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Sarawak

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For the river, see Sarawak River. For the ship, see HMS Sarawak (K591).
Sarawak
State
Flag of Sarawak
Flag
Coat of arms of Sarawak
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): Bumi Kenyalang[1]
Land of the Hornbills
Motto: Bersatu, Berusaha, Berbakti
United, Striving, Serving
Anthem: Ibu Pertiwiku
My Motherland[2]
   Sarawak in    Malaysia
   Sarawak in    Malaysia
Coordinates: 2°48′N 113°53′E / 2.800°N 113.883°E / 2.800; 113.883Coordinates: 2°48′N 113°53′E / 2.800°N 113.883°E / 2.800; 113.883
Capital Kuching
Divisions
Government
 • Head of State Abdul Taib Mahmud
 • Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg (BN)
Area[3]
 • Total 124,450 km2 (48,050 sq mi)
Population (2015)[4]
 • Total 2,636,000
 • Density 21/km2 (55/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Sarawakian
Human Development Index[5]
 • HDI (2000) 0.757
Time zone MST[6] (UTC+8)
Postal code 93xxx[7] to 98xxx[8]
Calling code 082 to 086[9]
ISO 3166 code MY-13
Vehicle registration QA to QT[10]
Brunei Sultanate 15th century–1841[11]
Brooke dynasty 1841–1946
Japanese occupation 1941–1945
British Crown Colony 1946–1963
Self-government 22 July 1963[12][13]
Malaysia Agreement[14] 16 September 1963[15]
Website Official website

Sarawak (/səˈrɑːwɒk/; Malay: [saˈrawaʔ]) is one of the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo (Sabah being the other state). This territory has a certain level of autonomy in administration, immigration, and judiciary. Sarawak is in northwest Borneo, bordering the state of Sabah to the northeast, Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo, to the south, and the independent state of Brunei in the northwest. The capital city, Kuching, is the economic centre of the state and the seat of the Sarawak state government. Other cities and towns in Sarawak include Miri, Sibu, and Bintulu. As of the 2015 census in Malaysia, the total population of Sarawak is 2,636,000. Sarawak has an equatorial climate with tropical rainforests and abundant animal and plant species. It has several prominent cave systems at Gunung Mulu National Park. Rajang River is the longest river in Malaysia; Bakun Dam, one of the largest dams in Southeast Asia, is located on one of its tributaries, the Balui River. Mount Murud is the highest point in Sarawak.

The earliest known human settlement in Sarawak dates back to 40,000 years ago at the Niah Caves. A series of Chinese ceramics dated from 8th to 13th century AD was uncovered at the archeological site of Santubong. The coastal regions of Sarawak came under the influence of the Bruneian Empire in the 16th century. In 1839, James Brooke, a British explorer, first arrived in Sarawak. Sarawak was later governed by the Brooke family between 1841 and 1946. During World War II, it was occupied by the Japanese for three years. After the war, the last White Rajah, Charles Vyner Brooke, ceded Sarawak to Britain, and in 1946 it became a British Crown Colony. On 22 July 1963, Sarawak was granted self-government by the British. Following this, it became one of the founding members of the Federation of Malaysia, established on 16 September 1963. However, the federation was opposed by Indonesia, and this led to the three-year Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation. From 1960 to 1990, Sarawak experienced a communist insurgency.

The head of state is the Governor, also known as the Yang di-Pertua Negeri, while the head of government is the Chief Minister. The government system is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and has the earliest state legislature system in Malaysia. Sarawak is divided into administrative divisions and districts. The state has abundant natural resources, and its economy is strongly export-oriented, mainly in oil and gas, timber, and oil palm. Other industries are manufacturing, energy, and tourism. Sarawak exhibits notable diversity in ethnicity, culture, and language. Major ethnic groups in Sarawak are: Iban, Malay, Chinese, Melanau, Bidayuh, and Orang Ulu. English and Malay are the only two official languages of the state; there is no official religion. The Gawai Dayak is an annual festival celebrated on a public holiday, and a lute called sapeh is a traditional musical instrument.

Etymology[edit]

The rhinoceros hornbill is the state bird of Sarawak.

The official explanation of the word "Sarawak" is that it is derived from the Sarawak Malay word serawak, which means antimony. A popular alternative explanation is that it is a contraction of the four Malay words purportedly uttered by Pangeran Muda Hashim (uncle to the Sultan of Brunei), "Saya serah pada awak" (I surrender it to you), when he gave Sarawak to James Brooke in 1841. James Brooke became the first of the White Rajah dynasty to govern Sarawak.[16] However, the latter explanation is flawed: the territory had been named Sarawak before the arrival of James Brooke, and the word awak was not in the vocabulary of Sarawak Malay before the formation of Malaysia.[17]

Sarawak is nicknamed "Land of the Hornbills" (Bumi Kenyalang). These birds are important cultural symbols for the Dayak people, representing the spirit of God. It is also believed that if a hornbill is seen flying over residences, it will bring good luck to the local community. Sarawak has eight of the world's fifty-four species of hornbills. The Rhinoceros hornbill is the state bird of Sarawak.[18]

History[edit]

Main article: History of Sarawak
A view of a river from the anchorage off Sarawak, Borneo, c. 1800s. Painting from the National Maritime Museum of London.

Foragers are known to have lived around the west mouth of the Niah Caves (located 110 kilometres (68 mi) southwest of Miri) 40,000 years ago.[19][20] A modern human skull found near the Niah Caves, is the oldest human remain found in Malaysia and the oldest modern human skull from Southeast Asia.[19][20][21][22] Chinese ceramics dating to the Tang and Song dynasties (8th to 13th century AD) found at Santubong (near Kuching) suggest Santubong may have been an important seaport during the period.[23]

During the 16th century, the Kuching area was known to Portuguese cartographers as Cerava, one of the five great seaports on the island of Borneo.[24][25] By the early 19th century, Sarawak was loosely governed by the Bruneian Empire. The Bruneian Empire only had authority only along the coastal regions of Sarawak held by semi-independent Malay leaders. Meanwhile, the interior of Sarawak suffered from tribal wars fought by Iban, Kayan, and Kenyah peoples, who aggressively fought to expand their territories.[26] Following the discovery of antimony ore in the Kuching region, Pangeran Indera Mahkota (a representative of the Sultan of Brunei) began to develop the territory between 1824 and 1830. When antimony production increased, the Brunei Sultanate demanded higher taxes from Sarawak; this led to civil unrest and chaos.[27] In 1839, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II (1827–1852), ordered his uncle Pangeran Muda Hashim to restore order. Pangeran Muda Hashim requested the assistance of British sailor James Brooke in the matter, in which Brooke agreed. James Brooke quashed the rebellion successfully and was subsequently appointed by Pangeran Muda Hashim to govern Sarawak.

