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Tengkawang Oil, the Butter from Nature

During a traditional food festival in Lanjak in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, no preservative or artificial flavouring such as MSG was used in any of the dishes. This also includes the oil they used for cooking which was substituted with tengkawang oil.

  • The traditional food festival was held at Lanjak, West Kalimantan from September 14-15 and was organised by Indonesian community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) NGO, Riak Bumi
  • The traditional food festival was held at Lanjak, West Kalimantan from September 14-15 and was organised by Indonesian Indonesian community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) NGO, Riak Bumi
  • The traditional food festival was held at Lanjak, West Kalimantan from September 14-15 and was organised by Indonesian community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) NGO, Riak Bumi
  • The traditional food festival was held at Lanjak, West Kalimantan from September 14-15 and was organised by Indonesian Indonesian community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) NGO, Riak Bumi

Known to many as the butter from nature or green butter, tengkawang oil is extracted from the fruit of tengkawang trees.

Tengkawang fruit or the Borneo shallow nut is a native fruit species that can be found in the jungles of Borneo.

However, West Kalimantan, Indonesia is particularly known for its tengkawang oil as it is still widely used by the locals.

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Tengkawang oil, also known as green butter, is made from the fruit of the tengkawang tree which can be commonly found in the tropical jungles of Borneo.

In both Sarawak and Kalimantan, tengkawang fruits are collected by the locals where it will then be processed into oil.

While tengkawang can be found in the jungle, there are some people who actually grow the trees at their farm.

Tengkawang is known as “engkabang” among the Iban people, and “kakawang” among the Embaloh people.

The tree will usually bear fruit once every five years, although there are places in Kalimantan that bear fruits once a year.

In Lanjak, the locals will usually collect tengkawang fruit sometime around February.

According to the locals, the trees will usually bear fruits at the beginning of the year during the rainy season. The trees are typically found near water sources such as the river.  

Usually locals will collect and process it for their own household consumption, although now most have began to commercialize the oil.

However, when picking these fruits, those that have fallen off the tree and started sprouting should not be used.

This is because when processed, they will taste differently. Apart from that, the oil will also be green instead of the usual bright yellow hue.

To process the fruits into oil, the fruits are first separated from the shell and dried under the sun.

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The dried tengkawang fruits before being ground into powder

This process might take up to a few days to a week before they are ground into powder.

  • Dried tengkawang fruit being ground into powder.
  • The ground tengkawang fruit.

After that, the powder is then placed in a steamer filled with water for about an hour.

However, the time may vary, depending on the amount of tengkawang powder being steamed at a time.

The lesser the amount of tengkawang powder being steamed at a time, the less time is spent steaming it.

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The tengkawang powder is placed in a steamer for about an hour

Then, after some time, the steamed powder is taken out to be pressed by a manual oil press machine expeller to produce a glossy, pale yellow liquid.

  • The oil is extracted from the powder by hand through an oil press machine expeller.
  • What comes out from the extractor is a glossy, pale yellow fluid.

Before the machine, the locals would extract the oil using a wooden device called an “apit”.

The dregs or the remains of the tengkawang powder is not discarded but used as fodder and fertilizer.

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The remains can be used as fodder or fertilizer

At room temperature, it will take about three days for the tengkawang oil to solidify, although it will be much quicker using a refrigerator.

Once solidified, tengkawang oil can be stored in containers and be kept for up to more than a year.

However, according to locals, the oil can also be stored in bamboo to ensure a longer storage period.

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Tengkawang oil is usually stored in bamboo to ensure longer storage period

Local people will usually use tengkawang oil for cooking and baking.  

So instead of the usual cooking vegetable or palm oil that we use for cooking, you might consider substituting it with tengkawang oil. You can even substitute butter with tengkawang oil when baking.

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Tengkawang oil used for cooking

On warm rice, the locals will usually press tengkawang to give the rice an aromatic nutty flavour and scent.

It is said that tengkawang oil is preferred over liquid oil when cooking in the jungle as it is more convenient.

Unlike typical oil, tengkawang oil is easier to carry and you would not have to worry about it spilling.

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Example of commercial products using tengkawang oil

Apart from that, tengkawang oil has also been used in cosmetic products such as lipstick and make up foundation due to it moisturising properties. It has also been used to make chocolate, bar soap, medicine, cream, lotion, hair conditioner, sunscreen and as a margarine substitute.

The Dayak-Madurese conflicts in Kalimantan, and what led up to them

Even as a kid growing up in Malaysia, particularly Sarawak, there’s a big chance you might have heard about the bloody interracial conflicts going on in Kalimantan between their native Dayak groups and the Madurese people.

The Dayak-Madurese conflicts caught the attention of international media during the late 90s and early 2000s, with coverage on the massacres featured in The Washington Post and The Guardian, among others.

To begin looking back at these events, we have to start with the transmigration programme.

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A Dayak Iban longhouse in West Kalimantan.
What was the transmigration programme?

Started by the Dutch colonial government, the transmigration programme was an initiative to move landless people from densely populated areas of Indonesia to less populous areas of the country.

This included moving people permanently from Java, Bali and Madura to less densely populated areas like Papua, Kalimantan, Sumatra and Sulawesi.

It was first started in the early 19th century to reduce overcrowding as well as to provide labour for plantations in Sumatra.

Then the Dutch colonial government demolished the programme during the end of its rule. However, the Indonesian government brought back the programme following Indonesian independence.

The rise of the Dayak-Madurese conflicts

The Madurese started to migrate into Borneo in the 1930s, so there had been Madurese people living in Borneo for about 70 years until these conflicts started.

Several reasons have been put forward to explain the violence between these two communities.

Most scholars and observers had perceived that ethnic tensions had long been simmering.

In an article published by non-profit organisation Cultural Survival, Rachel Leff explained that due to the 32-year authoritarian rule of President Suharto, the conflicts were kept in check for fear of military intervention.

