Expatriate influence in the Sarawak State Government came to an abrupt end on 30 July 1966. This was some three years after
The first elected Chief Minister was Stephen Kalong Ningkan, a forty-three year old Iban from Betong who was selected by the Sarawak Alliance which was comprised at the time of four political parties.(1) Although the Sarawak Alliance only received thirty-four percent in the first round of voting in the mid-1963 three-tier elections, very adroit political maneuvering secured over two-thirds of the seats in the Council Negri (Legislature), which enabled the Alliance to form the Supreme Council (Cabinet/Government). The Sarawak Alliance was made up of the pro-Malaysia Barisan Ra'ayat Jati Sarawak (Berjasa) headed by Tuanku Bujang, a high ranking Sibu Malay; Party Pesaka Anak Sarawak (Pesaka) headed by a Third Division Iban leader, Temenggong Jugah; the Sarawak Chinese Association (SCA) headed by a Sibu Chinese businessman, Ling Being Siew; and the Sarawak National Party (SNAP) headed by Ningkan. Collectively the socialist and predominantly Chinese Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP) with Stephen Yong Kuet Yze as secretary general and Party Negara Sarawak (PANAS) with Abang Haji Mustapha as chairman secured 1.5 percent more primary votes in the elections than the Sarawak Alliance, but were consigned to the opposition.
Prior to the formation of
The first dramatic scene in this epic was set just prior to the formation of
Another key player pertinent to this saga was introduced on 22 July 1963 when Ningkan formed
Thus, all the elements to mold Sarawak in the UMNO-led Malayan Alliance image were already in place when
What was seen as the next opportunity to further the UMNO image for
The bills were to be tabled at a Council Negri meeting on 11 March 1965, but this was postponed to 11 May to amend provisions of the Land (Native Dealings) Bill in response to "certain representations." On 10 May, PANAS, Pesaka, and Berjasa formed the Sarawak Native Alliance, with Temenggong Jugah (Pesaka) as President and Abdul Taib (Berjasa) and Thomas Kana (Pesaka) as Joint Secretaries. The SCA and the SUPP, both predominantly Chinese, were automatically excluded, together with Ningkan's party, SNAP, as the vice-chairman of SNAP, James Wong, was Chinese. At the same time, the President of the Barisan Pemuda Sarawak, Haji Su'ut bin Tahir, issued a statement opposing the Land Bills.(10) On the morning of the Council Negri meeting, Berjasa and Pesaka submitted letters of withdrawal from the Sarawak Alliance, placing the Land Bills and the government in jeopardy. As the Sarawak Native Alliance (Berjasa, Pesaka, and PANAS) held twenty-two seats in the thirty-nine seat Council Negri, the government was in danger of losing office. However, prior intelligence and very quick thinking avoided the potential collapse of the SNAP-led Ningkan government by last minute withdrawal of the Land Bills in the Council Negri on 11 May. Officially the bills were withdrawn due to strong opposition from the Malay and Dayak communities and the public was unaware that Pesaka and Berjasa had resigned from the Sarawak Alliance.
Overthrow of a government led by a Second Division Iban by a group headed by a Third Division Iban would have divided the Iban community and exacerbated the historical differences between the Second and Third Division Ibans, with unpredictable consequences for internal and external security at a very critical time.(11) This was serious as the Ibans made up over thirty percent of Sarawak's 800,000 population and seventy percent of the Dayak population. Further, the Dayaks had not been over-enthusiastic supporters of the
Ting Tung Ming, a Sibu Foochow and SCA party member, was Ningkan's Political Secretary and a very close confidante. Tony Shaw, the forty-eight year old,
The alliance between Pesaka and Berjasa appeared to collapse immediately after the Land Bill was withdrawn on 11 May, as Pesaka withdrew its resignation from the Sarawak Alliance on the same day in writing. Two days later, Ningkan publicly hinted that the Sarawak Alliance would appoint two ministries from Pesaka and one from PANAS.(13) This addressed Pesaka concerns over having no seats in the Supreme Council and hence no voice in the government, although it was the major party in the Sarawak Alliance with more seats than any other party in the Council Negri. On 16 May Ningkan announced that Berjasa's resignation from the Sarawak Alliance had been accepted and that Berjasa members Abdul Taib and Awang Hipni would have to give up their state ministerial posts. Although not stated, Berjasa nominee Federal Minister Ya'kub would also be affected. Ya'kub countered by claiming that Berjasa's resignation had been withdrawn by telephone as soon as the land bills were withdrawn and publicly blamed the Sarawak Deputy Prime Minister, James Wong and his "expatriate bosses" for Ningkan's "decision to drop Berjasa from the [Sarawak] Alliance."(14) Ironically, this would have averted the second part of this crisis completely, but Ningkan denied having received any such telephone call. Several days of rather frenetic and confused inter-party negotiations followed, with Berjasa seeking to restore its position through the Sarawak Native Alliance, which had a commanding twenty-two seats in the Council Negri.
