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Sarawak Brooke Connection

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

Rajah Charles Arranges for his Successors

The second Rajah of Sarawak, Sir Charles Brooke, had three sons, Vyner, the eldest, then my father, Bertram, and Harry.

His Highness, Sir Charles Brooke, Second Rajah of Sarawak

In 1917, just before Rajah Charles died, he called my father to him and told him of an arrangement he had made to meet the British Prime Minister the following morning, with a view to having some limitation placed on Vyner, in whose rulership as the future Rajah he did not fully trust.

When my father demurred and expressed his concern for the difficulties that such an arrangement might bring, the Rajah then suggested that if my father would agree to give absolute priority to Sarawak affairs and make family life a secondary consideration, he would appoint my father as joint ruler with his older brother in the hope of securing a balance to Vyner's rulership.

My father agreed to this arrangement, which was formally confirmed in Rajah Charles's Political Will.

As a result Vyner and Bertram agreed each to spend six months of every year in Sarawak. They often crossed in midstream, so to speak, and throughout his life my father served his brother with the utmost loyalty and was often, as it were, the power behind the scenes.


The drawings of both Vyner and Bertram are by Margaret Noble, a close friend of the Brooke family

Clash with the Sarawak Administration.

Coming back to myself in relation to Sarawak, I must mention that my uncle Vyner never had a son, but three daughters, none of which, according to Muslim law, could succeed him.

I mention this because when my father first took me out to Sarawak in 1934 I was quite overcome by the politeness and respect with which everyone welcomed me.

I was seconded to what was then called the Malayan Civil Service for two years to get some administrative experience before returning to Sarawak in 1936, and going back on leave to England in 1938, returning to Sarawak early in 1939.

I was appointed District Officer in Mukah, where I found that my Assistant District Officer had been dismissed without pay from the Sarawak Civil Service for breaking one of the rules which ruled that a serving officer could keep a native women as a mistress, but could not, on any account, marry her. I felt that this was outrageous. It was the first time I strongly felt the injustice of bureaucratic government and that something had to be done about it.

Since it was my uncle that ruled the country, I had a responsibility to bring the matter personally to his notice with a view to his rectifying the situation.

It was a pleasant surprise for me to find my uncle so approachable. His power had been largely eroded by what was called the Committee of Administration, and I think he welcomed the opportunity to take a firm stance on this issue. He therefore sent a note to Edward Parnell, the Chief Secretary, supporting my right to challenge what the Government had done. Parnell understandably became indignant and queried the right of a "junior official" to act as I had done.

The Rajah thereupon granted me the title Rajah Muda and replied that I would forthwith hold an inquiry into the Government's conduct.

This title normally belongs to the heir apparent, but I did not regard it as usurping my father's established rights. He had never accepted a title from his brother and did not need to. All his life he remained Vyner's rightful heir as well as joint ruler according to the terms of Rajah Charles's Will. Charles had made him "Tuan Muda" (Young Lord), a title which could not be taken away and which ensured his life-long role.

The next thing that happened when the Committee of Administration heard that the newly appointed Rajah Muda was to hold the enquiry was that the whole committee sent in their resignations. Vyner looked at me as if to say "Well, what do we do now?" I promptly suggested that he accept their resignations. This he duly did, confirming that the enquiry would go ahead. He added that he would not see anyone until after it had taken place.

By this time it was clear that the whole situation had taken a turn that would inevitably arouse and involve the concern of Sir Shenton Thomas, then Governor of Singapore, who acted also as British Agent for Sarawak.

I decided that the only possible course I could take was to hold an open inquiry, inviting all concerned to have their say, and for me personally to take a copy of the transcript of the proceedings to the British Agent for Sarawak, which I duly did.

Sir Shenton Thomas fully supported the action I had taken.

My uncle apparently thought that this was a good moment to take a holiday in Australia. He left me virtually without a government in full charge of the country in April 1939.

Replacements were made to the Committee of Administration and fortunately things went quite well in Vyner's absence, except for the outbreak of World War II in September of that year, which faced Sarawak with a decision to be taken according to the terms of the Treaty of Protection with Britain (1888).


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