Leff added, “When Suharto was forced from his office in Indonesia, old animosities erupted in violence.”

Besides this, there is another reason which triggered the interracial riots. This is an explanation popular among Indonesians. The outbreaks were reportedly provoked by supporters of Suharto who planned to undermine the democratic elections slated for June 7, 1999.

The third explanation behind the conflicts is the economic crisis affecting the country. In the second half of 1997, Indonesia was the country hardest hit by the Asian economic crisis.

Facing financial difficulties, both Dayaks and Malays blamed the Madurese for stealing jobs from them.

According to Huub de Jonge and Gerben Nooteboom who made a study of the ethnic clashes in Kalimantan, the Madurese had become better off economically because of their attitude to work.

The scholars wrote, “The Madurese tended to accept any available work; for example, they were willing to collect garbage in the cities and break up rocks for the construction of roads. They would do anything to work their way up. Used as they were to hard work and saving, they were often more successful than others in similar work. And this frequently led to amazement and jealousy among other ethnic groups.”

The Sambas Riots

One of the major Dayak-Madurese conflicts happened in Sambas district of West Kalimantan province in 1999.

Before this, the last major conflicts had occurred between December 1996 and January 1997.

During these riots, Madurese were mutilated, raped and killed by aggressors from the Malay and Dayak communities while the government did little to stop the violence.

The Sampit Conflict

Just like the Sambas Riots, the Sampit conflict in 2001 was not an isolated incident. The last major conflict occurred between December 1996 and January 1997.

The conflict in Sampit broke out on Feb 18, 2001 when two Madurese were attacked by the Dayaks. It resulted in more than 500 deaths with over 100,000 Madurese displaced from their homes.

There is no one version why this conflict broke out. One version claims the riot was caused by an arson attack on a Dayak house. Then rumours spread that the Madurese caused the fire leading a group of Dayaks to burn houses in a Madurese neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, a professor from Dayak People’s Association claimed that the massacres by the Dayaks were in self defence.

He specifically cited an incident in which a Dayak was tortured and killed by a gang of Madurese following a gambling dispute in Kerengpangi on Dec 17, 2000.

Meanwhile, another version claims that the conflict started in a brawl between students of different races at the same school.

The Dayak also decapitated at least 300 Madurese during the Sampit conflict.

In the end, the conflict resulted in more than 500 deaths with over 100,000 Madurese displaced from their homes.

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A Dayak longhouse in Kalimantan. Credits: Pixabay.
Violence fueled by spirit possession?

Besides the long history of headhunting among the Dayak community, another theory behind the level of violence in these conflicts is that it is influenced by local cultural patterns. Researcher Anika Konig from University of Lubeck in Germany pointed out one element of these local cultural patterns is spirit possession.

Based on research in a Kanayatn Dayak village in the conflict region, many of them there claimed spirit possession had played a central role in the riots.

Konig stated, “While possession by spirits in ordinary life is highly undesirable and dangerous situation which causes illness, possession was actively sought by the Dayaks who participated in the violence against the Madurese.”

According to the Dayaks, spirit possession awarded them with supernatural abilities and extraordinary strength.

Konig also noted, “Since the spirits’ favourite food is human flesh and blood, it was this that the spirits demanded from the warriors in return for their help. And it was, accordingly, the spirits who made the men perform these forms of violence.”

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A Dayak man from Kalimantan in warrior attire. Credits: Pixabay.
Why the Madurese?

The transmigration program had led the migration into Borneo from other ethnic groups such as the Javanese. But why were the Madurese targeted?

de Jonge and Nooteboom who interviewed many Dayak, Malay, Buginese and Banjarese informants, said that these people believed that the Madurese immigrants had not adapted to their new social environment and had a tendency to look down on others.

“Their behaviour is said to be arrogant, short-tempered, macho-like, rude, uncivilised, unfair, avaricious and revengeful.”

In the meantime, many of the Madurese born in Kalimantan blamed this negative image on newcomers.

They claimed that the newcomers from Madura did not know how to behave. Furthermore, some of the newcomers were reportedly members of criminal gangs involved in illegal logging, operating brothels and gambling dens. Some of them even smuggled consumer goods from Sarawak into the country.

Were the Madurese used as a scapegoat?

Again, why the Madurese? Firstly, de Jonge and Nooteboom pointed out that there was evidence that there were economical competitions among the Malays, Dayak and Madurese, particularly in terms of agricultural resources.

However, the competition, especially in West Kalimantan where most of the violence occurred, was not restricted to the economic field.

During the Suharto years, the Dayak and to a lesser degree, Malays had to hand over powerful positions in the provincial bureaucracy to civil servants (often Javanese) from outside Kalimantan.

Furthermore, huge tracts of land in Kalimantan were sold for oil palm, mining and other activities, as industrial-scale efforts to cultivate and develop the land for commercial purposes were implemented, leading to the 1997 Indonesian forest fires (reputed to be the worst in known history) and the Southeast Asian Haze.

On top of having their traditional territory appropriated by outsiders for large scale projects, the Dayaks were reportedly not compensated adequately for their land which was the source of their livelihood and survival.

With all these factors against them, de Jonge and Nooteboom believed that the Madurese were picked as a scapegoat.

“They were a small, controversial and vulnerable group, whose comings and goings incited resentment, who were involved in a series of both small and larger violent incidents, and about whom negative stereotypes abounded.”

Although the Madurese differences to other ethnic groups were largely imagined, they formed a fertile basis on which to continue the violence.

Like any riots in everywhere in the world, once the violence begins, nobody can really pinpoint a single cause for the conflict.

The Mandor Affair, the massacres in West Kalimantan during WWII

On June 28, 1944, a horrendous war crime was committed in a quiet village called Mandor in West Kalimantan, Indonesia during World War II (WWII).

While some historians believed the number of victims were 21,037, other records stated about 1,000 people died during the massacre.

