August 23, 2014

Nang Chong Stories: Curfew Time and Child Births

1972 was a bad year for every one in Sarawak. And my cousin Kung Lien was expecting during this frightful historical period.
The bicycle was a very important means of transport in Sibu and the surrounding villages in the 50's to 70's. Here Cousin Kung Lien and cousin Kung Siu. She was often cycled even when she was heavily pregnant after she got married in 1970's. Photo from Lau Kung Mei, Miri.
three of her six sons...meeting for lunch in Sibu. One son now resides in Miri, another in Kuching. four sons are in Sibu. What wonderful people of Bukit Lan...the Sii Family. (Photo by Sarawakiana)

Photo: 新春大团圆,一个也没有少。
My Cousin Kung Lien and her six sons and six daughters in law, and grand children. A truly God fearing family. (Photo from Sii Hee Kang's album)


Any one expecting the delivery of a child was naturally nervous as the hospital, private clinics and even local midwives were not easily accessible. All roads were blocked, motor launches were not allowed to ply their usual business and 24 hour curfew could be announced any time. The normal curfew was 12 hours, from dusk to sunset. In 1971, 72 days of 24 hour curfew were imposed.

Curfew was imposed to block all food to the CCO or Chinese Communist Organisation, all access roads and all communications with the guerrillas. Police roadblocks were every where and population registration was carried out.

Sibu town was under curfew too but it was not as severe as in the rural areas. Normal life was carried out. Relationship between the local police, Police Field Force and the civilians was good. Peace was expected to be upheld by all. Only a few occasional killings and murders happened in the rural areas when gun fire was exchanged between the forces and the CCO's. Informants were brutally murdered by the CCo's.

My cousin Kung Lien from Nang Chong but married to a Bukit Lan man was expecting her child and she was fortunate to be able to stay a few days in Sibu with her sister in law. On the expected day she cycled to Lau Fong Fei Maternity Home from Bukit Assek, which was just nearby.

Sister Lau Fong Fei was an expert in midwifery. In those days, there was an injection which could induce the delivery of a baby. Because of the fear spreading around caused by curfew, my cousin wanted her baby to be delivered earlier so that she could go back to Bukit Lan during the day time by the riverine motor launch. Sister Lau Fong Fei was kind and she suggested that the baby should be induced and be delivered by 9 p.m. that night. Her bicycle was the least of my cousin's worry according to Sister Lau.

Indeed the baby boy arrived exactly at 9 p.m. and my cousin stayed two nights and a day, the usual expected stay at the maternity home at that time.

She took the motor launch back to Bukit Lan with the new born baby all wrapped up in the usual towels, while she herself was fully covered from any wind. Confinement Wind (chills) was the greatest fear of a new Foochow mother. So socks and all, she braved the elements and sat in the motor launch which took more than 4 hours to reach Bukit Lan.

 The captain of the boat was very kind. Upon arrival at the jetty of the Sii house, the captain carried the new born baby to the house and asked my cousin to wait for a while. He came back to take her slowly back to the house. It was very gentlemanly of him to extend such a kind gesture.

My cousin has 6 boys : three born in the Lau King Howe hospital, two born in Bukit Lan, with the help of Foochow midwives on weekend visit to families (using borrowed equipment from Hii King Lien, the local Chinese Sinseh).

My heart becomes so overflowing with respect when I listen to her stories of child births and anecdotes of our village life. God was mightily with the people of Sibu during those crisis days and took them out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death.



17 comments:

Anonymous said...

My mother was expecting me when there was a curfew in SIbu in 1969 and ha dproblem trying to get to the LKH Hospital. Well, I always remember on my birthday there was a curfe win Sibu.

Ensurai said...

Yes please tell your story. I am collecting Curfew stories and especially birth stories...to give moral support to all mothers who endured great pains in those days.

Anonymous said...

Actually my mother was at her father's place. She was there celebrating my maternal grandfather's birthday and then was expecting me. So, my birthday is the same as my grandfather's birthday as well as the day curfew was imposed in Sibu in 1969. That's what my mother always tell me.

I wonder do you know how many curfews were imposed in 1960's and 1970's.

fabiany11 said...

Peoples in the old days were so strong that they were able to plough through all sorts of terrors.I think that community in the past had a closer bond comparing to the current days

Small Kucing said...

so kind of the Captain.

Anonymous said...

I knew a few families who were killed by the communist for reporting to the RASCOM about the coming of the communist to their houses.

We also heard about an Chinese inspector who was killed and also the body was hanged over the trees after the funeral. Not sure if that was true.

Ensurai said...

The curfews were many, at different times and for different lengths of time. The worst was the 24 hours for 72 days in 1971, July- Sept.

Ensurai said...

Yes indeed. Every one travelling in the same boat or motor launch would be very caring and the boat gerugan or captain would be especially caring. It was always so touching to see so much good will in the motor launch. All the communications then were filled with loving kindness.

Ensurai said...

Very kind. No bus driver would stop a bus today to help a patient to disembark and walk him to the house!! Instead he would be scolding the patient if he was a little slow!!!!!

Ensurai said...

That's true. Yes about the police inspector..he was properly buried but a few days later the communists dug out his body and they hanged his body parts from tree branches.

Anonymous said...

1972 and 72 days...seems to rhyme. I believe there must be many expecting mother caught in the curfews as they were frequent and many.

Anonymous said...

Heard abiut that too. The eyes were gouged out and hung.

Anonymous said...

When did the curfew actually end? If I remember correctly, it was still on on the early 1980s

Anonymous said...

this whole sad stories told us about the era. it is difficult to say if that was wrong or right. what i can say is the winners are always right.
sorry, chin peng!

Anonymous said...

They are the heroes of Sarawak-they fought for an Independence Sarawak -now we have all our wealth stolen by someone. Our people have to go far and wide to llok for a living! If they won, there will be no such thing. The only unfortunate thing is that hey used a wrong platform-communism. But can;t blame them as what else would have supported them!

Ensurai said...

I agree with you. The winners always get to write their stories from their point of view. And the losers just disappear like dust in the desert. Chin Peng will be remembered in one way or another. Truth is often slow to surface but it will prevail. History is always full of controversies.

Ensurai said...

Communism was used as a platform because it was the "ideology" of the day. It was the platform to get rid of feudalism, colonialism and plutocrats. Unfortunately there were too many people playing dirty games in the field. Also, communism might have been the wrong ticket for the wrong people in the wrong place. It could only work in a monocultural society like China or Vietnam..It was not too suitable for Sarawak because there were too many political and social variables. Just my own two cents.

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