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Prince Phillip’s full address in Sarawak’s Council Negri on Feb 27, 1959

Britain’s Prince Phillip doesn’t usually make the headlines unless he’s made an eyebrow-raising remark, but he made headlines more recently for his car crash last January, raising questions whether the Duke of Edinburgh was fit enough to drive a car at the age of 97.

While that has nothing to do with us Sarawakians, did you know that in 1959 the duke actually had a short tour in Sarawak?

Prince Phillip made a 41-hour visit to Sarawak when it was still part of the British colony. He arrived in Kuching on Feb 26, then visited Sibu and Miri before making his way to Brunei.

During his visit, he attended a private dinner at the Astana, tasted our Iban tuak and watched the multi-cultural performances by Sarawakians.

Prince Phillip alights under a yellow umbrella, a sign of royalty. The arch was erected by the Malay community. Screengrab from The Sarawak Gazette
Prince Phillip also attended a Council Negri meeting on Feb 27, 1959. Here is his full address of to the council members back then:

“Mr President, Honourable Members:

I have always enjoyed travelling especially when it brings me to such a charming and friendly place as Sarawak. I have often heard of your hospitality but even so I was not prepared for the kind and generous welcome I have received from so many people.

It was particularly thoughtful of you to invite me to attend this meeting of the Council Negri to present these four Addresses of Welcome. As you have kindly provided me with translation of what has been said in Malay, Iban and Mandarin I can truthfully say that I greatly appreciate your expressions of loyalty and affection to the Queen. I will see to it that she receives a copy of what has been said I know it will give her very great pleasure.

The Queen takes a close and personal interest in the well being pf all the people of the Commonwealth and Empire but I know that she has a special place in her heart for all those who suffered loss and damage during the last war. We have been following the progress of your reconstruction with admiration and sympathy.

I hope and believe that this progress will be maintained in peace and growing prosperity but it would be idle to suppose that there are no problems. The four Addresses heard this morning illustrate the problems of a multi-racial society, the difficulties arising every day when people of different race and customs live side by side. Only common sense in deciding what is in the best practical interests of the State and tolerance of the cultural traditions of all will produce a happy and progressive community.

Take the Commonwealth for example, British Administration from the earliest times has fostered and encouraged local language and culture, but for practical purposes of administration, law, commerce, engineering and science and education is in English. The practical result is that the leaders in every sphere of human activity can understand each other. This ability to exchange ideas in a common tongue is both link binding the countries together as well as a very practical advantage in trade, commerce and science.

There is another characteristic of the Commonwealth which I would like to mention. There is an automatic sympathy and interest in the progress and problems of other Commonwealth countries. On the national level there is the Colombo plan and other similar cooperative schemes but this also applies to individuals. All the Universities of the Commonwealth are willing and anxious to be of service and I am delighted to hear that so many men and women from this country are taking advantage of this.

I am also interested to hear that there are several boys from British schools performing useful service here in the Government’s Community Development projects.

The Commonwealth exists to make this sort of exchange possible and I hope that they will be continued and expanded to the benefit of the countries concerned as well as an example to all the world that the Commonwealth is a brotherhood of nations and a brotherhood of people.

The Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth, sends you and all the people of Sarawak her best wishes for a happy and successful future.

Queen Elizabeth II also visited Sarawak, together with Prince Philip and their only daughter Princess Anne in 1972. Since then, Princess Anne made another visit to the Land of the Hornbills in 2016.

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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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