Mat Salleh, or his real name Datu Mat Salleh was a Sabahan warrior who gained his fame due to his resistance to the British colonials in Sabah. Mat Salleh once declared the Tambunan district (or in his native language, "Negeri Tambunan") as a district under his power. He was from the tribe Suluk Paitan, and his father, Datu Balu was married in Inanam with a lady from the Bajau tribe. This union bore 4 children: Ali, Mat Salleh, Badin and Bolong.
Mat Salleh had taken over from his father the role of a chieftain of their village in Lingkabo district and Sugut River. Cost of administration was gathered from taxes imposed on traders who passed through the Sugut River in 1894. The British was uneasy over this arrangement and chose to attack him in Jambongan and destroyed his stronghold by the Sugut River in a series of clashes in 1896-1897.
However, Datu Mat Salleh managed to escape. The decisive moment of his retaliation on the invading British East Indian Company began in July 1897 when Mat Salleh and his men attacked and destroyed the administration office of British East Indian Company in Gaya Island. In the same year, Mat Salleh attacked and burned the British East Indian Company Resident Office in Ambong. In December 1897, the British assailed Mat Salleh¡¦s fortress in Ranau. The outcome was not in the British favour; they lost many soldiers in the process, which included Officer Jones who led the attack. In January 1898, the British once again attacked the fortress with a bigger force. Mat Salleh retreated and build a newer, stronger defence fortress in Tibabar Village, Tambunan.Every corner of the fort was guarded and there were several underground tunnels used to secretly channel in weapons, ammunitions, food and other necessities from beyond the fortress. These secret passages were also used as an escape route if they were surrounded by the enemies. This seemingly impenetrable fort finally fell in 1900 due to a massive onslaught of assault from British East Indian Company, and with this, the defenses of Mat Salleh was finally broken. This event also marked the fall of Mat Salleh as a warrior of his people.A memorial was built by the British to commemorate the events surrounding the fort. This memorial marks the spot where the fortress was finally taken by the North Borneo Constabulary Armed Forces on 1st February, 1900. In that final stand, Mat Salleh who had led a 6-years resistance against the ruling of Chartered Company had fallen on 31st January 1900. For the British, Mat Salleh was merely a rebel but to the locals, he was a warrior who fought for independence and a brave hero.