Although the official death toll is still in dispute, nobody can deny that hundreds were killed by Japanese officials on that day.

The Background of The Mandor Affair

The Mandor Affair is in fact part of two massacres called The Pontianak Incidents which took place in West Kalimantan during the Japanese Occupation of the Dutch East Indies.

The whole incident happened in 1943-1944 when the Japanese decided to arrest the Malay elites, Arabs, Javanese, Dayaks, Bugis, Bataks, Menadonese, Dutch, Chinese, Indians and Eurasians in Kalimantan.

Despite the racial differences, those who were arrested had a few things in common. They were mostly community leaders, intellectual and educated people, lawyers, doctors, journalists, politicians, religious leaders and royal members of various Sultanates in Kalimantan.

According to the book Chinese Indonesians: Remembering, Distorting, Forgetting by Tim Lindsey and Helen Pausacker, from January until June in 1944, trucks picked up people by night, either from their homes or from the prisons. They were all taken secretly to Mandor, a quiet village located 95 kilometers northeast of Pontianak.

Many did not know what were the fates of these people until early July 1944. The then local Japanese official newspaper, Borneo Shimbun (Pontianak edition) reported that those who were arrested, were tried and executed on June 28, 1944 in Mandor for plotting to overthrow Japanese rule.

The Japanese reportedly beheaded them one by one before burying them in ten mass graves in the forest near the village.

Meanwhile, other accounts reported they were all buried alive in several large holes. Most were probably weak due to illnesses and diseases after a period of internment and were too weak to fight their way out from being buried alive.

The victims of The Mandor Affair

The question now is how did the number 21,037 come about?

Lindsey and Pausacker wrote that the number 21, 037 was allegedly recorded in war documents kept in the libraries of Japanese universities after WWII.

It is believed that the number was in connection with the kidnapping, torture and massacre by the Japanese troops all over Pontianak, not just in Mandor.

Whatever the real death toll was, what was certain was that the Mandor Affair took the life of up to 25 aristocrats of Pontianak sultanate including its 74-year-old sultan, Sharif Mohamed Alkadri.

The Japanese named him as the one of the ringleaders in the alleged planned rebellion.

They also killed the heir to the Sultan, 31-year-old Pangeran Adipati.

Besides the Sultan of Pontianak, the Japanese also executed the Sultans of Sambas, Ketapang, Soekadana, Simbang, Koeboe, Sanggau, Sekadau, Tajan, Singtan, and Mempawa.

Unfortunately, the timeline of their deaths is still unclear.

Who was responsible for the Mandor Affair?

Indonesian writers Syafaruddin Usman and Isnawita Din wrote in their book Peristiwa Mandor Berdarah claimed Syuutizitiyo Minseibu was responsible for the Mandor Affair.

But there were no records after WWII if he was ever held responsible for the massacre.

Someone, however, did actually pay the price for the Pontianak Incidents.

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Marquis Tadashige Daigo

After the end of WW2, vice admiral Marquis Tadashige Daigo in the Imperial Japanese Navy was extradited to Batavia in the Dutch East Indies and was found guilty in a closed military tribunal for crimes that occurred during the Pontianak Incidents.

He was executed with a rifle shot to the stomach on Dec 6, 1947.

As the commander of submarine forces, he was based at Balikpapan since late 1943. Hence, whether he was fully aware of the doings of his junior staff thousands of kilometers away in Pontianak, remained unclear due to the secrecy of his trial.

In 2007, the local Indonesian government had declared June 28 as an official mourning day for West Kalimantan Province (Hari Berkabung Daerah Provinsi Kalimantan Barat) to remember those who died in Mandor.

A memorial was elected at the massacre site and it is now known named as Juang Mandor Graves.

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Makam Juang Mandor or Juang Mandor graves. Credits: Indonesian Tourism Board.

The legend of how salt springs were discovered in Krayan Highlands

The legend of how salt springs were discovered in the Krayan Highlands according to the locals

Long time ago, the whole area of Krayan Highlands was a thick forest. Then came a man who saw that there were many pigeons (burung punai) in the area.

So the man took out his blowpipe and shot one of the birds. He quickly dressed the bird, plucking out its feathers. As he was looking for a water source to clean the bird, the man saw there was a spring nearby.

After washing the bird, he returned home, where he quickly roasted it.

Once the man tasted the bird, he was overwhelmed by its taste. He wondered what could have made the bird tast so delicious.

So the man returned to where he caught the bird, retracing his steps until he figured out that it must have been the water which made the bird tasty.

He dipped his finger into the spring and discovered that the water was actually salty. The man then told his fellow villagers about his find, and they started to cook their dishes using the saltwater from the spring.

At first, they just poured the saltwater into their dishes when they cooked.

Eventually, the villagers figured out how to process the saltwater into brine, and it has been practiced by the residents of Krayan Highlands for generations.

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A salt spring in Long Midang, Kalimantan.
The current salt springs of Krayan Highlands

Located in North Kalimantan, Indonesia, the Krayan Highlands at the Heart of Borneo have 33 known salt springs.

However, not all are fully operational these days. But how can these salt springs be found in the highlands of an altitude between 760 and 1,200 meters?

It is believed that the salt springs were formed by high salinity water flowing from deep in the soil strata where it was trapped million of years ago when the area was covered by seawater.

The local Lundayeh people call the mountain salt tucu’ and have traded it throughout the interior of Borneo.

Apart from salt springs, mineral licks or salts licks can also be found in the highlands. The locals them rupan where animals can go to lick essential mineral nutrients from it.

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Saltwater is boiled to turn into brine.

Read about how mountain salt is processed at Long Midang, Kalimantan here.

Friendships, betrayals and manhunts: What you need to know about the Gaat expedition 1919

When Sarawak was an independent kingdom under the reign of three White Rajahs, the then government carried a number of punitive expeditions against its alleged rebels.

These include an expedition against the Ibans in Kedang and the infamous Cholera Expedition down Lupar river.