A perceptive T. C. Lim wrote to the Sarawak Tribune asking if this were "the right time to topple the state government when our enemies at the gate [Indonesia] are waiting to over-run us" and said that "those who have taken the advantage of splitting the Ibans living in the Second and Third Divisions because of their past conflicts must be very short-sighted indeed."(15) On 18 May four Pesaka leaders were in
Ya'kub retained his Federal Ministry; Abdul Taib and Awang Hipni were reinstated; Abang Othman (PANAS) was appointed Minister of Social Welfare, Youth, and Culture; and Tajang Laing and Francis Umpau (both members of Pesaka) were appointed Ministers of State. By mid June, Ningkan's willingness to compromise for the sake of national unity and the gambit of creating three new ministries by removing the expatriate presence in the Supreme Council had removed the immediate threat to the Ningkan government. But the endplay for the Ningkan government was only a year away.
Direct expatriate influence in the Supreme Council had been removed, but three expatriates were still Council Negri members and advisers to Ningkan in their respective roles. Phillip Pike, the Attorney General, took the oath of office of Chief Justice in September, a local officer, Tan Chiaw Tong, taking over as Acting Attorney-General. This left only two expatriate officers in the Council Negri, Tony Shaw and John Pike, who, together with Phillip Pike were awarded the Honorary Panglima Bintang Sarawak with the title of Dato on 3 October 1965, the Governor's birthday. Orderly plans for the replacement of both Tony Shaw and John Pike by local officers when their contracts expired on 31 August 1967 were already in place. Gerunsin Lembat was appointed Deputy State Secretary on 15 May 1965 and T'en Kuen Foh served as Under Secretary (Finance) from time to time.(18) As Ningkan explained in April 1966, "we have men ready for all the top posts ... if I am able to obtain 100% support from the Federal government in giving away money, then I can ... let them go with compensation."(19) On 16 May 1966, T'en Kuen Foh was appointed Acting Financial Secretary when John Pike left on overseas leave. By then the security situation had improved dramatically with the threat of armed incursions by Indonesian troops removed at the end of May when Indonesian Confrontation officially ended. Also, the Indonesians had embarked on an anti-communist purge throughout
In a rerun with variations of the 1965 incident, on 12 June 1966 Ningkan dismissed his Minister for Communication and Works, Abdul Taib, saying that he had lost confidence in him. When announcing this, Ningkan spoke of a rebel group in the Sarawak Alliance that was plotting to topple the government. Pesaka Secretary-General Thomas Kana immediately confirmed this by saying his party had lost confidence in Ningkan and therefore Jugah had invited Ningkan to resign. Further, Kana advised that twenty Council Negri Council members would boycott the Council Negri meeting on 14 June. The Governor, Tun Abang Haji Openg, together with Jugah, Taib (who disclaimed all knowledge of any rebel group), and other dissident political leaders left for
Alastair Morrison, the expatriate Information Officer, later wrote that Ningkan's "style offended many ... Native members of the
A high-powered delegation of the National Alliance Executive Council headed by Home Affairs Minister Tun Ismail, accompanied by Jugah, Taib, and other members of Berjasa and Pesaka, flew to Kuching from
Completing the replacement of the Ningkan government, on 22 June Tawi Sli appointed five members of his new Supreme Council; Taib and Hipni (Berjasa), Umpau and Laing (Pesaka), and Abang Haji Adbulrahman (PANAS). Two months later two SCA nominees, Teo Kui Seng and Ling Beng Siong, were added to the Supreme Council, while Taib became the Minister of Development and Forestry and Deputy Chief Minister. Although there was some dissention, PANAS recognized the new political reality and decided to support the Tawi Sli government, but SNAP withdrew from the Sarawak Alliance. Ya'kub had retained his Federal Ministry and Taib, Abdulrahman, and Kana became the inner circle of advisers to the Chief Minister. As Leigh wrote, "the Sarawak Alliance had been restructured, and more closely resembled the Malayan Alliance, both in policy and composition" (1974: 107). The Wayang Kulit still had three acts to run: whether quick action would be taken to remove the two remaining expatriate members of Council Negri, Tony Shaw and John Pike, the legality of Ningkan's dismissal, and completing the Tunku-Ya'kub-Taib vision for Sarawak politics based on the Federal UNMO-led
Under the terms of the London Agreement, Tony Shaw, John Pike, and a number of other expatriates in the Sarawak Administrative Service had agreed to serve the Sarawak Government up to 31 August 1967, that is, four years from the intended date of the formation of
Pressure also emanated from the highest levels, the Tunku echoing SAGOU's comments nine months later by saying that
