Former Sabah decorated cop tells stories of insurgents, pirates and old Sabah in new book

Datuk Clement Jaikul with his book. — Picture by Julia Chan
Datuk Clement Jaikul with his book. — Picture by Julia Chan

KOTA KINABALU, Sept 16 — Retired police officer Datuk Clement Jaikul has literally taken a bullet for the country. Many times in fact.

On duty in British North Borneo before the formation of Malaysia, Jaikul was among those on the periphery of the action, escorting members of the Cobbold Commission in Sandakan on their fact finding mission and later on, looking for out possible insurgents during the proclamation of Malaysia.

Jaikul, now 78 years old, first joined the North Borneo Police Force in 1958, moving between the criminal investigation department, through Special Branch, up to divisional superintendent, marine police and finally ending his 38-year career as as assistant commissioner of police and along the way being the first Dusun officer to reach the rank of Senior Assistant Commissioner. 

He details his many career and personal adventures in his book Chancing the Rapids, My Way launched today, which he described as snapshots of his life.

In the book, he tells of the logistical and communication difficulties during the time, such as a two-day journey to reach the scene of a crime in Sugut River, traveling through crocodile infested rivers, nearly shooting his colleague by accident while inspection a new Smith and Wesson revolver, meeting Jacque Cousteau and even his experience with the supernatural.

Adventures of policing an early Sabah

As a cop since the late 50s, security challenges were plentiful and Jaikul had been involved in the many pirate attacks in the east coast of then North Borneo, and later even instrumental in forming an intelligence unit for the marine police to combat piracy.

During the spate of pirate attacks, Jaikul recalls being stationed along the Kinabatangan river where he was tasked to confront a suspicious vessel with ten men onboard, and got fired at by what was believed to be Suluk pirates. In the end, after an exchange of fire, the pirates retreated and got away.

Later on during his service in the 80’s when joined the marine police, he was also tasked with dealing with anti-terrorist and pirate operations and in one incident, conducted a raid on Pulau Sebangkat, known then as a hotbed of criminal activities in 1981.

It was here that he was shot for the first time. Armed with a revolver and taking over behind a coconut tree, the bullet pierced his right thigh and he was taken to the hospital. The suspect who shot him was arrested and Jaikul was later conferred the Ahli Darjah Kinabalu state award for his effort.

During the Malaysian-Indonesia Confrontation or “Borneo confrontation”, Jaikul was also part of a covert team working with the British Special Air Services that was to infiltrate an enemy base along the border in a risky mission.

Talking about the risk of being killed, Jaikul said he was “young and eager”.

“Anything you were asked to do, you do, even if risky,” he said when recalling stories to reporters here today.

The launch was also attended by his old comrade Shanmugam Munusamy, who was working under Jaikul and spoke of his exemplary leadership and performance, contributing to nation building.

In all of these exploits, Jaikul and Shanmugam agree said that as policemen, they were trained to do a job, and fear, or any other emotion, never came into play when carrying out their duties.

Looking back on 1963

By the same rationale, Jaikul says he “had no emotions” on September 16, 1963 when on duty during the proclamation of the formation of Malaysia in Sandakan, a fairly low key affair compared to the state capital.

“Sure, there might be some excitement but I was mingling with the crowd while the proclamation was going on. My job was to be on the looking for saboteurs. We were told that there might be some trouble by the Indonesians,” he said.

Jaikul, a born and bred Sabahan of Dusun descent who is first cousins with Kadazandusun paramount leader Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan has an aversion to politics, turning down an offer to contest in the 1976 elections and paving the way for Pairin instead.

Jaikul was a local liaison to the Cobbold Commission in 1962, who were trying to determine whether Sabahans wanted to be part of the Malaysian Federation.

He was escorting commission chairman Lord Cobbold, former Governor of the Bank of England as well as Ministry of Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Tun Ghazalie Shafie during the visit and recalled a conversation with the latter.

“Stressing a point, he pointed a finger at me and said ‘you will be the master of your destiny once North Borneo attains independence.’ I have not forgotten this remark to this day,” said Jaikul.

He said that all the English-educated policemen in the district at the time were invited to a dialogue and asked for their views. The consensus was then in favour of Malaysia, in fear of being overpowered by the Peninsula powers which was then presented as a memorandum.

“Maybe because I am a former civil servant, so there are things I cannot say now. But there are definitely disappointments looking at things now. A lot of disappointments.

“Yes there are developments. Physically and politically, but we can do more,” he said.

“If we go to the villages, roads are still unsealed. We are supposed to have roads by now. That’s very disappointing. You don’t see this in Semenanjung. We are a rich country. I hope the new government will take care of rural areas,” he said.

On security challenges, he said that authorities now have all the infrastructure, technology and weapons that could help them carry out duties.

“They are definitely better off. They have everything at their disposal. And they are doing a good job. Looking at how porous our borders are, they are definitely doing well. My time, aside from piracy, it was ok. Now there are so many other challenges,” he said.

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