22 July comes again, this year it falls on Saturday today. People are still confused. For the sake of brevity 6 evidences are presented here as proof that on 22 July 1963 Sarawak did not gained its independence.
The date has since become a controversial, misunderstood and confusing issue in the state. Last year the Sarawak Government gazetted 22 July as Public Holiday (Sarawak Independence Day). But this year it is called Sarawak Day as reported by the Borneo Post Online, 19th July 2017. YB Datuk Dr. Sim Kui Hian, Minister of Local Government and Housing, who is in-charge for this year celebration said, “people would create their own ways of commemorating the occasion.”
50TH ANNIVERSARY OF INDEPENDENCE
The Sarawak Government first celebrated the date in 2013 in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of Independence in Malaysia, the golden jubilee celebration. I was appointed as consultant historian to work on the script for a pantomime and as an author of a special publication.
The grand celebration traced the process of gaining independence that began on the 22 July 1963 when the first Chief Minister and the first Cabinet was appointed to give an internal self-government. The celebration culminated on the 16 September 1963 with the appointment of the Governor and the proclamation of independence in Malaysia.
There was no S4S then, so it was not its idea that this date deserved to be commemorated as a historic day for Sarawak. S4S, a copycat of Sabah For Sabahans and a copycat of DAP’s, a Malaya political party, Malaysia for Malaysians, slogan in the late 1960s. S4S was formed a few years later after silver jubilee celebration. As the historic date approaches, S4S remains so quiet compared to the noisy rallies in the previous years.
After the Sarawak Government’s initiative in 2013, S4S claimed that 22 July 1963 was the day when Sarawak achieved its independence from Great Britain. Some politicians joined the polemic not so much based on facts and historical analysis but more on emotion.
FACT OR FICTION
I have published a small book in Melayu, 22 Julai 1963 Dalam Sejarah Sarawak: Antara Fakta dan Dusta (2016) that can be translated as 22 July 1963 in the History of Sarawak: Facts and Fiction. On becoming a historian I conducted research on this period for my MA thesis that was submitted to the University of Malay in 1980 and later published by the renowned Oxford University Press, Singapore in 1985.
Obviously I read all the thousands of issues of all the Malay and English newspapers, pamphlets and official publication printed from 1946 to 1966 that were kept in Sarawak Museum. I spent about six months to read all those and took volumes of notes. History then and now is not a popular university major. I followed my passion and continued my research further into the remote past of the history of Sarawak searching for its origins.
Historians search and analyse evidences from variety of sources in many forms and media to reconstruct the past and support his narrative and arguments with hard facts derived from them.
6 EVIDENCE OF PROOF
Here are the 6 sources of evidence to support my contention that on 22 July 1963 Sarawak did not gained its independence from the British. Sarawak remained a British Crown Colony until 16th September 1963.
1. LONDON GAZETTE 2 JULY 1946: BROOKE CEDED SARAWAK TO BRITAIN AND BECAME THE COLONY OF SARAWAK
After the Second World War, Vyner Brooke was under pressured to hand over Sarawak to Great Britain that was formalised on 21 May 1946 with the approval of the Sarawak Supreme Council. Consequently on 1 July 1946 an Order by His Majesty in Council, the King of Great Britain, Sarawak was annexed to be known as the “Colony of Sarawak”. The Order was published in the London Gazette, 2 July 1946; Gazette was and is the official and legal publication of a government.
As a colony, Sarawak was administered by a British Governor appointed by the King and assumed absolute powers. Colonial officers, mostly whites, were sent to head all the government departments. Being a colony the indigenous people and others had not rights at all to determine their destiny as such people in the world liked being colonised. Instead the people declared wars on colonial powers to regain their independence, rights and freedom.
Sarawak, thus remained as a colony until 16 September 1963 until the departure of the Colonial Governor on the 15 September 1963 and not on the 22 July 1963!