Reasons for these punitive expeditions varied; from punishing fleeing criminals to pacifying wars between different tribes.

Here is one of the last few punitive expeditions which took place before the peacekeeping ceremony between the Iban, Kayan, Kenyah and Kajang on Nov 16, 1924.

The expedition had Sarawak government forces together with locals went up Nanga Gaat, Baleh river to punish the Iban group living along Gaat river.

The cause of the Gaat Expedition

During the 19th century, headhunting practices and hostilities caused the Punans to leave Apau Kayan in search of new places to stay.

According to the book Beyond the Green Myth (edited by Peter Sercombe and Bernard Sellato), the Punan moved into uninhabited areas and divided themselves into three groups.

“One group moved to the Kihan, a tributary of the Kayan river in Kalimantan. A second group went to the lower reaches of the Kajang and the middle part of the Linau, tributaries of the Balui in Sarawak. A third group, comprising primarily Punan Vuhang, whose forefather had had no quarrel with the Kayan or the Kenyah, decided to return to the Balui headwaters.”

After the Punan Vuhang returned to the Balui headwaters, the Iban killed 14 of them.

For the Punans, the Iban had seemed to be the genuine forest exploiters and tapped gutta percha for a long period.

They came to the Punan area to collect forest products, appearing harmless and friendly towards the Punan Vuhang.

Hence the Punan Vuhang let their guard down and welcomed the Ibans to their homes.

Friends who turned into enemies

To prove their friendship, the Ibans even held a swearing ceremony whereby they became bound to the Punan Vuhang as blood brothers.

Unfortunately, the Punans had no idea that the Iban were actually planning to kill them.

One the eve of the attack, the Iban asked their hosts to hold a singing ritual in praise of the spirits. After feasting and dancing all night long, they fell into a deep sleep. It was then that the Ibans killed the Punans.

Seeking revenge against the Iban, the survivors and fellow Punans from Linau area sought help from the Kayan. However, the Kayan reported the massacre to the Brooke government. The government later set out a punitive expedition against the Ibans from Gaat who was responsible for the killings.

The Gaat Expedition according to Bertram Brooke

The expedition was joined by Bertram Brooke, the son of second Rajah Charles and the brother of third Rajah Vyner.

According to his report published in the Sarawak Gazette on May 16, 1919, the government force left Kapit heading to Nanga Gaat on Apr 5 that year with G.M. Gifford in charge.

On Brooke’s side, there were 200 government forces and unaccounted number of local people.

They received information that the rebels had prepared a final place of refuge on Bukit Tunggal.

Gifford’s main plan was to drive any of the rebels who might be lurking on the river banks towards Bukit Tunggal instead of allowing them to escape to the flanks.

With this, he hoped the rebels would be cornered into a fight or escape into the Dutch East Indies territory (Kalimantan).

Brooke’s force encountered their first fight with the rebels on the 10th. They fired at two boats, capsizing one of the them.

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A view of Batang Rajang from the first floor of Fort Sylvia.
Setting up base camp at Nanga Marang

Two days later, the force arrived and camped at Nanga Marang which was en route to Bukit Tunggal.

This was where the force divided themselves into two groups; one group pursued them to Bukit Tunggal via river in small boats and another to proceed through land.

Eventually, the two groups reassembled at Nanga Bulat where they found a large number of boats belonging to the rebels abandoned along with household stuff and paddy.

After a few hour of trekking, the force spotted a temporary house which the Iban Gaats built near Bukit Tunggal from a distance.

By the time they reached the house, it was already burning and there were no signs of the rebels.

So, the government force sent out a scout team to check out where the rebels had headed.

After awhile, the scout team came across a large river which they believed was a tributary river of Kapuas river. There, they found a large number of boats where they killed a small party of rebels.

The Gaat Expedition at Bukit Tunggal

The scout team returned to the new camp at Bukit Tunggal reporting what they found. Since speed was crucial, the government selected forty Sarawak Rangers which led by Penghulu Merdan and Gaui in pursuit of the rebels.

Together with them they carried two day’s provisions. The plan was if the river they encountered turned out to be Kaniou (a tributary of Kapuas river, meaning they were in Dutch East Indies territory), they should return.

If not, they were to proceed as far as as their supplies would allow, in hopes of overtaking some of the rebels.

Meanwhile, the rest of the forces would be at the burned house until the 19th when it would proceed slowly downriver collecting as much as food and property as possible on the way.

By Apr 22, the force reached Nanga Marang base where they were met with Merdan and Gaui who arrived previous evening via land.

The end of the Gaat Expedition

Bertram reported, “The rebels had evidently taken their women for safekeeping to the house on the ridge (the house that they burned), for these had abandoned their skirts upon the road. Mosquito curtains, Kayan mats, cooking utensils, baskets of provisions, valuable parangs, and even several guns were among the articles strewn along the route until all traces ceased, there being apparently nothing remaining to discard.”

After the expedition ended, Bertram considered the mission a successful one.

He wrote, “It is, however, satisfactory that such a severe lesson has been given with so small a loss of life. It would seem given with so small a loss of life. It would seem that the rebels having no property to return to in the Gaat, must choose between unconditional surrender and moving into Dutch East Indies territory. It is locally considered unlikely that they will take the latter course.”

The Gaat Expedition was not enough for the Punan

Te Punan Vuhang who had joined the government forces during the Gaat Expedition, however, were not satisfied despite the reported success.

They felt the victory belonged to Brooke’s forces, not to them, and so decided they would carry out further revenge.

They went to Iban territory in the Baleh river basin and killed four Ibans.

In return, the Ibans again used a friendship-betrayal scheme to take revenge. But they mistakenly killed a group of Penan Bunut.

Unsatisfied, they decided to seek revenge against the Punan Vuhang. At the meantime, the Punan Vuhang sought refuge among the Kenyah in Kalimantan who were also enemies of the Ibans.

