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Anthony's Story continued

1912 - 1919
1919 - 1939
1939 - 1940
1941 - 1945
1945 - 1946
1946 - 1951
Reflections on Brooke Rule
1951 - 1970
1970 - present
Visiting Sarawak 1983 &1991

Reflecting on Brooke Rule

Looking back on the lives and impact of the first two Rajahs and on the birth and evolution of the state of Sarawak, one could say that the first Rajah was an idealistic adventurer and visionary who founded a new country, while the second consolidated and expanded the societal structures of the first.

Before he became known as the first "White Rajah of Sarawak" in 1841, James Brooke was a British subject who sought to see British influence extended to the Eastern Archipelago where the Dutch had already established themselves in Indonesia and Indonesian Borneo.


His Highness, Sir James Brooke,KCB, first Rajah of Sarawak, as a young man

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Although officially unresponsive to the aims of James Brooke, Britain did not interfere when the Sultan of Brunei granted the rebellious province of Sarawak to James in return for the settlement that he and a handful of English friends helped to bring to the region. Thereafter, until his death in 1868, he extended his rulership to neighouring districts, which became united under his relatively enlightened administration.

Sir James Brooke spent his last years in relative poverty in retirement at Burrator House, Sheepstor, Devon. Upon his death in 1868 he was buried in the local Parish Church of Saint Leonard, where also lie his successors to the Raj.


Burrator House, Sheepstor, Devon

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Saint Leonard Church, Sheepstor, Devon

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A stain glass window from St. Leonard Church, commemorating ' all those who gave their lives for Sarawak during the war 1941-1945'

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James's nephew and successor, Rajah Charles, lacked the lightheartedness and enthusiasm of his uncle, and was essentially in contrast a disciplinarian. During his 40 year rule he not only consolidated but also extended Brooke rule still more widely. His ambition was such that he wanted to see the whole of northwest Borneo come under Brooke rule. It was only when it became clear that Charles's eyes were on Brunei itself that Britain, in September 1888, intervened and signed a Treaty of Protection preserving both Brunei and Sarawak as independent States.

Charles's authoritative demeanour was no doubt heightened by a glass eye which replaced one of his own, lost while out hunting. With its intense stare the inept replacement had, it is said, a unique disciplinary impact of its own on any government officials who had incurred Charles's displeasure.

Rajah Charles had deep love for Sarawak and all its peoples, and this was no more evident than in his appeal to the peoples of Sarawak , expressing his deep concern for their future:

"I beg that you will listen to what I have to say, that you will recollect my words, and endeavour to call them to mind when I am no longer with you. I will make known of what is in my mind to my successor, but I can only be responsible during this my life time.
I have lived in this country now for 60 years, and for the greater part of that time as Rajah. I know that I feel as you do in every way regarding the present and future for the existence and welfare of the inhabitants. I think after so long a period you will allow me to open my mouth and give my opinion truthfully.
Has it ever occurred to you that after my time out here others may appear with soft and smiling countenances to deprive you of what is solemnly your right, and that is the very land on which you live.
This land is your inheritance on which your flesh and blood exists, the source of your income, the food even of your mouths.
If this is once lost to you, no amount of money could recover it. That is why the cultivation of your own land by yourselves or by those that live in the country is important to you now.
Cultivation by strangers, by those who might carry the value of their products out of the country to enrich their shareholders- such products should be realized by your own industries and for your own benefits.
Unless you follow this advice you will lose your birthrights, which will be taken from you by strangers and speculators who will in their turn become masters and owners, whilst you yourselves, you people of the soil, will be thrown aside, and become nothing but coolies and outcasts of the island".

Vyner became Rajah in 1917. He was blessed by the steadying compassionate and constructive influence of his younger brother Bertram, the Tuan Muda, in their joint rulership of the country. According to the historian Bob Reece, Bertram alone "would have made an excellent Rajah".

Vyner, although affectionately regarded by his subjects on account of his intimate knowledge of their languages and customs, contributed little of a positive nature during his life that had a favourable impact on the country. He gradually lost both faith and interest in the continuation of the Raj and this, combined with financial problems due to the lifestyle chosen by himself as well as the Ranee and his three daughters, contributed to his decision making with regard to Sarawak affairs. Vyner died in 1983, two years before Bertram.

 

 
Anthony and Gita Brooke email : optubrookiana@xtra.co.nz