The Brooke family ruled Sarawak from the Astana as the White Rajahs and expanded the territory of Sarawak northwards.[28] The state issued its first currency, the Sarawak dollar, in 1858.[29] Sarawak was divided into five administrative divisions, each headed by a Resident.[30] The Brooke government established a Supreme Council consisting of Malay chiefs who advised the Rajahs on all aspects of governance.[31] The Supreme Council is the oldest state legislative assembly in Malaysia, with the first General Council meeting taking place at Bintulu in 1867.[32] Meanwhile, the Ibans and other Dayak people were hired as militia.[33] The Brooke dynasty encouraged the immigration of Chinese merchants for economic development, especially in the mining and agricultural sectors.[31] Borneo Company Limited was formed in 1856. It was involved in a wide range of businesses in Sarawak such as trade, banking, agriculture, mineral exploration, and development.[34] From 1853 to 1862, the Brooke government experienced a number of uprisings but all of them were successfully contained.[31] As a result, a series of forts were built around Kuching to consolidate the Rajah's power. These include Fort Margherita, which was completed in 1879.[35] Sarawak became a British protectorate in 1888, while still ruled by the Brooke dynasty.[36] In 1891, Charles Anthoni Brooke, the second White Rajah of Sarawak, established the Sarawak Museum, the oldest museum in Borneo.[35][37] In 1899, Charles Anthoni Brooke ended the intertribal wars in Marudi. The first oil well was drilled in 1910. Two years later, the Brooke Dockyard opened. Anthony Brooke was born in the same year and became Rajah Muda in 1939.[38] In 1941, during the centenary celebration of Brooke rule in Sarawak, a new constitution was introduced to limit the power of the Rajah and to allow the Sarawak people to play a greater role in the functioning of the government.[39]

By 1941, the British had withdrawn its defending forces from Sarawak to Singapore. With Sarawak now unguarded, the Brooke regime decided to adopt a scorched earth policy where oil installations in Miri would be destroyed and the Kuching airfield will be held as long as possible before being destroyed. A Japanese invasion force led by Kiyotake Kawaguchi landed in Miri on 16 December 1941 and conquered Kuching on 24 December 1941. The British forces retreated to Singkawang in Dutch Borneo bordering Sarawak. After ten weeks of fighting in Dutch Borneo, the Allied forces surrendered on 1 April 1942.[40] When the Japanese invaded Sarawak, Charles Vyner Brooke, the last Rajah of Sarawak had already left for Sydney, Australia while his officers were captured by the Japanese and interned at the Batu Lintang camp.[41] Sarawak remained part of the Empire of Japan for three years and eight months. Sarawak was divided into three provinces, namely: Kuching-shu, Sibu-shu, and Miri-shu, each under their respective Japanese Provincial Governor. Allied forces later carried out Operation Semut to sabotage Japanese operations in Sarawak.[42] After the surrender of Japan, the Japanese surrendered to the Australian forces at Labuan on 10 September 1945.[43][44] Sarawak was immediately placed under British Military Administration until April 1946.[45]

After the war, Charles Vyner Brooke did not have enough resources to rebuild Sarawak. He decided to cede Sarawak as British Crown Colony. Therefore, a Cession Bill was put forth in the Council Negri (now Sarawak State Legislative Assembly) and was debated for three days. The bill was passed on 17 May 1946 with a narrow majority (19 versus 16 votes). This caused hundreds of Malay civil servants to resign in protest, sparking an anti-cession movement and the assassination of the second colonial governor of Sarawak Sir Duncan Stewart.[46] Sarawak became a British Crown colony on 1 July 1946.[47] Anthony Brooke opposed the cession of Sarawak to the British Crown.[48] For this he was banished from Sarawak by the colonial government[31][note 1] and was allowed to return only 17 years later for a nostalgic visit, when Sarawak became part of Malaysia.[49] In 1950 all anti-cession movements in Sarawak ceased after a clamp-down by the colonial government.[26]

Tan Sri Datuk Amar Stephen Kalong Ningkan declaring the formation of the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963

On 27 May 1961, Tunku Abdul Rahman, the prime minister of the Federation of Malaya, announced a plan to form a greater federation together with Singapore, Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei, to be called Malaysia. On 17 January 1962, the Cobbold Commission was formed to gauge the support of Sarawak and Sabah for the proposed federation. The Cobbold Commission reported 80 percent support for the federation.[50][51] On 23 October 1962, five political parties in Sarawak formed a united front that supported the formation of Malaysia.[52] Sarawak was officially granted self-government on 22 July 1963,[12][13] and formed the federation of Malaysia with Malaya, North Borneo, and Singapore on 16 September 1963.[53][54] The Malaysian federation had drawn opposition from the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei People's Party, and the Sarawak-based communist groups. In 1962, Brunei Revolt broke out.[55] Indonesian President Sukarno ordered a military confrontation with Malaysia, sending armed volunteers and later military forces into Sarawak.[56][57] Thousands of Sarawak communist members went into Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, and underwent training with the Communist Party of Indonesia. The most significant battle of the confrontation was fought on Sarawak territory, at Plaman Mapu in April 1965. When Suharto replaced Sukarno as the president of Indonesia, negotiations were restarted between Malaysia and Indonesia which led to the end of the confrontation on 11 August 1966. The first communist group in Sarawak was started in 1951. North Kalimantan Communist Party (NKCP) (also known as Clandestine Communist Organisation (CCO) by government sources) was formally set up in 1970.[26][note 2] Weng Min Chyuan and Bong Kee Chok were the two notable communist leaders. In 1973, Bong surrendered to chief minister Abdul Rahman Ya'kub; this significantly reduced the strength of the communist party. However, Weng, who had directed the CCO from China since the mid-1960s, called for armed struggle against the government, which after 1974 continued in the Rajang Delta. Finally, on 17 October 1990, NKCP signed a peace agreement with the Sarawak government. This led to the end of communist insurgency in Sarawak.[58][59]

Politics[edit]

Government[edit]

Timeline of political parties in Sarawak

The head of the Sarawak state is the Yang di-Pertua Negeri (also known as TYT or Governor), a position which is largely symbolic, appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia) on the advice of the Malaysian federal government.[60] Since 2014 this position has been held by Abdul Taib Mahmud[61] The TYT appoints the chief minister as the head of government. The current chief minister is Abang Johari Openg (BN)[62] Generally, the leader of the party that commands the majority of the Legislative Assembly of the state is appointed as the chief minister. Elected representatives are known as state assemblymen. The state assembly passes laws on subjects that are not under the jurisdiction of the Parliament of Malaysia such as land administration, employment, forests, immigration, merchant shipping and fisheries. The state government is constituted by the chief minister and his cabinet ministers and assistant ministers.[63]

To protect the interests of the Sarawakians in the Malaysian federation, special safeguards have been included in the Constitution of Malaysia. Sarawak has the power to control the entry and residence of non-Sarawakians and non-Sabahans. Only those lawyers who reside in Sarawak can practice law there. The High Court in Sarawak is independent of the High Court in Peninsular Malaysia. The chief minister of Sarawak must be consulted before the appointment of the chief judge of the Sarawak High Court. There are also Native Courts in Sarawak. Sarawak receives special grants from the federal government and charges its own sales tax. Natives in Sarawak enjoy special privileges such as quotas and employment in public service, scholarships, university placements, and business permits.[64] Local governments in Sarawak are independent of the local authority laws enacted by the Malaysian parliament.[65]

The State Assembly building is located near the Kuching waterfront.

