Ostin power: Sabahan cop survives pirates, gunbattles in 36-year career

Poliana Ronnie Sidom

SANDAKAN: Ostin Bajau may be 73, but his encounter with pirates while defending Malaysian territory 42 years ago remains fresh in his mind as if it happened only yesterday.

Ostin, a former policeman who spent 36 years in the force, said the incident occurred in September, 1976.

He was part of a police team and patrolling Tambisan waters off Kinabatangan when they stumbled upon a group of pirates on another boat.

The pirates, from the Southern Philippines, were armed with M16 automatics while the police only had carbine rifles, leaving them severely outgunned.

In the ensuing gunfight, Ostin was shot in the left buttock, while four other policemen were also wounded.

“After that incident, the government equipped us with more advanced firearms,” he said.

He said the incident did not dampen his spirit.


“A year after the formation of Malaysia, I was with 40 other Sabahans being recruited to the police force,” Ostin Bajau (last line, left) said. Pix by Poliana Ronnie Sidom

“We were just glad we were alive and it didn’t put a dent on my aim to continue serving in the force. I even encouraged my children to become enforcement personnel so they can contribute to the nation,” said the father of eight.

Ostin, who is from Beluran, has a special history with pirates. When he was younger, his hometown, located on an island, was attacked twice by pirates.

A villager was killed in one of the attacks. This, he said, prompted him to join the police force.

At the time, the eastern part of Sabah was exposed to various forms of cross-border crimes from the Philippines, coupled with tense relations from Indonesia following the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.


One of Ostin’s proudest moments, he said, was when formed par of the team which took down notorious Filipino pirate Moloy Ulah in a sea gunbattle off Segamat Island in 1996. Pix by Poliana Ronnie Sidom

“A year after the formation of Malaysia, I was with 40 other Sabahans being recruited to the police force,” he said.

Ostin said he even remembers the colour of the uniform, which was yellow and with shorts.

“Our salary was just RM107.50, but goods were still cheap back then,” he quipped.

One of Ostin’s proudest moments, he said, was when formed par of the team which took down notorious Filipino pirate Moloy Ulah in a sea gunbattle off Segamat Island in 1996.

Moloy was wanted by several countries including Indonesia and the Philippines.

Ostin was also involved in an operation to arrest a Moro army commander from the Philippines known as Rizal at Berhala Island here in 1984.

For his bravery, Ostin was in 1996 awarded the Pingat Perkhidmatan Setia (Loyalty Service Medal) from the police in 1996.

He retired from the force in 2000, with his last position as a sergeant major heading the PX30 patrol boat.

His four children also followed his footsteps. His third child was warrant officer with the Army; his fourth child is a sergeant with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency in Lahad Datu.

His two daughters, meanwhile, are with the police, based here and in Johor.

Ostin’s wife Naulim Banau, 68, who was also a police officer between 1968 until 1972, said she would not stop her children from joining their footsteps as it was a noble calling.

“Although my husband was shot at by criminals, it has not deterred our children from becoming soldiers or police personnel. This is proof of our love towards the country,” she added. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd