrested by the police, and so many were accused of betraying their friends. Fear spread amongst us and my relatives started to abandon their farms, their rubber estates, and even their lovely homes. The older people were at first quite reluctant to move but the younger ones had to move for the sake of their own life and their own future. Hence, many of the housing estates in Sibu were greatly in demand. Some who could not afford buying their new homes, had to become almost squatters on some more derelict housing.

Thus Sibu saw a spate of in migration of rural folks and schools were bursting at their seams. This was not planned at all by the government as it was a decision made to address an immediate need or it could even be called an emergency. In my youthful mind at that time, it was so convenient for any leader to call an emergency and suddenly civilians were put into a new mode of modern house arrest and curbed movements. This was all in the good name of public security. Some appreciated it, while many found the new measures inconvenient.

Perhaps this also catapulted the youth and the older ones into a new political attitude. New opportunities have arisen, new positions had to be filled and if man was to think for himself, the whole community would be affected. How many of us thought of the common good? How many apart from true missionaries would sacrifice their lives for their belief in God,for a common political aspiration,etc?

Jobs were suddenly scarce as well as food and there was a lot of control for fear that the ordinary citizens might be supplying the Communists with food supplies. Perhaps this was also the beginning of the cold storage business in Sibu too.

In later years we discovered that the self made millionaire Datuk Tiong Su Kuok actually became rich because he decided not only to sell fresh fish but also frozen fish. He also made in roads into school supplies as the 70's saw a large increase in government secondary schools in the Third Division and a huge demand for good fish like Ikan Duai from Singapore and Hong Kong.

I often wonder what my grandfather Tiong kung Ping would think about this if he were alive today. He was the earlest Foochow immigrant to help Rev Hoover assemble the first refrigeration unit with the help of my Grandmother Chong who had sat down with him and read the manual in English and translated into Foochow for Grandfather to slowly assemble the unit which arrived by sea from America in the early 30's!! The first ice factory then was the Hua Hong Ice Factory built on the small island opposite Sibu. My great grandmother lived there with her family (my grandfather, grandmother, children and children in law) all four generations until we , the great grandchildren were born and then later moved to Sibu, thus ending our connection with ice making. Sometimes we mused about it would be like if we had carried on with refrigeration.

Road blocks were every where and curfew was imposed. The Field Forces were commonly seen in public, keeping the peace. Young girls were terrified of men in uniforms, espeically army camouflage. I remember I went out only for the Methodist Youth Fellowship ona Friday night and teachers made sure that all of us went home by 9.

Whispers, rumours, and small talks in undertones were the order of the day. Suspicion was rife.
But we Chinese being resilient wherever we were continued to maintain our demeanour and carried on educating those who needed to be educated.

Life went on. My sisters played cards when the curfew was on and my mother went shopping with the little money we had. We were lucky to have an education. In those years then we became closer as a family.

6 memories:

TS Yuen Yuet Leng said...

May I, as one of the original founding Rascom personalities clarify that the post and director of operations are separate and not one. Yao Peng Wa, a Sibu civil servant was was the CEO who co-ordinated the civil, police, SB and armed forces while CM Rahman Yakub was Director of Operations for both the Rascom area and non-Rascom areas in the whole component of Sarawak.

TS Yuen Yuet Leng said...

May I, as one of the original founding Rascom personalities clarify that the post and director of operations are separate and not one. Yao Peng Wa, a Sibu civil servant was was the CEO who co-ordinated the civil, police, SB and armed forces while CM Rahman Yakub was Director of Operations for both the Rascom area and non-Rascom areas in the whole component of Sarawak.

JyhSeng Ong said...

i remember once, in 1980s, we travel from sarikei to julau. midway in meradong, we were stopped by men-in-green, telling us to u-turn, back to where we came from.

apparently, there was a crossfire between the arm forces and the 'tikus hutan'.

Ensurai said...

Thank you TS Yuen Yuet Leng. I stand corrected.

gus said...

Hi. Are there many of the RASCOM personel Still in Sibu? Is there an annual gathering of retired Rascom forces?

gus said...

Hi. Are there many of the RASCOM personel Still in Sibu? Is there an annual gathering of retired Rascom forces?

 

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