Major political parties in Sarawak can be divided into three categories: native non-Muslim, native Muslim, and non-native; parties, however, may also include members from more than one group.[66] The first political party, the Sarawak United Peoples' Party (SUPP), was established in 1959, followed by the Parti Negara Sarawak (PANAS) in 1960 and the Sarawak National Party (SNAP) in 1961. Other major political parties such as Parti Pesaka Sarawak (PESAKA) appeared by 1962.[26][note 3] These parties later joined the national coalition of the Alliance Party. The Alliance Party (later regrouped into Barisan Nasional) ruled Sarawak since the formation of Malaysia. Stephen Kalong Ningkan was the first Chief Minister of Sarawak from 1963 to 1966 following his landslide victory in local council elections. However, he was ousted in 1966 by Tawi Sli with the help of the Malaysian federal government, causing the 1966 Sarawak constitutional crisis.[26]

In 1970 the first Sarawak state election was held, with members of the Council Negri being directly elected by the voters. This election marked the beginning of ethnic Melanau domination in Sarawak politics by Abdul Rahman Ya'kub and Abdul Taib Mahmud. In the same year, the North Kalimantan Communist Party (NKCP) was formed, which mounted guerilla warfare against the newly elected Sarawak state government. The party was dissolved after the signing of a peace agreement in 1990.[59] 1973 saw the birth of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) following a merger of several parties.[67] This party would later become the backbone of the Sarawak BN coalition. In 1978, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) was the first West Malaysia-based party to open its branches in Sarawak.[67] Sarawak originally held state elections together with national parliamentary elections. However, the then chief minister Abdul Rahman Ya'kub delayed the dissolution of the state assembly by a year to prepare for the challenges posed by opposition parties.[68] This made Sarawak the only state in Malaysia to hold state elections separate from the national parliamentary elections since 1979.[69] In 1983 the SNAP started to fragment into several splinter parties due to recurrent leadership crises.[70][71] The political climate in the state was stable until the 1987 Ming Court Affair, a political coup initiated by Abdul Taib Mahmud's uncle to topple the Taib-led BN coalition. However, the coup was unsuccessful and Taib was able to retain his chief ministerial status.[72]

Since the 2006 state election, Democractic Action Party (DAP) derived the majority of its support from urban centres and became the largest opposition party in Sarawak.[73] In 2010, it formed the Pakatan Rakyat coalition with the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS); the latter two parties had become active in Sarawak between 1996 and 2001.[74] Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia where West Malaysia-based component parties in the BN coalition, especially the UMNO, have not been active in state politics.[75] In other words, only the locally based component parties in the BN coalition is active in Sarawak politics.

Divisions and Districts[edit]

Unlike states in Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak is divided into divisions as well as districts. Each division is headed by one resident. There are 12 divisions:[60][76][77][78]

Every division is divided into districts, each of which is headed by a district officer; each district is divided into subdistricts, each headed by a Sarawak Administrative Officer (SAO). There are 39 districts. There is also one Development Officer for each division and district to implement development projects. The state government appoints a village headman (known as ketua kampung or penghulu) for each village.[60][76] The 39 local governments in Sarawak are under the jurisdiction of the Sarawak Ministry of Local Government and Community Development.[79] The list of divisions, districts, and subdistricts is shown in the table below:[3]

Division District Subdistrict
Kuching Kuching Padawan
Bau
Lundu Sematan
Samarahan Samarahan
Asajaya Sadong Jaya
Simunjan Sebuyau
Serian[77] Serian Siburan
Tebedu
Sri Aman Sri Aman Lingga
Pantu
Lubok Antu Engkilili
Betong Betong Spaoh
Debak
Pusa[80] Maludam
Saratok
Kabong Roban
Sarikei Sarikei
Meradong
Julau
Pakan
Mukah Mukah Balingian
Dalat Oya
Daro
Matu Igan
Tanjung Manis
Sibu Sibu
Kanowit
Selangau
Kapit Kapit Nanga Merit
Song
Belaga Sungai Asap
Bintulu Bintulu
Tatau
Sebauh
Miri Miri Bario
Marudi Mulu
Subis Niah
Beluru Tinjar
Telang Usan Long Lama
Long Bedian
Limbang Limbang Nanga Medamit
Lawas Sundar
Trusan

Security[edit]

The first paramilitary armed forces in Sarawak, a regiment formed by the Brooke regime in 1862, were known as the Sarawak Rangers.[81] The regiment had helped the Brookes to end the intertribal wars in Sarawak, taken part in guerilla warfare against the Japanese, in the Malayan Emergency (in West Malaysia) and the Sarawak Communist Insurgency against the communists. The regiment is famed for its jungle tracking skills. Following the formation of Malaysia, the regiment was absorbed into the Malaysian military forces and is now known as the Royal Ranger Regiment.[82]

In 1888, Sarawak, together with neighbouring North Borneo, and Brunei, became British protectorates, and the responsibility for foreign policy was handed over to the British in exchange for military protection.[83] Since the formation of Malaysia, the Malaysian federal government has been solely responsible for foreign policy and military forces in the country.[84][85]

Territorial disputes[edit]

Sarawak has land and maritime disputes with neighbouring Brunei.[86] In 2009, Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi claimed that in a meeting with Sultan of Brunei, Brunei agreed to drop its claim over Limbang.[87] This was however denied by the second Foreign Minister of Brunei Lim Jock Seng, stating the issue was never been discussed during the meeting.[88] James Shoal (Betting Serupai) and the Luconia Shoals (Betting Raja Jarum/Patinggi Ali), islands in the South China Sea, fall within Sarawak's exclusive economic zone, but concerns have been raised about Chinese incursions.[89][90][91] Meanwhile, there are several Sarawak–Kalimantan border issues yet to be settled with Indonesia.[92]

Environment[edit]

Geography[edit]

Sarawak is located in northwestern Borneo as seen from NASA satellite image.

