Celebrating a jubilant ‘722’
By Patricia Hului
‘SARAWAK APPEALS FOR INDEPENDENCE’ was the headline of a three-paragraph long news article in The Lewiston Daily Sun on Feb 21, 1948.
Back then 15 native organisations had petitioned King George VI to restore Sarawak as an independent kingdom under the rule of the White Rajahs, and that the petitioners said they represented all 500,000 people in Sarawak “except the few government employees.”
It took the British empire about 15 years to grant that petition, surrendering it to the rule of our own local leaders instead.
On July 22, 1963 the then Sarawak governor Sir Alexander Waddell proclaimed that the first Supreme Council would be formed with Tan Sri Datuk Amar Stephen Kalong Ningkan as the first chief minister.
The other members of the Supreme Council were the late Datuk Amar James Wong Kim Min as deputy chief minister, the current governor Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud as public works and communication minister, the late Datuk Amar Dunstan Endawie Enchana as the local government minister, the late Datuk Teo Kui Seng as natural resource minister and the late Datuk Awang Hipni Pengiran Anu as state minister.
The date marked the end of colonial rule and the birth of Sarawak as a self-governing country.
52 years later
This year the celebration first started last Sunday on July 19 with an event called the ‘Sarawak Freedom and Independence Day Walk’.
The walk was organised by Dayak National Congress (DNC) with a request that the state government officially recognise July 22 as Sarawak Independence Day by declaring it a public holiday.
DNC president Mengga Mikui said, “Each and every Sarawakian must know July 22, 1963 was and still is an independent day for all Sarawakians.”
He also plead the attendees to tell their children and grandchildren and teachers to tell their students.
“Talk about it (Sarawak Independence Day), don’t just celebrate it today and forget about it,” Mengga stated.
Peter John Jaban, the chief martial for the walk also mentioned how July 22 was overlooked. “If you asked the school children when is Hari Merdeka, they would answer 31 August.”
He also pointed out that last year the group requested that the government not play the late Sudirman’s song ‘Tanggal 31.’
He said it could confusion because August, 31 1957 was the day Malaya became independent not Sarawak.
On July 22, a bigger and merrier celebration of Sarawak Independence Day was organised by Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) and Sarawak for Sarawakians movement (S4S) on Song Kheng Hai field ground.
Various placards and banners were seen during the rally including ‘Free Education’, ‘Peace’, ‘Harmony’ and names of town in Sarawak.
The crowd also chanted slogans such as ‘Sarawak for Sarawakians’, ‘Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban’ and ‘Dum Spiro Spero’.
People from all ages and as far as Lawas and Belaga came for the event.
Mohd Nazrin Hatta, one of the participants echoed what Peter stated that the significance and history of July 22, 1963 were not being thought in school.
The 25 year-old customer care officer said he only learned about Sarawak Independence Day back in 2011.
“I made my own research about Sarawak history from the internet, archives, history and also from my grandparents,” he said.
Nazrin also shared his grandparents showed him photos of his great-grandparents during Sarawak’s anti-cession movement.
The photos inspired him to research more about Sarawak history.
With an old flag of Sarawak in his hand Nazrin shared this year’s celebration was better than the previous year.
According to him, “This year is a joyful and better year for me because I didn’t expect this much of a crowd. I’m here because I want to celebrate Sarawak Independence Day which has been denied all this while,” said the Kuching native.
He stated, “I hope Sarawak will achieve development as good as other countries such as Singapore and UK.”
Just like Nazrin, a 29-year-old man who wished only to be known as Lucas also hoped there would be more marked development for Sarawak.
Lucas who is originally from Sibu but currently working in Kuching said he also learned about July 22, 1963 on his own accord by reading through archives.
“I’m here also because I totally support the slogan ‘Sarawak for Sarawakian’,” he said.