March 9, 2012

A Fight to the Death

An account by Mr R.K. Hardwick of his encounter with a Moro that almost ended his life. Hardwick was the Assistant District Officer of the Labuk and Sugut District in 1908 in the then British North Borneo.

In 1908, an appeal from the Panglima of the Tigabu Island was sent to the Resident of Kudat. Tigabu is an island about 20 miles north of the Paitan River. Hardwick described the inhabitants of the island as a mixture of sea Bajaus and Binadans.

In that same year, a Moro from Tawi Tawi group of islands in the Sulu Sea escaped from the American authority and fled to Tigabu. He was wanted for several murders by the American and a price was put on his head. He was wanted 'dead or alive'. This Moro's name was Si Kisi or just Kisi.

While in Tigabu, instead of being grateful for the islanders' generosity in providing refuge for him, Si Kisi started terrorizing the local inhabitants and reportedly committed more murders in the island. Apparently even the local chieftain, the Panglima, was not able to reign him in. Si Kisi had a few followers and supporters in that island. Perhaps this was why the Panglima was powerless against him. Nothing was mentioned of this followers, whether they were locals or Moros themselves.

Pak Musa's rebellion in Paitan

The Resident of Kudat gave the task of apprehending Si Kisi to Hardwick. When Hardwick received the instruction, he was already engaged in a punitive expedition against another local rebel, Pak Musa, in the Paitan area. Pak Musa was a rebel leader from the Orang Sungai community. He would be later, exiled and chose to resettle in Membakut, as a consequence of his and his followers rebellion in Paitan.

Pak Musa and his men raided the village of Paitan and killed four policemen. Afterwards, they went on a looting spree and burned Chinese shophouses. In the punitive expedition, Hardwick and his men, managed to surprise Pak Musa's camp and killed some of Pak Musa's men, including his second in command, Kalakau. Kalakau was said to be the cause of this conflict. It was reported that the altercations between the Government and Pak Musa were due to the former trying to arrest Kalakau.

In the punitive expedition, Hardwick, saved an infant girl from among Pak Musa's entourage whom had all scattered into the jungle. The baby's mother had been decapitated by the Dayaks from among Hardwick's men. The baby would have perished it seemed if not for Hardwick's intervention.

After the successful expedition, Hardwick proceeded directly to Paitan village, where he was told to board the government vessel, the S.L. Chantek. S.L. Chantek was a small vessel of some 12 tons. From Paitan, they launched the vessel towards the Tigabu Island. Accompanying Hardwick were his 'boy' (government official normally travel with a 'page' in those days) of about 14 years old, the baby girl which he had rescued earlier, a Chinese engineer and three Dayak policemen; two of whom were armed with rifles and all three carrying parangs.

Arresting Si Kisi

The following day, Hardwick and his entourage, set off from Janbongan Island where they had stayed overnight. They reached Tigabu Island at 8am and anchored offshore. The Panglima was summoned to the vessel to provide further intelligence. The Panglima arrived and appeared distressed. He reported that three men from Tawi Tawi had arrived and joined Si Kisi. He said they were in Si Kisi's dwelling which was heavily protected by a stout stockade.
The Panglima said they would never surrender and would go 'amok' in the village. The last thing Hardwick wanted was an inquiry into his conduct in the arrest should Si Kisi really went 'amok' and they had to use violence. Furthermore, the Panglima cautioned that Si Kisi did have sympathizers and he did not know what would happened if Hardwick was attacked. In other words, I think, the Panglima could not guarantee that he could assist Hardwick if the latter was attacked.

Hardwick sent his Dayak Orderly and Dayak policeman to serve the warrant of arrest on Si Kisi with strict instruction to never accept any invitation to enter Si Kisi's abode should he asked them so. Hardwick suspected if they had done so, they would be cut down by Si Kisi and his companion. A while later, the two Dayaks returned and reported they were indeed asked by Si Kisi to enter his home for coffee but they declined. They nailed the warrant of arrest on one of the timbers. As they did so, Si Kisi called out and told them that he and his three companions would board the vessel an hour later.

As they anxiously waited for Si Kisi and his companions, the Panglima became more and more nervous as the vessel was gradually surrounded by 'dapangs' – narrow double outrigger boats – filled with sullen and forbidding looking sea Bajaus.

Hardwick observed that the natives were gathering near the shorelines and many of them were carrying spears. To make matters worse, his policemen told him that there were not any handcuffs onboard. Si Kisi and his companions arrived about two hours later. Unarmed and wearing white suits. Their heads looked like they were recently shaved which to Hardwick's experience, was an ominous. Hardwick read out the charges to Si Kisi and told him he would shoot him right then and there if he was to create problem. Si Kisi told him that he alone should be arrested while his companions were to be released as only he did all the murders. Hardwick said Si Kisi was powerfully built but thought that his three armed policemen could handle four unarmed men. Hardwick ordered his men to tie the four with ropes since they did not have any handcuffs and he himself proceeded to the engine room hatch to have his breakfast.


