Sarawak’s old ‘warriors’ worth only RM100 a month


(FMT) – KUCHING: In an age when even a school-going child’s pocket money is no less than RM1 a day, Sarawakian veterans who defended the country against communists and terrorists are only worth RM100 a month.

That is the appalling situation facing several aging former Sarawak Rangers and Iban Trackers.

These men spent most of their entire life away from family and friends defending the country.

Briefly the Sarawak rangers were a para-military force founded in 1892.

They were highly skilled in jungle warfare, western and native weaponry and were mobilised to defend the state and country during the Japanese Occupation in 1942 and later during the Malayan Emergency and Borneo Frontation.

In 1963 the Sarawak Rangers were absorbed into the mainstream and they became part of the Royal Ranger Regimet.

But their services received little recognition despite their contribution to the nation’s security.

The lived in the shadows of their peninsular ‘brothers’ and eventually the government and the national defence fraternity forgot them.

Their worth to the government and nation was priced their worth at RM100 a month, a paltry sum described as a “cost of living allowance” (Cola) too shocking to digest for some.

A veteran airforce personnel, who has made Sarawak his home, was stumped when he heard the quantum.

“The policymakers are mad … they’re living in a bubble…How can any man live on 100 ringgit these days?

“Cost of living here in Kuching is now three  times costlier than it used to be in the 70s.

“Can you imagine the situation in the rural areas, interior?,” he asked drawing attention to rampant reports of spiralling prices of consumer good in the rural and interior areas of the state.

A few months ago following the withdrawal fo subsidies on fuel and sugar, FMT reported that in rural Sarawak price of a litre of kerosene had shot up to upto RM5.50 a litre and sugar, rice and coooking has also skyrocketed by pver 30%.

Unsung heroes

Meanwhile the shocking disclosure of  the RM100 allowance for Sarawak Rangers and Iban Trackers has spawned several calls to the government for a immediate review of allowances for these unsung ‘heroes’.

Parliament’s Deputy Speaker, Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, said the Cola should be reviewed and made on par with the national poverty index.

“Its time and I am very supportive of the idea. I feel they should receive RM750 a month which is at par with the poverty line index.

“These war veterans deserve a higher allowace as a token of appreciation for the service they rendered to the country,” he said recently.

Sarawak state Minister and Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president James Masing who shared Wan Junaidi’s view that a review was necessary has suggested that the widows of those killed during the war, also be included in the upgrading.

“Most of the surving veterans and the widows of those killed are old now…An increase in allowance will be a gesture of the government’s appreciation for their sacrifices in protecting the country in the early days,” he said.

Political will needed