Thursday January 10, 2013
Gallant cop battling cancer
By SHARON LING
KUCHING: ASP (Rtd) Wilfred Gomez Malong used to battle communist terrorists in the jungles of Sarawak, but the decorated former policeman is fighting a different battle now.
Gomez, 63, was diagnosed with colon cancer early this year and is undergoing treatment at the Sarawak General Hospital, where he is currently warded.
“I’ve been in and out of the hospital for the last few months and lost a fair bit of weight,” he said when met yesterday.
However, the courage that earned him a Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) medal still shone through as he reminisced about his past experiences.
In 1973, Gomez became the nation’s youngest recipient of the PGB for his role in attacking a communist camp deep in the Kanowit area.
Then aged 23, he was serving in the Border Scouts as a police inspector.
“I was leading a group from the Special Branch Probing Unit (SBPU), which was an elite squad. There were 10 of us and we had an encounter with the communists, in which we attacked their camp.
“Only three of us were involved in the attack as the other seven were assigned to cut off any escape,” he related.
“The communists saw us so we had to fire. In the course of the contact, we killed four of them. Later on, we learnt that there were nearly 20 of them in the camp.”
Gomez recalled that they had to “bluff” their way into the camp during the attack.
“We were shouting to the left flank and right flank not to fire, to give the impression that there were more of us.
“The communists abandoned camp, leaving behind their firearms and other supplies. The follow-up by other units of the Armed Forces resulted in one more killed.
“So the operation resulted in five killed in total, while two more surrendered to the police later,” he said.
Although the action by the three of them was successful, Gomez said it was part and parcel of a coordinated operation by the security forces.
“At that time, when I received the PGB, I didn’t really feel anything. I was just doing my job. But I did feel proud that it was a coordinated effort among the boys.
“None of us could have succeeded alone and our spirit was high,” he said.
Gomez also noted that very few members of the security forces received gallantry awards, be it the Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP) or the PGB.
The SP is the highest award in the land, outranking the “Tun” title, while the PGB is the second highest.
“In Malaysia, there are probably only about 100 recipients out of a few hundred thousand personnel. This is because the bravery awards are not given just because you killed communists.
“Rather, they are given because of the circumstances of the incidents. That’s why only some received the awards but we remember all of them,” he said.
Wiping away tears, he said some of them had died while some had been forgotten.
“There are only very few who are remembered. To see some blogs saying that these people are over-recognised, that is really not fair.
“Now that there is very little threat to the country, people tend to forget. But the Government is slowly taking recognition of this fact, although it might be too late for some,” he said, adding that the majority of SP and PGB recipients were now in their 60s, having received the awards in the 1970s and 1980s.
Gomez left the force in 1980 to read law in London. He returned to Malaysia to practise law and served as president of the Veterans Association of Malaysia for five years.
Among others, he was also involved in the 1989 movie Farewell to the King, directed by John Milius and starring Nick Nolte, which was shot in Borneo.