SANDAKAN – A Sabah minister today called for the lessons learned from wars and the Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches of 74 years ago be passed on to future generations as a reminder that no one benefits from wars.
Health and People’s Wellbeing Minister Datuk Frankie Poon said the people should reflect on the continued desire for freedom and peace and that war does nothing but destroy mankind.
“It was here in Sandakan where the prisoners-of-wars (POW) perished and local communities took the risk and sacrificed their lives in helping these allied soldiers.
“We join family members of the POW and remember the tragic loss 74 years ago (1945),” he said at the Sandakan Day Memorial Service here.
Poon was overwhelmed with sadness that he could not help the quiver in his voice when delivering his speech.
Despite sharing a sad history, the Tanjung Papat assemblyman said it held a special place in the hearts of the nations involved – Malaysia, Australia and Britain – for continued friendship.
The Australian and British high commissioners to Malaysia, Andrew Goledzinowski and Charles Hay, respectively, also stressed the importance of educating society on the sacrifices of the POW of the three nations that showed the spirit of kindness and friendship, which continues on today.
The death marches, which involved a distance of about 260 km during the Japanese occupation in World War II, claimed the lives of more than 2,400 POW who were moved from the Sandakan POW camp to Ranau following the bombing of an airfield in Sandakan.
For the past 17 years, the Sandakan Municipal Council and Sabah Tourism Board have organised a memorial service at the former POW campground, which is now the Sandakan Memorial Park maintained with lush greenery.
The service involves the mounting of a catafalque party of the Australian Army Rifle Company Butterworth standing guard around an obelisk on the memorial site, where family members of the POW and individuals lay wreaths as a symbol of respect.