Who Have Looked At
Death In The Eye
In A Foxhole
“When you're left wounded on
Afganistan's plains and
the women come out to cut up what remains,
Just roll to your rifle
and blow out your brains,
And go to your God like a soldier”
“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”
“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”
“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.
“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,
for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”
“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.
“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.
“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
The Soldier stood and faced God
Which must always come to pass
He hoped his shoes were shining
Just as bright as his brass
"Step forward you Soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been true?"
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't
Because those of us who carry guns
Can't always be a saint."
I've had to work on Sundays
And at times my talk was tough,
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny
That wasn't mine to keep.
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills got just too steep,
The Soldier squared his shoulders and said
And I never passed a cry for help
Though at times I shook with fear,
And sometimes, God forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around
Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here,
Lord, It needn't be so grand,
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand."
There was silence all around the throne
Where the saints had often trod
As the Soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
"Step forward now, you Soldier,
You've borne your burden well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."
| An ERA of WAR and PEACE : A Short History of Sarawak (1839-1990) By James Ritchie
| Sunday, September 24, 2023
Chapter 1: James Brooke—Sarawak’s first White Rajah
When Englishman James Brooke sailed into Kuching on August 15, 1839
it was a vassal State under the Brunei sultanate. The sleepy village
on stilts 20 miles from the coast, comprised about 800 Brunei Malays
and a handful of “Eastern foreigners” mainly Chinese shopkeepers and
Indians from the Malabar coast.
To James Brooke, Kuching was a no better than a “collection of mud
huts” where “there is little sign of cultivation either of rice or
other grain” and where fowls and goats were the only means of
Several years earlier, a member of the Brunei royalty Pengiran
Mahkota had been sent to Sarawak as the “Viceroy” and establish his
capital at the mouth of the Sungei Kuching (it is said along the
riverbanks grew the Mata Kuching tree.
At that time the original people of the region, the Sarawak Malays,
lived at another place called “Katupong” which was not far up the
Sarawak River and at “Leda Tanah” (Lidah Tanah or tongue of the earth
in Malay) under their chief Datuk Patinggi Ali.
Unhappy Malays under Brunei Rule
But behind that peaceful façade of the sleepy hollow, Brooke would
learn that a rebellion had been brewing for the past three years
between the Bruneians and the local Malays called “Siniawans” who were
unfairly over-taxed and badly treated.
If the locals refused to abide by the Sultan’s men, they would be
duly punished. Just before Brooke arrived in Kuching the locals had
suffered at the hand of the Sultanate. In the latest attack on
Katupong in 1837, the Brunei rulers unleashed the wild and fierce
Saribas “Sea Dayak” (Iban) headhunters on the locals who lost 120
A year later Mahkota as
involved in the mass murders of Raja Muda Hasim and nearly all his
brother in Brunei.
Viceroy Pengiran Mahkota had deliberately allowed the Saribas to
carry out the raids on the local folk as a form of “punishment”
because they had refused to be force to work for him at the antimony
Immediately after the attack, the desperate Sarawak Malay chiefs sent
an emissary to Batavia (Java) to plead for assistance and protection.
When help was not forth-coming, the Sarawak Malays “proclaimed their
independence” from Brunei and carried out a struggle against the
Sultanate blaming Pengiran Makhota who had “driven the Sarawak Malays,
as well as the Land Dayaks (Bidayuh), into open revolt.” (A History of
Sarawak Under Its Two White Rajahs (1839-1908).
It was because of Pengiran Mahkota’s dispicable conduct that the
Sultan had sent his nephew—a sophisticated, gracious and courtly
member of the Royalty--the Crown Prince “Raja Muda” Hassim (also
Hasim) to pacify the local population son after the sacking of
Try as he did, Raja Muda Hassim was unable quell the rebellion.
It was with this in mind that “Raja Muda” Hassim encouraged Brooke to
assist him and look into reasons behind the rebellion. Hopeful that
there was nothing to lose, Brooke who had heard all about the
so-called “blood thirsty” Sea Dayaks, decided to take a short trip up
the Sadong River in his ship the “Royalist” where he met the powerful
Arab-Malay chief Sharif Sahap.
On his way back to Kuching, Brooke experienced his first skirmish with
the Saribas warriors when one of the pilot boats leading the
“Royalist” was attacked. The skipper of the pilot boat “Panglima
Rajah” and a four of their crew were injured. Brooke waited until the
injured men had recovered in Kuching, before finally leaving for
On August 18, 1840 Brooke decided to stop in Kuching while on his way
Manila and China. On meeting the Raja Muda, he was told that the Malay
rebels were still defiant and despite the fact that some of the
starving communities such as the “Land Dayaks” (Bidayuh) had agreed to
stop fighting against the Sultanate.
