Wednesday, 22 July 2015
KUCHING, July 22 — An estimated 10,000 people turned up today at the Song Kheng Hai field here for the Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S) “Freedom and Independence Walk”, ignoring a previous warning by the police not to participate in the event.
According to Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar yesterday, the police had received information that some parties were planning to use the event to incite Sarawakians into calling for the state’s secession from Malaysia.
But despite the warning, organisers decided to proceed with the gathering today as many of its participants from outside Sarawak were already in town for the event.
The gathering went on peacefully with no reports of any untoward incidents.
Chief organiser Peter John Jaban said an estimated 10,000 people turned up for the event meant to mark Sarawak’s independence from the British.
The walk by the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) and the S4S movement was organised to demand, among others, that July 22 to be made a public holiday to mark Sarawak’s independence.
“On this day in 1963, Sarawak gained its independence from the British and for 55 days, we were a sovereign nation before we formed the Federation of Malaysia with Malaya, Sabah (then known as North Borneo) and Singapore on Sept 16, 1963,” Jaban said.
A large crowd turned up at the Freedom and Independence Walk at Song Kheng Hai Ground in Kuching.
He said the organisers will hold an even bigger gathering next year if July 22 is not made a public holiday.
He said those that formed the federation of Malaysia were meant to be equal partners, but over the years, Sarawak and Sabah were downgraded to state status.
Singapore was expelled from the federation in 1965.
He said history textbooks should be rewritten, pointing out that the fact that Sarawak had gained its independence on July 22 is not mentioned.
Jaban then called for a review of the Malaysian Agreement 1963 and the National Petroleum Development Act 1994, and urged for autonomy for the state on matters like education.
He also urged for tighter immigration control.
During the gathering, an old Sarawak flag was hoisted by four cyclists as the state anthem “Ibu Pertiwiku” was played.
KUCHING: Over 5,000 people attended the ‘722 Sarawak Freedom and Independence Day Walk’ at Song Kheng Hai rugby field here today, calling for better treatment and equal rights to be accorded to the state by the federal government.
Among others, the rally also called for July 22 to be gazetted as a public holiday, recognition of Sarawak independence in the school history curriculum, reinstatement of English as the medium of instruction in schools, greater infrastructure development in rural areas and for the government to grant the state fair equity in oil and gas.
The event, to commemorate Sarawak independence day from British Colonial rule on July 22, 1963 was organised by Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) and Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S) movement. The highly-charged rally, albeit peaceful, was held in order and went without a hitch.
“I want the public to understand history and the right dates of our historical past. Sarawak obtained its independence on July 22, 1963 prior to the formation of Malaysia. This rally is not about calling to Sarawak to secede from Malaysia, but for the people to understand our history and to know our rights,” the rally’s organising chairman Peter John Jaban told reporters during the event.
Thousands of participants gathered as early as 7am at the nearby Jubilee Ground to march towards the venue in Padungan while some gathered and walked from Padang Merdeka. The two-hour rally also saw the people lining up in an ‘S4S’ formation for a photocall and participating in a flag-raising ceremony.
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. Participants came from all over the state with some as far as Lawas and even Belaga.
Most were clad in black T-shirts with ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’ emblazoned on them and waving post-Sarawak Kingdom independence flags. The people also sang the old state national anthem ‘Fairland Sarawak’ as well as ‘Ibu Pertiwiku’ in a show of solidarity and allegiance to Sarawak.
Despite warning from the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar that the rally could be used to incite secession of Sarawak from Malaysia, the presence of uniformed police was light. Khalid had advised organisers to call off the gathering citing security reasons.
The crowd dispersed at around 10am, peacefully marching towards their meeting points at Jubilee Ground and Padang Merdeka amid police escort.
KUCHING: Sudah tiba masanya untuk Sarawak mengiktiraf kemerdekaan sendiri pada 22 Julai, kata Menteri Kemajuan Tanah Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing.
Tegas beliau, tarikh tersebut sepatutnya sudah lama diberi penghormatan tetapi telah dibayangi hari kemerdekaan Malaysia pada 31 Ogos yang tidak berkaitan dengan Sarawak.
“Kemerdekaan kita adalah pada 22 Julai 1963 apabila Sarawak mendapat kemerdekaan daripada kerajaan British. Saya harap setiap rakyat Sarawak memberi penghormatan kepada hari ini dan berbangga dengan hakikat bahawa kita sudah mencapai kemerdekaan sebelum penubuhan Malaysia bersama Sabah, Singapura dan Malaya,” katanya kepada pemberita di sini, semalam.
Dalam pada itu, Masing yang juga Presiden Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) menegaskan bahawa sejarah negeri ini harus diletak dalam perspektif yang tepat dan disampaikan kepada golongan muda dengan fakta yang betul.
