The Peace Park was built as a memorial and renunciation of the horrors of war. It is dominated by the memorial mound which is surrounded by landscaped gardens and pavilions.
On September 9, 1945, the Japanese officially surrendered Labuan to the Australian. The commander of the Japanese 37th Army, Lieutenant General Masao Baba was flown to the shores of Layang-Layangan Beach in the Tachikawa K154C (HICKORY). And in a small wooden shack under the shelter of the coconut trees some 50 meters South-west of the Surrender Point, the handover signing ceremony took place.
He surrendered his sword formally to Major General George Wootten, commanding officer of the Australian 9th Division, under the witness of Group Captain C.W Pearce and Squadron Leader J.S St Heaps of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in Sydney, Australia.
Nearby, camps were set up for trials on the officers and servicemen of the Japanese unit for atrocities at the POW camps in Sabah and Sarawak. The war trials in Layang-Layangan were the first in Southeast Asia, led by Lieutenant L.J Morshead of the Commanding First Australian Corps. Subsequently, Labuan reclaimed her initial name from Maida Island, and was placed under the British Military Administration.
To show that they are genuinely sorry for the trouble their forefathers have caused, the Japanese decided to build the Peace Park next to the Surrender Point. The Peace Park pays tribute to the ones who have sacrificed their lives in Borneo during WWII. It is also a memento of friendship between Malaysia and Japan, and a promise of peace and harmony for all mankind that such war-like cruelty will not happen again in the future.
The Peace Park was heavily funded by the Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation, chaired by Ryoishi Sasagawa, as well as by families of the dead and comrades in arm from some industrial firms. On April 14, 1984, Mitsunori Ueki of the South Pacific Memorial Association Incorporation in Japan handed over the Peace Park ceremonially to the Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Harris Salleh. Till this day, funding still comes in abundantly from Japan to keep the Peace Park in good shape.
With serene waters under arched bridges and around shaded gazebos that embrace the large raised mound with two outstanding curved walls that is the centre of attention in the Peace Park. At the entrance of the Park stood a distinguishable stone slab, and on it carved clearly to echo till the end of time – “Peace is the best”.
Yes, peace is at last at Labuan Island.