By Lian Cheng
KUCHING, July 14: The residents of Sri Aman prefer the town to be renamed “Simanggang” and the division to be called Sri Aman Division.
Kapitan Tay Sia Chuan said even until now, those in their 40’s and 50’s still refer to Sri Aman town as “Simanggang” as it was the town’s original name since the early days.
“We hope Chief Minister (Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg) can rename our town as ‘Simanggang’ and keep the name of ‘Sri Aman Division’.
“Simanggang was the original name of the town and we are familiar with it because however we call it, it is always ‘Simanggang’ to us,” Tay told DayakDaily.
On how the name “Simanggang” came about, Tay said there are quite a few versions. The most common and most popular version, according to Tay, is the “All Dead” version.
Long time ago, many Chinese were settling along Batang Lupar and many were businessmen. These businessmen owned boats in which they plied their trade along Batang Lupar, buying rural products from the natives while selling daily groceries to them.
According to oral tradition, once, there were two families who were neighbours but business rivals. One had land-based business while the other, mainly focused on river-based business.
The Ibans who came to buy from the family who had the land-vased business would habitually asked about the whereabouts of the other family who spent more time plying their trade along Batang Lupar.
In anger and frustration, the Chinese family who owned the land-based business would reply “Si magang”.
“Si” in Chinese is “dead”; “Magang” in Iban is “all”. What the Chinese family was in effect attempting to do in frustration was to curse the other family by saying “the whole family is dead”.
As every time when the Iban customers came, the same question would be asked and the answer was always “Si magang”, the Ibans started to call the place where they believed the other Chinese family was doing business at as “Simanggang”.
The other version according to oral tradition is that, the name “Simanggang” is derived from the words “singgah magang”, meaning “stop over for all”.
Tay said in 1845, there was no one settling at Simanggang. Many Chinese settled down at Skrang where there was also a British presence there.
“During that time, the only form of transportation was by river. And from Skrang to other places, like Ulu Skrang, travellers needed to stop by some place and that place was Simanggang.
“It was believed to be the place where everyone stopped — ‘singgah magang’ — a stop-over for all. But the Chinese during that time could not pronounced it properly. They said ‘simanggang’. Later, the place was called ‘Simanggang’ until now,” said Tay.
He said in the old days, Simanggang was no different to the other towns in its vicinity such as Pantu, Engkilili, Betong, Lubok Antu and Lingga.
“In 1974, however, because of the signing of the peace agreement in Simanggang to end the communist resurgence, the name was changed to Sri Aman, to commemorate the event that brought peace.
“That is also why the symbol of our town is the dove — the symbol of peace. Simanggang became the town of peace,” said Tay. — DayakDaily