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KUCHING, Sept 2: Many Sarawakians are unaware of or have forgotten the captivating history of the current Batu Lintang Teacher’s Training Institute.
The President of the South Australia & Northern Territory Branch of the National Malaya-Borneo Veterans Association of Australia, Paul Rosenzweig, reiterated that the institute used to be a prisoner of war (POW) camp during the Japanese occupation of Sarawak during the Second World War.
Rosenzweig said the Batu Lintang Camp (also known as Lintang Barracks) became a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War.
He said it housed both Allied prisoners of war and civilian internees.
“The size of the camp population was not constant – it fluctuated due to the movement of prisoners between different camps, particularly as a result of deaths,” he said.
Rosenzweig told the history during the commemoration service anniversary of the Liberation of Batu Lintang POW camp and in memory of Brigadier Tom Estick DSO, Commander Kuching Force, held at Batu Lintang Memorial Square recently.
He said that Batu Lintang camp had a maximum population of some 3,000 prisoners.
“These included British and Indian officers and soldiers, 178 Australian officers and men, Dutch officers and men of the KNIL, Indonesian soldiers, Roman Catholic priests, and various religious men (including Capuchin friars, Montfort missionaries, and others).
He shared that the camp’s history is well-known for its harsh life, with POWs and internees suffering starvation, disease, forced labor, and brutal treatment.
Rosenzweig said following the unconditional surrender of Japan on Aug 15, 1945, the camp was liberated on Sept 11 of that year by the Australian 9th Division.
“At the time of liberation, the camp’s population was 2,024 – comprising 1,392 POWs, 395 male civilian internees, and 237 civilian women and children.
“Most notably, amongst official Japanese papers found at the camp following its liberation were two ‘death orders’ describing the proposed execution of every POW and internee.
“The timely liberation of the camp prevented the murder of over 2,000 men, women, and children,” he said. — DayakDaily