A true hero continues to inspire the next generation

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IBAN WARRIOR FROM SIMANGGANG: How a tracker from Sri Aman fought on, through the pain

Lt. Gen. Datuk Seri Zaini Mohd SaidHE is a little paunchy now in the mid-section and puffy in the face. This, together with the full-white hair on his head, can make Kanang anak Langkau, the  holder of two of the country's  highest gallantry awards, look more like a longhouse elder than the fearless Iban warrior of the Malaysian Rangers he once was.But he could still inspire the young and soon-to-be-commissioned Reserve Officers Training Unit (Palapes) officers at Universiti Utara Malaysia recently.

Even I listened raptly to his narration of his exploits against the communist terrorists (CTs), especially in the jungles of Ulu Kinta, Perak in 1980.

I was all ears because I was the Brigade Major at the Brigade headquarters in Ipoh and had monitored that particular operation and his platoon's every move. I also realised that there were a number of things that Kanang and his rangers had gone through during that operation which were not known to me.

We had fired hundreds of artillery rounds into the area of operation before the rangers were to move in. The object was to destroy an enemy camp reported to be in the area, as well as to hit those who happened to be in the vicinity.

The rangers were then to hunt down the CTs who survived and were making their escape after the artillery fire lifted.

It turned out that the artillery pounding never did hit any of the CTs. But it successfully turned the area to be searched into a mangled mass of shattered and fallen tree trunks and other debris, making it difficult for the rangers to move, let alone search the area.

I remember the commanding officer, the late Lt-Col Loone, telling me of the difficulties but that Kanang's platoon had somehow managed to get through and even picked up the enemy scent.

Kanang, to this day, cannot forget that part of the ordeal of going through the mess and tracking the CTs at the same time.

But he did, showing what a superb jungle tracker he was. He got to track and stayed on their trail for five days, never losing the enemy for more than just a few hours at a time.

But this slow pace of tracking and pursuit got on the nerves of the impatient superior in Ipoh, who had questioned why Kanang was taking too long to make contact with the CTs he was closely following.

Apparently, when that superior officer happened to be on the radio, Kanang grabbed the handset and gave him a piece of his mind and demanded that he be allowed to do his job in the jungle.

"Saya sengaja mainkan musuh itu", (I was playing with the enemy), was his explanation to me recently, his way of telling that he was carefully stalking and trying to outfox the enemy who had also realised that they were being followed.

Kanang knew he was being insubordinate when he gave the superior officer a dressing down. Such a thing is a court martial offence with a severe sentence if the accused is found guilty.

But the officer, to his credit, kept his cool over Kanang's outburst. He must have quickly realised his own mistake and believed that the Iban non-commissioned officer would soon make contact.

Kanang did, soon after that. But not before having to cut the wire from a live booby trap the CTs had laid on the trail. In the ensuing fire fight, he brought down one CT but took three enemy bullets on himself, one nearly splitting his stomach open.

He poured salt on where the bullet had entered and exited his abdomen and tied his shirt around it to prevent his intestines from spilling out. He then administered a shot of morphine into his arm and another to a ranger injured by an undetected booby trap which had exploded nearby.

With his pain lessened Kanang continued firing on the enemy until the rest of his company came to his rescue.

"I thought I was going to die", he told many people later after recovering from his injuries.

Temenggong Datuk Kanang anak Langkau, we salute you!

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak holding a dialogue with Temenggong Datuk Kanang anak Langkau (left) and other armed forces veterans in Bangi earlier this month.


Lt Jen (Rtd) Datuk Seri Zaini Mohd Said is a former army field commander.

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