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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

Vyner withdraws 200.000 English pounds in exchange for a new binding constitution.

It was while I was stationed in Sarikei in March 1941 that Vyner withdrew the sum of 200,000 English pounds from the Sarawak Treasury for personal expenses. This he did by means of a secret agreement with the Committee of Administration whereby he would bind himself to a future Constitution which would limit his powers.

The new Constitution was to come into force in September 1941.

Opposition to implementation of constitution on account of its background.

With a view to gaining my acceptance of the Constitution I was visited by a representative of the Treasury who told me that the new Constitution would contain a clause appointing me heir apparent. Not only was such a clause utterly repugnant to me because it would disregard my father's established rights, but such an undisguised and objectionable bribe showed that the Rajah was under a sinister influence. Later it was revealed that Gerard MacBryan, the Rajah's private secretary, received 10 per cent of the sum withdrawn. MacBryan was seen by many as a compulsive schemer with considerable charm and talent enabling him to achieve the influence he so desired.

I lost no time ensuring that the terms of the "secret" agreement were made known around Sarawak. The so-called democratic Constitution was in fact proclaimed on September 24th 1941 but lasted no longer than three months. The attack on Pearl Harbour by Japan on 7th December immediately involved Sarawak, which fell to the Japanese on Christmas Day 1941.

Meanwhile I had been exiled from Sarawak for my unrelenting opposition to the Constitution and was on my way back to England to join the British Army. This meant that there was no member of the Brooke family left in Sarawak to share the sufferings of the people under Japanese rule. I could not help thinking that they would never want the Brookes back in Sarawak again.

Britain proposes discussion on postwar relationship with Sarawak.

It so happened I was wrong about this, but my conclusion was logical at the time. What actually happened was that towards the end of the war the British Colonial Secretary wrote in March 1944 to the Rajah, saying that it was not too soon for discussions to take place regarding the future relationship of Britain and Sarawak in the postwar world. It was clear from the wording of this letter that Sarawak continuing as an independent sovereign state was the issue at stake.

Vyner's reply: first liberate Sarawak, where any such discussions could then take place.

I had good reasons to believe that Bertram my father was involved in the wording of Vyner's reply on 3rd August 1944, which contained the following words:

"I think the desirability of closer liaison must be apparent to anyone, and that it can and would be effected with the agreement of all concerned when settled government is again restored within the State.
I do not see how any change in our mutual relationship can be effected - in fairness to the people of Sarawak - at the present juncture.
I and my family are Trustees for the State and people of Sarawak, who are well aware that it is not in the position of a 'Colonial Dependency', so their consent to any step which would tend to approach such a relationship would naturally have to be obtained. It can scarcely be obtained at the present time when, owing to the unavoidable inability of the Protecting Power to preserve them from invasion, they are under alien rule . I am convinced that if I were now to enter into fresh agreement my right to do so would almost certainly be challenged in the future, with embarrassing results to myself and possibly to His Majesty's Government."

Appointment to represent Rajah for initial discussions

The principle established in this letter was one which I firmly upheld in my later discussions with the Colonial Secretary when it fell to me, as Rajah Muda, to represent Sarawak in the discussions that the Colonial Secretary was insistent on having take place before Sarawak's liberation from Japanese rule.

On his part the Colonial Secretary took a depreciated view of Sarawak's sovereignty at our very first meeting and clearly stated that the British Government would be obliged to "take its own course" if we failed to agree to its proposals not to recognize Sarawak's independent sovereignty.

At this juncture I realized the need to obtain expert international legal opinion regarding the status of Sarawak as a basis for further discussion with the British Government, and in March 1945 instructed Mr. H Wynn Perry and Sir Arnold D. McNair (a lawyer for the prosecution at the Nuremburg trials) accordingly.

It was inevitable that there would be a considerable interval before the reply was received, and meanwhile, on the 17 July 1945, the Colonial Secretary wrote to the Rajah expressing the view that "the Sarawak representatives have so far shown themselves to be personally unresponsive to the proposals of His Majesty's Government".

Eventually the joint legal Opinion confirming Sarawak as an independent sovereign state reached me on 4 October 1945. Their Opinion opened with the following paragraph:

"The main question put to us is whether the statement headed 'The International Status of Sarawak numbered S.6* and handed by the representative of the Colonial Office to the representatives of the Government of Sarawak as being 'the considered opinion of the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office' is a fair and correct statement of the position.
In our opinion it is not, and we shall endeavour to show why".


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