2. THE SARAWAK GOVERNMENT GAZETTE, 22 JULY 1963
But what actually happened on the 22nd July 1963 in Sarawak or in the Great Britain? In Kuching, the capital of the Colony of Sarawak, the colonial government published The Sarawak Government Gazette, Extraordinary Part V dated 22nd July 1963, Vol. XVIII, No.44. It carried two very historic notifications for general information.
The first notification No.167 is the Appointment of Chief Minister. “His Excellency the Governor, in exercise of the powers conferred oh him by section 4 of the Sarawak (Constitution) Orders in Council 1956 to 1963, has been pleased to appoint, by Instrument under the Public Seal dated 22nd day of July, 1963, Mr. Stephen Kalong Ningkan, to be Chief Minister of Sarawak.”
The second notification No. 1168 is the Appointment of Members of the Supreme Council. Sarawak has a bicameral legislative system namely Council Negeri, the legislative assembly of representatives of the people and the Supreme Council that is the Ministerial Cabinet. Those appointed to the Supreme Council on the 22nd July 1963 were: Mr. Teo Kui Seng, Mr. James Wong Kim Ming, Enche Abdul Taib Bin Mahmud, Awang Hipni Bin Pengiran Annu, Mr. Dunstan Endawi anak Enchana.
There was no notification of the Colony of Sarawak being given its independence by the colonial master.
3. THE SARAWAK TRIBUNE, 23 JULY 1963
What happened on the 22nd July 1963 would become news and would be reported by newspapers in Sarawak on the 23rd July 1963. The Sarawak Tribune, the first English newspaper in Sarawak, dated 23rd July 1963 carried these big headlines: “Ningkan Appointed Chief Minister, New Supreme Council”.
There was no headline screaming of Sarawak gained its independence on the 22nd July 1963! Her people should celebrate such a historic event in a very big way that could not be missed by any newspaper. There was none; Sarawak remained a British colony!
4. PICTURE OF THE FIRST MINISTERIAL CABINET OF SARAWAK
The Information Department released this iconic photograph of the first ever Ministerial Cabinet of Sarawak consisting of six young Sarawakians. They were, from left to right: Awang Hipni Bin Pengiran Annu (State Minister); Dustan Endawie anak Enchana (Minister for Local Government); Stephen Kalong NIngkan (Chief Minister); Abdul Taib Bin Mahmud (Minister of Communication and Public Works); Teo Kui Seng (Minister of Natural Resources); and James Wong Kim Min (Deputy Chief Minister).
5. SPEECH BY CHIEF MINISTER STEPHEN KALONG NINGKAN, 31 AUGUST 1963
On the 31st August 1963, the Chief Minister, Stephen Kalong NIngkan, gave a historic speech over Radio Sarawak to the people of Sarawak. The speech was published in the Sarawak Gazette, 31 August 1963.
In his speech the only point that touched on independence was when he said, “an independence self-governing state” but later said “… achieved self-government.”
He continued, “[T] he policy of the British Government – leading the its colonial peoples towards the goal of self-government. We have now arrived at that goal … who achieved self-government through the same democratic process.”
Even on the 31st July 1963 Sarawak merely “achieved self-government” and not independence.
6. SPEECH BY ABDUL TAIB MAHMUD, 31 AUGUST 1963
The young Abdul Taib Mahmud, Minister of Communication and Public Works, delivered a speech in Malay to celebrate 31 August 1963. The speech was translated into English and published in the Sarawak Gazette, 31 August 1963. He said:
“Those of you who lived in Sarawak for any considerable time, have worked hard for her prosperity, loves her with all your heart and watched her growing with pride, must be able to share the joy I am feeling now as I participate in welcoming the birth of Sarawak as a state with internal self-government.”
If on the 31st August 1963 Sarawak achieved “internal self-government”, therefore about six weeks earlier it could not possibly gained independence.
The 6 sources of evidence clearly and strongly prove that on the 22 July 1963 Sarawak did not gained its independence from the colonial master. Independence was only achieved when we formed Malaysia on the 16 September 1963.