A distraught Hasim appealed to Brooke for help, and Brooke
reluctantly agreed to lead an expedition comprising Brunei regulars to
Siniawan (further up from Lida Tanah) where the rebels had decided to
make their stand at Belidah.
The journey was delayed over the nest few days because Pengrian
Mahkota refused to co-operate with Brooke. Eventually, Brooke with 10
of his English crew with their ship fitted with two guns joined the
Brunei force comprising a mixed group of Malays, Dayaks and Chinese on
his first major expedition against the Siniawan Malays of Sarawak.
Brooke’s Peace Talks with the Siniawan Malays
Following several unsuccessful encounters and bombardment the area,
one of the rebel leaders Sherip Mat Hussein arranged to peace talks
with Brooke. They agreed that if Brooke was declared “Rajah” and among
other things asked if he could persuade Viceroy to restrain Pengiran
Mahkota’s men from oppressing the locals, they would agree to end the
insurgency. A peace deal was bartered.
Brooke returned to Kuching and after some difficulty, managed to
persuade Hasim to spare the lives of the rebels. However, over 100
wives and children of the principle chiefs were taken as “hostages”
just in case the rebels reneged on their promise.
Despite Raja Muda Hassim’s pledge to keep his promise, Pengiran
Mahkota devised a plan to teach the Siniawans a lesson. He
deliberately invited 2,500 Skrang Iban Dayaks to travel up the Sarawak
River to “massacre” the Malays, Land Dayaks and Chinese who were
working in the antimony and gold mines in the area.
Brooke was furious when the war party arrived in Kuching and prepared
to travel upriver. He suspected that Hassim could also have been
involved in the plan, and immediately prepared his men in the Royalist
and Swift to prevent the attack. Raja Muda Hassim denied any knowledge
of the so-called plan to unleash the warriors on the local population.
“He (Hasim) threw the blame on Makota, and, yielding to Brooke’s
insistence, sent a messenger upriver to recall it,--a command that
could not be disobeyed, as Brooke held command of the route by which
they must return. Sulkily and resentfully did the Sekerang Dayaks
return, without heads and without plunder.” (A History of Sarawak
Under the two white Rajahs)
After several weeks, Brooke left Kuching satisfied with his
achievements and accepted the Raja Muda’s offer of “the country of
Siniawan and Sarawak (as far as the Sadong River). He returned to
Borneo a year later and after formal meetings with the Sultan of
Brunei, Sarawak was ceded to Brooke on September 24, 1841 for the
annual fee of 500 British pounds sterling.
Thus began Brooke rule and an era of battles, expeditions and wars in
Sarawak. And to ensure that his keep his enemies at bay, Brooke built
a series of forts--the first was at Belidah which had been established
by the Malays to defend their position in 1840.
Over the next 100 years James and his two other White Rajahs
established nearly 30 forts at strategic locations on the major rivers
of Sarawak and its tributaries namely the Batang Lupar, Batang Rajang,
Baram, Limbang and Lawas rivers.
During a visit to Singapore Brooke met Sir Henry Keppel, commander of
the HMS Dido in Singapore. Impressed with Brooke’s determination to
wipe out all forms of piracy and headhunting, Admiral Keppel arrived
in Kuching in 1843 to assist Brooke in his first mission--to punish
the troublesome Saribas with some measure of success.
Sir Henry Keppel’s Expedition
A later in July 30, 1844 Keppel returned in the HMS Dido for his
second major expedition against the pirates. On board was Charles
Brooke, the 15-year-old “midshipman” and nephew of James Brooke.
It was the first time Charles saw action against the pirates during
the battle against Sharif Sahab’s (also Sahap) forces at Patusan, a
tributary of the Bating Lupar river. During a fire-fight, Charles
narrowly escaped death when Captain John Ellis, standing close to him,
was cut down by cannon shot while in the process of loading a
cartridge in the bow-gun of the ship “Jolly Batchelor”.
HMS Dido’s three-week expedition was bloody affair. As the fleet moved
upriver, another senior officer Lieutenant Charles Frederick Wade was
killed by two musket shots while pursing a band of rebels across a
small open space during a raid on the Undup River area
Datuk Patinggi Ali of Siniawan
On August 19 one of Brooke’s top Malay leaders Datu Patinggi Ali from
Siniawan and George Stewart, a Merchant, were killed while leading an
advance party along the Skrang river towards Karangan Peris.
