Thursday, 25 September 2008

A Brief Political History of Sarawak

Source: Wikipedia and The New Straits Times.

A one-time Satrapy (Duchy) of Brunei ruled by a son of the Sultan titled Datuk Patinggi (Prime Minister), Sarawak was acquired by the British in 1841 and gained Independence on August 31, 1963.

On September 16, 1963, Sarawak together with Sabah, Singapore and the 11 States of Malaya namely Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka, Johor, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan formed the Federation of Malaysia.

Sarawak, like Sabah and Singapore (which quit Malaysia in 1965) was a Special Autonomous State or Special Autonomous Region of Malaysia.

The struggle for Sarawak's Independence was spearheaded by six political parties, both multi-racial and otherwise.

They were the Sarawak Indigenous People's Front (Barjasa) led by Melanau chief Tun Abdul Rahman Yaakub and his nephew Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, the multi-ethnic but Iban-based Sarawak National Party (Snap) led by Tan Sri James Wong Kim Min and Iban leader Tan Sri Stephen Kalong Ningkan, the multi-ethnic but Chinese-based Sarawak United People's Party (Supp) led by Tan Sri Andrew Ong Kee Hui and Tan Sri Stephen Yong Kuet Tze, the Sarawak Chinese Association (SCA) led by Tan Sri Ling Beng Siew and his brother Datuk Seri Ling Beng Siong, the Sarawak Nationalist Party (Panas) led by Brunei chief Datuk Abang Mustapha Abang Moasili and the Sarawak Traditionalist People's Party (Pesaka) led by Iban chief Tun Jugah Barieng.

Barjasa, Panas, SCA, Pesaka, Supp and Snap had their origins in the anti-British movement which emerged in the 1840s under the leadership of Melanau chief Sharif Mashhor and his Brunei ally Abang Abdul Ghapur who was the Datuk Patinggi of Sarawak.

Another prominent leader of this movement was the Iban paramount chief Rentap.

The main Chinese leader in the movement was Liu Shanbang, the headman of Bau.

While the British suppressed this movement in a few years, it re-emerged in the 1930s and 1940s under the leadership of Datuk Patinggi Abang Abdillah, the descendant of Abang Abdul Ghapur, Sarawak's first Bahasa Malaysia journalist and novelist Rakawi Yusuf [of Brunei and Melanau descent from Kuching and Sibu], Melanau school teacher Rosli Dhoby and Iban government servant Robert Jitam.

[Robert Jitam was a relative of prominent Supp leader Datuk Ramsay Jitam.

Jugah was the father of veteran Pesaka and United Traditionalist Indigenous Party leader and prominent Iban businessman Datuk Seri Leonard Linggi Jugah and the grandfather of Kapit Member of Parliament Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi.

Abang Mustapha was the father of former Defence Minister Datuk Abang Abu Bakar Mustapha.

Ong was a descendant of prominent Chinese leader of Kuching Ong Tian Swee. He was also a relative of fashion designer Ramsay Ong].

Berjasa and Panas merged in 1966 to become the Indigenous Party or Bumiputra. In 1974, Pesaka merged with Bumiputra to become the United Traditionalist Indigenous Party or PBB.

SCA eventually became part of Snap.

At Independence, Sarawak was led by State Governor Tun Abang Openg Abang Sapiee, a relative of Abang Abdillah and Chief Minister Ningkan, the Snap chief.

Tawi Sili, an Iban chief from Pesaka, took over the Chief Minister's post in 1966 after Ningkan was forced to resign under pressure from the Federal Government in Kuala Lumpur for his opposition to national-level policies.

In 1970, Abdul Rahman became Sarawak's third Chief Minister. He was succeeded upon his retirement in 1981 by Abdul Taib, who was largely responsible for modernising and industrialising the State.

Sarawak's capital Kuching was made a city in 1988.

In 1983, a new party emerged as a faction of Snap - the Sarawak Dayak Party (PBDS) led by the now-retired Federal Minister Tan Sri Leo Moggie Irok.

In 1987, a group of PBB dissidents led by Datuk Nor Tahir [a Brunei-Melanau leader from Sibu] left the party to form the Sarawak Malaysian People's Association (Permas).

In 2003, both Snap and PBDS split into two factions. One faction of Snap namely the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) led by Datuk William Mawan Ikom and one faction of PBDS namely the Sarawak People's Party (PRS) led by Datuk James Masing were admitted into the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition led by Abdul Taib.

The rump of Snap led by Datuk Edwin Dundang and the rump of PBDS led by Datuk Seri Daniel Tajem (Moggie's close pal and chosen successor) became Opposition parties, like Permas which is now led by retired civil servant Datuk Abang Yusuf Puteh of Sri Aman.

Sarawak's 1.5 million people comprise 30% Ibans, 30% Chinese, 18% Melanaus [a quarter are Christian and the rest Muslim], 11% Bruneis (also called Malays), 8% Bidayuhs, 2% Kenyahs (and Kayans) and 1% Kelabits.

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