So when did Sarawak actually become a British colony?

FOCUS: When did Sarawak become a British colony?

This simple question from Sarawak’s brief history has boggled the minds of many Sarawakians. As a matter of fact, there are two schools of thought.

Did British colonisation begin in 1841 when British adventurer James Brooke proclaimed himself Rajah of Sarawak? Or did colonisation only begin in 1946, after Charles Vyner Brooke, the third White Rajah, ceded Sarawak to Britain?

Sabah has a different history. It was ceded to the British by the Sultan of Brunei and become a British Crown colony in 1848, and later as a British protectorate in 1888 together with Brunei.

On the other hand, Sarawak was granted independence by the Sultan of Brunei in 1841 and began a period of Brooke Dynasty that lasted a century.

Many are of the opinion that the Brooke regime in this part of our history was considered a period of colonisation. After all, the Brooke regime had all the settings of a colonial government: all the top posts then in the Brookes’ Administration were filled by British subjects who sailed all the way to this part of the world; the administration also received advice, and perhaps orders, from the colonial office in London.

On top of that, the Brooke family sent money back to England for business investments. They also sent their children back home to receive a good British education as well as to get a good spouse.

However, many also opine that the Brooke rule should not be considered a period of colonisation. Despite the Brooke family’s close relationship with their motherland, Sarawak was technically an independent kingdom.

Whatever unfair treatment the Brooke regime might have on the local people, Sarawak during this era was recognised internationally as an independent kingdom, not as a colony of Britain.

Those who belong to this second school of thought are also of the opinion that James Brooke had acquired Sarawak through blood and sweat.

They propounded that without his effort to stifle local rebellions or threaten the Sultan with his machine guns, the present map of Sarawak would be very much different. Sarawak (the old name for Kuching) probably might stretch only as far as the Sadong River.

In fact, James Brooke had been eying Brunei for many years. Brunei was a British protectorate during this era and if Queen Victoria had not stopped him, he could have included the sultanate into the map of Sarawak without much difficulty.

Hence, if the second school of thought holds water, then Sarawak became a colony of Britain only in 1946, after the Japanese had surrendered.

Just before the Japanese landed in 1941, the rajah had escaped to England while his wife the Ranee of Sarawak purportedly went to America.

We also need to understand that the 20th Century was an era of decolonisation and after the Second World War, Britain was trying to release her colonies in many parts of the world.

However, after much persuasion by Charles Vyner Brooke, Britain finally and reluctantly decided to take in Sarawak as a colony on 1 July 1946, with the promise that she would help her achieve independence as soon as possible.

It was said that the rajah received a substantial sum of money from the British government, enough for him to retire comfortably in his homeland for the rest of his days. Because of this, some accused him of selling Sarawak to the Britain.

Hence, after 17 years and 21 days, Sarawak received her independence on 22 July 1963 on a silver platter. Stephen Kalong Ningkan ruled Sarawak for 55 days as an independent nation before she (Sarawak) formed the nation called Malaysia together with Sabah, Singapore and the eleven states of Malaya.

Sarawak went through a bitter period of post-independence jungle guerilla warfare against the communist that lasted until the 1980s.-The Ant Daily

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