The first issue of the Sarawak Gazette was published on Friday, August 26, 1870. Its objectives were: “to provide those Europeans who reside at Outstations with concise statements of official business and other matters of public interest...”; and “to serve as a recognized report of the condition of the various residencies under the Sarawak Government, in their relations to the natives and to the trading interests which most of them possess, for circulation in other countries and settlements.”
Published monthly, it played the role of a newspaper and was edited by the Rajah’s Civil Service. Articles published reflected the official thinking of the Brooke Raj on major issues. As A.V.M. Horton1 commented in 1983, “Some of the articles, indeed, bear the unmistakable imprint of Sir Charles Brooke himself.”
In the early years of its existence, Officers from the Outstations sent in bi-annual reports for publication in the Sarawak Gazette. The bi-annual report was later changed into annual report of each district. These reports contained useful information on trade and economic activities, law and order, and conditions of life in the various residencies or districts. Various articles on important events, ethnic relations, and general comments on the country, the landscape, and social life were also published in the Sarawak Gazette.
The aftermath of World War II, and the change of administration from the Brooke Raj to Crown Colony, saw a number of scholars and researchers undertaking research activities in Sarawak. Some of their scientific findings were published in the Sarawak Gazette. The Sarawak Gazette changed. It now contained lay and scientific reading material.
Over the years the Sarawak Gazette has accumulated a vast amount of information about the entire country. As a repository of information, it is an important source of knowledge on Sarawak’s history, government and politics, peoples and their way of life, the landscape, flora and fauna.
The present volume is a collection of selected articles from the Sarawak Gazette since 1963, the year Sarawak, together with Sabah and all the States in the Malay Peninsula, formed the new nation of Malaysia. They are compiled into a Special Issue to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia.
The collection is divided into the following headings: Government and Administration, District Annual Reports, Travelling Reports, Confrontation and the Emergency Period, Development, Peoples and Culture, History, Towns, Education, Agriculture, Medical and Health, Natural History and Wildlife, Environment and Forestry, Tourism, Sports, Music, Law, Aspects of Religious Life, and Perspectives from the Young.
Preparation to hand over responsibilities of the civil service from colonial officers to local officers began as early as 1948. Some of the articles that are reprinted in this collection provide a glimpse of the state of the civil service at the time of independence, and the struggle of officers and most importantly the elected representatives of the people, over the past four decades, to shape the way forward for Sarawak.
A number of District Annual Reports are reprinted to provide an insight into district administration and the organization of government activities at the grassroots level. Travelling was an important aspect of administration, especially in the rural districts. As one colonial district officer explained: “Travelling meant taking the Government to the people."2 Travelling provided an opportunity for officials to meet the people, to explain government policies, to discuss local issues and problems, and to gauge local opinion on current matters of concern.
During the past four decades, Sarawak experienced the Indonesian confrontation with Malaysia, and armed insurgencies of Communist terrorists. Some of the articles written during these periods are reprinted in this volume to remind us of those conflicts and of our struggles as an independent State.
Of great concern to Sarawak upon becoming independent was development. Several of the articles reprinted in this volume discuss this topic from different perspectives.
Sarawak is endowed with ethnic and cultural diversity. Much has been written about the peoples of Sarawak and their way of life, some of it has appeared in the Sarawak Gazette. Among the articles reprinted in this volume is a wonderful contribution entitled “Perception of Sarawak from London” by David J. Phillips. In his short article, the author writes fondly about Sarawak.
The richness of Sarawak cultural diversity is reflected in the music of the people. To recognize this, three articles have been reprinted specifically on this topic.
Sarawak’s historical landscape is as colorful as its ethnic and cultural compositions. Included in this volume are reprints of several articles on historical matters that are undoubtedly of some cultural heritage significance.
Our towns are part of our heritage. Most of us have our roots in one. To remind us of our roots, we have selected a few articles, mainly on small towns, for reprint.
Education, Agriculture and Medical and Health Services are the most important public agencies for ordinary people. Activities of these agencies have been well covered by the Sarawak Gazette, and included in this volume are reprints of articles concerning their roles and functions.
The 1980s saw a wave of public awareness in Sarawak on matters pertaining to the environment and ecology. It was in the mid 1980s that the Penan erected the first of a series of blockades to protest against logging activities. And it was also during the past two decades that so much has been written in the Sarawak Gazette on these issues. Articles on natural history, wildlife and forestry have been included so as to recognize their importance.
Tourism is a young but fast growing industry in Sarawak. Recognized only recently as an important economic commodity, the Sarawak Gazette has published articles on the topic, some of which appear in this reprint.
As shown in these reprinted articles, recreational and competitive sports are an important aspect of life for Sarawakians.
The Legal System in Sarawak includes Islamic Law and Customary Law and these are also represented in this compilation of the Sarawak Gazette.
Sarawak is a multi-religious society, and included in this Special Issue of the Sarawak Gazette are reprints of a number of articles on activities of some of the religions in Sarawak.
Finally, we reprint some articles written by upper secondary school students. Originally written for school magazines, they were selected for reprint in various issues of the Sarawak Gazette. Their writings reflect the hope the young have for the world around them.
The collection of articles compiled in this volume are records of events, activities and struggles of the people as they face the challenge of life, and achieve the most cherished of their aspirations. The collection is also a record of the views and opinions of Sarawakians and non-Sarawakians on matters of concern to the State. Records of events and activities, big or small, are of significance to future generations.
During the past 40 years, Sarawak has achieved much through good governance, including a rise in the quality of life. The Sarawak Gazette has done an admirable job of recording these achievements. This tradition of keeping records of what we do, how we look at the world, and go about our daily life in the pursuit of things that we cherish must continue.
Wishing Sarawak a happy fortieth anniversary!
Board of Editors
1 A.V.M Horton, 1983 “The ‘Sarawak Gazette’ and the British Residence in Brunei, 1906-1924", Sarawak Gazette, Vol. CIX No. 1485, October, 1983 3rd Quarter Issue, p. 27.
2 Alastair Morrison, 1993 Fair Land Sarawak: Some Recollections of an Expatriate Official, Studies on Southeast Asia No. 13: Cornell Southeast Asia Program, Ithaca, New York, p. 23.