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The letter banning Anthony Brooke from entering into Sarawak

In 1946, the third White Rajah Vyner Brooke ceded Sarawak to the British Colonial Office.

Rajah Muda Of Sarawak Anthony Brooke, the designated heir, initially opposed the cession along with a majority members of Council Negri.

After the cession, the British government actually banned Anthony from entering Sarawak.

Have you ever wondered what was written on the ban letter and what basis the British government had for barring the Rajah Muda from entering Sarawak?

The then Governor-General of the British dependencies of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo Malcolm MacDonald actually wrote an open letter to Anthony which was published in The Sarawak Gazette on Mar 7, 1949.

This was after Anthony wrote several letters requesting to lift his travel ban.

So this was the content of MacDonald’s reply to Anthony dated Feb 11, 1949:

Dear Mr Brooke,

Thank you for your letters of December 28th and January 4th. As I explained in my note of January 11th. I was away from Singapore when they arrived and only received them on my return that day.

In your first letter you say that since December 17, 1947, when the Secretary of State for the Colonies told the House of Commons that he was giving personal attention to the question of the ban on your entry to Sarawak, you have been given no indication of the outcome of his consideration of the matter. I would point out that you were given this indication on February 18, 1948 in the public statement made in the House of Commons reporting the Secretary of State’s decision.

The decisive reason for this was also stated in the speech made by the Under Secretary of State on that occasion. Let me restate the position.

The British Government did not propose that Sarawak should be ceded to His Majesty the King. That proposal was made by His Highness the Rajah of Sarawak himself and the Cession was afterwards effected by means which His Majesty’s government have no doubt were legal and constitutional/

You have consistently challenged the propriety of the change, and in this connection have expressed a wish to proceed to Sarawak.

It is sometimes suggested that as a British subject you should be permitted to travel freely and to advocate any constitutional policy in any part of His Majesty’s dominions.

But you are not in relation to Sarawak an ordinary British subject to the force of circumstances to which I have referred.

You are the ex-Rajah Muda and, incidentally, have made it clear that your purpose is to restore your family, with yourself in the immediate line of succession to Sarawak’s rule.

There have been instances in various countries where a Ruler has vacated his throne either by compulsory remove, voluntary abdication or constitutional cession of his territory. It is customary in all such cases that members of this individual’s family who might be regarded in some quarters as having a claim to rule in the place of those newly installed should be denied entry for at least many years afterwards to the territory concerned. This policy has been generally accepted, in British as well as foreign countries, even if the danger of disturbances resulting from such a visit might be slight. It is regarded as a right and necessary course in the interests of the uninterrupted peace and good government of the peoples of the country.

This policy therefore applies to you in Sarawak. It was thought proper to extend the ban to Brunei and North Borneo in view of their proximity and close intercourse with Sarawak.

It is not expected that there would be violent disturbances on a large scale in Sarawak if you were permitted to return there. The contentment of the overwhelming majority of the people under the new Government is evident.

Nevertheless, your presence would raise false hopes amongst the small minority who are your adherents and excite activities which would probably cause disturbances of the peace between them and other members of the public.

Such considerations were no doubt amongst the reasons which have so often led to the decision that an individual in your special position should not be permitted to visit the country where he was once in the line of succession to the throne, at least until many years after the constitutional change took place.

Naturally the need for the prohibition becomes even stronger when as in your case, the person concerned has declared his intention to strive for a reversal of the change.

I can therefore give you no reason to hope that the ban on your entry into any of the Borneo Territories will be modified or lifted in the foreseeable future.

Yours sincerely,
Malcolm MacDonald.

Sarawak anti-cession demonstration. Borneo Asian Reports [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Anthony still managed to return to Sarawak. Even though he died at his home in New Zealand on 2 March 2011 at the grand age of 98, his ashes were buried as per his last wish at the Brooke Family Graveyard near Brooke Heritage Trust near the Astana, on 21 September 2013.

His ashes were buried in a private ceremony attended by his wife Gita, grandson Jason Brooke, British Deputy High Commissioner Ray Kyles, and New Zealand High Commissioner David Pine.

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 or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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