LEST WE FORGET

DOWN MEMORY LANE WITH BORNEO BULLETIN ARCHIVES

Compiled by Zainul Akmal Zaini

Brunei’s ex-deputy minister recalls days with Aussie troops

DECEMBER 14, 2008 – It was a poignant day yesterday during the unveiling of the Brunei-Australia memorial to commemorate Australian servicemen who landed in Brunei Bay during the Second World War.

Looking over Muara Beach, the site of their landings, the memorial is a simple one but one that will stand the tests of time.

On Sunday, June 10, 1945, units of the Australian 9th Division landed on Muara Beach and advanced through the jungle to Brunei Town in an operation codenamed ‘Oboe 6’.

But the Australians weren’t the only ones moved by the poignancy of yesterday’s ceremony.

Pehin Dato Paduka Haji Ahmad Wally Skinner, Brunei’s former Deputy Minister of Finance, was among those who welcomed the Australian forces into Brunei in 1945, and yesterday, he joined them in mourning their lost brothers and shared with them his own memories.

Pehin Dato Paduka Haji Ahmad Wally Skinner with his autograph book, which was signed by a number of Australian military personnel during World War II. – JASON LEONG

He brought with him a book filled with messages and signatures of many Australian servicemen who had come to liberate Brunei at the end of World War II.

In an interview with the Sunday Bulletin, he recounted the events that had occurred 63 years ago.

“When the Australians came, I was actually near the Pandaruan River hiding because Brunei was being bombarded heavily and there was nothing left,” recalled the 84-year-old man.

“From there we went to Limbang but Limbang Town was demolished in one hour so we had to run to the jungle.”

Life after the war began for him in Labuan, where he worked alongside the Australians to help rebuild the town.

“I was working for the 9th Australian Division Brunei Borneo Civil Affairs Unit. I was also doing clerical work in the law office,” he said.

He also recalled staying at the base with the soldiers and living in a tent, as most of the infrastructure in Labuan had been destroyed.

He also recounted how Australian soldiers would come to him with food and in return they asked him to provide them with Japanese notes and coins.

By 1947, he joined the British North Borneo Government Service.

He left Labuan that year for Brunei and has lived here with his family since.

In 1993, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Finance. He retired in 2003. – Narissa Noor


Disability not a hurdle

DECEMBER 3, 2008 – As the world marks Disability Day today, Brunei Darussalam can be proud of its record of employing disabled people both in the public and private sectors to help them lead a normal life.

Most of them have proven themselves beyond doubts that they are as good, in some instances even better, as any normal people.

The Bulletin spoke to a few who have been successful in their career, which shows that their disabilities are no hurdle to success.

Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) employee Anthony Chiuh (pic below), or better known as Tony, 52, has been wheelchair bound since 1979 following a horrific accident.

Little did he know then as a 24-year-old that the accident was going to change his life forever.

The accident in Sungai Liang left Tony with a broken spinal cord at the back of his neck. The injury paralysed his whole body and he spent the next two years at the old hospital in the capital, a period Tony described as ‘the period of struggle’.

“At the time I thought I could not live anymore. I felt so down physically and psychologically,” said Tony. But continuous support from friends and others lifted his spirit and resolve to continue living.

“I underwent physiotherapy and after I managed to lift my fingers and one of my hands, I began my life positively and started to be myself,” he said.

As things began to improve for Tony, he decided to become independent, so the first thought that came across his mind was to find a job. Tony spent three years working in the travel industry where he handled bookings and ticketing as an operator.

He jumped a few jobs before settling in his current job at SCB for the last 11 years. “I am happy and feel lucky to work at the bank as the treatment and care I receive is fair compared to normal people,” said Tony who multi-tasks at the bank. During his free time, Tony lends support and strives to inspire others who go through the same situation as he did to continue with their lives.

Every Saturday he goes to hospital to give disabled people counselling.

Tony said it is not the end of the world if one is disabled. Just by thinking positively, problems can be solved and people can live without the feeling of shame about their disability, he said.

Tony’s confidence level is phenomenal.

“I would like to drive from Brunei to Kuching one day and from Kuching I would like to continue to Pontianak,” he said when asked what he wanted to do in the future.

Tony currently drives in his modified Toyota Corolla. The licence he needed, given his condition, took him four years to come by after being declared fit by a medical officer. He was trained and tested the same way as normal people are before getting their licence, except in his modified car.

Other than playing table tennis, Tony also likes to swim and plans to do diving. He is one of the pioneering members of an association for the disabled.

When his second life began as a disabled person, Tony set himself three goals – to have a good job, get Brunei citizenship and to have someone care for him.

“I have achieved my first goal and looking forward to the other two,” he said. – Text and photo by Malek Hashim