The total land area of Sarawak is nearly 124,450 square kilometres (48,050 sq mi), and lies between the northern latitudes 0° 50′ and 5° and eastern longitudes 109° 36′ and 115° 40′ E. Sarawak makes up 37.5 percent of the total area of Malaysia.[93] Its 750 kilometres (470 mi) of coastline is interrupted in the north by about 150 kilometres (93 mi) of Bruneian coast. Sarawak is separated from Kalimantan Borneo by ranges of high hills and mountains that are part of the central mountain range of Borneo. These become loftier to the north, and are highest near the source of the Baram River at the steep Mount Batu Lawi and Mount Mulu. Mount Murud is the highest point in Sarawak.[94]

Sarawak has a tropical geography with an equatorial climate. It experiences two monsoon seasons: a northeast monsoon and a southwest monsoon. The northeast monsoon occurs between November and February, causing heavy rainfall; the southwest monsoon sees less rainfall from March to October. The climate is stable throughout the year except for the two monsoons. The average daily temperature varies from 23 °C (73 °F) in the morning to 32 °C (90 °F) in the afternoon, with Miri having the lowest average temperatures in comparison to other major towns in Sarawak. Miri additionally has the most hours of sunshine (more than six hours a day), while other areas receive sunshine for five to six hours a day. Humidity is usually high, exceeding 68 percent. The annual rainfall varies between 330 centimetres (130 in) and 460 centimetres (180 in), spanning 220 days a year.[93]

Sarawak is divided into three ecoregions. The coastal region is rather low-lying and flat with large areas of swamp and other wet environments. Beaches in Sarawak include: Pasir Panjang[95] and Damai beaches in Kuching,[96] Tanjung Batu beach in Bintulu,[97] and Tanjung Lobang[98] and Hawaii beaches in Miri.[99] The hill region accounts for most of the inhabited land and is where most of the cities and towns are found. The ports of Kuching and Sibu are built some distance from the coast on rivers. Bintulu and Miri are close to the coastline where the hills stretch right to the South China Sea. The third region is the mountainous region along the Kalimantan–Borneo border. Bario, Ba'kelalan, and Usun Apau Plieran are located along this mountainous region.[94] The Sarawak River is the main river flowing through Kuching. The Rajang River is the longest river in Malaysia, measuring 563 kilometres (350 mi) including Balleh River, its tributary. To the north, the Baram River, Limbang River, and Trusan River drain into the Brunei Bay.[94]

The Rajang River is the longest river in Malaysia

Sarawak can be divided into two geological regions: the Sunda Shield, which extends southwest from the Batang Lupar River (near Sri Aman) and forms the southern tip of Sarawak, and the geosyncline region, which extends northeast to the Batang Lupar River, forming the central and northern regions of Sarawak. The oldest rock in southern Sarawak is schist, which was formed during the Carboniferous and Lower Permian times, while the youngest igneous rock in this region is andesite, found at Sematan. Geological formation of the central and northern regions started during the late Cretaceous period. Several types of stone that can be found in central and northern Sarawak are shale, sandstone, and chert.[93] Lithosols make up 60 percent of the land, while podsols accounts for 12 percent of the Sarawak land area. Alluvium is found in the coastal and riverine regions while 12 percent of the Sarawak land area is covered with peat swamp forest.[93]

Lambir Hills National Park is known for its various waterfalls.[100] The world's largest underground chamber, the Sarawak Chamber, is located inside the Gunung Mulu National Park. Other attractions in the park include the Deer Cave (the second largest cave passage in the world)[101] and the Clearwater Cave (the longest cave system in Southeast Asia).[102][103] The national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[104] The area around the Niah Caves has been designated the Niah National Park.[105]

Biodiversity[edit]

Sarawak contains large tracts of tropical rainforest with abundant plant and animal species.[106] The Sarawak coastline is covered with mangrove and nipah forests. It forms two percent of the total forested area in Sarawak, most commonly found in the estuarine areas of Kuching, Sarikei, and Limbang. The major trees found here include: bako, nipah palm, and nibong. Peat swamp forests that cover 16 percent of the forested land are concentrated in southern Miri and the lower Baram Valley. The main trees in the peat swamp forests are: ramin, meranti, and medang jongkong. Kerangas forest occupies five percent of the total forest area, while Dipterocarpaceae forests occupy mountainous areas.[93] Several plant species have been studied for their medicinal properties.[107]

A walkout through the Lambir Hills National Park.

The Sarawak rainforest has one of the highest concentrations of species per unit area in the world. The state has 185 species of mammals, 530 species of birds, 166 species of snakes, 104 species of lizards, and 113 species of amphibians. 19 percent of the mammals, 6 percent of the birds, 20 percent of the snakes and 32 percent of the lizards found in Sarawak are endemic species. These species are largely found in Totally Protected Areas. There are over 2,000 tree species in Sarawak. Other plants includes 1,000 species of orchids, 757 species of ferns, and 260 species of palm.[108] The state is the habitat of endangered animals, including the borneo pygmy elephant, proboscis monkey, orangutans and rhinoceroses.[109][110][111][112][113] Matang Wildlife Centre, Semenggoh Nature Reserve, and Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary[114] are noted for their orangutan protection programmes.[115][116] Talang–Satang National Park is notable for its turtle conservation initiatives.[117] Birdwatching is a common activity in various national parks such as Gunung Mulu National Park, Lambir Hills National Park,[118] and Similajau National Park.[119] Miri–Sibuti National Park is known for its coral reefs[120] and Gunung Gading National Park for its Rafflesia flowers.[121] Bako National Park, the oldest national park in Sarawak, is known for its 275 species of proboscis monkeys,[122] and Padawan Pitcher Garden for its various carnivorous pitcher plants.[123] In 1854, Alfred Russel Wallace visited Sarawak. A year later, he formulated the "Sarawak Law" which foreshadowed the formulation of his (and Darwin's) theory of evolution by natural selection three years later.[124]

The Sarawak state government has enacted several laws to protect its forests and endangered wildlife species. Some of the protected species are the orangutan, green turtle, flying lemur, and piping hornbill. Under the Wild Life Protection Ordinance 1998, Sarawak natives are given permissions to hunt for a restricted range of wild animals in the jungles but should not possess more than 5 kilograms (11 lb) of meat.[125] The Sarawak Forest Department was established in 1919 to conserve forest resources in the state.[126] Following international criticism of the logging industry in Sarawak, the state government decided to downsize the Sarawak Forest Department and created the Sarawak Forestry Corporation in 1995.[127][128] The Sarawak Biodiversity Centre was set up in 1997 for the conservation, protection, and sustainable development of biodiversity in the state.[129]

Conservation issues[edit]

A logging camp along the Rajang River

The percentage of current forest cover in Sarawak has been controversial. The then chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud claimed that the state had 70 percent forest cover in 2011 and 48 percent in 2012.[130] However, in 2012 his cabinet minister claimed that the forest cover was 80 percent.[130] The Sarawak government planned to preserve 60 percent forest cover in the coming years.[131] The Sarawak Forest Department held that the forest cover was 80 percent in 2012.[132] In contrast, foreign media asserted that Sarawak has lost 90 percent of its forest cover[133][134] with a mere 3 percent to 5 percent cover left.[135] According to Wetlands International, 10 percent of all Sarawak forests and 33 percent of peat swamp forests were cleared between 2005 and 2010, which is 3.5 times higher than the total rate of deforestation in Asia and 11.7 times more than peat swamp deforestation in Asia.[136][137]

