Is July 22 really Sarawak’s day of independence?

A copy of the Sarawak Government Gazette dated May 20, 2016 which states July 22 as Sarawak’s Independence Day.

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, July 22: Is July 22 a celebration of Sarawak’s Independence Day or to commemorate the state’s self-determination from the British prior to forming the Federation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963?

This confusion has risen not just in the state’s history but due to the Sarawak government’s gazette dated May 20, 2016 which stated that July 22 is a public holiday to celebrate the state’s Independence Day.

The Sarawak Gazette Part II Vol. LXXI specifically mentioned that according to the Public Holidays Ordinance (made under section 5): “In exercise of ten powers conferred by section 5 of the Public Holidays Ordinance (Cap. 8 (1958) Ed.), the Yang di-Pertua Negeri has made the following Notifications:

Citation 1: This notification may be cited as the Public Holiday (Sarawak Independence Day) Notification 2016. 22nd day of July in every year to be observed as a public holiday.

Citation 2: The 22nd day of July in every year commencing from the year 2016, has been approved to be observed as a public holiday in Sarawak to be known as the Sarawak Impendence Day, in addition to the days mentioned in the First Schedule to the Ordinance.”

According to the state’s Legal Advisor Datuk Seri JC Fong, the gazette was wrongly prepared by someone and then Chief Minister the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem signed it.

“The fault lies with the officer who prepared the Gazette. So it would be better to have the Gazette corrected as the same question has been raised year after year,” Fong told DayakDaily through a WhatsApp message here today.

Fong, who was the state’s former attorney-general said Sarawak did not gain independence on July 22, 1963.

“The British wanted us to have self-government before independence like Singapore. So on 22/7/1963 the first CM was appointed and sworn in before the British Governor. Sarawak had a government elected by the people on that date.

“Sarawak gained independence on Malaysia Day after the British Governor left and Tun Openg (Tun Abang Openg Abang Sapiee) was sworn in as Governor and the Proclamation of Independence was read by CM (Stephen Kalong) Ningkan at the Central Padang,” he explained.

Meanwhile, when contacted, Sarawak’s de facto Minister of Law Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali said she would need to ask Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg to seek his views and directions on the matter.

“Twenty-second July is when we self-rule. We are celebrating our own right to rule. Gazette is erroneous and can be amended, I think.

“In looking forward, what I want for Sarawak is to be autonomous, a strong autonomous state government running our own affairs, working with the federal government within Malaysia.” — DayakDaily