In August 2011, Lynette Silver visited Kampong Miruru, a small and fairly remote village in Sabah’s Liwagu Valley, to interview Domoit, an elderly man located by trekking expert Tham Yau Kong in 2005.
Now aged about 83, Domoit revealed that in 1945, while carrying out forced labour by delivering messages for the Japanese, he had come across a lone POW on the death march track at in the Taviu River valley. After leading him across secret hunting trails to Miruru, several miles away, he and other villagers built a small shelter for the POW, and kept him supplied with food until he was strong enough to be passed to another village headman.
Domoit had never been officially recognised for his bravery or compassion and, as his village was far away from the death march track, it had not been visited post-war by Australian officials seeking to reward local people who had aided prisoners of war.
Moved by the risks taken by this elderly man and his fellow villagers, Lynette and her husband Neil have now ‘adopted’ the village, which is off the beaten track and is materially very poor. To personally acknowledge Domoit’s bravery, they donated a keyboard to the village to provide music at community celebrations and for their church services, along with basic school supplies for the local children.
Lynette also arranged for the Director of the Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG), Brigadier Chris Appleton, to visit the village in November 2011, during an official visit to Sabah, and to formally thank Domoit on behalf of the Australian government. At a small, informal ceremony, Domoit was presented with a letter of appreciation and a wooden plaque, featuring the ‘rising sun’ insignia of the Australian Army. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Silvers also presented bags of rice, powdered milk, salt and sugar to the village headman, as a symbolic replacement for the food given to the POW, from a community that was bordering on starvation itself, owing to confiscation of crops by the Japanese.
Throughout 2012-2014 donations from well wishers, inspired by the bravery of the villagers in 1945, continued to provide assistance to Miruru. Trekking parties accompanied by Lynette were also keen to supplyfood and clothing donations, while a group from Lindisfarne Grammar School in northern NSW provided funds to replace a set of village drums, purchased 2nd-hand twenty years ago and now long past their use-by date, with holes in the skins and rusted cymbals. The music shop proprietor, inspired by the work of the Friends, also donated tambourines, maracas, a recorder and a guitar. With music such an integral part of Dusun culture and village life, these generous gifts were received with overwhelming joy and gratitude, as were musical instruments, school supplies and clothing provided for the village pre-school.
On discovering that whenever a copy of a document or identity pass is required, or an official letter written, villagers have to travel many kilometres to the nearest big town, the Friends also purchased a scanner/copier/printer for the village headman’s government laptop, along with a supply of ink and paper. At the press of a button, life has now become so much easier! The Friends also allocated funding for concrete blocks, cement, windows, doors and roofing materials to erect a multi-purpose building, to be used by Miruru as a rpe-school on weekdays, and by 17 surrounding villages for a Sunday school. With all villagers pitching in to help with the construction, timber for the framework readily available from the nearby jungle, and sand and gravel for the concrete transported from a nearby river by a bucket brigade, the work was completed in late 2014.
For an account of the momentous opening by journalist Kan Yaw Chong, feautured on the front page of Sabah’s leading newspaper, The Daily Express, go to Miruru Pre-School Opening.
As money donated by the Friends can be used only for community projects, the Silvers and two members of the November 2012 trekking party also provided sufficient funds for the headman to build a small room at ground level for Domoit, who was becoming too old to manage the ladder to access his elevated home.
As this village is in need of further material assistance, Australians wishing to express their gratitude for the compassion and help rendered to the POW in 1945, or to simply help people less fortunate than themselves, are invited to become a Friend of Miruru village. Please contact Lynette on [email protected] to discuss how this may best be achieved.