During communist insurgency, govt higher-ups passing through Sri Aman at risk of communist ambush, recalls minister

Abdul Karim (third left) and Abang Johari (third right) photographed with others at the launch of Rumah Sri Aman Gallery in Simanggang on Oct 1, 2023. Photo credit: Sarawak Information Department (JaPen)

By Shikin Louis

SRI AMAN, Oct 1: In the past, high ranking government officers required security escorts when passing through Sri Aman due to the likelihood of being ambushed by communists prior to Sri Aman Declaration 1973.

This was the reality during the communist insurgency period in Sarawak, said Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah during the launch of the Rumah Sri Aman Gallery in Simanggang Town here today.

“During those days, if the government higher-ups were to travel from Kuching or Serian to Sibu, there will always be an escort car coming along because you might not even know whether you would be able to reach your destination.

“There will always be an escort car such as police Land Rover to accompany the convoy. We (Abdul Karim’s family) have been through it and that is why I am quite in the know about the situation at that time even though I was still a very young primary school student,” he said.

He also recalled ‘Operation Hammer’ in 1965 when the local people residing along Kuching to Simanggang were forced to relocate into new settlements at Siburan, Beratok and Tapah, living under the watchful eyes of the police.

He also shared that his late father was the District Officer for Lubok Antu between 1966 and 1967, who played the role of educating and informing the public on the formation of Malaysia and the government policies.

“However, there were also those who rejected the government following a difference in ideologies which led to an ambush on one of the nights.

“Afterwards, my father was given a 24-hour notice to be transferred to Serian where my family had to rush from Lubok Antu to Serian,” he stated.

Nevertheless, Abdul Karim expressed his gratitude to the leaders of both sides at the time, namely the Sarawak government represented by then Chief Minister Tun Datuk Patinggi Abdul Rahman Ya’kub and the late Bong Kee Chok, the then director and commissar of Pasukan Rakyat Kalimantan Utara (Paraku), who were able to reach a consensus and signed a peace treaty.

The signing ceremony of the Sri Aman Declaration 1973 took place at Rumah Kerajaan, Simanggang (renamed Rumah Sri Aman afterwards) on Oct 21, 1973.

Today, the building has been upgraded and turned into Rumah Sri Aman Gallery which will be open to public on Oct 2.

The Gallery is divided into four themes, namely Rumah Atas Bukit (House on the Hill), Era Rajah Putih (White Rajah Era), Pertempuran dan Perdamaian (War and Peace) and Air Pasang (Tides) which focus on the history and events in Sri Aman.

The gallery’s launch was officiated at by Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

Also present were Abang Johari’s wife Puan Sri Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang; Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas; Deputy Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Datuk Snowdan Lawan; Deputy Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Datuk Sebastian Ting Chiew Yew; Sri Aman MP Dato Sri Doris Sophia Brodie; and Sarawak Museum Department Director Nancy Jolhi. — DayakDaily