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5 things every Sarawakian should know about Circular No.9/1946

When the third White Rajah of Sarawak Charles Vyner Brooke decided to cede the kingdom to Britain as a crown colony, many Sarawakians were unhappy.

This was because he previously stated he would grant the right self-rule to Sarawak according to the Nine Cardinal Principles of the rule of the English Rajah.

Despite the heavy resistance by the local people, the British declared Sarawak a crown colony on July 1, 1946 anyway.

Many of the local associations started an anti-cession movement around the country. Then the British government realised that civil servants made up most of the members of the anti-cession movement.

So the British fought back by issuing a warning in a secretariat circular. Here are 5 things you should know about the infamous anti-cession Circular No.9/1946:

The current Sarawak Textile Museum. It used to house the Education Department of Sarawak State Museum.
1.Circular No.9/1946 came about due to a huge rally in Padang Merdeka

The members of anti-cession movement organised many rallies across the country. However, the biggest rally reportedly was held in Central Padang (now Padang Merdeka) where about 15,000 people attended.

2.It was issued to curb the anti-cession activity

Embarrassed by the fact it was attended mostly by civil servants, the Chief Secretary to the Government C.W. Dawson signed Circular No.9/1946 on Dec 31, 1946.

3.This was the exact words of the circular
‘In view of the political change in the Status of Sarawak by which on 1st July, 1946, it became a Crown Colony, His Excellency the Governor has directed that this circular should be sent to all Government officers on the establishment.

(a)Government experts and requires absolute loyalty from all servants.
(b)Since there is no question of any change in the present regime or any reversion to Brooke rule, Government will not permit or tolerate any association by its servants with any activities designed to keep alive the question of cession.
(c)There will be no victimisation for any speech or act of any Government servant in the past relating to the question of cession, but each Government servant must now make his mind weather he wishes to serve the present Government loyally and faithfully or not.
(d)If you do not feel that you wish to continue in the Government service under these conditions, you should inform your Resident, District Officer, or Head of Department, as the case may be, before 31st December, 1946, and he will advise you as to the course you should pursue.
(e)Any Government servant in future who associates himself with any activity designed to keep open the question of cession or commits any act of deliberate disloyalty Government will render himself liable to instant dismissal.’

4.How the circular backfired

If the British government were looking to scare the civil servants with Circular No.9/1946, the move backfired immediately.

The circular led to a mass resignation of at least 338 teachers and government servants on Apr 2, 1947. That number made up of 13% of the civil service.

The mass resignation forced the closure of more than 22 schools in Sarawak. Additionally, 56 university students quit their studies in protest.

A book containing all the signatures of civil servants who resigned is now on display at Urang Sarawak Exhibition at Sarawak Art Museum.

5.It led to the birth of Young Malay Association

Despite the mass resignation, the British were not going down without a fight. The then government allegedly used the racial card by disrupting the relationship between the Malays and the Dayaks.

They promoted the idea that Sarawak colonisation was to bring better life only to the Malays.

The British government reportedly encouraged the formation of Young Malay Association (YMA) which would only support Sarawak colonisation. The British recruited YMA members by threatening them or extorting them: If they refused to join, their children would be unable to attend school or join the civil service.

The climax of the anti-cession movement in Sarawak was the murder of the second Sarawak governor, Duncan Stewart.

Sarawak then continued remained as a colony until July 22, 1963 when the British granted it self-governance.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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