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What was really found?
Published on: Sunday, February 26, 2017

By David Lee
THERE has been a lot of hot air being vented by the authorities about the salvage of the two Japanese sunken ships.

The salvage crews had virtually destroyed the ships beyond recognition.

But we still have not heard from the project initiators what was the purpose of the salvage operation.

UMS said it was for research purposes but until now had not told the public what it was that is being researched.

It said there were 3,000 tons of bauxite in the ships. Was that confirmed? Who had it?

The Museum was said to have collected some ceramics. Let the public know.

Show us some picture in the newspapers of the actual find.

What emerged from the inquiry were debates over jurisdiction and lack of Standard Operating Procedures in salvage work but not what was found in the wrecks.

The public is curious about the whole issue because many locals who lived through the occupation are still surviving and I am one of them. During the 4 years of occupation, the Japanese had hurriedly harvested the country’s natural resources.

They had taken over without compensation British-operated and local-owned rubber and coconut plantations and had shipped the products back to Japan. The locals worked 10 hours a day in plantations for a few worthless Japanese currency.

Several Manganese mines in Taritipan and coal in Silimpopon which were operated during the Chartered Company since 1900s. The operation were taken over by the Japanese and the ore taken out.

Even gold bangles, chains and rings on the hands of local women were taken and shipped back to Japan. Gold and antimony were mined in Sarawak and ores were also shipped back.

Tin was mined in big quantities in occupied Malaya and Indonesia then. These were strategic resources, particularly in war times.

Was there an independent inventory by a govt authority on everything salvaged on the spot?

Another point of interest to the locals is why the ships were hidden in Usukan Bay not in Jesselton Harbour.

Was it because the ships had some important cargo intended for Japan? Were the ships sunk by Allied bombing?

Were there any local crew members that perished in the ships with the Japanese crews?

These ships could have been the crews’ graves that the salvage people had disturbed.

Soon after WW II the locals were searching for their relatives who were recruited by the Japanese to work on mines, plantations and in shipping.

Many found that their relatives had died. But many were still unaccounted for.

It would be interesting to know if the salvage party had found any dead bodies in the ships.

If there were that should be taken, identified if possible and given a proper burial.

David Lee

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