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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

I go West.

Instead of going East however, no objection would be raised to my going West, which I duly did by taking a flight to New York. From there I flew to San Francisco and then by the newly opened Philippine Airlines to Manila.

By that time my plans had become obvious to the British Government. Accordingly I was met by a representative of the British Embassy and told that a ban (which was to last 17 years) had been imposed on my entry into Sarawak.

The British Government sought to include Singapore in the ban. In a heated debate in Parliament Winston Churchill intervened by asking why should Anthony Brooke not go to Sarawak to help the people express their views regarding their future form of Government: "We are not on the side of Russian tyranny"! As a result, the Singapore ban was lifted, but the ban upon my entry to Sarawak was firmly maintained.

Arriving in Singapore I was met by plain clothed police who told me that I should withdraw from the anti-cession campaign and also on no account communicate with the press. It was predictable however that I would call a press conference which I promptly did, confirming my commitment to do all in my power to have Sarawak's colonial status rescinded.

The so-called anti-cession campaign was coordinated from a house my mother had rented in Singapore, which was also where I lived with her from 1946 to 1951, Since I was banned from entering Sarawak, the Sarawak campaigners periodically visited me to discuss the strategy and tactics of what was from the start proclaimed to be a constitutional and non-violent campaign.

Anthony with his mother, the Dyang Muda of Sarawak and Malay visitors from Sarawak at "Sarawak Lodge", Singapore, 1947

When the first British Governor, Sir Charles Arden Clarke, arrived in Kuching he received the following letter of protest against the annexation of Sarawak:

"Your Excellency,
With the greatest respect we, the Datu Patingi, senior Native Chieftain of all the Indigenous Peoples of Sarawak, and the President of the Malay National Union of Sarawak on behalf of the Malay and Melanau communities of the State, would remind your Excellency that for the past hundred years Sarawak has been administered by the Brooke family. Each of the three Rajahs has ruled by the will and with the consent of the indigenous peoples, and their rule has been essentially just and considerate. They have regarded themselves as exercising a trust on behalf of the people of Sarawak to whom the country belongs.
Rajah Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, however, has sought to cede Sarawak to the British Crown by employing the 1941 Constitution to his own advantage. There was no justice in this act, which constitutes a breach of faith with the people.
Furthermore, Sir Charles Vyner Brooke had no power whatever to offer cession. The Constitution was never devised for such a purpose, but was enacted to advance the welfare and progress of the people. The acceptance by His Majesty's Government of such a cession from Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, which purports to make Sarawak a British Colony, is not valid, and such an act is not only inconsistent with the Constitution but is also a breach of international law. The indigenous people throughout the entire country reject this act of cession and no matter how many council meetings may be held and no matter what other means may be employed, the people will remain adamant in their attitude and will never agree to cession.
The vote of the Native communities at the State Council meeting recently held to discuss the cession proposal accurately reflected the attitude of the people, that is to say, the cession was not agreed to by the majority of the people.
We respectfully request Your Excellency to convey to His Majesty's Government an expression of the wishes of the indigenous people and of their opposition to cession. We trust His Majesty's Government will give their most careful and just consideration to our request and that they will bring the matter to the notice of His Majesty the King so that he may revoke the cession by the exercise of the powers conferred on him by clause 4 of the Sarawak Cession Order in Council of 26th June, 1946, and that His Majesty will thereby restore to Sarawak the independence it has enjoyed hitherto under the protection of the British Crown.
The right of succession to the Raj of Sarawak in accordance with the wishes of the people of the country to whom it indisputably belongs, is vested in the heirs of the Brooke family, that is to say, His Highness the Tuan Muda, Bertram Brooke, and his son the Rajah Muda, Anthony Brooke.
We respectfully sign ourselves
Abang Haji Abdillah,
Datu Patinggi
Abang Haji Zaini,
President, Malay National Union Of Sarawak ".

This letter had no effect whatever on the British Colonial Office, but this lack of response did not stop the anti-cession movement growing.

Abang Haji Abdilah, Datu Patinggi, Chief of the Sarawak Malays

Demonstrators meeting in the grounds of the house of the Datu Patinggi on April 2, 1947, arrange themselves to form the anti-cession slogan, "No Circular No. 9". The circular was a government warning to all civil servants that they would be liable to instant dismissal if they associated with any activity designed to keep the question of cession open, or committed any act of disloyalty to the government.

The role of women in the anti-cession movement

A new impetus was given to the movement due to the initiative of Chegu (head teacher) Lily Eberwein, who formed a women's branch of the movement. This met with considerable support from women of all ages from throughout the country and received moral encouragement, first from a brief visit to Kuching by my mother known as the Dayang Muda, and more notably on account of an 8 months visit in 1947 by my wife Kathleen. She left in England our son Lionel, aged 7 (then at boarding school), and two daughters, Angela and Celia, aged 4 and 2. This was a considerable personal sacrifice on her part as well as for the children. Although Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, the Governor, made Kathleen's visit as unpleasant and uncomfortable as he could, he later wrote me a letter in June 1949, saying "please give my kind regards to your wife, who's courage, energy and pertinacity on your behalf in Sarawak, though I deplored the cause for which she worked, evoked my respect and admiration".

The emergence of Malay women as a politically aware and active group

The fatal stabbing of the British Governor

The anti-cession movement continued on constitutional and non-violent lines until a radical splinter group of 13 members lost patience with the progress of the campaign. The splinter group's plan was to assassinate Sir Duncan Stewart who would shortly be arriving in Sarawak to replace the first Governor Sir Charles Arden Clarke, whose term of office expired in October 1949.

