20 September, 2013

James Brooke, Rajah of Sarawak

(contributed by Desmond Leong)

Until 1930’s, the White Rajahs were still deploying their headhunting army in punitive expeditions. The existence of this army had forced the indigenous people to fight among themselves.

It was the Third Rajahs who curtailed the use of his headhunting troops. He must have felt the world’s civilized communities did not approve of Sarawak’s barbaric and shameful national policy. Suddenly, the headhunters had lost their jobs. By the 1950’s the warriors from the conflicting sides were dying of old age not in battles.

Here we have a headline to remind us of what took place during the reign of the barbarous tyrants. It is a newspaper report on the demise of a member of the Brooke militias. The guy had collected 26 skulls and he wanted all his war trophies be buried with him.
A Country built By Human Skulls
Part I

Why should we read Brooke history when I say it is so biased? It is because it helps us see through many lies. We are often told lies but we are not often aware of them. A good example is the reporting of the Syria war today. Western Press says the government’s refusal to give in to the rebels had caused the death of 100,000 people. This is a half-truth message saying only the Government side was “killing their own people.”

Just pause and ponder. Who gave the West to be the Police of the World to send in foreign mercenaries to attack a legitimate country on the excuse that they were Syria’s rebels? When Westerners dislike a country, they demanded a regime change. Then they invent all sorts of excuses to achieve their objective.

That is what James Brooke did when he decided that Sarawak needed a regime change. In all cases, the world’s bullies disregarded their action would cause death and miseries to thousands of ordinary people. Western Press always gives the impression the people were fleeing from an oppressive government. n the case of Syria, the citizens are fleeing because they do not trust the West-supported terrorists. Could the U.S. and France give assurance that the many rebel factions would not fight among themselves after they won?

By reading Brooke history, we can learn how the imperialists operate. The Americans today wanted a regime change in Syria so they try to use the poison gas incident as an excuse to bomb it. The US had lied multiple times in history to start a war with a lie. Not just the Iraqi war, they also started the massive bombing of Vietnam with the lie about Tongkin Gulf Incident. They have a standing excuse to start war anytime with Iran claiming it is building the nuclear bomb. We could even go back to the colonizing of the Philippines over 100 years ago. They claimed they were helping the Filipinos in their fight for Independence against a cruel Spaniard regime. But after they won, the US forcibly colonized it.

From the local angle, we discover that all James Brooke activities were military in nature. To consolidating his hold on Sarawak, he initiated a series of attacks. The first step he took was to announce to the world that Sarawak was swarming with pirates. So with that excuse, he, with the Royal Navy, attacked Paddi, Paku, Rimbas, Patusan, etc., settlements in the Saribas and the Skrang all the way up to the border town of Undop. After one such attack, Brooke proudly announced: “Marudu ceased to exist.”

Rajah Charles Brooke claimed the Brunei officials were all unfit to rule. With that excuse, he attacked Brunei again and again, tearing off Brunei territory piece by piece. When taking over Limbang, he positioned his gunboats in Brunei’s Limbang River. He then sent words out to order the local people to come on board his vessel to sign their consent to the cession of their country. To those who refused, he told them to go back to their kampong and get ready for his impending attack.

When Sarawak was joining Malaysia, the British government also sent in a “fact finding” team who reported that we were ready for joining Malaysia. We were misled by them on our rights to the state’s huge oil resources. There was no transparency when we were negotiating with Malaya and Britain. No safeguards about this vital resource was written into the 18 point list supposedly presented “by the people” during the discussions on the formation of Malaysia. And who made up that 18 point list? There is reason to believe it was the British themselves.

Like my friend Edgar Ong said under our “misguided democracy,” we felt nothing amiss when the most important issues were decided behind the scene in faraway London. The red herring that clouded our thinking was the Indonesians and the Communist terrorists were about to overran the state any time. On the other hand, the British gave Brunei a better option: Don’t join Malaysia. Brunei was smart enough to discover and be upset that after a few years joining Malaysia, the Central Government would have full control of their oil resources. The country could preserve their national treasure by not sharing it with a country across the sea. Non mainstream anti Malaysia voices in Sarawak, like those from Supp, led by chairman Ong Kee Hui, were sidelined or totally ignored by the government controlled mass media.

