SANDAKAN: A Ranau girl was only nine years old when she displayed heroic courage and compassion to give food to starving Prisoners of War (POWs) during the Japanese Occupation in Sabah in World War Two.
Palabiu Bte Akoi @ Balabiu Bte Akoi was living in Ranau with her mother when they saw the gaunt British and Australia POWs being forced march (i.e. Death March) to Ranau town.
Balabiu recalled seeing several villagers who were staying at the shops in Ranau township giving the POWs food such as tapioca, bananas, local cakes and cooked rice.
“That was when I knew that there was war and Japan had invaded Ranau. Being the eldest daughter among three siblings and after my father died a year before the incident, my mother and I went back to live at Kampung Nalapak, several miles away from Ranau.
“I started to help the British and Australian POWs by giving them food as we were selling vegetables by the roadside those days.
“Sometimes, the POWs passed by in groups of two or three persons. They looked pale, malnourished, thin and badly starved. Locals could only give the food to POWs when there were no Japanese around, otherwise we could be beaten,” she said.
After the war ended, Balabiu said a missionary, Trevor White and the leader of the combined Australia-British Borneo Reward Mission, Major Harry Jackson, came to the Ranau Rest House to thank Balabiu and other villagers for helping the POWs.
When asked about a photo which showed her listening to a recording next to Trevor and Harry, Balabiu said she was the last person to arrive at the rest house.
“I was told by other villagers that there were ‘white men’ who came and wanted to meet those who had helped POWs. However I arrived late as I had to care for my younger siblings.
It was almost 5pm when I reached the rest house. They recorded my statement and I got the chance to listen to a replay of the recording,” she added.
Labels: Death March, Ranau, Sandakan, Sandakan Memorial Park