According to diaries later seized by the police, attempts would also be made on the lives of other British officials. The perpetrator of the attack on Duncan Stewart was one, Rosli bin Dhobi, a Malay of Indonesian extraction. The place chosen for the attack was his arrival on a visit to the river port of Sibu, capital of the Third Division of Sarawak.

As Duncan Stewart landed there on 3 December, 1949 Rosli bin Dhobi rushed out of the crowd and stabbed him with a kris. The stab wound proved fatal, and Duncan Stewart died in hospital on the 10 December 1949.

I was in London when all this took place, and as soon as I heard about it, I went to the Colonial Office to get more informed. The officials there greeted me with grim and reproachful faces telling me that I could well be concerned as I could not avoid the moral responsibility for what had occurred. I sharply replied that to the contrary, the fault lay with the Colonial Office for disregarding all expressions of opposition on the part of Malay and Dayak representatives to the imposition of colonial status on Sarawak. It was in fact the strict and unyielding administration of the first British Governor, Sir Charles Arden-Clarke that set the scene for the tragedy of the assassination of his successor.

Although there was no published attempt to saddle me with any personal responsibility, the entire constitutional and peaceful anti-cession campaign was inevitably weakened considerably by what had happened, and along legal lines our efforts to launch an appeal in the Privy Council also met with no success due to technical reasons.

These setbacks, occurring at a time of radical historical and transformative post world war change, not only for Sarawak but for the whole world, included the clash of ideologies that had deep impact on the peoples of Sarawak, all of which contributed to splitting families right down the middle, dividing those within a family who accepted the change to British colonial rule from those who wanted Brooke rule to continue into the future. The split crucially affected not only day to day relationships but traditions, such as attendance at weddings and funerals. The atmosphere thus created was a ripe target for the spreading of communism throughout Southeast Asia, and led to my decision to withdraw from the anti-cession movement. On 3rd September 1951, the following message was sent to all the anti-cession movements in Sarawak:

"In view of the impression that appears to have been given by my decision, at this time to stop campaigning against the cession of Sarawak to Britain and by my appeal to you to do likewise, I should like to make my own position in this matter clear beyond all doubt.
I want you to know how deeply touched I am by your expressions of loyalty and affection. I stand towards you in a position of trust of which I cannot honourably divest myself except by your wish.
By the act of your ancestors and mine, and by the accident of birth, I was born to be your servant - a relationship formally recognized by the British Government in its treaties with Sarawak and my family. That relationship was impugned but not changed by my uncle's cession of Sarawak and its annexation by the British Government.
In good or ill, so long as you wish to maintain that relationship, I shall continue with gratitude, affection and pride to regard myself as your servant. But I was also born - and it is the paradox of my position and that of my family - a British subject. While the British Commonwealth stands, as it does today, in deadly peril from external foes, I am unwilling to embarrass His Majesty's Government in a matter affecting its external relations, or to encourage others to do so. In equal danger stands Sarawak, whose relationship with the British Commonwealth was established, not by the annexation of 1946 but by the act, with you approval and consent of my grandfather in 1888, when Sarawak became a British Protectorate.
Until the existing threat to the security of the British Commonwealth and Sarawak is past, it is both your duty and mine to close our ranks, to refrain from criticizing the actions of the present British Government, and under our King, to present a common front against the foe, in the hope and belief that, when the threat is past and in the light of the British love of justice and liberty, the Sarawak people will be given the opportunity to decide their own future. Meanwhile, you will, I am confident, do your utmost to implement to the full your promise of active cooperation with the Government of Sarawak in the critical days that lie ahead".
(sgd.) Anthony Brooke

The Sarawak anti-cession associations in reply stated that although they would "most willingly" do everything they could to play an active role in cooperation with the Sarawak Government and all communities and hold widespread celebrations throughout Sarawak on the King's birthday, they would not abandon their aim for Sarawak to be "an independent State under the constitutional rule of Brooke Rajahs within the British Commonwealth of Nations". They planned to form the United Sarawak Association, "a non-political association, whose object will be to support the British Commonwealth ideals and to assist in the safeguarding of our peoples from subversive and foreign propagandists".

Reflecting on the termination of Sarawak's status as an independent sovereign State, this was, to say the least, a messy affair, and it has been described in detail by the historian Dr. Bob Reece, in chapter 8 of "The Name of Brooke", entitled "The Legitimization of Cession".

What must not, however, be overlooked is the view taken by another notable historian, Sir Steven Runciman. Runciman was commissioned by the British Government to write "The White Rajahs: A History of Sarawak from 1841 to 1946". In his Notes at the end of the book Runciman categorically points out (page 301) that by Order in Council on 26 June 1946 "Sarawak was 'annexed', not ceded to His Majesty's dominions".

In view of the dominant mention of the terms "cession" and "anti-cession" it is all the more important to take note of this point of view of the British Government's official historian. This is the interpretation I unequivocally accept.

As a contribution for those who might like to form their own opinion on the annexation of Sarawak, I published a booklet (late summer 1946), entitled "Facts About Sarawak", which mainly contains letters and other documents exchanged between the different parties actively involved in this matter.

A reprint of this booklet was made by Summer Times Publishing (Singapore) to be launched at the 20th anniversary celebrations of the formation of the Malaysian Federation (of which Sarawak is the largest state), to which I and my present wife Gita were invited as official guests. This publication included the significant Joint Opinion of Sir Arnold McNair (a lawyer for the prosecution at the Nuremberg trials) and Mr. Justice Wynn-Parry, regarding the international status of Sarawak.


Anthony and Gita Brooke email :