then Jesselton, was taken by the Japanese on January 9, 1942. It was
renamed Api-Api. On September 28, 1945, the Allies liberated the
town from its usurpers, whose regime was often, as the following
account shows, accompanied by cold-blooded cruelty.
In 1943, Mr Albert Kwok, a Chinese merchant from North Borneo,
managed to organise what became known the ‘Kinabalu Guerrillas’. His
enterprise, however, was not a successful one, and after his one
major strike on the 10th of October 1943 – the double tenth – things
went very bad. The Japanese were not only better organised and
equipped than the Guerrillas, but they had also a large net of spies
amongst the people. Soon most of the fighters were rounded up. They
suffered the most atrocious tortures in prison at Batu Tiga, and
those who survived the ordeal, Mr Albert Kwok amongst them, were
mass-executed near the Petagas railway bridge. A war memorial marks
the infamous site.
The Japanese supposed that the inhabitants of the different islands
off the west coast of then North Borneo were in contact with the
Kinabalu Guerrillas. Their presumptions were right. The Guerrillas
kept contact with the Philippines, from where they were promised
help, through the mostly seafaring island tribes. Help came
unfortunately too late, and under the subsequently tightened regime
of the Japanese the defenceless islanders suffered the most
atrocious ‘punishments’ by the Japanese.
The following extracts only concern the Sulug (Suluk) Island off
Jesselton, which was the seat of Panglima Ali, a figure of some
importance in connection with the double tenth. His island was
probably the worst affected. However, the inhabitants of the other
islands met with similar fates. The excerpts are taken sic from
Maxwell Hall’s book ‘Kinabalu Guerrillas – An Account of the Double
Tenth’, 1948, pp 145 to 150. Dates added to the original appear in
“The islands along the north west coast are inhabited by mixed
settlements of Sulus, Binadans, Bajaus and others. There is the
Mantanani group of islands in the north and opposite Jesselton there
are Gaya, Udar, Sepangar, Sinjatan, Manukan, Mamutik and Suluk
islands inhabited by fisherfolks according to season. Further south
there are Danawan and the Tiga islands.
“The Japanese knew that the Binadans and others were implicated in
the revolt of October [10.10.1943]. The islanders had landed on
Beach Road and at the wharf, and had attacked the military station
and had set fire to the Customs sheds.
Their headman Orang
Tua Panglima Ali, of Suluk Island, was arrested about middle of
October, a week after the event. He was confined to prison at Batu
Two weeks later Suluk Island was visited by about twenty Japanese
soldiers and native policemen. They went ashore. The Japanese
machine-gunned the inhabitants, setting fire to all the houses on
the island. Some of the men were shot as they came running out of
their houses. Others on the island put up a show of fight against
the Japanese and wounded a few of them. The Japanese soon overcame
this resistance and killed or captured all the men whom they could
According to the version given later by one of the widows, who was
present at the time, about thirty Japanese went ashore, accompanied
by about twenty native police. Her number may be on the high side.
Of the one hundred and fourteen people living on the island fifty
four were killed and sixty survived. Thirty women and children were
removed to Bangawan and there twenty five died from malnutrition and
The Japanese officers responsible for this massacre were put on
trial in Singapore in July 1946. The lieutenant in charge and the
sergeant were both sentenced to death and were executed by hanging.
Others implicated received long sentences of imprisonment.
Suluk Island, whose fate has already been described, is conveniently
close to Jesselton and is an example of a community where no adult
males live. Only women and children where living on the island when
the British landed there in 1945. All the adult males had been
killed. The boys were spared and the eldest, an eleven-year-old boy
became headman. Now  sixteen years of age he is still headman.
The island has received some celebrity in the world press as being a
place where there are no men – a place of women’s dreams. It is a
kind of Eve’s Garden of Eden without an Adam. It is also free of any
photos to be added soon