Apparently the group had spotted the enemy and chased them around a
narrow pass only to find them six large war boats called “Bangkong” with 100
warriors each and their retreat cut off by a bamboo raft which had
been launched across the river.
In the ensuing battle the Saribas warriors swamped Ali’s boat
decapitating him and Steward and all but one of the 17-man crew. A
total of 31 Brooke soldiers were killed and 56 injured in the Battle
of Karangan Peris.
Thirteen years later Patinggi Ali’s son the Datuk Bandar of
Kuching in an act of great courage, led an armed force and took over a
Chinese garrison at Lidah Tanah during the Chinese insurrection.
As the battle progressed Captain Sir Edward Belcher arrived in the
Samarang and continued to bombard the enemy encampments into
surrender. Sharip Sahap fled across the border to Dutch Borneo while
Pengiran Mahkota, one of the provocaters, was captured. He was
subsequently released by the Sultan of Brunei.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 8:19 PM
| Proud to be a Policeman’s Son By James Alexander Ritchie
| Friday, August 25, 2023
My love for Malaysia’s police is far beyond words and that is why I empathize with our self-sacrificing “forgotten heroes”
I can speak for them with pride as I was once secretary of the Persatuan Veteran Keselamatan, Cawangan Sarawak for five years from 1993 to 1997.
My father Dato Sri John Ritchie was patron, the president my classmate ASP Wilfred Gomez Malong PGB and a 10-member committee.
We visited several locations in the Iban heartland to recruit members and even sent our committee members to the Veterans Night at Kuala Lumpur.
John George Ritchie was a role model for the Malaysian police force for 32 years.
During the 1948-1960 Malayan Insurgency he was attached to the Penang special branch.
Well-versed in Mandarin, Hokkein, Cantonese and Thai, the Malayan British army chief Sir Gerald Templer named him as one of Malaya’s top three cop-- the others being IGP Sir Claud Fenner and Tun Salleh Ismael who succeeded Fenner.
Diplomat Malcolm G Kraal wrote in “The Penang Island Story” (2007):
“Johnny was a much-admired personality and terrific sportsman and decorated high-ranking policeman and praised for excellent work during the Emergency by (Sir) Gerald Templer (British army Chief of Malay).”
In 1967 Ritchie help restructure the Sarawak Constabulary into the Royal Malaysian Police, Sarawak contingent.
We stayed the “Commandant ‘s Residence” fort at Fort Margherita which was also “home” for visiting young police Inspectors.
My father built a mini seven-hole par-3 golf course around the hilly Fort Margherita complex.
I was familiar to three of the five Inspectors who served as ADCs (aide de camp) to the Commissioner at Jalan Badruddin.
His first ADC was Inspector Peter Lim who married Cynthia before they migrated to UK. The two others were Perak-born Inspectors Chong Kee Lin and “rookie” cop Wan Junaidy Tuanku Jaafar from Sadong Jaya.
Thirty-five years later in 2011, Wan Junaidy and Special Branch’s ACP Thoo Kim Nyian became my co-writers of “Crimson Tide Over Borneo—Untold Police Stories”.
We wrote the 488-page classic story from the formation Brooke’s Ranger in the 1860s, to inauguration to the start of the Sarawak Constabulary on January 1, 1932, until the cessation of the Sarawak Clandestine Communist Movement (CCO) in 1990.
Junaidy in his memoir “A policeman” (2014) which was edited by Tribune’s Adeline Liong wrote: “
“When I assumed the duty as the Personal Assistant to the Commissioner (ADC) the colonial culture that had influenced the gap between those of higher rank still existed in the Sarawak Police Force.
“ (But) I learned a lot from Commissioner John Ritchie… as a figurehead and authority, as s leader and as a man. Above all, I learned to like and to respect the man not only as the Commissioner of Police, but also as an individual.”
Over a period of six-months apprenticeship, Ritchie and Junaidy got to like and to respect each other.
Describing an incident, Wan Junaidy’s said his daily responsibilities was to deliver the Sarawak Tribune by hand, for Ritchie to read.
“The first few mornings after I became his Personal Assistant, Commissioner John Ritchie would ask me whether there was anything interesting in the newspapers. (but) Instead of telling him that I had not read the newspapers I passed to him.”
