1 Aug 2007

The Six Rings

I was just imagining a movie title inspired by the true story below, about two kampung folks who saved the Australian prisoners of war (PoW) back in 1945...:) Who knows kan? In the future they turn this story,into a movie. Boleh juga saya audition part si Kaingal...wakakak! (berangan!)

Helpful farmer and a Lady of the Rings

Mary Chin (Daily Express 22 July 2007)

A GOOD deed - and a heroic one at that - will never go unnoticed and this proved true for Saumin Bin Gadalip @ Kaingal, 74, of Kg Kaparingan and Domima OKK Akoi, 87, of Kg Paginatan, both from Ranau. In the final days of the war and devoid of any knowledge that the Japanese were forced-marching over a thousand Allied soldiers from their Sandakan base to Ranau, these two who were into their teens secretly provided food for some of the marchers, including some of the only six who managed to escape.

Their deeds did not go forgotten. Next month they are off to Australia to be honoured for their role in saving Australian Prisoners-of-War (PoWs) from the infamous 260km Sandakan-Ranau Death March in 1945.

Domima and her family were living at Kg Paginatan (near the present-day Paginatan Health Clinic).

At about 6am one morning in 1945, Domima, then 12 or 13, went out to feed the pigs at the sty. She felt as if somebody was throwing pieces of wood in her direction but ignored it when she couldn't spot anybody in the vicinity.

The next morning, she had a similar experience and this time, she saw a "white" hand waving to her from a distance in the jungle. It was a Prisoner-of-War (PoW) waving for help, one who had escaped from the Death March.

"When I looked closer, I could make out from the movement of the hand that the person was asking for food and water.

Saya tidak tahu orang apa.

Cuma nampak itu tangan saja (I did not know who it was. I only spotted the hand).

"Shortly after, when I went over with some food, there was nobody there, so I placed the rice and water on a piece of wood.

"Later, when I went to check out, I found that the food had been eatenÉthe people had also finished up the water.

My father told me that they were orang putih (white men) and must be Australian PoWs."

Over the next six days, Domima was instructed by her father to continue placing food and water at the same spot in the morning, at noon and at 6pm. Domima's family offered rice, tapioca, meat, vegetables and fish.

"However, my father warned me to be careful and not be seen by the Japanese soldiers. Each time I sent food and water, I couldn't see anybody.

But on one occasion, I caught a glimpse of about five orang putih (white men)."

On the seventh day, she went about her daily routine beginning at 6am. But when she returned at noon, she noticed that the food and water were left untouched.

"Instead, there was a small tobacco tin placed at the spot. I took it home and when I opened the lid, I found six gold rings inside."

Domima gave away five of them, two to her only younger sister, and the rest to her three sisters-in-law (husband's sisters), possibly after her marriage. "I can't trace the rings because all of them have since died.

Maybe I should have given them to my daughters," she said with a tinge of regret.

According to her, she had kept the last ring a secret until visiting Australians came to know about it in recent years.

"I didn't tell anybody about the ring which has been in my possession for the last 62 years. I don't know how other people came to know about it."

Asked what she would do with the ring, she said:

"I intend to give it to my favourite granddaughter before I go to my rest. I hope she will present it to her daughter in future if she gets married and raises a family."

As for Kaingal, who claims he is officially 82, he was 17 and among a small group of Kadazan farmers who helped three of the six PoWs survive in the jungles of Ranau after they had escaped from the Japanese in July 1945.

He was living with his maternal uncle, Guak, at Kg Kaparingan as both his parents had died by 1945. The trio were Keith Botterill, Bill Moxham and Nelson Short from the Death March. Initially, there were four, the fourth being Andy Anderson who died on July 29, 1945. (Botterill and Moxham were survivors of the First Death March).

When the war ended, it came to the knowledge of the Australians that there were some samaritans who helped the PoWs on their journey of death, especially the six who survived by escaping.

According to Borneo Exhibition and Education Group Inc, Perth Chairman, Ryan Rowland, it was then known that several local inhabitants did help the escapees, "with great risk to their own lives and their village communities."

He said: "In 1946, the Australian Army Reward and Recovery Units investigated what happened to the prisoners, how and where they were killed and who might have directly assisted the soldiers.

"So we had knowledge that Kaingal was a young man who did help the three escapees. He was paid RM50. This was a mere drop in the ocean to what the village headman was given (in apparent reference to Bariga who was the headman of Batu Lima village, Ranau).

But Kaingal's version is that he was rewarded with the RM50 when he and the three escaped Australian PoWs reached Kg Silad on August 24, 1945 after a three-day journey to meet Flight-Lt Ripley of the Allied Intelligence Bureau and the Agas III team (local guerilla party).

They had set up their base at the village. Together with Kaingal on the journey was a Dusun farmer Bariga (whom the Australians addressed as O.T. Baragah (meaning Orang Tuan-headman).

The duo brought a letter written by Moxham to inform Ripley and the Agas III team that he (Moxham) and two other Australian PoWs had escaped from camp early in July as the Japanese were starving all men.

Earlier (on Aug. 15), Kaingal rushed into the hut (occupied by the three surviving Australian PoWs - Botterill, Moxham and Short) in the jungle with the news that white soldiers had been spotted in the jungle north-east of Ranau.

However, the trio did not believe him because they had no way of knowing whether the war was over. This was reported in Australian author Lynette Ramsay Silver's book "Sandakan - A Conspiracy of Silence". Which was why Moxham wrote the letter.

Kaingal also acknowledged having received a certificate of gratitude dated March 22, 1947 from the Australian Government in recognition of his valuable assistance to Australian soldiers during the War with Japan (1941-1945).

Relating his experience to Daily Express, Kaingal said he was walking along the Kihunot River near his house, one morning in July 1945, looking for a good fishing-spot when he heard human voices in the distance.

"Walking in that direction, I saw four orang putih (white men) in a clearing in the jungle. They were sheltered in a hut. As I neared them, they called out Tolong, Tolong (Help! Help!). At first, I wasn't sure what sort of help they needed. It could mean they were in trouble or danger and wanted to be saved. In fact, I was very scared, thinking that the Japanese might be after the men.

"When I came by, we talked for a whileÉI had difficulty in understanding their language. We were like a chicken and a duck. I then realised they were asking me for food and drink. They used sign languageÉpointing to their mouth and stomach," he recalled.

He immediately went home to report the encounter to Guak before sending food and water to the Australian soldiers.

"We gave them whatever we hadÉrice, tapioca, eggs and meat until the war ended."

According to Kaingal, he was constantly living in fear because he knew that if the Japanese found out that he was feeding or hiding the Australian PoWs, not only he and his family but also the entire village could be shot or executed.

Earlier (July 15), it was Bariga who found the fugitives at noon and gave them food before taking them further into the jungle, where he built a small lean-to shelter beside a creek as written by Silver in her book.

According to her, a week later, Bariga moved the PoWs to a new site, 200 metres west of the 5 mile peg on the Ranau-Tuaran track. "Here, on a steep mountainside about 200 metres below the track, he built another, more substantial hut in a small clearing near the Kihunot River," she wrote. Botterill, Moxham, Short and Anderson (who died later) were here when one of them waved to attract Kaingal's attention as he was walking along the river that day.