A few years later in 1924, the Kapit Peace making ceremony finally forged peace between the Iban, Kayan, Kenyah and other tribes.

For the first time in a long time, peace finally came to the area and the Punan Vuhang returned to Balui headwater from Kalimantan.

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A memorial stone in Front of Fort Sylvia to commemorate the 1924 peace-making ceremony.

The aftermath of the Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation at Long Bawan

Located at North Kalimantan, Indonesia, Long Bawan is a small town with a small airport which has become the only gateway via air to Krayan Highlands.

Looking back on its history, it was one of the combat operations sites between British Commonwealth forces and Indonesian armies during the Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation.

The confrontation which started in early 1963 was caused by Indonesia’s opposition to the creation of Malaysia.

By December 1964, there was a build-up of Indonesian forces on the Kalimantan border. This caused the British government to commit significant forces from the UK-based Army Strategic Command and Australia and New Zealand to Borneo in 1965-66.

On the Indonesian side, the fight was led by Indonesian Army special forces (Resimen Para Komando Angkatan Darat or RPKAD).

Additionally, they recruited the North Kalimantan National Army or Tentera Nasional Kalimantan Utara (TNKU).

During the confrontation, hundreds of Indonesian civilians had been loosely trained as part of TNKU.

Most of them were unemployed urban youth scrounged from cities in Kalimantan and Sulawesi.

Since the battles mostly happened at the Indonesian-Malaysian border in Kalimantan, some of them were posted in Long Bawan (Indonesia).

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A view of Long Bawan paddy field. Perhaps this was where parachuters landed in 1968.
TNKU members who were left at Long Bawan

Although the confrontation had been officially declared over in August 1966, the mission was technically not over for Indonesian forces.

There were TNKU members abandoned and left behind at their border camps including in Long Bawan.

To make matter worse, the Indonesian government reportedly did not bother to disarm the army-volunteers, leaving them with weapons such as heavy machine guns and mortars.

Kenneth J. Conboy wrote in Kopasses: Inside Indonesia’s Special Forces that the ready supply of weapons and unemployed volunteers became a volatile combination.

Conboy wrote, “By late 1967, Jakarta had received reports that the former TNKU partisans were stealing food and raping women in the Long Bawan vicinity. Colonel Mung, the former RPKAD commander now serving as head of the military region, reported that the outgunned local government was screaming for help.”

Jakarta was reportedly in a fix when the government heard this news. In response, they sent out two groups from RPKAD which was led by Captain Alex Setiabudi and Captain Kentot Harseno.

Both captains had previously served at Long Bawan.

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The small township of Long Bawan.

The two groups assembled at Cijantung during the first week of January 1968. Since there were no suitable runways, the units would be making a combat jump into paddies a half-hour trek east of Long Bawan.

“Although they would be parachuting with their weapons- including two rocket launchers – they were correctly concerned about opposition they might face. The ex-volunteers, after all, were better armed and knew the lay of the land after living there for almost four years,” Conboy wrote.

RPKAD came bearing gifts

Then Captain Kentot had an idea. Instead of going in with full force, they decided to go with gifts like food, writing pads and clothes.

His idea was adopted in and operation code-named Operation Linud X (“Airborne X”). On Jan 10, 1968, the groups made their jumps after light into Long Bawan.

The military units had expected to face difficulties from the former TNKU volunteers. However, it was the terrains of Krayan Highlands that gave them a hard time. Several of the commandos landed, drifting far from their marks, mostly in paddy fields and swamp.

Meanwhile, Captain Kentot landed in mud up to his armpits and nearly drowned. One of the pallets carrying a rocket launcher was even lost during the jump.

Nonetheless, the commandos managed to regroup at Long Bawan village where its chief greeted them like old friends.

After finding out their mission, the chief tasked some of his villagers to collect all weapons from nearby cache sites.

Surprisingly, the abandoned TNKU members were extremely tame. They took the gifts kindly and offered up their weapons without any resistance.

Four months later, all of the commandos were packing to leave. Due to some difficulties with their transport, they were forced to hike to the nearest river landing. According to Conboy, they were back on Java by June after a speedboat shuttle toward the coast.

“For once, what had the potential for being another festering security challenge had been resolved without firing a shot,” Conboy recorded.

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The new building at Yuvai Semaring airport in construction.
The physical remnants of the Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation at Long Bawan

While confrontation now only remained in memories for the Krayan Highlands elders (which they refer to as ‘konfrontasi’), there are some physical remnants left behind at Long Bawan.

This small town was also the crash site of an Indonesian plane during Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation.

On Sept 26, 1965 during the confrontation, a C-130 plane was shot down near Long Bawan.

Ironically, the plane was shot down by Indonesian anti-craft fire, as it was mistaken for a Commonwealth aircraft.

It was carrying an RPKAD platoon from Java on orders to “neutralise” a gun position on the border ridge.

After the aircraft was hit, the RPKAD members parachuted out before it caught fire and crashed.

The wreckage of the plane is still at Long Bawan to this day.

Meanwhile, the locals also found the rocket launcher that was lost when Captain Kentot and his units parachuted in 1968.

It is now on display at Krayan’s Kepolisian Sektor or Polsek (Police District office).

Long Bawan 3
Photocopying services at Long Bawan.

3 things you might not know about Osborne crackers

Some Malaysians might not know the name Osborne cracker, but most would definitely recognise the shape and flavour of it.

This oval-shaped cracker is generally made from wheat flour, vegetable oil, sugar, corn starch, salt and glucose syrup.

Here are three facts you might not know about Osborne cracker:
Osborne cracker
Cap Ayam is one of the famous brands producing this cracker.
1.It has a royal origin, of sorts.

This humble piece of cracker has a history dating back to 1860.

According to The Huntley and Palmers Collection, the crackers were intended to be named after Queen Victoria.

Her Majesty declined to be associated with a commercial product but gracefully suggested that they could name the biscuit after her favourite home, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

The cracker was one of the first semi-sweet varieties of biscuit to find mass favour in the 19th century.

