| Terengganu, Malaysia | 20 March 2017 | Asia Samachar |
By Adrian David
KUALA TERENGGANU: As Army Day is celebrated throughout the country this month, the sacrifices and contributions of Sikh soldiers are not forgotten.
These were reminisced on by the Sikh community in Malaysia during special thanksgiving prayers at gurdwaras near army camps and elsewhere.
As one senior Sikh officer put it, history tells of the valour and bravery displayed by his kinsmen who first displayed their prowess in Malaya during World War II against the marauding Imperial forces of Japan.
“The never-say-die spirit of the Sikhs gave fellow allied forces the impetus, inner strength and resilience to face the challenges that came their way.
“Sikh soldiers adhered to the faith and never flinched nor surrendered in the face of adversity,” said Army Sikh Religious Affairs Division chairman Lt Col Inderjit Singh Bachan Singh.
He said this at a prayer gathering, led by priests Sukhdev Singh and Balwinder Singh, at the Gurdwara Sahib Ampang in Jalan Hulu Kelang, Selangor, recently.
The event, held in conjunction with Army Day on March 1, was attended by serving officers, men and their families, as well as dozens of ex-servicemen of all ranks.
Present were Malaysian Armed Forces Sikh Association president Lt Col Munraj Singh and Malaysian Armed Forces Sikh Veterans Association (MAFSVA) president Major (Rtd) Baldev Singh.
Inderjit said the prayers were in remembrance of and a tribute to the fallen heroes, many of whom sacrificed their limbs and lives to protect the sovereignty of the country.
“I recall vividly how Sikhs formed the backbone of the security forces. Many have since retired, but were engaged in the security industries and other professions,” he said.
Inderjit added that he had learnt from his peers that at the height of World War II, two thirds of Malaya’s 90,000 troops were comprised of soldiers imported from India by the British and Allied forces to defend the country.
“Of this two-thirds number, I was told that 60 per cent were Sikhs,” said Inderjit, the Staff Officer I (operations) at the Royal Military Police directorate at the Defence Ministry.
He added that the Indian regiment was brought in when Japanese troops landed off Kota Baru in Kelantan and Songkhla and Pattani in southern Thailand, in early Dec 1941.
Several companies from the Punjab Regiment even assisted British and Australian troops to ward off the rapid advances of the Japanese Imperial troops who were moving in fast via the Malaya-Thai border across to Kelantan, Terengganu, Perlis and Perak.
For the record, two Sikhs officers retired as generals.
They are First Infantry Division commander Major Gen (Rtd) Datuk Ranjit Singh Ramday, who was the Fifth Infantry Brigade commander during the height of the Lahat Datu incursion by Filipino rebels in 2013, and Brig Gen (Rtd) Datuk Baljit Singh, who was Royal Ranger Corps chairman.
Inderjit said that currently, the presence of Sikh officers and men in the Armed Forces is dwindling, with only 23 personnel serving with the Army nationwide.
Among the most senior are former hockey Olympian Lt Col Jagjit Singh Chet Singh, the Staff Officer I (network-centric operations) at the Armed Forces Electronic Communications Unit; 509th Territorial Army deputy commander Lt Col Jagjit Singh Inderjit Singh; and Army Provost Marshal’s Staff Officer II (operations) Lt Col Gogisvar Singh Wariam Singh.
Other notables are medical officers Major Dr Harvinder Singh, Lt Dr Rajdave Singh Sadu Singh and Lt Dr Melinder Kaur Ragbir Singh, an Armed Forces long-distance runner, while Lt Manvikram Singh Gill Baldev Singh is a pharmacist.
Also serving is Corporal Gurdesh Singh Jernail Singh, a photographer with the Armed Forces strategic communications unit.
The article appeared in New Straits Times on 19 March 2017. See here.
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