Sombre atmosphere at wake for Sarawak war hero Awang Raweng at Kuching Civic Centre

Armed Forces personnel carry the casket of the late Awang, which was transported from Jalan Paderi in Sri Aman to Kuching Civic Centre. — Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi
Armed Forces personnel carry the casket of the late Awang, which was transported from Jalan Paderi in Sri Aman to Kuching Civic Centre. — Photo by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

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KUCHING, Sept 21 ­— Sombre atmosphere prevailed at the Kuching Civic Centre here yesterday afternoon as family members and friends of the late Datuk Awang Raweng gathered at a wake to honour their loved one, who passed away peacefully on Friday.

The hearse of the 91-year-old Awang arrived at the Kuching Civic Centre from Jalan Paderi, Sri Aman at noon and his coffin was placed on a special platform.

Condolence wreaths were arranged accordingly and family members were seated in rows near the coffin.

Though Awang received many honours, putting him in the limelight, he remained humble throughout his life, said Lt Col Dunging Serit (Rtd), a special administrative officer attached to the Ministry of Urban Development and Natural Resources.

“I have known him since I was a director of the Malaysian Armed Forces Veterans Affairs Department (JHEV) for three years, and during those three years, I had arranged his travels to England to attend High Tea with Queen Elizabeth.

“Awang is a very humble man. He was involved in the wars in the then Malaya especially during his tenure with the British army, and then the Iban Tracker.

“During the war in Johor, what was significant about him was he had saved a British soldier from being slaughtered by communists,” said Dunging.

He added because of his bravery in fighting the communists then, Awang was awarded the George Cross medal, and in 2018, he was given a ‘Datukship’ by the Sarawak government, and he also received an honourary degree from Universiti Pertahanan Nasional, Malaysia.

“During my tenure as the JHEV director, I had always known that JHEV took good care of his welfare and through the state government, we had built a house for him in Sri Aman and even his ‘bilik’ in the longhouse was also repaired by the army.

“A monthly allowance from Putrajaya was also given to him, including patient bed and mattress, and a walking stick, and we made monthly visits to him,” Dunging said.

Panggau, 53, Awang’s son from his third marriage who had been caring for his father, said his most cherished moments with his father was being able to look after him until his last breath.

“My most memorable moment with him is that I got to look after him during his last few months. I decided to take him home (to their house at Taman Paderi in Sri Aman) to be close to medical facilities and we didn’t want him to be alone in the longhouse.

“I believe that I should care for him because he is my father and he had made many sacrifices when we were small,” said Panggau.

“He used to live in the Nanga Skrang longhouse alone, so why not take him with me to live in Sri Aman. My father died of old age.

“Even before he died he wasn’t in critical condition. Before his last breath, he just refused to eat, I had asked him if he was in pain while holding my hands, he said, ‘No’. Not long after that, he passed on at around 2.15pm. Paramedics from the Sri Aman hospital came to confirm his death,” he said.

Awang’s remains were placed at Panggau’s house for two days before they were brought to Kuching.

Panggau thanked the state government for making arrangements for the funeral and burial of his father today at the Heroes Grave, Jalan Bulatan Budaya.

“My family and I wish to thank the state government for making all the arrangements for us, including to Datuk Stephen Mundaw (JHEV advisor and also former Eastern Field Command commander).

“The state government has been very kind in doing something great for my late father, and remembering him for his service to the country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Panggau’s brother and eldest of the siblings, Manual, 62, believes that his father was 104 years old when he died and not in his 90s as reported.

“You know those days in the longhouse, late registrations were normal.

“How could my father be at 94 or 95, when his eldest son from his first marriage is already in his 80s,” said Manual.

Even though he lives in Miri, Manaul used to ask about his father.

“I know that he had been unwell, and I would check on him through Panggau at least three times a week.

“Looking at the love shared by many, and concerns and the welfare accorded to my late father, I am very thankful to the state government.

“I thank the state government, civil servants, dignitaries and cabinet ministers for their assistance and concerns shown,” he said.

The late Awang, according to Manaul, had three wives (the first bore him only one child, the second bore him two children and from the third wife he had six children including Manaul and Panggau.)

Awang was the nation’s sole recipient of the George Cross gallantry medal  —  the second highest award in the United Kingdom’s honours system after the Victoria Cross, which he received on November 20, 1951.

He was entitled to meet Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace once every two years and received a tax-free annuity of about £1,300 from the British government. — Borneo Post Online

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