Malaysians have many names for this cracker, including roti tawar, roti kapal and biskut kering.

In Sarawak specifically, the locals call it roti sebayan, biskut mayat, biskut pending and many more.

2.In the Krayan Highlands of North Kalimantan, they call it roti tasu and there is a historical reason behind it.

In the Krayan Highlands of North Kalimantan, Indonesia, the Lundayeh community call it roti tasu or dog crackers.

The reason behind this interesting name can be traced back during Indonesian-Malaysian confrontation in early 1960s.

Located near the border of Sarawak-Indonesia, the highlands was one of the hot spots for military operations such as Operation Claret.

British and Australian troops were carrying out secret missions while hiding out in the jungle.

Nonetheless, some local Indonesians knew about this and secretly helped the Commonwealth forces during the confrontation.

According to tour guide Alex Ballang, some of the locals even helped in sending rations to the forces.

“The troops had a pet dog and the locals noticed the soldiers were feeding the dog with Osborne crackers.”

Since then, the local Krayan residents started to called it roti tasu or dog crackers.

3.There are recipes using Osborne crackers for you to try at home.

Most would agree that the best way to enjoy Osborne crackers is to dip it in a hot drink. Some even eat it just like cereal or porridge, mixing it in their beverage before eating it with a spoon.

But did you know that there are a few recipes out there using Osborne crackers as its main ingredient?

The most common recipe is bubur roti Osborne or Osborne cracker porridge.

It is made from Osborne crackers, coconut milk, sago, pandan leaves, water and sugar.

But when it comes to the weirdest recipe found online, it is none other than Osborne goreng.

The crackers are stir-fried together with garlic, onion, egg and vegetables such as bean sprouts.

Osborne cracker 2
Osborne crackers

Do you have interesting names, recipes or stories behind the Osborne cracker? Let us know in the comment box.

5 things about tarap fruit of Borneo you wouldn’t learn in the classroom

Tarap is always on the list when comes to types of fruits you should try in Borneo.

Sometimes known as the cempedak of Borneo, this fruit usually shares the same fate with durian. It is commonly being banned from entering most hotels for its strong smell.

If you are not familiar with this fruit, here are five things you should know about tarap:
It is also known as marang in the Philippines.
1.It is also known by many names.

Does the tarap fruit seem familiar but you’re not sure if you’ve tried it before? You may have heard it called by any of these other names: terap, marang, johey oak, green pedalai, madang or timadang.

The scientific name of tarap is Actocarpus odoratissimus, and it is actually a tree in the mulberry and fig family Moraceae.

2.It is found in Borneo, Palawan and Mindanao islands.

While it is famously found on the island of Borneo, this fruit is also native to the Palawan and Mindanao islands.

In the Philippines, the locals call it marang.

3.There are two other species of fruit similar to tarap.

The first fruit species that is similar to Actocarpus odoratissimus is Artocarpus sericarpus. It is also known as pedalai, gumihan or terap bulu.

Terap bulu does not have strong odour like tarap. As for its outer appearance, terap bulu is hairy and looks like a giant rambutan.

The second one is Artocarpus sarawakensis (pingan or mountain tarap). It is the same shape as the Artocarpus odoratissimus but it is orange in colour and has smaller kernel sections.

4.Once you open it, you need to eat the fruit really fast

Unlike durian, it does not fall to the ground when it is overripe. So farmers can harvest tarap when they are deemed a mature size and leave it to ripen.

The flesh is sweet and has a creamy texture.

Once opened, you need to eat the fruit immediately because it oxidizes fast and loses its flavour quickly.

This is also the reason why the commercialisation of this tropical fruit is limited. It has a very low shelf life.

5.The many uses of tarap fruit.

If you have the chance to visit Tarakan in North Kalimantan, Indonesia, give the city’s signature tarap juice and tarap layered cake a try.

The tarap layered cake is one of the city’s own original products. As for tarap juice, it is one of the must-try drinks in Tarakan.

You can actually make it at home using tarap, sugar, ice, water and condensed milk.

Besides the fruit, the peels were reported to be useful material for the removal of colouring agents.

Even the seeds are edible; just like jackfruit seeds they can be boiled or roasted and then eaten as snacks. Just like Actocarpus odoratissimus, terap bulu’s seeds are edible after boiling or roasting.

What you need to know about the Battle of Long Jawai

The Battle of Long Jawai was one of the earliest battles in the history of the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation (1963-1966).

The confrontation was an undeclared war which started from Indonesia’s opposition to the creation of Malaysia.

Indonesia’s then President Sukarno opposed the new nation arguing it was a British puppet state and a new-colonial experiment.

Additionally, they claimed if there was any expansion of Malaysia, it would increase British control over the region while possibly implicating Indonesia’s national security.

Meanwhile, the Philippines opposed the federation as they made a claim on eastern North Borneo for its historical links with the Sulu archipelago.

Initially, the Malayan government had set Aug 31, 1963 as the date on which Malaysia would come into existence.

This was to coincide with Malaya’s independence day celebration.

However, due to fierce opposition from the Indonesian and Philippine governments, the date was postponed.

Both countries later agreed they would accept the formation of Malaysia if a majority in North Borneo and Sarawak voted for it in a referendum organised by the United Nations.

But amidst these peace talks and the referendum, Indonesia had already started their infiltration into Sarawak through Kalimantan.

On Aug 15, 1963, there was an incursion into the Third Division (what is Sibu Division today). Then Gurkha soldiers were deployed to the border there to patrol and ambush incursions.

After a month of operations, 15 of the enemy forces had been killed and three were captured.

This was not the last of the incursion by the Indonesian army.

The Battle of Long Jawai

Less than two weeks after the Malaysian federation was declared on Sept 16, another incursion happened in a small outpost in Long Jawai of Third Division, about 30 miles from the Sarawak border.