One day Ritchie quipped: “Junaidi, you must learn to know what is around you. The newspapers are the nearest sources of information available to you, so you must read them.”
After that, reading became a habit.
Ritchie had a sense of humor and once took Junaidy “wife hunting”.
After visiting the Betong Police Station he said: “Junaidi, we are going to visit my friend and I am going to introduce you to him.
He has a lovely daughter.”
“When we arrived at the friend’s house I noticed that the whole family was at home except for the daughter
After they left the friend’s house Ritchie said: “Our luck is not good today, ya Junaidi. We will try again next time.”
On another occasion after a visit to Sematan police station Ritchie who was accompanied by Supt Dubin Siju went to the beach where the commissioner took off the top portion of his uniform.
When Ritchie noticed Junaidy sweating profusely under the hot sun, he smiled and said: “Junaidi, take off your shirt. You don’t wear a uniform on the beach.”
A serious-looking Junaidy did as instructed. Dublin then whispered in the young man’s ear: “Wan, CP has ordered, we better take off our shirts”.
“So, both of us took off our shirts but kept our trousers and singlets on,” Junaidy reminisced jokingly.
Another high-ranking policeman whom I respect was Malaysia’s 1st police graduate Tun Mohammad Hanif Omar,35, who was the youngest IGP who was oldest brother Chief Inspector Richard’s squad mate.
I was the first to given an exclusive interview with Tun Hanif the day after covering the assassination IGP Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Hashim on June 7, 1974.
My story was on the front page of the Sunday Mail.
A year later on April 6, 1975 I called Tun Hanif at his home in Kuala Lumpur at about 2.30a.m. night to inform him a botched communist ambush where Supt Johnny Mustapha, commandant of the 15th Battalion Sarawak PFF in Sibu was shot dead at Stabau.
Tun Hanif was shocked with the news because the police had yet to inform him of the tragic killing of Malaysia’s most senior officer.
Johnny was a soccer star, talented singer and composer, and one of the rare few awarded a posthumous Datukship, 40 years later.
On his last leg of duty as ADC, Junaidy was seconded to the Police Field Force to learn how to fight the communists.
The commissioner said “I am going to send you to Bukit Siol forPolice Field Force training, what do you think?”
“The decision is yours, Sir. And when shall I go?”
The Marching orders came sooner than expected.
Tan Sri Wan Junaidy who is now Speaker of the Senate, was not the first and last policemen I knew personally.
Four of my upper six classmates joined the police because my father recruited them; they were the late “elite” Border Scout Probing Unit (SBPU) chief ASP Wilfred Gomez Malong, Marine Police Chief the late Supt Hakim Ibrahim, Border Scout Inspector-cum-lawyer the late Angking Embah and PFF Inspector Edward Chai, founder of “Forever Living Products”, who is now a Taiwanese millionaire.
My list of police friends goes on to the Ha Brothers Nathan and Leo who became auto biographers in recent years—the late Nathan whose book “The Best Not Honored” (2013) which I helped edit.
Former Kedah schoolmate from Sultan Abdul Hamid College was the last Commissioner to occupy the Commandant’s residence behind Fort Margherita before it was bulldozed to the ground.
In our last adventure 20 years ago, I took Datuk Yusof on an illegal motorcycle ride across the Kalimantan border at Serikin, a trip we still talk about.
Next was “undercover” cop Special Branch DSP Peter Lim Chiang Seng, a double assassination survivor who was shot in the face, but lived to tell his tale.
I helped him write his gripping story in the book entitled “Silent Defenders” which will be launched soon.
I cannot leave out my other police friends such Commissioner Tan Sri Hamsan Sirat, Special Branches Datuk Amar Alli Kawi, SAC Datuk Vincent Chapmen, the late Supt Thomas Lim and SAC Datuk Vincent Khoo who is currently at the Tabuan Desa care center.
Other friends are former ambassador to Brunei and Sarawak’s first Deputy IGP Tan Sri Jamil Johari and acting Speaker of the DUN Datuk Idris Buang, a former Inspector and Senator who was my boss at the Tribune.
Also, not forgetting the late Special Branch head Datuk Lawrence Lim who was responsible for bringing closure to Insurgency in 1990.
Not forgetting Border Scout Sgt Radin Meragan and cousin George Medallist ASP Menggong Pangit whom I spent much time with in the wilds of Batang Ai.