Some years ago, when I began to take a keener interest in our history, I naively accepted many “history” facts as the truth. Later, however, I discovered that we have been all blatantly lied to. The colonial government had made sure that we were to be brought seeing the Brooke rulers as the good guys. Without knowing the full story, most people resist any change to the views they grew up with. In their early years of colonial rule, all books, publications, movies and songs were censored. Hundreds of intellectuals who were found to have written favorably about leftist ideologies, or those who advocated views expressed by freedom fighters from Indonesia were jailed or deported. Looking back, we lived under a very restricted type of “democracy.”

I found out that today’s truth could be tomorrow’s lie. There is no reason to lose one’s head, or temper, over some information which works for or against our viewpoint. There are bound to be new ones to disprove the opinion we are now holding. The taste of the cake is in the eating. Some people could be excused for not knowing the truth, like those who believe that Hitler, Pol Pot or Stalin were the good guy because they also “did some good to their country.”

There are many reasons people still love their White Rajahs despite being presented the facts. One of them is the Brookes were their idols and glory of Britain. No one has the right to mutilate the image of their heroes. But they should know that today’s alternative history will become main stream in future.
We once all believed the cant that the White Rajahs eradicated headhunting and piracy. The White Rajahs were the good guys stopping the evil headhunting tradition and removing the pirates! The cliché is most misleading. And, as I found out, the white rulers turned out to be the bad guys.

Instead of stopping headhunting, they exploited and expanded it. We know violence begets violence. Enmity was generated when the foreigners use one section of natives to attack another. Of course their history says they created racial harmony here. Headhunting was done small scale. A courting boy would go out to get one for his sweetheart. A farmer would get one when he started a new farm location. It was not part of a big scale killing machine. The traditional gruesome art blossomed after it was misused militarily by the White Rajahs for large scale killing of their fellow natives.

At first they used the militia to fulfil their territorial ambition but later they used them in punitive expeditions which eliminated thousand more poorly armed farmers. They burnt down hundreds of longhouses and farms. Besides, they also gave their enemies a tough time by imposing sanctions on important items such as salt, iron and other goods. They just wanted to make their enemies, along with their women and children, suffer starvation and other hardships. Exactly what the Israelis are doing in Gaza Strip and the Westerner punishing Iran.

The white interloper did not have the funds to pay his troops. So he struck a deal with the headhunters; follow him into battle and they would be richly rewarded by as many heads as they could chop. There was no consideration on whether this was morally right or wrong, especially when it comes to the killing of the innocent men, women and children. The disgusting practice was carried out continually until the 1930’s. Peaceful Sarawak was plunged into a bloody war zone for a good part of a century. It is unimaginable that the colonists could hide this fact from us for so long. The reason is simple. They have the support of many publicity writers to cover up their blood stained tracks. They also converted many Sarawakians to Brooke fans who believe deeply in their dictum: killing the natives was for “their own good.”

The crime perpetrators and their fans have total disregard for any human rights, dignity or common compassion for the other human beings. In their eyes, they were only “savages” or mere cannon fodders to be sent into battles. Another myth their fans are so proud of was the White Rajahs promoted trade. Many say this is one “contribution” or “heritage” which we are still enjoying. This is a lie. The minute he was appointed District Governor, James Brooke monopolized the mining industry, the shipping, the opium, the arrack, the gambling and even pawning. Europeans vessels were chased away. We must all be aware that half of Brooke’s yearly revenue came from selling opium and his monopoly of arrack, gambling and pawning. There is no doubt the Brookes were Narcotic Barons. After the world communities imposed sanction on the drug having decided it was not a legitimate trading item, Sarawak refused to follow. Sarawak became a narcotics distribution center for smuggling to other countries because it was sold cheaper here. The Rajah himself invested in the opium “farm.”

