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An Ex-Malaysian PsyWar Officer's Account

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Online der Chef

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An Ex-Malaysian PsyWar Officer's Account
« on: June 13, 2007, 06:38:31 PM »
Courtesy of

Fighting Communists Without Guns: An Ex-Psywar Officer's Account
By Hamdan Ismail
June 13, 2007 17:39 PM  

MIRI, June 13 (Bernama) -- With a meagre salary of RM260 a month for a start, it's not worth putting your life at stake.

Yet for Robert Kunyu Anggau, it was a noble sum then. He joined the [Federation of Malaysia] Information Department on Sept 1, 1975, as a field officer and was one of the department's highly regarded psychological warfare (psy-war) officers.

At that time Sarawak was still under the communist threat, with the doctrine perpetrated by the North Kalimantan People's Party (PARAKU) based in the neighbouring Kalimantan.

Looking back, Robert who retired on Dec 31, 2006, after 31 years of service, has no regrets of taking up a vocation that exposed him to dangers along the way.

"It was one of the most dangerous tasks then. We were among the non-military civil servants on the frontline and the Communists hated us because we campaigned against them," he said.

Speaking to Bernama during a gathering by Miri Information Department prior to his retirement, Robert said that his appointment as a psy-war officer came barely three years after joining the department. He was immediately transferred to Mukah, an area known for Communist activities and under the surveillance of the Rajang Security Command (Rascom).


Robert was absorbed into a non-combat unit in Rascom known as the Civic Action Group (CAG) that also comprised officers from the medical and agriculture departments, Resident and District Offices, with minimum presence of security personnel.

The post may sound glamorous but one needs a baptism of fire to keep on going. Robert sometimes travelled for days or even weeks in the jungles, often carrying heavy public announcement equipment, and there was always the fear of being ambushed by the communists.

"While travelling, many times it crossed my mind that I may not see my family again but the fact that I have a crucial role to play for the safety of the people and nation is what kept me going," he said.

The mission of the CAG Team was to carry out psychological warfare through face-to-face meetings with the locals and explain to them on the need to support the government and stay away from the Communist.

"Immediately after our arrival in any remote settlement after travelling for hours by longboats or on foot, we assemble the locals to relay our message.

"We have to hold at least two sessions per day and with quite a large rural area to cover, we have very little time to rest... and have to be on alert all the time on the presence of any Communist insurgents," he recalled.

Yet most of the time, the tiredness were compensated by the warm reception provided by the rural settlers. During the meet the people sessions, Robert often took on the role of the master of ceremonies. "You would never know while standing out in the crowd to make announcements you can end up an easy target," he said.


The Mukah district is predominantly populated by the Iban who are mostly farmers and they are naturally friendly people.

Being an Iban himself, Robert felt this could best explain why he was preferred for the job in view of the community that he had to deal with.

However, it is no easy task because the Iban in Mukah differ from the Iban he is familiar with back in Medamit.

The rural Iban community welcomes civil servants and is ever ready to cooperate. But Robert pointed out when they refuse to cooperate, their intentions can easily be misconstrued.

"For example, they will sometime decline to help us when we ask them to join us as our guides to the settlements along the river. They will simply say "Jaik Mimpi", which an outsider will interpret that they have bad feeling about joining us," he said.

In actual fact, he said the Iban term was actually a hint given to the CAG not to proceed with their plans as there could possibly be insurgents waiting to ambush from the riverbanks.

"There was one occasion at a remote longhouse, where the longhouse headman told us that we could not sleep in the rooms like what would normally be accorded to any longhouse visitors. We were instead told to spend the night in the attic," he said.

Understandably, the "rude request" of the tuai rumah was actually for the safety of the CAG officers as the communists often made surprise visits to the longhouse to demand food and other supplies.


Clashes between the security forces and the communists near remote river settlements in Mukah kept the CAG on its toes and after each clash it would be their turn to go down to the scene to assess the situation.

"No one could officially declare that the area is safe until we reach the place for ground assessment and upon the confirmation of the security force, we would inform the people that it is safe and they need not worry," he said.

He remained a psy-war officer until 1979 in Mukah and as the communist threats waned in Sarawak, the transfer call rang again leading him to several places including Kapit, Belaga, his hometown Limbang, Bintulu and eventually to Miri in 2000.

But of all the places that he has been and positions that he has held, Mukah and his role as psy-war officer would remain dearest to him.

"I have gained a lot of experience especially in the art of winning the hearts and minds of the people... under a lot threats and though a scary experience I really appreciate it," he said.

It is the deeds of the people like Robert that helped the nation enjoy peace and prosperity since Merdeka almost half a century ago. Their deeds to the nation are invaluable and never will be forgotten.


der Chef



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