Sarawak Day 2017 celebration at the Kuching Waterfront

22 July Sarawak Day: Chief Minister, Abang Johari Was Correct But Many Were Confused While A Few Abused It

Launching of Sarawak Day Celebration by Governor, Tun Pehin Abdul Taib Mahmud joined by Abang Johari, Awang Tengah, Douglas Uggah, James Masing and Dr. Sim Kui Hian.

THE CHIEF MINISTER, DATUK AMAR ABANG JOHARI was correct what 22 July Sarawak Day is all about. He told me his view on this issue last year. But many were confused while a few abused it.

This year as our new Chief Minister, Abang Johari has the honour to say it out loud in his speech during the celebration at the Kuching Waterfront on the 22 July 2017, just last week. The guest of honour was our Governor, Tuan Yang Terutama Tun Pehin Abdul Taib Mahmud who was appointed to the first Ministerial Cabinet on that historic date.

Abang Jo Said It Was Self-Government

The Borneo Post quoted Datuk Amar Abang Johari:

“It is most appropriate that you are with us today because 54 years ago, you were present at the creation – not only as a spectator but also as a participant witnessing the formation of self-government, the formation of Malaysia and the setting down of conditions before Sarawak became a party in the formation of Malaysia. You are the last living member of that first state cabinet.”


Sarawak Day Abuded in Sibu

Datuk Dr. Sim Kui Hian, the minister in-charge of the 22 July Sarawak Day celebrations told the people of Sarawak to observe the day in their own way. It turned out to be disastrous and even dangerous as groups in Miri and Sibu abused it for their own political agenda.

A video and pictures that became viral in the social media and smartphones showed a group held a noisy parade in the streets of Sibu. They seemed to be well organised as they all wore the t-shirts with similar design and colour. The participants prominently carried the British colonial flag that was only replaced in 1974 as a sign that organizer had political agenda. This political agenda was further emphasized by a banner carried in front of the parade written on black cloth in white letters that read ” SAYA SOKONG SARAWAK KELUAR MALAYSIA”. The participants through out the parade in Sibu also chanted it loudly with loud speakers.

Could Be Charged Under Sedition Act

I sought the opinions of some lawyers in Kuching whether this group in Sibu had broken some laws of the nation. All of them instantly referred to the Sedition Act (1948) in particular Section 3 (1); Section 4(1) (a), (b), (c) based on what they wrote, shouted and uttered in their speeches.

The statement written on the banner might be construed as an incitement against the Article 2 of the Constitution of Malaysia. A lawyer said that the owner of the banner and those who uttered it might have committed treason against the nation.

They could also be charged under the Communication and Multimedia Act (1998) for posting the video and pictures in the social media or sharing them with other people.

In Kuching, S4S and SADIA, held a gathering of about 100 people at the Museum Garden led by Peter Jaban. As reported it was more of speech making rather then a celebration of Sarawak Day.

Hypermarket Got It All Wrong

Buntings at a Hypermarket in Matang

A free for all celebration of the Sarawak Day, as it is called this year, might be unwise. The normal practice of any official state event, the Government should have designed a logo, theme and a guideline. A hypermarket in Matang, Kuching, crowded with shoppers during the public holiday, decorated some shops with colourful buntings. As the picture shows here, the hypermarket seemed to make its own logo in the form of a stylised head of a hornbill with a theme “54 Years Sarawak Independence”. The buntings were obviously wrong, the day was not celebrating the independence of Sarawak from the British colonial rule.

People In Miri Was Confused

A news item from Miri in the Borneo Post, 23 July 2917 that interviewed several people was evident that Sarawakians were confused about the Sarawak Day. Sebastian Lim was quoted saying, “Acknowledging Sarawak Day equals to acknowledging our identity as well as the spirit of our motherland.” Nurhadiatul Sukinah Jamali, 27, said, ” Despite the many races and religions, we Sarawakians have been living harmoniously together since 1963. We would love to stay that way.” Aloysius Cornelius Susek said “Sarawak Day serves to remind all Sarawakians the struggles of their forefathers.”

Abang Jo Got It Correct

In the future the government should be more prepared and understood the significance of 22 July and to be clear purpose of the celebration. The new Chief Minister, Datuk Amar Abang Johari was correct about the date and thus called it Sarawak Day. The Sarawak Day celebrated on the 22 July 1963 is not the Independence Day.

As I have argued last week, the significance of the day was the day when a local, Stephen Kalong Ningkan, announced by way of a notification in the Extraordinary Sarawak Government Gazette, was appointed as the first Chief Minister of Sarawak and also the appointment of the first local Ministerial Cabinet also known as the members of the Supreme Council.

Better Be Prepared Next Year

It was not really a happy Sarawak Day because several groups abused the celebration. Lets hope next year the celebration will be better prepared of its purpose as well as to design a special logo to be used by all but not a free for all occasion. Hopefully next year all Sarawakians will celebrate one logo, theme and one purpose. A song would be appropriate to create the spirited Sarawak Day

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About sanibsaid

Studied History as my major from the University of Malaya, in particular history of Sarawak for BA, MA and PhD. My writings come from the English literature and my stories are from history. I have written several books, among them are Malay Politics in Sarawak (Oxford, 1985); Melayu Sarawak: Sejarah Yang Hilang (UNIMAS, 2013; 2nd ed. Saramedia, 2016).