The Country Built By Human Skulls
Part II

We were all fed the lie that James Brooke was merely an adventurer, not a businessman, keen to bring the Christian lamp to Sarawak. Not any Gospel colonist because he had carried along only his gun and his looting basket, he concentrated his efforts in expanding his domain. For first eight years Sarawak was not introduced to the Christian faith even though he told people back home the Ibans were best for conversation.

In the early years, there were a few German missionaries in Kuching. But soon they were gone. Their building was taken over as Brooke’s “court room.” He only brought in the Borneo Church Mission in 1848. He let the Anglican missionaries used the upper floor as their living quarters. Until their arrival, Sarawak was totally Islamic.

The general idea we get is that the S.P.G. missionaries were doing a fine job spreading the Gospel, start a school and provided medical services to the people. But these services were often limited and short lived. The Rajahs were not really keen in the Church’s work which was centered in Kuching and Bau for the Chinese. But progress was real slow.

After 60 years in the Second Division, the S.P.G. had only two schools at Banting and Sabu with a total of 33 students. A church and school only appeared in Betong in the 1920’s. The St. Augustine’s for boys and St. Margaret’s for girls, each had less than 20 students. By 1936, education centres at Betong, Debak, Roban and Saratok claim to have 200 pupils. Among the educated Iban elites was the Fairy tale James Brooke is a phony. The Law Book which is often featured in his myth describing how he brought law and order to Sarawak did not exist. It was never printed because he changed his mind of using his own law book. Rather, he relied on existing Islamic laws as preferred by his Muslim ministers. On this fact, we can say Sarawak was a Muslim State. As a dictator, he was the Law maker, the judge, the prosecutor and even the executor. This is fully demonstrated in the first two court cases.

When the Singhe Bidayuhs were not heeding his orders, their two leaders became the first victims of his court. He had them brought before him and then he personally sentenced them to die. They were promptly dragged to the back of his house where they were krissed like two chicken outside the kitchen door. This was how he established his autocratic authority: by striking fear into the hearts of his enemies.

There are other signs that Sarawak was an Islamic vassal state of Brunei. Among the first and very important official he first appointed to help him run the country was the Imam of Masjid Kuching. James Brooke himself was also reported to have married an important Brunei Royalty, also likely in a Muslim ceremony. Without seeing a single Christian in Sarawak, any one visiting Sarawak would believe it was a Muslim state. Apparently, the state did not have many Christians.

When James Brooke enlisted the help of the Malay rebels to force Pengiran Muda Hashim to remove Pangiran Makota and appoint himself in his place, the parties involved had come to an understanding of some sort. One version says Brooke promised rebel leader Datu Patinggi Ali that he would inherit the kingdom after his passing. The former rebel leader believed this because Brooke did not have a son
But this promise was not honored. In 1846, Brooke and the Royal Navy razed the Brunei Capital to the ground and the Sultan had to let Brooke to rule Sarawak in perpetuity, appointing his own heir. So Brooke brought in his nephew, Captain Brooke Brooke and appointed him Rajah Mudah. Brooke had gone back on his word that Sarawak be reverted to the local Malays angered the son of Patinggi Ali who had succeeded his father as Imam of Masjid Kuching. 
Imam Datu Haji Gapur was also the brother in law of Sharif Mashor, a powerful Brunei governor of the Rejang River. It is no surprise that the two plotted against Brooke in the Malay Rebellion.

Recently, I posted an article here (on FB wall) saying that Sarawak was merely a vassal state of Brunei and had never attained an independent country. There are facts to support this view. We must understand that besides snatching the antimony mines in Sarawak, Brooke’s objective was also bringing northern Borneo “under British influence.” But he was confronted by the impediment that the island of Borneo was allocated to the Dutch in the 1825 agreement with Britain. The Dutch would certainly create a diplomatic tempest had he colonize Sarawak outright.

