THEY helped determine the shape and size of the country, defending the mountainous border boundary against an Indonesian invasion. Sadly, they are still not recognised as the country’s citizens.
The country’s territories would have been different – much smaller, perhaps – if not for the heroic efforts of the former Border Scouts of Sarawak.
They risked their lives defending the border during the Confrontation era in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
These former soldiers of the Lun Bawang minority ethnic group from the Bakelalan highlands in northernmost Sarawak are now in their 70s and 80s – and still trying to secure their MyKad which will make them citizens.
For decades, they have been holding red and green identity cards.
Their sad plight came to attention when five of these brave soldiers met with Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) deputy president Datuk Nelson Balang Rining recently.
Balang, who is SPDP divisional chairman, arranged for the five to travel from the deep interior highlands to meet with The Star in Lawas near the Sarawak-Brunei border.
They are Basar Arun, 76, Kadamus Liling, 71, Basar Paru, 86, Florant Arun, 70, and Anderias Sha, 76.
Sadly, Kadamus has since passed away without realising his dream of becoming a Malaysian.
Paru said there were many other former Sarawakian soldiers like them who were without a MyKad.
“We were born in the 1930s and early 1940s, and we served with the British Gurkhas during the Confrontation.
“Malaysia was not even formed yet then. We served as Border Scout soldiers for Sarawak in Long Semadoh and Bakelalan,” he said.
“At that time, there were foreign threats who opposed the idea of Sarawak wanting to join with the others (Malaya, Sabah and Singapore) to become one country.
“The danger of being invaded by foreign troops was very real as Sarawak has very long mountainous borders that are difficult to defend.”
These Borders Scouts successfully stopped the Indonesian troops and rejoiced when Malaysia was formed.
They applied for ICs but the National Registration Department (NRD) was unsure whether they were born in Kalimantan, Indonesia, or Malaysia.
To this day, they are still trying.
They are already old. They just want to be recognised as Malaysians before they die.
Balang said SPDP had liaised with NRD to help them.
“They were soldiers recognised by the Persatuan Bekas Tentera Malaysia,” he said.
“They are already old, yet they cannot qualify for Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia or get welfare department aid, housing aid for hardcore poor or hospital benefits. Their children also cannot get MyKad.
“These fighters should be duly recognised as our country’s soldiers. Many have received certificates of appreciation from our commandos.
“But the NRD says it will take about five more years to determine if they can get their MyKad.”