By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Nov 5: Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen criticised the Sarawak government for supposedly glorifying the invasion and colonisation of the White Rajahs, saying it did not do justice to our forefathers who had sacrificed themselves in fighting for this land.
He urged the august House to ponder on who among significant figures in the state’s history was the hero and villain, between James Brooke, Liu Shan Bang, Sherip Masahor Muhammad Al-Shahab and Rentap whose stories and exploits are part of the intangible heritage to be preserved under the new Sarawak Heritage Bill, 2019.
“Rentap, is he a villain for fighting against James Brooke or is he a hero? I think the answer is obvious isn’t it? Rentap, Sherip Masahor and Liu Shan Bang from Bau. These were people who rose up to fight against the colonists. So are they not heroes? Are they not to be looked up to in generations to come?” said Chong in a press conference today.
He expressed disappointment that in recent years, the state government has started to glorify the White Rajahs, painting a picture that the White Rajahs came to liberate and bring civilisation to Sarawak, and neglecting the contributions of these fighters.
“In the cost of the conquest by James Brooke, hundreds were killed in which stories were told of innocent people forced into the ghost cave (in Bau) and smoked (sic) to death. This is very cruel, perpetrated on the natives at that time including Liu who was born there.
“We have to set our history correct as it is our heritage but the government is still glorifying the White Rajah and I cannot accept the stand that Abdul Karim (Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah) took which was for promotion of tourism,” he said, referring to the ongoing filming of James Brooke’s life story.
Chong said it was not right to distort history and mislead future generations about the villains and heroes in the name of tourism.
“We have to inculcate in the future generation that anyone who comes to invade our country, we will fight back. That is the spirit but now is the reverse. The one who fought back will be forgotten but the one who came to invade us is glorified by our own people,” he stressed.
His view was objecting by Muara Tuang Assemblyman Datuk Idris Buang.
On preserving heritage buildings in Kuching, Chong urged that these historical structures not be turned into lavish restaurants like the Old Courthouse but instead retain the buildings’ history and tell their stories by exhibiting them in the buildings.
“Let people get to know the development and history of the judiciary in Sarawak (referring to Old Courthouse). That will be a better use of the heritage. I hope the council formed later will look into this. It will be a desecration to convert these heritage buildings into restaurants,” he added. — DayakDaily
Editor’s Note: Changes have been made to give way to another separate story.