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 availabale an e-commerce web here. As 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 reading all those and took volumes of notes. History then and now is not a popular university major but 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 SOURCES OF EVIDENCE
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 attained her de facto self-government status on the day but 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 who 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 hated being colonised. Instead the people declared wars on colonial powers to regain their independence, rights and freedom.
Sarawak achieved self-government but remained as a crown colony until 16 September 1963 with 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
So 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 to inform the public.
The first notification, No.167, is the Appointment of Chief Minister. “His Excellency the Governor, in exercise of the powers conferred on 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 found in the Sarawak Government Gazette on the 22nd July 1963.
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! If there was the 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. The speech was published in the Sarawak Gazette, 31 August 1963.
In his speech the only point that touches 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 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 our 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 only achieved “internal self-government”, therefore about six weeks earlier it could not possibly gained independence.
Conclusion: Celebrate As A United Sarawak
The 6 sources of evidence clearly and strongly prove that on the 22 July 1963 Sarawak did not gained independence from the colonial master. Even its status as a self-government is questionable where some sources used the term “de facto self-government‘ on 22nd July 1963 and “de jure” self-government” from 31 August till 15 September 1963. Those who disagree with me have to produce their own evidence and not by inept accusations. To call it Sarawak Day is most appropriate to commerate the appointment of the first Chief Minister and the first ministerial cabinet after being colonised by the Brooke and Britain since 1841.
The government should celebrate in a big way not only in Kuching but also in all the Divisions with a bold and clear theme. Sarawakians should celebrate as one united people with one common theme and aspiration, more so at a time of new and challenging poltical disruption.