KUCHING, Aug 28 — A solemn Veteran’s Day service to honour members of the armed forces who had served in Malaya and Borneo was held at the Sarawak Heroes Memorial Park here today.

The event marked the 57th anniversary of the signing of the Malaysia-Indonesia Peace Agreement, which brought an end to the Indonesian Confrontation with Malaysia that occurred from December 24, 1962 until August 11, 1966.

Organised by the Sarawak Heritage Development Committee with support from the Facilitation Fund for Heritage, Arts, and Culture, it was attended, among others, by veterans of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) and their family members as part of a reunion visit here.

The New Zealand High Commissioner, Pam Chong Dunn, said that at the Sarawak Heroes Memorial Park, the people are continually reminded of the efforts of the Commonwealth Forces, fighting alongside Malaysians to preserve Malaysian sovereignty despite the efforts of others to undermine it.

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“Malaysia has not forgotten your service and you are all heroes in their eyes. Today is a day to remember and reflect, to honour your contributions and sacrifices, and to commemorate those who fell.

“And to take pride that New Zealand did its part alongside others to build Malaysia as a nation. Your deeds are not forgotten and your service is honoured,” she said in her speech.

Throughout the confrontation, there were no casualties among the New Zealander forces.

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The South Australia and Northern Territory Branch of the National Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association of Australia (NMBVAA) also paid tribute to their fallen comrades.

A commemorative plaque in the Heroes Memorial Park, unveiled in 2016, lists the names of Australian servicemen who lost their lives during the Confrontation.

Throughout the Malayan Emergency — which occurred in the Federation of Malaya from June 16, 1948 until July 31, 1960 — and the Indonesian Confrontation, 71 Australian servicemen lost their lives on operational service in Malaya and Singapore.

Of those who died during the Confrontation, five died in Sabah, and 11, in Sarawak.

President of the South Australia and Northern Territory Branch NMBVAA, Major Paul Rosenzweig (retired), led the Australian contingent to the ceremony.

Veterans marching into the ceremony carrying the New Zealand, Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association and Malaysian flags. — Borneo Post pic 
Veterans marching into the ceremony carrying the New Zealand, Malaya & Borneo Veterans Association and Malaysian flags. — Borneo Post pic 

Speaking to reporters, Rosenzweig conveyed his appreciation for the opportunity to honour those who had lost their lives and for allowing the veterans to reflect on the sacrifices made by their fellow comrades.

“As an association (NMBVAA), we encompass the campaigns in the Malaya-Borneo confrontation. But because our veterans are ageing, this year we asked all our veterans to bring their children and grandchildren.

“In a few years’ time, these veterans will not be able to make the (reunion) trip. Unfortunately, they may pass away or they won’t be able to physically travel anymore, but their children and grandchildren will still be able to come back to attend future commemorations.

“We’ve already started the plan for 2026 which will be the 60th anniversary of the end of the confrontation. We may not have too many veterans to come by then but if their children and grandchildren come, we can continue that legacy and continue these visits and maintain friendships with Sarawak,” he said.

Rosenzweig also offered his perspective on the importance of the memorial, indicating that there are future plans to organise a similar memorial event in Sabah to honour Australian soldiers who gave their lives on Sabahan soil during the confrontation.

“Our veterans lacked recognition for a considerable time due to the overshadowing of the Malaya-Borneo campaigns by the Vietnam War and the politics of the era.

“However in 2011, the Australian Government designated August 31 as Malaya Borneo Veterans Day, allowing us to annually honour our veterans across Australia.

“We’re also preparing a trip to Sabah to commemorate the five Australian soldiers in the near future,” he said.

Major Paul Rosenzweig (retired) speaking to reporters after the ceremony. — Borneo Post pic 
Major Paul Rosenzweig (retired) speaking to reporters after the ceremony. — Borneo Post pic 

Regarding the approaching Malaysia’s National Day on August 31, he expressed his admiration for the country’s progress and success.

“The city is growing; All of this comes about because we played a small role in defending the state and country in the early 1960s.

“Together with the New Zealand and British forces, as well as Gurkhas, we constituted a Commonwealth force alongside Malays, Dayaks, and border scouts. As a united collective, we contributed to the defence of the state and the nation, ultimately paving the way for the prosperity we enjoy today.

“When we come back as veterans, we see all of this (prosperity) surrounding us, we know our forebears have done well,” he said.

Rosenzweig also extended heartfelt thanks to various individuals and organisations for their invaluable support, including former Heritage Adviser of Sarawak Tourism Federation, Datuk Lim Kian Hock; Australian Honourary Consul to Sarawak Datuk Dr Philip Ting, and the Chair of the Sarawak Tourism Federation Heritage Development Committee Fiona Marcus Raja.

He also acknowledged Minister for Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts, Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, for his ministry’s support for the commemoration. — Borneo Post