November 30, 2017

Sibu Tales : Empawah, Killings in the Backyard

Today Empawah is headed by Penghulu Wong Tung Sing with several other community leaders under him. Empawah is translated to Chinese words White Lily River. Bai Hua He.

The security of the area is so much better now with proper roads, police surveillance etc. Today one can reach this village in 20 minutes by car as the road is very good.

The Rascom days are over, the Gurkha soldiers are gone and the Malay Regiment gone too.

The days of CCO are over.

Empawah was known as a black area in the 1970's when gunshots,and even machine gun fire could be heard frequently.

Families were really scared in those days, Schools like Tien Jing was in danger of being closed down for good (one of the reasons why it was moved to Sibu) Su Lai school was also moved to Sibu. Many children had their education interrupted and many girls were forced to marry earlier. Boys were sent away so that their lives could be saved. Some were sent as far away as Sandakan. Some poor families kept their children in Chung Cheng Secondary school as boarders, when in those days, they could take the early morning motor launch to school at 6 a.m. and the last boat from Sibu before 6.
Image result for old houses of Empawah 24 acres sibu rajang
Thian Jing school looking very desolate today

These students carried their own lunch boxes, known as tingkap or cheng ark.

One story I have been told was the story of how my relatives' house was riddled with bullets. If the house is still there, you can still see the bullet holes.

My aunt was in the jetty washing clothes and of course life was scary in those days. Any time the Malay Regiment would come by the jetty and shoo her off as it was bad curfew time.

That day the gun fire was really near the house but she and the children were able to hide under their wooden bed. Luckily no stray bullets caught any one of them. There were about 12 bullet holes on the wall facing the road, near the front door. The family was petrified and they could not sleep the whole night.

In retrospect, even civilians were not spared. There was no investigation as to why the guns were fired at their house.

The next day, it seemed there was a celebration among the Malay Regiment. Three corpses of purported CCO were carried out from the interior tied to poles like they were wild pigs. My relatives had very little food for a few days as they could not go out and the soldiers were camping along the village roads waiting for their boats to come.

My aunt (May God bless her soul) told us that she could remember the smell of the dead corpses for years. She told her children not to peep out of the windows. And she told the family not to make any noise or move around too much.

Soon after, the family moved to Sibu and rented two small rooms after the incident at the advice of the headman. In fact many did move away for good.

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