“Sejujurnya, 22 Julai adalah hari kemerdekaan kita (Sarawak) manakala 31 Ogos adalah untuk Semenanjung Malaysia dan penubuhan Malaysia adalah pada 16 September.
“Kita perlu menghargai tarikh ini dan memastikan sejarah itu tidak akan dipa-damkan,” katanya.
Apabila ditanya mengenai seruan orang ramai untuk mengisytiharkan 22 Julai sebagai cuti umum, Masing berkata perkara itu boleh di-selesaikan pada waktu lain.
“Ketika negeri ini secara rasmi mengiktiraf 16 September, tiada cuti umum diadakan.
“Bagi 22 Julai, meng-umumkan cuti umum tidak sepenting pengiktirafan kita mengenai hari kemerdekaan pada tarikh tersebut.
“Mungkin kemudian tetapi perkara ini tidak begitu pen-ting buat masa sekarang,” katanya sambil menambah perkara paling penting ialah rakyat Sarawak mesti faham bahawa 22 Julai adalah hari kemerdekaan negeri.
KUCHING: As the government of Sarawak has emphatically demonstrated during its 50th Anniversary celebration two years ago, July 22 should be a day for Sarawak to celebrate its Independence Day and Sept 16 as a day to commemorate the formation of Malaysia.
This is the view of UPP president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, who issued a statement pointing out that the so-called Malaysian National Day, which is usually referred to as Merdeka Day on Aug 31, is only a day to commemorate the formation of the Federation of Malaya; one of the three components of Malaysia.
“Malaysia was 50 years old in 2013 and not 57 years old as claimed by the people of Peninsular Malaysia and Putrajaya,” said Wong.
He said the status of Sarawak must be reconsidered in the original context of the Constitution when the Federation of Malaysia was established in 1963.
According to Article 2, the states of the Federation shall be the states of Malaysia namely Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu; the Borneo States namely Sarawak and Sabah; and the State of Singapore
“In the amendment of the Constitution in the 1970’s, Sarawak was downgraded into one of the ordinary 13 states in the Federation and we lost our special positions, special and autonomous rights and the acknowledgement of our pivotal role in the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.
“It is time, after some 40 years since the amendment of the Constitution in 1970’s, we must seek to have our special status re-instated as one the three partners and not one of the 13 states in the Federation as Sarawak was an independent state prior to the formation of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963,” Wong stated.
“Our independent Day of July 22 should be an occasion for assessing what has gone wrong for the past 52 years with the Federation of Malaysia and how the Malaysian Federation can be improved.
“It is our inherent right that we want greater autonomy and decentralization of powers to the state level of Sarawak.
“We want greater autonomy, more autonomous administrative rights in all spheres of administration and greater decentralization of powers.
“Since Sarawak is a partner to the formation of Malaysia, we will not accept the fact we are relegated to merely one of the 13 states. We want to be treated as partners,” said the Local Government and Community Development Minister.
Citing the great disparity in terms of development between the peninsula and East Malaysia, Wong also requested for more development expenditures.
“We need greater development expenditures and greater infrastructure development. Almost 100 per cent of the rural population of Peninsular Malaysia has access to fundamental amenities such as water, electricity and road access while we in Sarawak have only about 80 per cent or less of such facilities.”
He pointed out that given the relatively underdeveloped state of Sarawak and the vast extent of territory of about 125,000 square kilometres, Sarawak should deserve a larger share of royalty.
“We therefore feel strongly that federalism as implemented for the past 52 years is not justified as far as Sarawak is concerned. We feel that the allocation of development expenditure in the state is inequitable because we are rich in oil and gas: under the Petroleum Development Act which was passed in October 1974, we can only get a five per cent royalty from oil and gas production.
“We strongly support the state government in asking the federal government to increase the oil and gas royalty to 20 per cent.”
He also reminded all Sarawakians that Sarawak became independent on July 22, 1963 before Malaysia came into being on Sept 16, 1963.
“We organised a special event to commemorate Sarawak’s 50th Anniversary Independence day on 22 July in Pangkalan Batu at the Kuching Waterfront in 2013 replete with heavy symbolism and colonial-era pageantry.
“The actual ceremony where Governor Sir Alexander Waddell sailed from the Astana directly across the Sarawak River from Pangkalan Batu to officially hand over his duties was faithfully re-enacted, signalling the end of colonial rule.
“The swearing-in ceremony of the pioneer batch of State Cabinet Minister was also re-enacted. The formation of a State Cabinet on July 22, 1963 enabled Sarawak to form a self-ruled independent government, paving the way to the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963 with Sarawak being one of the four independent partners in the Federation of Malaysia,” he explained.
MIRI: Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) is happy that the celebrations across Sarawak to mark Sarawak’s 52nd independence from British Rule have been carried out peacefully and in a carnival-like atmosphere.
