KUCHING: The ‘722 Sarawak Freedom and Independence Day Walk’ that attracted over 5,000 people yesterday was all about Sarawakians wanting the state to be treated as equal partners.
It is not a call for the state to secede from Malaysia, assured its organising chairman, Peter John Jaban.
He added that the main aim of the rally was to show to all Malaysians that the multi-racial communities in the state could live in harmony and unity in their struggles to uphold the state’s rights. It was also being used as a platform to call for July 22 to be gazetted as a public holiday, to recognise Sarawak’s independence in the history curriculum, to reinstate English as the medium of instruction in schools, a call for greater infrastructure development in the rural areas, and for the federal government to grant the state fair equity in oil and gas revenue derived from the state resources.
“We are here to celebrate the historic day when Sarawak gained independence. I want the public to know the history and the right date of our historical past. We must unite and show solidarity.
“Sarawak obtained its independence from British colonial rule on July 22, 1963, prior to the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16 that year. This rally is not about calling for Sarawak to secede from Malaysia, but for the people to understand our history and to know our rights,” he told reporters when met after the rally at Song Kheng Hai Rugby Field at Padungan here yesterday.
The event to commemorate Sarawak’s independence from British Colonial rule was organised by Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) and the Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S) movement.
Happy with the big turnout, Peter hoped the government would listen to the messages conveyed by the people at the rally.
He said he would write to the Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem on the demands of the people and the calls to review the Malaysian Agreement 1963 and Petroleum Development Act 1974.
The event proceeded peacefully even though Inspector-general of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar’s had advised it should not be held due to concerns it would be used to stir secessionist sentiments.
Peter thanked the police for allowing the rally to go ahead. He noted that police’s presence at the event was light.
He assured that the event would always remain apolitical because the movement did not want to be associated nor involved with any political bickering happening in the state and country.
Thousands of participants gathered as early as 7am at the Jubilee Ground car park before marching some two kilometres to the venue. A few gathered and walked from Padang Merdeka.
During the two-hour rally, a section of the crowd gathered together to form the figures ‘S4S’ and ‘722’.
A flag-raising ceremony was also held and the old state national anthem ‘Fairland Sarawak’ and ‘Ibu Pertiwiku” were played.
Various banners and placards in support of Sarawak’s rights and equality were displayed as the crowd chanted slogans such as ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’, ‘Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban’ and `Dum Spiro Spero’ during the rally.
Some of the participants were from other parts of the state, some from as far as Lawas and Belaga. Most were clad in black T-shirts with Sarawak for Sarawakians emblazoned on them and waving post independent Sarawak Kingdom flags. The crowd dispersed at around 10am, peacefully walking towards their earlier meeting points with police escort to direct traffic.