FOR 16 years, Rapi Bata (pic) quietly carried out his duties as a constable with the tracker unit of the Senoi Praaq. Last month, he made front-page news for being one of four people who had found the four lost boys in the jungles of Fraser’s Hill.
Rapi, 41, says he was always fairly adept in finding his way in a jungle but he credits his Senoi Praaq training for his success in finding the lost boys.
“When I was looking for the children, I used the techniques I learned in a jungle survival skills course,” he says.
There were some intriguing lessons that were part of his training. Rapi says that he can tell, by inspecting signs left behind by someone answering the call of nature in the jungle, if that person is a man or a woman.
“When we see a twig broken a certain way, we know that someone has passed through the area. We were taught to find out how long ago the twig was broken by studying it carefully,” he recounts.
Rapi’s uncle was in the Senoi Praaq and his stories inspired his nephew to join.
Rapi, who is a Temuan, became a Senoi Praaq recruit in April 1984. He remembers that life as a member of the unit was sometimes lonely.
“When I first joined, there were no such things as mobile phones. I had to leave my wife and children behind to live in the jungle for months at a time,” he recalls.
But it was all part of the experience and he learned to take it in his stride, he says.
“When you have chosen to carry out such duties, you have to be willing to sacrifice and be disciplined.”
Rapi says that when it comes to following orders to the letter, there are few who can surpass the Senoi Praaq.
“We are known for following orders without question, sometimes at our own expense.”
But his time with the Senoi Praaq has left him with a disability.
“I can’t see clearly through my right eye because my security post was close to a sugar cane factory,” he says matter-of-factly.
“The constant cloud of ash and dust that hung in the air permanently damaged my eye,” says Rapi, who had kept vigil for long hours at his post.
Rapi decided to hang up his red beret for good a few years ago. He now works in his hometown, Kuala Kubu Baru, and is also the Kampung Orang Asli Tun Razak Umno chief.
“The old days when the Senoi Praaq were the anak emas (golden child) of the Royal Malaysian Police are over,” he says with a tinge of sadness.
“Promotions were slow and I decided to earn a living as a contract worker.”
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