The way out was to sign an agreement with Brunei so that Sarawak merely becomes a vassal state. In this way, even though he actually controls the country, the Dutch could not complain to Britain. We would see many such agreements were signed with Brunei up to the point Sarawak was ceded to Britain. For every agreement, the White Rajahs must pay extra tributes to the Brunei Sultan. Sarawak was never an independent state. They just want to bluff us to believe that it was.

The Big Brooke Lie began from the time of Brooke’s arrival. Brooke claims there was a Rebellion against Brunei and the reason given was the Bidayuh mine workers were little paid and mistreated by the District Governor Pangiran Mahkota. If he was like he said he was, he would, like a knight of righteousness rush to the rescue of these wretched people, But Brooke did not help them. Rather, this phony knight offered his service to the oppressors of these people and blasted them with his cannons.

We are told these rebels were led by the former District Governor Patinggi Ali, whose position was replaced by Pangiran Mahkota. How does he fit into the picture? Surely he was not also mistreated by Mahkota! From here, we know the fairy tale Brooke was telling is not true. In fact, the rebellion was the result of a tug of war to grab the valuable antimony mines. The Sambas Sultanate and the Dutch were supporting Patinggi Ali to take over from Brunei the district and the mines. The Dutch flag even was spotted flying at Siniawan. 
After Brooke defeated Patinggi Ali, he turned around and seized the district for himself and deposed Pangiran Mahkota. The school textbook by Joan Rawlins puts it very nicely that after this Brooke nationalized Mahkota’s mines.

Brooke’s Other Businesses
During this initial stage, Brooke and the Royal Navy repeated attacked the people in the Saribas and the Skrang areas. What is so disgusting is not only the number of deaths and suffering they caused but we have Myth writers lying to us Sarawak was taken over peacefully. In between battles, Brooke and his partner, Henry Wise was busy launching a public company using the antimony and coal as collateral for the huge capital required. Their plan was to make a big kill at the London stocks market. The project failed and many investors lost their money. It is joke that he could be described as merely an ordinary “adventurer” who happened to drop by this place. In fact, after a visit to Brunei, he returned here boasting that the Sultanate could be taken with the help of only 50 Europeans.

The Brooke Story is very simple. He had set his mind to conquer Brunei. All what he did was to achieve that objective.So, by the time of the arrival of the Borneo Church Mission, he had already killed thousands of natives and destroyed hundreds of longhouses and Malay villages. The most heartless genocide he committed might be the Beting Maru Massacre because not one sea-battle prisoner was taken alive for trial. He had led the Royal Navy to set up his trap off the coast at Beting Maru. When Linggir and his people were encircled by the Royal Navy, their boats were smashed into pieces and the survivors were picked off like sitting ducks in a shooting gallery. He claimed they were all pirates so no one survived.

Brooke also committed other horrendous atrocities. After the Chinese Rebellion, nearly all the Chinese inhabitants from along the Santubong sea coast to the border with Kalimantan were exterminated. All the gold mining processing buildings, farm house, shops, opium dens, bars and gambling joints, boat building and sago factories, etc were torched. Sarawak was drastically depopulated during the genocide of a minimum of 3,500 men, women and children.

It is difficult to find another historical person of that era, more wily, more cruel, ruthless and immoral. The person who might fit the bill is the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles who had also killed many Javanese. No surprise that he was the role model of James Brooke. Notice that both mass killers of that Victorian Age were knighted for their “achievements?” Our teachers who know the truth would find it hard to teach their students that they were the good guys to be admired. Their human values would become confused. It would be like telling them to admire mass killers like Pol Pot or Hitler.
Sarawak itself is rich in oil and gas, If Brunei was not fragmented by this tyrant, our state, Sarawak, being part of that bigger Sultanate could be one of the riches countries in this region.

(contributed by Desmond Leong)

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