Sarawak's rainforests have been gradually depleted by the demand driven by the logging industry and the introduction of palm oil plantations.[138] The issue of human rights of the Penan and deforestation in Sarawak became an international environmental issue when Swiss activist Bruno Manser visited Sarawak almost every year from 1984 until 2000.[139] Deforestation has affected the life of indigenous tribes, especially the Penan, whose livelihood is heavily dependent on forest produce. This led to several blockades by indigenous tribes during the 1980s and 1990s against logging companies encroaching on their lands.[140] There have also been cases where Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands have been given to timber and plantation companies without the permission of the locals.[141] The indigenous people have resorted to legal means to reinstate their NCR. In 2001 the High Court of Sarawak fully reinstated the NCR land claimed by the Rumah Nor people, but this was overturned partially in 2005. However, this case has served as a precedent, leading to more NCR being upheld by the high court in the following years.[142][143] Sarawak's mega-dams policy such as the Bakun Dam and Murum Dam projects has submerged thousands of hectares of forest and displaced thousands of indigenous people.[144][145] Since 2013, the proposed Baram Dam project has been delayed due to ongoing protests from local indigenous tribes.[146] Since 2014, the Sarawak government under chief minister Adenan Satem started to take action against illegal logging in the state and to diversify the economy of the state.[147] Through the course of 2016 over 2 million acres of forest, much of in orangutan habitat, were declared protected areas.[148]

Economy[edit]

Circle frame.svg

Sarawak GDP share by sector (2013)[149]

  Services (37.2%)
  Manufacturing (26.6%)
  Mining & Quarrying (21.5%)
  Agriculture (11.4%)
  Construction (3.1%)
  Import Duties (0.3%)
A LNG port at Bintulu, Sarawak

Sarawak has abundant natural resources. Primary sectors such as mining, agriculture, and forestry accounted for 32.8 percent of the state economy in 2013.[149] The main contributors in the manufacturing industry are food and beverages, wood-based and rattan products, basic metal products, and petrochemical products.[3] Meanwhile, the services sector includes cargo transportation services, air transport, and tourism.[149] From 2000 to 2009 Sarawak had an average annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 5.0 percent.[150] Annual GDP growth was volatile from 2006 to 2013, ranging from −2.0 percent in 2009 to 7.0 percent in 2010. Sarawak contributed 10.1 percent of the GDP of Malaysia for the nine years leading up to 2013, becoming the third largest contributor after Selangor (22.2 percent) and Kuala Lumpur (13.9 percent) [149] From 2006 to 2013, the oil and gas industry accounted for 34.8 percent of the Sarawak government's revenue. Sarawak attracted RM 9.6 billion (US$2.88 billion) in foreign investments where 90 percent of the investments went to Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE). SCORE is the second largest economic corridor in Malaysia.[149]

The Sarawak economy is highly export-oriented. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exports accounted for more than half of the state's total exports while crude petroleum exports accounted for 20.8 percent. Meanwhile, palm oil, sawlogs, and sawn timber accounted for 9.0 percent of the total exports.[149] Sarawak currently receives 5 percent oil royalty (percentage of oil production paid by the mining company to the lease owner) from Petronas over oil explorations in Sarawak territorial waters.[151] Most of the oil and gas deposits are located offshore next to Bintulu and Miri at Balingian basin, Baram basin, and around Luconia Shoals.[152] Sarawak is one of the world's largest exporters of tropical hardwood timber. It constituted 65 percent of the total Malaysian log exports in 2000. The last United Nations (UN) statistics in 2001 estimated Sarawak's sawlog exports at an average of 14,109,000 cubic metres (498,300,000 cu ft) per year between 1996 and 2000.[153] Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC Bank) was the first foreign bank to open its branches in Sarawak in 1955. Apart from domestic banks, 18 European, 10 Middle Eastern, 11 Asian, and five North American banks have local branches in Sarawak.[154] There are several Sarawak-based companies involved in various economic sectors such as Cahya Mata Sarawak Berhad (CMSB), Naim Holdings, and Rimbunan Hijau.[155]

Energy[edit]

Turbines inside the Bakun Dam power house. The dam is the main source for electric energy in Sarawak.

Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) is responsible for generation, transmission, and distribution of electrical power throughout Sarawak.[156] There are three operational dams in Sarawak as of 2015: Batang Ai Dam,[157] Bakun Dam,[158] and Murum Dam[159] with several others under feasibility study and planning.[157] Sarawak also derives its electrical energy from coal fired power plants and thermal power stations using Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).[156][160] In addition to powering the state, Sarawak Energy exports electricity to neighbouring West Kalimantan in Indonesia.[161]

The Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) was established in 2008 and is planning for further development as far out as 2030 to exploit the abundant energy resources in the state (Murum Dam, Baram Dam, Baleh Dam, and coal-based power plants)[162] and to develop 10 high priority industries[163][164] The Regional Corridor Development Authority (RECODA) is the government agency responsible for managing SCORE.[165] The entire central region of Sarawak is covered under SCORE and is to include major areas such as Samalaju (near Bintulu), Tanjung Manis, and Mukah.[166] Samalaju will be developed as an industrial park,[167] with Tanjung Manis as a halal food hub,[168] and Mukah as the administrative centre for SCORE with a focus on resource-based research and development.[169]

Tourism[edit]

French Gypsy band performing during Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) 2006

Tourism plays a major role in the economy of the state contributing 9.3 percent of the state's GDP in 2015.[170] The Sarawak Tourism Board is responsible for tourism promotion in the state. Meanwhile, private tourism sectors are united under the Sarawak Tourism Federation. The Sarawak Convention Bureau is responsible for attracting conventions, conferences, and corporate events to be held in the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching.[171] Most of the foreign visitors come from Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and China.[172] The Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Award is held every two years to recognise the best in the tourism sector of the state.[173] The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) is the region's premier "world music" event, attracting more than 20,000 people yearly.[174] Other events that are held regularly in Sarawak are the ASEAN International Film Festival, Asia Music Festival, Borneo Jazz Festival, Borneo Cultural Festival, and Borneo International Kite Festival.[171] Major shopping complexes in Sarawak include The Spring, Boulevard, Hock Lee Centre, City One shopping malls in Kuching,[175] and Bintang Megamall, Boulevard, Imperial Mall, and Miri Plaza shopping malls in Miri.[176] The Sarawak capital of Kuching is listed as one of the retirement destinations in Malaysia.[177][178][179]

Sarawak Tourist Arrival Statistics[170][172][180]
Key Tourism Indicators 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Foreign Arrivals (millions) 1.897 2.343 2.635 2.665 2.996 2.497
Domestic Arrivals (West Malaysia & Sabah) (millions) 1.373 1.452 1.434 1.707 1.862 2.020
Total Arrivals (millions) 3.271 3.795 4.069 4.372 4.858 4.517
Total Tourism Receipts, billions (RM) 6.618 7.914 8.573 9.588 10.686 9.870
Total Tourism Receipts, billions (Equivalent USD) 1.489 2.374 2.786 2.876 3.206 N/A

Infrastructure[edit]