In a flash, Si Kisi grabbed the 'ilang' of a Dayak policeman from its scabbard and slashed the policeman; He died instantly. The remaining two Dayak policemen unceremoniously jumped overboard and remained hanging to the rudder and anchor chain throughout the unfolding event.

Si Kisi's second kill was the baby girl which Hardwick had rescued from Pak Musa's party. The baby girl was lying in the deck and Si Kisi almost cut the girl in halves. Next he attacked Pak Musa's boy, severing his right arm from the shoulder. The poor boy jumped into the sea and died later through loss of blood.

Hardwick in a self deprecating manner described how a bad shot he was and how he managed to miss Si Kisi while discharging his revolver at a range of only a few feet. He fired six shots and all of them missed Si Kisi. Hardwick then turned to get his Carbine but Si Kisi caught up with him and slashed him at the top of his head, exposing his brain, he said. Hardwick toppled from the blow to his head and he credited Si Kisi's unfamiliarity with the 'Ilang' that kept him alive. Had it been a 'bolo' – a weapon of his race – Hardwick said he would had been cut to his chin.

Hardwick lay stunned on the floor for a few seconds and later gained consciousness when his hand touched the red hot door of a furnace. He staggered to his feet and armed himself with a heavy spanner. In the engine room with him then was the Chinese engineer. He proposed with the Chinese engineer that when Si Kisi came to finish him off, they should work together. A concerted attack by both of them might be able to overwhelm the 'amoker'. However, the Chinese man said he was a man of peace and why should he get involved in the melee when it was obvious that Hardwick was Si Kisi's target. The man than proceeded to hide himself inside a wooden bunker that could hardly contained his whole person, resulting in which, his buttock remained exposed.

Hardwick tried to get to the deck to get his carbine by climbing the steel ladder but Si Kisi stopped him in his track resulting in which, the top of Hardwick's index finger was sliced off. After forty five minutes of trying to stay conscious as by now he had lost a lot of blood from his head injury, Hardwick decided to make a run for it, his only concern was that Si Kisi who was at the lower deck would slash his legs from below. Si Kisi made a leap onto the floor of the engine room and as he did so, he got interested with the Chinese engineer's buttocks which were jutting out from the wooden bunker. He started slashing the poor man's backside. Hardwick took the opportunity to run out from the engine room and jumped into the sea where he drifted some 200 yards.

Si Kisi was unaware that Hardwick had jumped into the sea and continued searching for Hardwick onboard the vessel. After a while, he gave up and went into hiding inside the vessel. Perhaps thinking that he would ambush Hardwick should he decide to come out from his hiding place.

Hardwick regrouped with his Dayak Orderly, arming themselves with fresh ammunition and weapons, they boarded the vessel. Not finding Si Kisi, Hardwick took a random shot at a canvass covered bathroom fixed over the side of the vessel. A pure fluke he said but it worked well because out came Si Kisi wounded at the shoulder. More bullets were shot and it ended with Si Kisi dropping dead on the deck with a bullet in his head.
Hardwick by then was in a rage thinking of the senseless killing of his 'boy' and the baby girl. In his own word he said he was in a demented rage. He turned on Si Kisi's corpse and hacked off the head. He threw the headless body to the sea in full view of the onlookers on the shore, among them were some with evil intentions on him.

He then got the Panglima to come on board and had him tied up to accompany him to Kudat. Perhaps Hardwick was angry that the Panglima did not come to his aid when the whole exercise was due to his calling for aid from the government. In retrospect, Hardwick said it was unnecessary for him to do that but he said such was the condition of his mind then and that it was just senseless rage on his part. Exacerbated by fatigue, his wound and the excitement of the melee.

They steamed into Kudat that afternoon and were met by a great crowd. On board, three dead victims of Si Kisi and his head lying beside Hardwick's campbed. The Resident, Mr E.H. Barraut came on board the vessel and upon seeing Si Kisi's head, he flung the head into the sea with disgust. Hardwick said he lay semi-conscious and sometimes delirious while the district Medical Officer looked at his wound.

Such was the live of an Officer of the government in those dangerous days and to certain extend, I am glad that the British came. They freed us from pirates, slave traders and head hunters. The live of a human being was given scant regards in those days. They came and brought law and order to the land. And yes of course, they also left some of their mistakes which we are now left to clean up.

As to the Chinese Engineer, he was indeed a man of peace. For he offered his cheeks to the person who was out to do him harm. However, I think Jesus was thinking of a different kind of cheek. 

Source : The Straits Time 12 October 1952 – A Fight to the death
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...