Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is currently in Sabah, the Malaysian state on Borneo Island.

He is in the state in conjunction with the annual memorial service for some 2,400 allied forces who died — either killed or too weak to walk and left to die — in the 250km forced march from the Sandakan prisoner of war camp to Ranau during the Second World War.

Downer attended the service in Sandakan on Friday and later joined some 40 Australians to retrace the footsteps of the POWs, covering the final 100km of the journey.

Downer and the group began trekking from 7am yesterday (Aug 16) and is expected to complete the march to the Kundasang War Memorial on Wednesday.

The Star reported that Downer was part of the McGuinness McDermott Foundation team, which aims to raise about RM8mil for cancer patients at the foundation’s Women and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide.

Downer, whose father was also a prisoner of war in Singapore, said his participation this time around was aimed at drawing more attention to the sacrifices of Australian soldiers.

“So many were killed, tortured and treated barbarically. We should remember that man has treated man in that way within living memory and that what has happened in the past should never be repeated.”

He said many Australian families had some ties with the war. His father, Sir Alexander Downer, Sr, was with the Australian army serving in the Malay peninsula. [Source]

The walk will be documented by a Channel 10 TV crew for viewing in Australia from November.

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