The overall level of infrastructure development in Sarawak is relatively low compared to that in Peninsular Malaysia.[181] The Sarawak Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Communications (MIDCom) is responsible for infrastructure and telecommunication development in Sarawak.[182] Sarawak has 21 industrial estates, with four main agencies responsible for their implementation and development.[183] In 2009, 94 percent of urban areas were supplied with electricity; the percentage of rural areas supplied with electricity increased from 67 percent in 2009[184] to 91 percent in 2014.[185] The percentage of people using the internet was 58.5 percent in urban areas and 29.9 percent in rural areas.[186] The state-owned Sacofa Sdn Bhd (Sacofa Private Limited) is responsible for constructing telecommunication towers in Sarawak.[187] Sarawak Information Systems Sdn Bhd (SAINS) is responsible for the implementation and development of information technology (IT) in Sarawak.[188] Mail delivery coverage in rural areas was 60 percent in 2015.[189]

The Kuching Water Board (KWB) and the Sibu Water Board (SWB) are responsible for water supply in their own areas. Meanwhile, LAKU Management Sdn Bhd in charge of the water supply in Miri, Bintulu, and Limbang.[190] The Rural Water Supply Department manages the water supply for the remaining areas.[191] As of 2014, 82 percent of the rural areas have a fresh water supply.[185]

Transportation[edit]

Sarawak has a total of 32,091 kilometres (19,940 mi) of connected roadways in 2013, with half of these (18,003 kilometres (11,187 mi)) being paved state routes, 8,313 kilometres (5,165 mi) of dirt tracks (built by timber and plantation companies), 4,352 kilometres (2,704 mi) of gravel roads, and 1,424 kilometres (885 mi) of paved federal highway. The primary route in Sarawak is the Pan Borneo Highway, which runs from Sematan, Sarawak, through Brunei to Tawau, Sabah.[192] However, the road condition is unsatisfactory,[193] and funds from the federal budget have been allocated to upgrade the roads in Sarawak. Major cities and towns in Sarawak provide public transportation services such as buses, taxis, and limousines. Bus service is also available for travel to the neighbouring areas of Sabah, Brunei, and Pontianak (Indonesia).[190] Sarawak uses a dual carriageway with the left-hand traffic rule.[194] It allows motorists to "turn left when the exit is clear".[195]

Kuching International Airport is the main gateway to Sarawak. Miri Airport serves a limited number of international flights. Other smaller airports such as Sibu Airport, Bintulu Airport, Mukah Airport, Marudi Airport, Mulu Airport, and Limbang Airport provide services to Kuala Lumpur and other domestic destinations in Sarawak. There are a number of remote airstrips serving rural communities in the state.[192] There are three airlines serving flight routes in Sarawak: Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia, and MASwings.[196] Hornbill Skyways is an aviation company owned by the Sarawak state government. It provides private chartered flights and flight services for state government servants.[197]

Bintulu International Container Terminal (BICT) at Bintulu seaport

Sarawak has four primary ports at Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu, and Miri.[190] The Bintulu seaport is under the jurisdiction of the Malaysian federal government. It is the busiest port in Sarawak, mainly handling LNG products and standard cargo shipping. The remaining ports are under the respective state port authorities. The combined throughput of the four primary ports was 61.04 million freight weight tonnes (FWT) in 2013.[192] Sarawak has 55 navigable river networks with a combined length of 3,300 kilometres (2,100 mi). For centuries, the rivers of Sarawak have been a primary means of transport as well as a route for timber and other agricultural goods moving downriver for export at the country's major ports. Sibu port is the main hub along the Rajang River, located 113 kilometres (70 mi) from the river's mouth, handling mainly timber products. However, since the initiation of Tanjung Manis Industrial Port (TIMP) further downriver, the total throughput of Sibu port has declined.[192] Express boats are an important means of transport along the rivers of Sarawak.[190] No rail lines have been laid down in Sarawak because of logistical challenges and dispersed population in the state.[192]

Healthcare[edit]

Sarawak has three major government hospitals: Sarawak General Hospital, Sibu Hospital, and Miri Hospital.[198] There are also district hospitals,[199] public health clinics, 1Malaysia clinics, and rural clinics.[200] Besides government-owned hospitals and clinics, there are several private hospitals in Sarawak[201] such as the Normah Medical Specialists Centre, Timberland Medical Specialists Centre,[202] and Sibu Specialist Medical Centre. Sarawak is a medical tourism destination for Brunei and Indonesian visitors.[203] Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) is the only government university that produces medical graduates in the state.[200] The Sarawak Hospice Society was set up in 1998 to promote hospice care in home settings.[204] Hospital Sentosa is the only mental hospital in Sarawak.[205]

Access to good quality healthcare is still a challenge in the rural communities.[206] For villages located outside the operational areas of health clinics, a flying doctor service (FDS) is available once a month. Village health promoters are stationed in remote villages after being provided with three weeks of first aid and basic health care training. A variety of traditional medicine practices are still being used by the various communities in Sarawak.[207][208][209][210][211]

Education[edit]

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) chancellory building

Sarawak overall literacy rate was 25 percent in 1960.[212] Today, the state has a 90 percent literacy rate. The Malaysian Ministry of Education is responsible for primary and secondary education in Sarawak.[213] The oldest schools that are established in Sarawak are: St. Thomas's School Kuching (1848), St Mary's School Kuching (1848), and St Joseph's School Kuching (1882).[214] In 2012 Sarawak had 185 government secondary schools, four international schools,[215] and 14 Chinese independent schools.[216] Sarawak has a considerable number of bumiputera students enrolled in Chinese schools.[217] Sarawak State Library (also known as PUSTAKA) is the largest library in the state. Public and village libraries are found in various towns and cities.[218]

Sarawak has three public universities: Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Kota Samarahan campus, and Universiti Putra Malaysia Bintulu Campus. Sarawak also has two private universities: Curtin University Sarawak and Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus.[213] Vocational training is given priority to supply a skilled workforce for the SCORE economic corridor. There are also several community colleges[215] and four teacher training colleges in Sarawak.[219] Batu Lintang Teachers' Training College is the third oldest of its kind in Malaysia.[220]

Demography[edit]

Ethnic groups in Sarawak (2014)[221]
Ethnic Percent
Iban
  
30%
Malay
  
24.4%
Chinese
  
24.2%
Bidayuh
  
8.4%
Melanau
  
6.7%
Orang Ulu
  
5.4%
Indian
  
0.3%
Others
  
0.3%

As of the 2015 Malaysian census, the population of Sarawak was 2,636,000, making it the fourth most populous state in Malaysia.[4] However, due to the large area of Sarawak, it has the lowest population density in Malaysia, which stands at 20 people per km2 in Sarawak. The average population growth rate per year from 2000 to 2010 was 1.8 percent.[3] As of 2014, 58 percent of the population is urban while 42 percent of the population reside in rural areas.[222] As of 2011, the crude birth rate in Sarawak was 16.3 per 1000 individuals, the crude death rate was 4.3 per 1000 population, and the infant mortality rate was 6.5 per 1000 live births.[223]