Long Jawai back then was a small settlement with a population of 500 and the outpost was also used by the Japanese troops during World War II.

On the morning of Sept 28, about 150 (some records state 200) Indonesian soldiers attacked the outpost.

The outpost was garrisoned by six Gurkha soldiers led by Corporal Tejbahadur Gurung, three policemen and 21 Sarawak border scouts.

In Britain’s Brigade of Gurkhas by E.D. Smith, the men at the outpost were reported still sleeping when they were first attacked.

“At about half-past five the Gurkha rifleman on sentry duty heard movement near his post. Every man stood to. Shortly afterwards, three or four shots were fired nearby,” Smith wrote.

Another account pointed out that a border scout left his position to visit his sick wife in the village.

There in the village, he spotted some Indonesian soldiers and raced back to warn his comrades.

Regardless, Corporal Gurung quickly alerted the radio operators in their signal hut to establish communication with their headquarters.

Soon enough, the Indonesians launched their attacks.

They blasted the outpost with mortar bombs, machine guns and heavy small-arms fire.

Meanwhile, a small party of the enemy charged into the signal hut where the radio operators were still trying to contact their headquarters.

Unaware that their enemies were approaching since they were wearing earphones, the operators were killed before any communication was established.

The retreat to Belaga

In the meantime, the two sides of the battle continued to exchange fire until the fighting lasted for a few hours.

By 8am, only three men were left and able to continue to fight while the rest were wounded. This was when Corporal Gurung decided to call a retreat.

Unfortunately for the local scouts, all but one were captured by the Indonesian armies. Ten (some accounts stated eight) of the scouts were later executed.

The only scout who managed to escape went along with Corporal Gurung and the remaining Gurkha soldiers searching for safety.

Smith described their journey in his book, “Without food or medical supplies the small party spent the night in pouring rain, keeping the wounded men as warm as they could. Then, having made them as comfortable as possible, the corporal and his companions left for the nearest village, many miles away. Living off roots, they had a long and hazardous journey as it was four days before they reached the outpost of Belaga, weak and exhausted but with weapons spotlessly clean and able to give first-hand account of the battle.”

The aftermath of Battle of Long Jawai

At this time the Malaysian federation had come into existence. So by attacking Long Jawai, Indonesia had broken off its diplomatic relations with Malaysia.

In response, other Gurkha units were deployed into the air using helicopters. They began attacking any stragglers and small units broken off from the main force.

Eventually, they also found the tortured bodies of the local scouts.

On Oct 1, the Gurkha units caught two longboats carrying the Indonesian armies in an ambush eventually killing 26 of them.

The Indonesian survivors of this attack were later then killed in another ambush on Oct 10.

Overall, the Battle of Long Jawai had cost the lives of many from both sides. Thirty three Indonesians were killed while 13 British and Malaysian soldiers died during the battle.

British forces in Borneo during Confrontation
While operating in Borneo during the Indonesian Confrontation, a soldier is winched up to a Westland Wessex HAS3 of 845 Naval Air Squadron, during operations in the jungle. A soldier is kneeling on the edge of the extraction zone. Credit: Public Domain.
Long Jawai or Long Jawe or Long Jawi or Long Jawe’?

If you can’t find Long Jawai in a Sarawak map, that is because it is spelt differently in different records.

Most non-Malaysian books and records spelt it as Long Jawai. Other records spell it as Long Jawe, Long Jawi or Long Jawe’.

All of these names refer to a large but isolated Kenyah longhouse far up the Balui tributary of the Rejang.

After the confrontation, former Sarawak Information Services Director Alastair Morrison visited Long Jawai with Temenggong Jugah Barieng when the latter was holding the post of Minister for Sarawak Affairs.

According to Morrison, the visit was to make relief payments to the relatives of those killed during the Battle of Long Jawai.

He wrote in his book Fair Land Sarawak, “The people of Long Jawi had only moved into Sarawak during the war and they had been much upset by the attack made on them. Their assailants had suffered severely because troops had been flown in behind them and they were ambushed on their return journey, but this did not save the border scouts who had been captured. They were taken a little way upriver and there slaughtered- apparently a return to an old and blood thirsty ritual.”

The residents of Long Jawai were very welcoming of Morrison and Jugah during their visit.

Morrison described his experience, “My special recollections of Long Jawi were Jugah addressing the people of the longhouse later, when we were entertained in the traditional manner, dancing the ngajat of seeing the wall behind him festooned with pictures of the British Royal Family. And, of course, the young 6th Gurkhas then garrisoning the area. Several off-duty soldiers attended the presentation and subsequent party. They were called on to dance and replied that as good soldiers they could not possibly do anything like that. They gave demonstration of arms drill instead. But as the evening wore on it became apparent that not only had they been dancing in Long Jawi, but that they had been teaching the Kenyah girls Nepalese dances too.”

A historical site wiped out in the name of development

Although Long Jawai played an important historical site for Sarawak and Commonwealth countries overall, there is no remnant of it today.

This is because the area became submerged underwater when the Bakun dam impoundment began in 2010.

Bakun reservoir

Tom Harrisson’s own account of The Airmen and the Headhunters incident

The Airmen and the Headhunters: A True Story of Lost Soldiers, Heroic Tribesmen and the Unlikeliest Rescue of World War II is a book written by Judith M. Heimann.

It tells the story of how a group of American airmen was rescued by the locals during the Japanese occupation of Borneo.

The event was also made into an episode of the PBS television series “Secrets of the Dead”.

One of the key players of the rescue was Major Tom Harrisson, a British polymath who later served as Sarawak museum curator after WWII.

During the war, he was attached to Z Special Unit, as part of the Service Reconnaissance Department (SRD).

On March 25, 1945, Harrisson parachuted with seven Z Force operatives into the Kelabit Highlands.

That was when he and his unit became credited for helping the stranded American airmen.

