Monday, September 1, 2008

Had Sarawak Been Independent Before Malaysia?

Sarawak was under the Brooke rule for about 100 years begin from 1841 with the installation of James Brooke, and then became a Crown Colony in 1946 for about 17 years. Many had fought against the Brooke and the British to realize the dream of an independent Sarawak. Among those who went into history was Liew Shan Bang of Bau who was said with hundreds of early Chinese settlers from Bau and Siniawan area, on an early morning of 19 February, 1857 managed to defeat Rajah Sir James Brooke in Kuching and sent Rajah Sir James Brooke into hiding for about five days. The Englishman killed was thought to be the Rajah, but, he was not. Liew Shan Bang became the de facto Rajah of Sarawak for five days from 19th February, 1857 to 21st February, 1857, but, Liew Shan Bang didn’t plan his retreat to base well and was then defeated and killed in Jugan Siniawan on 24 February, 1857. Liew Shan Bang died a hero at 57.

We also had Rentap, the Iban warrior from Skrang and Rosli Dhoby from Sibu, to name a few who fought the Rajah and the colonialists. We, Sarawakians of present and future generations should always remember these heroes and their adventures in fighting against the colonialists.

Their fight against colonialism was not in vain and their struggle was the beginning to see Sarawak achieved its independence. All races fought for independence in Sarawak and hours ago, the early morning of 31st August, Sarawak again rejoiced in celebrating Merdeka Day. It was not Sarawak independence day, but, it was the day Malaya gained independence from the British. Come this September 16, we should celebrate Malaysia day, the day Malaysia was officially formed, with Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore forming the Federation. We did not join Malaysia, but, helped formed Malaysia. Our heroes fought the foreigners because they didn’t want Sarawak to be ruled by foreigners and the fear of colonialism was there when Malaysia was about to be formed.

Before Malaysia was formed, there were some voices of dissent in Sarawak. However, many were also very excited when Tunku Abdul Rahman proposed the idea in Singapore on 27 May, 1961 and wanted Malaysia be formed quickly. A political party in Sarawak at that time called for Sarawak to be independent first before consideration should be given to Malaysia. In a publication by the said Sarawak political party the fear of colonialism in the Malaysia Plan was voiced out when it was said in the editorial section that the Malaysia Plan means a mere transfer of power from the colonialists, “who can no longer retain colonialism in its old forms under present international pressures,” to “reliable” right wing elements. It also said that the Plan would not afford a real independence to the peoples of the Borneo Territory and Singapore but would only help soften the “peoples rising feeling of anti-colonialism, blur the aim of their struggle and prolong the life of colonialism.” The editorial also went to say, “Why should join as a state of Malaya, which has 11 states? What we hold against the Plan is that we be ruled by the present Malayan Government.”

Besides the voice of the said political party, there were many groups of people, to name a few, who also opposed the Malaysia Plan concept. The Chinese in Saratok led by Kapitan Ong Cheng Seng said they wanted merdeka to come first before Malaysia was considered. Likewise, Tuai Rumah Musi of Sebuyau with his anakbiaks also were against the Malaysia Plan. Among anti-Malaysia plan at that time were also dayaks led by Tuai Rumah Lukang anak Bunsi of Undup and Mr. Joshua anak Udin from Tanjong Bijat which claimed to represent 4,000 supporters and Mr. Liew Wei Heng of Brayun in Simanggang. Belon anak Upan managed to collect 2,806 anti-Malaysia signatures and a branch of a political party managed to collect in four volumes containing 3,457 anti-Malaysia signatures where submitted to their party headquarters in Kuching.

Many were also not happy with the choice of the name, “Malaysia” and went on to suggest other names, such as “United States of Malaya, Sarawak, Singapore, Brunei and North Borneo” and “Borneonesia” while some told the Cobbold Commission that name “Malaysia” was unacceptable to non-muslims in Sarawak as it implied, “Land of the Malays”.

Many things happened at that time. SNAP had wanted that the Head of State be called Rajah, who must be from the indigenous people and be elected by the people and that the Supreme Head of State of the Federation of Malaysia should be nominated by rotation and that each Head of State in Malaysia should be eligible for nomination to be the Yang Di Pertuan Agong of the Federation.

There were too many fears and Tunku had to come out and in a press conference, in which, Tunku assured the people of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak that Malaya will not control Malaysia adding, “All of you will have the same opportunity of ruling Malaysia jointly.”

With that assurance from the Tunku, has been just the hope of Sabahans and Sarawakians that the two states should not be marginalized and should be treated equally with Malaya. However, recent politicial development seems to suggest that Sabah and Sarawak had not been properly been taken care of by the Federal Government and there had been a lot to catch up with West Malaysia.

Monday September 16, 1963 was then chosen with Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya to form Malaysia and in Sarawak sharp at 8.00 O'clock in the morning the Independence Ceremony started at the Central Padang in Kuching, with the reading of the Proclaimantion of Malaysia by Khir Johari, a Minister from Malaya, followed by the raising of the Malaysia flag for the first time!

Unlike Malaya, the British never allowed Sarawak to gain independence before forming Malaysia. Come this September 16, we all celebrate Malaysia Day! For national unity, may September 16 being Malaysia Day and not only Merdeka Day be also a day officially celebrated by the people of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak. To Sabah and Sarawak, September 16 should be a day for double celebration because it is not only a Malaysia Day, but, Indpendence Day!

There had been so much of talk about national unity and 45 years had passed, we still could not celebrate this auspicious day together. What a sad Malaysia, born 45 years now, but no birthday cake, no birthday party!!! What a sad Sarawak, you have got the shackles away and September 16 should had been celebrated and officially declared as your day of Freedom and a day of joy for all Sarawakians!!

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