People from Sarawak are called Sarawakians.[224] Sarawak has more than 40 sub-ethnic groups, each with its own distinct language, culture and lifestyle. Cities and larger towns are populated predominantly by Malays, Melanaus, Chinese, and a smaller percentage of Ibans and Bidayuhs who have migrated from their home villages for employment opportunities.[225] Issuing identity cards to the native people born in the remote areas is still a challenge. This problem has led to thousands of Penan people left stateless.[226][227][228] Sarawak has 150,000 registered migrant workers working as domestic workers or in plantation, manufacturing, construction, services and agriculture.[229] However, the total number of illegal immigrants may be as high as 320,000 to 350,000 people.[230] Bumiputera (son of the soil) refers to the Malays and other indigenous groups in Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah. This group of people generally enjoy special privileges in education, jobs, finance, and political positions.[231] Orang Asal refers to all the indigenous groups in Malaysia excluding Malays.[232]

Ethnic groups[edit]

Major ethnic groups in Sarawak. Clockwise from top right:Melanau girls with the traditional Baju Kurung, Sarawak Chinese woman in her traditional dress of Cheongsam, a Bidayuh girl, and an Iban warrior in his traditional dress.

Sarawak has six major ethnic groups: Iban, Chinese, Malay, Bidayuh, Melanau, and Orang Ulu.[225] Alongside these are several minor ethnic groups, including Kedayan, Javanese, Bugis, Murut, and Indian.[233] The term "Dayak" is commonly used to refer to the Bidayuh (land Dayaks) and Iban (sea Dayaks). It is often used in a nationalistic context.[234] In 2015, the Malaysian federal government recognised the use of the term on official forms.[235]

Sarawak has the highest number of Ibans in Borneo, numbering 745,400 people.[236] They are also known as Sea Dayaks. The large majority of Ibans practise Christianity. Iban settlements are usually in the form of a longhouse. The longhouse was a defensive unit in the past, when headhunting was prevalent. Today it remains a ritual symbol among its households. In the past, the Ibans recognised status hierarchy such as raja berani (the rich and the brave), orang mayuh (ordinary people), and ulun (slaves).[237] They still observe many of their traditional rituals and beliefs such as Gawai Antu (festival of the dead) and the Gawai Dayak (Harvest Festival).[238]

Chinese traders first came to Sarawak in the 6th century AD. The Chinese population today consists of communities originating from immigrants during the Brooke era.[94] These migrants first worked as labourers inside gold mines at Bau, Sarawak. A variety of dialect groups is found among Sarawak Chinese; Cantonese, Foochow, Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew, and Henghua (Putian people). They celebrate major cultural festivals such as Hungry Ghost Festival and the Chinese New Year. The majority of Sarawak Chinese are made up from Buddhists and Christians.[36] In Kuching, most of the Chinese settled near the Sarawak River, an area which would later form Chinatown.[239] In 1901, Wong Nai Siong brought his clansmen to settle in Sibu, near the Rajang River.[240] The Chinese later went to work at coal mines and oil fields in Miri·[239]

The Malays are traditionally fishermen. They chose to build settlements (Malay villages) along the river banks. Today, they migrate to urban areas and work in public and private sectors. They are known for their silver and brass crafts, wood carvings, and textiles.[94][241] The Melanaus are native to Sarawak. Most of them come from the coastal town of Mukah.[242] They traditionally live in tall houses. They worked as fishermen, boat-builders, and craftsmen. They originally practised paganism and celebrate Kaul festival but today most of them are Muslims.[243][94][note 4][244]

The Bidayuh mainly live in the southern part of Sarawak.[245] They are known as Land Dayaks because they traditionally live on steep limestone mountains. They consist of several sub-ethnic groups and speak mutually unintelligible dialects.[246] They have adopted English and Malay languages as their common language. They are known for several musical instruments such as gigantic drums and a bamboo percussion instrument known as the pratuakng. Like the Ibans, their traditional settlements are longhouses, but they also construct baruk roundhouses for community meetings. The majority of the Bidayuh practice the Christian faith.[94]

The name Orang Ulu means "upriver people" in the Iban language. It includes numerous tribes who live upstream in Sarawak's interior such as the Kenyah, Kayan, Lun Bawang, Kelabit, Penan, Bisaya, and Berawan tribes.[94] Formerly headhunters, most of them stay near the drainage basin of the Baram River.[247] They decorate their longhouses with murals and woodcarvings. They are also known for boat building, beadwork and tattooing.[94] Well-known musical instruments from the Orang Ulu are the Kayans' sapeh and Kenyah's sampe' and Lun Bawang's bamboo band. The Kelabit and Lun Bawang people are known for their production of fragrant rice.[247] The majority of Orang Ulu are Christians.[94]

Religion[edit]

Religion in Sarawak (2010)[248]
Religion Percent
Christianity
  
42.6%
Islam
  
32.2%
Buddhism
  
13.5%
Chinese folk religion
  
6.0%
No religion
  
2.6%
Unknown
  
1.9%
Others
  
1.0%
Hinduism
  
0.2%

Although Islam is the official religion of the federation, Sarawak has no official state religion.[249] However, during the chieftainship of Abdul Rahman Ya'kub, the Constitution of Sarawak was amended to make the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the head of Islam in Sarawak and empower the state assembly to pass laws regarding Islamic affairs. With such provisions, Islamic policies can be formulated in Sarawak and the establishment of Islamic state agencies is possible. The 1978 Majlis Islam Bill enabled the setting up of Syariah Courts in Sarawak with jurisdictions over matrimonial, child custody, betrothal, inheritance, and criminal cases in the state. An appeals court and Courts of Kadi were also formed.[68][note 5]

Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia where Christians outnumber Muslims. The earliest Christian missionaries in Sarawak were Church of England (Anglicans) in 1848, followed by Roman Catholics a few years later, and Methodists in 1903. Evangelizing first took place among the Chinese immigrants before spreading to indigenous animists.[250] Other Christian denominations in Sarawak are Borneo Evangelical Mission (or Sidang Injil Borneo),[251] and Baptists.[252] Indigenous people such as the Iban, Bidayuh, and Orang Ulu have adopted Christianity although they do retain some of their traditional religious rites. Many Muslims come from the Malay, Melanau, and Kayan ethnic groups. Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religion are predominantly practised by Chinese Malaysians.[253] Other minor religions in Sarawak are Baha'i,[254] Hinduism,[255] Sikhism,[256] and animism.[257]

Languages[edit]

English was the sole official language of Sarawak from 1963 to 1974 because the first chief minister of Sarawak Stephen Kalong Ningkan opposed the use of the Malay language in Sarawak.[258] In 1974, the new chief minister Abdul Rahman Ya'kub adopted the Malay language alongside English as an official language of Sarawak.[68][note 6] He also changed the medium of instruction in schools from English to Malay.[259] In 1985 English was dropped as an official language, leaving only Malay.[258][note 7] However, some argue that English was never actually dropped[260] as it is still used in the courts, state legislative assembly, and certain government agencies in Sarawak.[261][262] In 2015, Chief Minister Adenan Satem announced the state's re-adoption of English as an official language alongside Malay.[263]