Airmen and the headhunters
Airmen and the Headhunters was featured in PBS’s Secret of the Dead. Credits: Youtube
The Airmen and the Headhunters, according to Australian-British Reward Mission

After the war, Major R. K. Dyce who represented the British government in the Australian-British Reward Mission wrote an article “Heroism in the Limbang” for The Sarawak Gazette (June 2, 1947).

“About the end of January or in early February 1945, a US Liberator made a crash belly landing about a mile from Kampung Telahak on the Sungai Limbang in Sarawak. Nine of the crew survived the crash. One was dead.”

From there, the story continues on how these nine American airmen were harboured and escorted by different groups of different races in Sarawak, British North Borneo (now Sabah) and Dutch Borneo (now Kalimantan).

The first group of locals who rescued them was the residents of Kampung Telahak led by their village head (ketua kampung) Mohamed Dolamit.

“The kampung people led the Americans out of the sodden paddy field on which they had landed into the village; washed them, fed them, helped them bury their dead comrade, equipped them with parangs, and planned their escape.”

Today’s Limbang river.
The escape plan for the nine Americans

Then, Mohamed started to draft an escape plan for the nine Americans. His plan was to guide the Americans by paths which avoided Japanese-occupied localities to a wise and influential old Penghulu Masing to the southeast on the Pandaruan river.

“The practice is, in an operation of this kind, to hand on the “passengers” from longhouse to longhouse and kampung to kampung,” Major Dyce reported.

After being handed over from one community to another community, the nine airmen finally arrived in Ulu Matang, somewhere near Long Pa’ Sia, Sabah.

This was where they separated with the first party proceeded to Dutch Borneo where they met up with Harrisson’s SRD party. Meanwhile, the other four who headed north were killed by the locals.

Dyce reported in 1947, “The story of the episode and its aftermath is still alive in the kampungs and longhouses, but most of the helpers concerned looked for no material reward.”

Local administrations knew how much these heroic natives had helped the Americans.

However, Dyce explained that the shortage of staff and overwork by the then local administration back then delayed in giving them proper recognition.

Tom Harrisson’s article on The Airmen and the Headhunters incident

According to Harrisson, Major Dyce’s Heroism in Limbang did not quite “give a complete picture of the amazing Borneo careers of those American airmen and of other who were cared for and protected with the same extraordinary loyalty and self-sacrifice by the peoples of the Limbang, Trusan, Padas and Mentarang rivers.”

Harrisson clarified the exact date when the plane was shot down, stating that it was on Jan 12, 1945.

The crashed crew proceeded from Limbang to Padas where they split up just as Dyce reported. The pilot Lieutenant-Commander Smith heard that there were American guerrillas in Kudat, the northern side of Sabah.

He decided to head there and three of the crew agreed to follow him.

Unfortunately, the moment they reached Tomani near Tenom, the group was betrayed by the locals.

A Japanese unit which came from Beaufort via Tenom surprised them in a village at night.

One of them was speared by the locals while another one was shot by a British North Borneo constable officer.

Their bodies were decapitated and distributed among the locals. Meanwhile, Smith surrendered and the fourth man escaped into the jungle. They spent a week hunting him down, but in the end, he too was captured and taken to Beaufort together with Smith.

According to Harrisson, his unit was about to make a rescue mission and kidnap General Masao Baba when the war ended.

At the same time, the Japanese quietly executed the two American soldiers as they were dangerous witnesses.

What happened to the other five crew member?
Fatt Choi 4
A view of Padas river today.

The other five men, “not Kudat-Krazy” men as Harrisson described in his article, went up the Padas river.

From there, they then came over into Kemaloh river in Dutch Borneo. Here, they were looked after by the Pa Putuk people of the Krayan Highlands.

Harrisson stated, “They were also fortunate in meeting a remarkably fine native missionary, William Mohgan of Makassar who could speak some English (and a little American). The Japs, of course, knew these men were somewhere in the interior, but as in the Limbang the people did not betray them, often at grave risk or cost to themselves.”

Nevertheless, they were forced to hide in jungle shelters and suffered great impoverishment through lack of medical supplies, mosquito nets and footwear.

By that time, the five had reunited with six other Americans who were survivors from an American 13th Army Liberator shot down on the Dutch side.

The former museum curator pointed out, “One of this crew wandered alone through the jungle for fourteen days before reaching a lonely mountain village, where he was nursed back to life and became, in a few weeks, quite fluent at Potok (a Lundayeh dialect)- the others never even got beyond the bagus stage of Malay.”

Upai Semaring 13
Today’s Krayan HIghlands from on top of Yuvai Semaring hill.
Harrisson and his unit to the rescue

Harrisson added that he first heard of these airmen in March 1945, who were then about ten days’ walk eastward from Bario.

“Our only medical man at that time, Sergeant F. Sanderson, made a forced march to them, carrying all the stores we could possibly spare and all our comforts (at that time all supplies had to be dropped from Moratai, thirteen hours flying; so the lifeline was slender, with three out of six planes lost in the first weeks).”

Finally, the American airmen had the help they needed from the British soldiers. Harrisson continued: “When they were fit to walk by easy stages over the mountains -harder going in Dutch Borneo than in Sarawak – we brought them into better country, where we prepared an airfield. Some RAAF pilots came in without maps or radio signals to pick the Americans out.”

Harrisson stressed that the behaviour of the native people (except those who betrayed them in Tomani) is a lasting symbol of native morale in these lands.

“And I hope that if it comes to a question of rewards (of which the helpers had no thought at the time) the British North Borneo and Dutch helpers will not be forgotten. For it is sad to admit, but true, that from that day to this no one of any race has had a word of thank you (let alone a tin of peanuts) from those boys to whom they gave back life, liberty and Nashville, Tennessee.”

Sadly, KajoMag’s own digging so far has found no official recognition of the locals’ efforts and contributions (particularly in Pa Putuk and Kampung Telahak) to helping the American airmen evade capture.