Its secretary-general Datuk Sebastian Ting Chiew Yew said SUPP was also thankful to the authorities for a change of heart to allow Sarawakians to celebrate such an important day in Kuching, Sibu and Miri on July 19. He said the celebration was held peacefully and with the greatest of pride.
“Sarawakians should be proud of this day and indeed we should highlight it even more. It is with great joy and enthusiasm that we in SUPP wish the people of Sarawak a Happy Independence Day,” Ting said in an SMS to The Borneo Post yesterday.
Ting went on to say that July 22, 1963 was a very significant milestone in our history.
“We gained independence from British colonial rule on this day. Just as August 31 is a proud day for Malaysians, July 22 is also of equal significance to Sarawakians. Correct historical facts are important to us in Sarawak.”
The state government for the first time in 2013 celebrated July 22 in a very momentous occasion. It conducted a re-enactment of the lowering of the Union Jack at Pangkalan Batu in Kuching and the departure of the last British Governor of Sarawak.
Ting added that SUPP, in conjunction with Sarawak Independence Day celebration last month, had launched the ‘SUPP for Sarawakians’ banners and car stickers as well as yellow T-shirts printed with ‘I am Sarawakian’ and ‘Remembering 22nd July 1963’.
“Our commitment and dedication to Sarawakians and Sarawak is unshakeable and total. This is enshrined in our party’s name – Sarawak United People’s Party,” he said.
KUCHING: July 22, 1963 – the day Sarawak gained independence from British colonial rule – must be honoured and fully understood by future generations.
Minister of Land Development Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing said it is high time the state officially recognises its own independence day as opposed to Aug 31, which marks the Federation of Malaya’s independence from the British government.
Masing said every Sarawakians must know the significance of July 22 and be proud that the state achieved freedom two months before the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16. He reminded the people to always appreciate July 22 and ensure the date’s significance would not be erased from history.
“July 22 should have been honoured long ago but somehow the date was overshadowed by Aug 31, which has nothing to do with us.
“The date of Sarawak’s independence must be put in the correct perspective for the younger generations to understand. For historical purposes, let the young people know. We have to get the facts right,” Masing told reporters after a press conference on the eighth Sarawak Amateur Masters Open Golf Championship 2015 yesterday.
He was commenting on the Sarawak United People’s Party’s (SUPP) call on Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem to declare July 22 as Hari Sarawak, during the launching of the party’s ‘I am Sarawakian’ campaign in Sibu.
Masing hoped every Sarawakian would honour July 22 and be proud of the fact that Sarawak was already an independent nation prior to the formation of Malaysia as an equal partner with Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah) and the Federation of Malaya.
On public calls to declare July 22 a public holiday, he appealed to the public to let the government look into the matter.
He pointed out that declaring July 22 a public holiday is not as important as the whole state recognising the date as Sarawak’s day of independence.
“Let us settle this at another time. Maybe later on, as this is not an urgent matter at the moment. After all, when the state officially recognised Malaysia Day on Sept 16, there had never been a public holiday. More importantly, I am very pleased that the state government has been honouring (observing Sarawak Independence Day) July 22 for the last two years,” he said.
The state government will hold a special ceremony today to commemorate July 22 at the State Legislative Assembly building.
Head of State Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and Adenan are scheduled to attend.
On July 22, 1963, the last governor of the British Government, Sir Alexander Waddell, left the Astana and boarded a white sampan to cross the Sarawak River to hand over the government of Sarawak to its own people.
The day that the Union Jack was lowered for the last time was also the day the first cabinet meeting, presided over by Sarawak’s first chief minister, the late Tan Sri Datuk Amar Stephen Kalong Ningkan, was held.
Sarawak later formed Malaysia together with Sabah, Malaya and Singapore on Sept 16, 1963.
|Bruce Chai Khim Cheong|
MIRI: The call by ‘Concerned Sarawakians’ to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Amar Adenan Satem to declare today, July 22, a public holiday for Sarawak or ‘Hari Sarawak’ received a resounding response from Sarawakians.
One of them, Bruce Chai Khim Cheong, supports the call as July 22 is a significant date for Sarawak.
“It’s a realistic approach based on the fact that Sarawak regards July 22 as her Independence Day, and Sept 16 as the day of her joining in the formation of Malaysia as an equal partner.
“Let Aug 31 be to celebrate Malaya’s independence from colonial rule, and the formation of the Federation of Malaya,” he said when contacted by The Borneo Post yesterday. Many Sarawakians like Bruce, who is United People’s Party (UPP) Pujut branch chairman, are aware that July 22 was the day Sarawak was granted independence from colonial rule by the British Empire.
This liberty was superseded by another agreement – the 18-point agreement – for partnership with Sabah, Singapore and Federation of Malaya to form Malaysia.
Chai said with too many public holidays already, any call for additional holidays should be based on factual significance, and the need to acknowledge the day with a public holiday.