The two remaining acts of the Wayang Kulit were long and tedious and hence are much abbreviated here. Predictably, Ningkan appealed to the High Court against his dismissal, which was declared ultra vires in the High Court on 8 September, and both SNAP and SUPP immediately called for a general election. However, some not very serious threats to anti-Ningkan Council Negri members provided a very controversial rationale for declaration of a state of emergency by the Federal Government on 15 September. This in turn enabled the Federal Parliament to unilaterally amend the Constitution and give
This came about due to an unlikely alliance of two political parties, SUPP and Parti Bumiputera, the outcome of the June 1970 elections. Parti Bumiputera, a merger of Berjasa and PANAS, was inaugurated on 25 March 1967 and finally united all the Sarawak Malays and Muslim Melanaus, thus ending a long-standing political division in those communities that had originated over cession in 1946. At the inauguration ceremony Tun Razak said that
SUPP leaders astutely recognized federal preferences, and with Parti Bumiputera as an equal partner, formed the new government (Yong 1998: 194-199). Both parties signed a letter of understanding on the composition of the new State Government. This would comprise a nominee of Parti Bumiputera (Abdul Rahman Ya'kub) as the chief minister; two deputy chief ministers, one nominated by SUPP (Stephen Yong) and the other an elected Iban, Simon Dembak Maja (Pesaka); with the appointment of all other ministers and allocation of portfolios by joint decision of signatories Ya'kub and Yong. Thus the SCA, SUPP's political rival among the Chinese, could be excluded from the government. The Ibans had won twenty seats, but, unlike Parti Bumiputera, they had not reconciled past differences and were divided between two parties, with SNAP mainly representing Second Division Ibans and Pesaka mainly representing Third Division Ibans.(29) Thus the Ibans forfeited a commanding position in negotiations on who should form the government. On the other hand, with a Chief Minister who had ethnic, political, and religious empathy with the Malaysian Alliance leaders and the party representing the majority of the Chinese safely in the state coalition government,
* Stephen Kalong Ningkan
An Iban from Betong in the Second Division, Ningkan was born on 20 August 1920. The son of a farmer, he was adopted by his step-grandfather, a Chinese goldsmith, and spent a year in
* George Anthony Theodore (Tony) Shaw
Born on 25 October 1917, Shaw was educated at
* John Pike
Born on 7 January 1924, Pike was educated at Dauntsey's School and St. Edmund Hall in
After Pike had accumulated over ten years experience as a District Officer, he was given a short study course with the World Bank. Thus, when Sarawak became part of
(1) See the Biographical Appendix for brief biographical information on Stephen Kalong Ningkan.
(3) "Dayak" was the term used for all non-Muslim natives of
(4) The Constitution of the State of
(6) Information from an early draft of Chapter One in Footprints in Sarawak and
(7) Sarawak Tribune, 23 October 1963, p. 1:26 October 1963, p. 2; 18 January 1964, pp. 3, 4, and 10.
(11) Antipathy between the Second and Third Division Ibans had its origins in the suppression of Iban uprisings in the Third Division by the Brooke regime, mainly in the second half of the 19th century. Second Division Ibans provided the bulk of the irregular forces recruited for these expeditions. There may well have been earlier territorial issues.
(12) See the Biographical Index for brief biographical information on Tony Shaw and John Pike.
(18) Jayl Langub, "Tan Sri Datuk Gerusin Lembat 1942-1955,"
(23) Straits Budget, 2 March 1966, cited in Leigh 1974: 101.
(25) John Pike was allowed to return to clean up his personal affairs.
(28) Taib resigned as State Minister of Development and hence from the Supreme Council and the Council Negri in November 1967 after a scathing attack by Jugah over the amount of money being spent on mosques and suraus, saying that little was being done for the Dayaks living in the interior. Taib was recommended to the Dewan Rayat and appointed Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industry (Vanguard, 9 October 1967; Sarawak Tribune, 25 November 1967, p. 1).
(29) SNAP was formed on March 1961. Pesaka was formed in August 1962 to ensure the Third Division Ibans had a political voice in the developing debate over Sarawak becoming part of
Denis, Peter and Jeffrey Grey 1996 Emergency and Confrontation: Australian Military Operations in Malaya and
Langub, Jayl 1996 Tan Sri Datuk Gerusin Lembat 1942-1955,
Leigh, Michael B. 1974 The Rising Moon: Political Change in
Morrison, Alastair 1993
2002 Operation Hammer: Enforced Resettlement in
Yong, Tan Sri Datuk Amar Stephen K. T. 1998 A Life Twice Lived: A Memoir. Kuching:
Visiting Research Associate
Western Australia 6150
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