Why were Dayak volunteers sent to Malaya in 1948?

Patricia Hului

We have heard of stories of how Sarawak Rangers assisted in the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) when Sarawak was a British Crown Colony.

And we have read stories of how Dayak climbers assisted in scientific expeditions all the way to New Guinea.

But did you know why did Dayak volunteers were sent to Federation of Malaya in 1948?

If you are familiar with Ghostbusters’ theme song, part of the lyrics goes

“If there’s something strange,
In your neighborhood
Who you gonna call?
If there’s something weird,
And it don’t look good
Who you gonna call?

As for the Malayans 80 years ago, they called the Dayak people from Sarawak to help when something happened in their neighbourhoods.

Dayak volunteers to the rescue

In 1948, the federation of Malaya requested Sarawak to send a ‘limited number of Dayak Volunteers to assist in operations against bandits.’

According to the Sarawak Gazette, these volunteers reportedly arrived in Malaya in two groups.

However, it was not reported where or how these Sarawakians completed their missions.

The report in the gazette also pointed out, “This is not the first time that Dayak volunteers have served in Malaya.”

In 1936, a ferocious ape terrorised the Weld Hill district (now Bukit Nanas) near Kuala Lumpur.

The animal ‘made a nuisance of itself by attacking and biting children and adults and all attempts to destroy the animal failed’.

Then two Dayak men from Sarawak arrived to the rescue and captured the ape.

The ape’s stuffed remains were reportedly exhibited in the Kuala Lumpur Museum back in 1948.

The Dayak people were known for their skills living in the jungle and tough terrains. Their knowledge of plants and animals was wide and their hunting skills were commendable.

Combining these traits, the Dayak people in those days made good trackers be it, tracking animals or humans.

Thus, it is no surprise why when Malaya had problem with thieves and a raging ape, the first people they turned to for help were the Dayak people.