Kelabit community mourns passing of gallantry award recipient Ngalinuh Bala

Ngalinuh during his young days. – File picture

MIRI: The Kelabit community is mourning the passing of one of their most illustrious sons, Ngalinuh Bala, a recipient of the Darjah Kebesaran Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP), who passed away here on Tuesday.

Rurum Kelabit Sarawak president Dr Philip Raja described his passing as a great loss not only for the small Kelabit community but the country as a whole.

He said Ngalinuh’s heroism during the communist insurgency would live on in the tales the Kelabit pass on through the generations and as Christians, they were comforted in the promise of being reunited in eternity.

“It is just the beginning of a chapter of the Great Story (Sekunuh Rayah) in eternity. Kelabit love stories. Like all Malaysians, we especially love our heroes. Kelabits even give names to their children after their legendary heroes like Agan Tadun,Tuked Rini, Balang,” he said.

Ngalinuh, who retired in 1995 as a Sub-Inspector after serving in the now-defunct Police Field Force, had passed away at 6.47pm on Tuesday after being hospitalised from an abdominal operation. He was 79.

He will be honoured with a state funeral at the SIB Lambir cemetery tomorrow.

He was awarded the SP for his heroism when he was a sergeant and platoon leader with the 15th Battalion of the Police Field Force when he and his team were attacked by a big group of communist guerrillas in Sibu on April 29, 1972.

The guerrillas attacking from a vantage point pinned down the convoy of a small group of armed escorts guarding a shipment of explosives to a quarry at Jalan Ulu Oya .

After the initial attack, all the men scrambled out of the lorry and ran for cover to a nearby bulldozer.

Cornered behind the vehicle, Ngalinuh and Corporal Etin Bijam decided to counter-attack with a co-ordinated split charge at one of the enemy’s positions.

In the ensuing firefight, Ngalinuh was shot in the right thigh.

The heroic duo and their comrades held their ground to prevent explosives from falling into the hands of the attackers who retreated after reinforcements arrived.

Etin was also awarded the SP and is now the only surviving Sarawakian recipient of the award.

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