KUCHING: The descendents of Desmond Vernon Murphy, a British officer killed in the infamous Long Nawang massacre during the Second World War, want his remains to be exhumed and brought back to the state.
Murphy and 40 others were killed by the Japanese in September 1942 in the tiny Dutch government outpost in East Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Their remains, including those of nine European women and six children, were buried at the village in two graves. They were later exhumed and moved to Tarakan Island in a cemetery called “Field of Honour’, which has later renamed Makam Pahlawan.
After learning that her grandfather, Murphy, was one of the victims, a freelance writer Melissa Murphy was spurred to do her part to bring his remains back to the state, just like what was done with the remains of 21 Iban Trackers and Sarawak Rangers under Ops Mai Pulai recently.
“My plan is to visit my grandfather’s grave, and God willing, to exhume him and rebury him at the Heroes Grave in Kuching so that the family can visit him easily,” the mother of two told The Star.
She believed that the families of the other victims in Sarawak would also want the remains of their ancestors to be brought back to the state.
“I want people to remember them for who they were and not be forgotten and put away in some distant land. They do not deserve that nor does anyone else for that matter.
“The British government should be involved as the victims were mostly British citizens. I want to knock on many doors, so many that the right people would listen and help me make the mission possible.”
It took Melissa years to trace the history of “Tuan Murphy” as her grandfather was known during the Brooke era. He went missing after the war broke out.
“My grandmother Siti (Sulastri Sulaiman) fretted about his whereabouts until she died in 2001,” Melissa recalled.
Melissa’s father, Micheal, is Murphy’s only surviving offspring.
Melissa said her oldest brother, Malcom, started making enquiries while studying law in England but the Kuala Lumpur-based lawyer did not get very far.
She managed to find some facts about Murphy’s past from his birth certificate obtained from the General Registrar in Dublin.
With the help of a London-based researcher, Roger E Nixon, a specialist in military and historical searches, Melissa managed to find a death registry in the (Colonial Office) of the National Achieves, London.
The record states that Murphy was killed in Long Nawang.
Murphy arrived in Sarawak in the late 1920s and was recruited into the Brooke administration. He was later appointed as Assistant Superintendent of the Sarawak Constabulary and Sarawak Rangers.
He married Siti from Java and they had three children. Their eldest and youngest child died.
When the Japanese invaded Sarawak, Siti fled back to her family in Kampung Jawa while Murphy, together with a group of evacuees led by Andrew Macpherson (the then Sibu Resident) went to Long Nawang.