The UPP Central organising secretary therefore suggested that Sarawak declare July 22 a public holiday to replace a public holiday that is of less significance to her.
On Sunday, hundreds of people in the state held a peaceful parade in Kuching, Sibu and Miri to call for July 22 to be celebrated as Independence Day for Sarawak.
In Miri, the event was organised by the civil rights movement – Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S).
BLAST FROM THE PAST: There is no separating observing Sarawak Independence Day on July 22 and the unity call ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S)’ because on that date, for the first time in history Sarawakians were given the right to self-rule.
On that date in 1963, Sarawakians were given Sarawak.
Real self-rule maybe brief, 55 days in fact – as on Sept 16, 1963 Malaysia came into being and Sarawak agreed to be part of the newly-formed federation. But its significance cannot be denied.
The White Rajahs ruled Sarawak for slightly over a 100 years from 1846 – when the first Rajah James Brooke came with guns, or canons rather, blazing, putting the fright of his life of Brunei Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin’s Sarawak governor, Pangiran Makota Rajah Muda Hassim – to 1946, when Sarawak was made a British Crown Colony.
In the years leading up to July 22 1963, several very important developments took place, one of which was the passing of the Local Authorities Ordinance in 1948, which allowed the people to participate in the administration of their local areas through their representative councillors.
The first local council elections by secret votes were held for the Kuching Municipal Council in November 1956, and by 1959, following a Constitution drawn in 1957 by the third Governor, Sir Anthony Abell, Sarawak’s first “general election” was held when Sarawakians went to the polls to elect the councillors of the local authorities.
The 1957 Constitution, contained, among others, provision for the make-up of the Supreme Council, which advised the Governor on government policies approved by the Council Negri, and saw to it that they were implemented; and provision for the Council Negri composition – 18 official and 24 unofficial members.
Among the official members were the Chief Secretary and those appointed by the Governor to represent certain sections of the community, while the unofficial members were drawn from thosewho won the district council elections.
In her book ‘Sarawak 1839-1963’ Joan Rawlins wrote:
“An unofficial member of the Council Negri had first to be elected to his local District Council; then he had to be elected by the District Councillors to the Divisional Council; and then by the Divisional Councillors to Council Negri.”
It was basically a government by the Local Authorities, although by this time politics had already had a strong influence in determining the results of elections, whether internal or public.
The first political party, Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) was established in 1959 followed by Parti Negara Sarawak (Panas) in 1960, and Sarawak National Party (SNAP) in 1961.
Members of the two parties and those politically emancipated, who later went on to form such parties as Barisan Ra'ayat Jati Sarawak (Barjasa), Sarawak Chinese Association (SCA) and Parti Pesaka Sarawak (Pesaka), had their hands in these elections.
Further changes were made to the Constitution in 1963. Among the provisions were a general election involving the political parties and the politically emancipated, and for the appointment of the Chief Minister who would be the leader of a political party with the most number of seats in the Council Negri.
Elections were held between April and July 1963, and when the votes were counted Sarawak Alliance (a coalition of all parties except SUPP and Panas) won 138 seats, SUPP 116, Panas 59 and Independent 116.
Rawlins wrote: “The Sarawak Alliance polled the largest number of votes although it suffered the defeat of some of its non-Dayak leaders. Mr Stephen Kalong Ningkan, the leader of Sarawak National Party, was called on by the Governor to be the Chief Minister and Head of the Government. Mr Ningkan chose five colleagues from Council Negri to serve with him as ministers on Supreme Council and to take responsibility for certain government departments. Mr James Wong (independent) became Deputy Chief Minister; Inche Abdul Taib bin Mahmud (nominated member) was given charge of Communications and Works; Mr Teo Kui Seng (nominated member) was given charge of Natural Resources; Mr Dunstan Endawi (Alliance) became Minister of Local Government; and Awang Hipni bin Pengiran Annu (Alliance) became Minister of State.
It was to this group of Sarawakians led by Ningkan that Governor Sir Alexander Waddell handed over control of all government affairs on July 22, 1963.
Thus begun Sarawak’s self-rule that, however, lasted for a mere 55 days.
Brief as it may, it was 55 days of independence when the fate of a nation state and her people were in their own hands.
Those 55 days in 1963 did not come easy.
Notable was the death of Sarawak’s second Governor Duncan Steward in the hands of one of the “anti-cessionists” who called themselves “Brooke men” or “Sarawak men” or “Colony men”.
This is why July 22 is very meaningful to Sarawakians who must surely look back at those 55 days in 1963 as the apex of their political struggle when Sarawak was given to Sarawakians.
And so the continuing cry, ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’.
Unfortunately, they were never given the chance to really prove themselves.
Self-rule was quickly overtaken by the formation of Malaysia, leaving Sarawakians to wonder if they would not have fared better if the 55 days had been 55 years!