Although the official Malay dialect of Bahasa Malaysia is spoken by the administration, it is used infrequently in colloquial conversation, where the very distinct local dialect of Bahasa Sarawak (or Sarawak Malay) dominates. Bahasa Sarawak is the most common language of Sarawak Malays and other indigenous tribes. The Iban language, which has minor regional variations, is the most widely spoken native language, with 34 percent of the Sarawak population speaking it as a first language. The Bidayuh language, with six major dialects, is spoken by 10 percent of the population. The Orang Ulu have about 30 different language dialects. While the ethnic Chinese originate from a variety of backgrounds and speak many different dialects such as Hokkien, Hakka, Foochow, and Teochew, in recent times the use of Standard Chinese has become predominant.[264]

Culture[edit]

Main article: Culture of Sarawak
A Kayan tribesman, playing the Sapeh
Ngajat, the Iban warrior dance gazetted as part of Sarawak culture.
A bowl of Sarawak laksa

Sarawak exhibits notable diversity in ethnicity, culture, and language. The Sarawakian culture has been influenced by Bruneian Malays of the coastal areas. Substantial cultural influences also came from the Chinese and British cultures. Headhunting was once an important tradition for the Ibans; the custom is no longer observed.[265] Christianity plays an important role in the daily lives of the Kelabit and Lun Bawang and has changed their ethnic identities.[266] The Penan people were the last indigenous group to abandon their nomadic way of life in the jungle.[267][268] Interracial marriages are common in the state.[269]

Sarawak Cultural Village is located at the foot of Mount Santubong, Kuching. Known as the "living museum", it showcases the various ethnic groups carrying out traditional activities in their respective traditional houses. Cultural performances are presented here.[270][271] The Sarawak State Museum houses a collection of artefacts such as pottery, textiles, and woodcarving tools from various ethnic tribes in Sarawak, as well as ethnographic materials of local cultures.[272] Orang Ulu's Sapeh (a dug-out guitar) is the best known traditional musical instrument in Sarawak. It was played for Queen Elizabeth II during her official visit to Sarawak in 1972.[273]

Oral tradition has been part of the culture of the various indigenous groups in Sarawak for generations.[274][note 8] Some of the traditional practices are the Iban's Ngajat dances,[275] Renong (Iban vocal repertory),[276] Ensera (Iban oral narratives),[258][note 9] and epic storytelling by the Kayan and Kenyah.[277][278] The Borneo Literature Bureau existed from 1958 until 1977; it encouraged the documentation of local cultures, local authors, and publications in English, Chinese, Malay, Iban and other native languages. The Bureau was replaced by the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) in 1977, which advocated publication only in the Malay language.[258][note 10] The Sarawak Gazette was first published by the Brooke government in 1870. It recorded a variety of news in Sarawak related to economics, agriculture, anthropology, and archaeology. The Gazette is still being published today.[279] Hikayat Panglima Nikosa (Story of Nikosa the Warrior), printed in 1876 at Kuching, is one of the earliest text publications in Borneo.[280] Notable dishes in the state include Sarawak laksa,[281] kolo mee,[282] and ayam pansuh.[283][284] The state is also known for its Sarawak layer cake dessert.[285] The Sarawak government is popularly believed to exert its influence over the media.[258][note 11]

Sarawakians observe a number of holidays and festivals throughout the year.[286] Apart from national Hari Merdeka and Malaysia Day celebrations, the state also celebrates Sarawak self-government Day on 22 July[287][288] and the State Governor's birthday.[289] Ethnic groups also celebrate their own festivals. The open house tradition allows other ethnic groups to join in the celebrations.[290][291][292] Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia to declare the Gawai Dayak celebration a public holiday.[293]

Sarawak sent its own teams to participate in the 1958 and 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games,[294] and 1962 Asian Games before its athletes started representing Malaysia after 1963.[295][296] Sarawak was the host of the Malaysian SUKMA Games in 1990 and 2016.[297] The state was also the overall champion in the 1990, 1992, and 1994 SUKMA games.[298] Sarawak emerged as the overall champion for 11 consecutive years at the Malaysia Para Games beginning in 1994.[299]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ooi, 2013. This denial of entry to Anthony ... (page 93) ... The anti-cession movement was by the early 1950s effectively "strangled" a dead letter.(page 98)
  2. ^ The first Communist group to be formed in Sarawak ... (page 95)
  3. ^ Alastair, 1993. The first political party, the Sarawak United Peoples' Party (SUPP) ... (page 118) ... By 1962, there were six parties ... (page 119)
  4. ^ Ishikawa, 2010 (page 169)
  5. ^ Faisal, 2012. Negri is empowered to make provisions for regulating Islamic affairs... (page 86)
  6. ^ Faisal, 2012 ... to make Bahasa Malaysia and English as negeri's official languages. (page 84)
  7. ^ Postill, 2006 ... Malay was accepted as the official language of Sarawak alongside English until 1985, when English was finally dropped. (page 64)
  8. ^ Pandian, 2014. it became the primary means of passing culture, history, and valued traditions. ... in the fact that oral literature is actualised only in performances; (page 95)
  9. ^ Postill, 2006. ... four were oral narratives ... (page 51)
  10. ^ Postill, 2006. ;... to encourage local authorship and meet local needs ... (page 51) ... The Bureau ceased to exist in 1977 when it was taken over by the federal body Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.(page 55) ... He concludes that DBP cannot publish books in regional languages (pages 59 and 60)
  11. ^ Postill, 2006. ... the government controls virtually all newspapers in Sarawak (page 76)

References[edit]

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  12. ^ a b Vernon L. Porritt (1997). British Colonial Rule in Sarawak, 1946–1963. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-983-56-0009-8. Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  13. ^ a b Philip Mathews (28 February 2014). Chronicle of Malaysia: Fifty Years of Headline News, 1963–2013. Editions Didier Millet. pp. 15–. ISBN 978-967-10617-4-9. 
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  15. ^ Governments of United Kingdom of Great Britain; Northern Ireland, Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak; Singapore (1963). Wikisource link to Agreement relating to Malaysia between United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore. Wikisource. p. 1. 
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  17. ^ Kris, Jitab (23 February 1991). "Wrong info on how Sarawak got its name". New Sunday Times. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
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  19. ^ a b "Niah National Park – Early Human settlements". Sarawak Forestry. Archived from the original on 18 February 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  20. ^ a b Faulkner, Neil (7 November 2003). Niah Cave, Sarawak, Borneo. Current World Archaeology Issue 2. Archived from the original on 23 March 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  21. ^ "History of the Great Cave of Niah". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 22 November 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  22. ^ "Niah Cave". humanorigins.si.edu. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Archived from the original on 22 November 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
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