Saturday, April 23, 2016

Australian youth development programme recognises Japanese WWII occupation in Borneo

KOTA KINABALU: The history of Japanese occupation in Borneo during the Second World War between the years 1942-45 has been included in a youth development programme in Australia.

It all started in 2003 as a community education programme by highlighting the infamous Sandakan Death March before PASS or the Partnership with Australia, Sabah and Sarawak schools was established.

Borneo Exhibition Group Inc. Western Australia chairman Ryan Rowland said under PASS, students are asked to do an assignment or take part in a competition and winners will then receive a two-week sponsored trip to visit memorial sites starting in Kuching and ending in Kota Kinabalu.

Ryan who led an entourage of Australian war veterans and their family members to pay homage to fallen soldiers at war memorial sites across Sabah, said the trip would encourage local and Australian students to come together to learn about that chapter in history.

“In the beginning we only focused on the Australian side of the story but over the years we realised that during the four years of Japanese occupation there was much more trauma and tragedy suffered by the local people here and left forgotten,” said Ryan during a visit to a Sikh Temple near Sembulan yesterday.

“For us, we continue to keep the memories alive during Anzac Day to remember the fallen soldiers and we would like the locals to join us because the commemoration is not just for the Aussies and New Zealanders but it is for everybody,” he said.

Over the years a lot of Australian war veterans have been unable to travel to Sabah because of their mobility problems due to old age.

“In the next couple of years, we will lose many of them because most of them are now in the 90s and furthermore they are not functioning well mentally and physically. Now we only have three living members who were Sandakan prisoners of war and they are aged 95, 97 and 100 years old,” said Ryan.

“For us we have a very strong responsibility to pass on the history and heritage to the next generation from the information told to us by their forefathers,” he said.