Kedah’s SAC Datuk Hamid Bulat who was Malaysian Press Liaison officer (PLO) to Pontianak during the tragic Dayak-Maru clashes of the 90s and Sarawak PFF Commander DCP Datuk Aba Robiel Huk and St Thomas’s schoolmate Kuching City North Mayor Datuk Abang Wahap Abang Julai are next.
Last but not least is former Malaysian Rugby Union president the late Datuk Amirul Embi and PFF Sgt Wilson Naga and Cpl Richard Labung who played rugby against me in Kuching.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 12:16 PM
| Rentap--Destined for Immortality!! By James Alexander Ritchie
| Friday, August 18, 2023
Most Sarawakians have heard about Rentap - a Brooke-era revolutionary, but, honestly, what do we know about him?
Maybe glimpses of Sarawak’s cultural hero have been featured in films such as “Edge of the World” or Farewell to the King.
But do you know that Rentap—our native “Braveheart” who fought the White Rajahs—is a symbol of Sarawak!
Described by James Brooke’s biographer Spenser St John as the “most notorious and truculent of Dayak chiefs”, he has always been my hero.
As author of scores of articles and reports of Sarawak’s cultural heroes for the past 40 years, I have been fascinated with his story best portrayed in Charles Brooke’s two volumes in “Ten Years in Sarawak” (1866).
After 20 years of delay, I finally decided to trace Rentap’s journey and write his book.
After perusing through at least 30 books by academics Rutter, Payne, Pringle and Pybus and three classics—Sir Henry Keppel’s “Expedition to Borneo of HMS Dido”, Spenser St John’s Life in the Forests of the Far East” and a host of dozens of journals, bulletins and reports I was ready to take the plunge.
Rentap became notorious after the killing of Alan Lee at Fort Skrang, Simanggang on April 26, 1853.
Lee was one of James Brooke’s half dozen young English relatives who were sent to the rural outback as administrators in the early 1850s.
Alan Lee and four others, William Brereton, catechist-teachers Henry Steel and Charles Fox and Charles Johnson (Charles Brooke) were among the first to arrive.
Ultimately, all except Charles were killed by Brooke’s enemies.
Rentap was unhappy with the establishment of the Fort Skrang which was a hindrance to his people’s movement over “Menoa” (territory) as they could not shoot down to the sea and carry out raids as they had done in the past.
In 1852 another fort was established at Lingga and Alan Lee was put in charge of the station--a strategic outpost to protect the river from marauding Saribas Sea Dayaks.
In the spring of 1853, Lee was asked bring his pro-Brooke “Balau” soldiers up to Fort Skrang as Rentap was planning an attack.
In the battle at Skrang, Rentap lured Lee’s vessel manned by a few Malays into a trap where he was overpowered by Layang, the son in law of the old chief, and beheaded.
The slaying of Alan Lee in April 26 1853, was to have a profound effect on Charles who swore revenge.
To commemorate the killing of Lee, Libau, whose praise name was Rentap composed a set of verses to go ballad:
“Rentap Tanah, Rentap Menoa
Tuan Lee ke mati enda berega,
Tuan Brereton tau masok ka kain,
Enda tanjong ka bala Raja,
Rita Layang tampak terang,
Mandang ka Airupa
Abang Aing badu agi ka pending bala
Undup abis tepelut leka mata
Balau nadai agi kerangan sebelak kerapa.
(Earth Tremor, Land Tremor,
Tuan Lee is easily killed
Tuan Brereton is reduced to wearing a dress
No longer dares to lead the Rajah’s forces
News of Layang’s exploits flashes to Europe
Abang Aing is no longer the ears of the Rajah
Undup Dayaks can now open their eyes in amazement
The Balau warriors voice can no longer heard.)
A year after the killing of Lee Charles joined the Sungei Lang expedition to hunt down Rentap who had fled to upper Skrang in Betong district.
In August 1854 “Tuan Muda” Charles joined the Rajah, his uncle, in the Battle of Sungei Lang.
Together with led 7,000 “Balau” warriors from Batang Lupar, their mission was to capture Rentap’s stockade on a steep hill surrounded by high stakes.
Sandra Pybus in “White Rajah”—a Dynastic Intrigue (1996) said:
“ Itching to get after the troublesome Rentap, Charlie joined an expedition led by his brother Brooke Brooke against Rentap’s fortified headquarters at Sungei Lang.
“Attached to the mainly Malay force were Spenser St John, Charles grant and Arthur Crookshank (Charles uncle) and Brereton of Skrang. Everything went wrong.”
Despite being was wounded, Rentap with 50 to 60 bodyguards who used their shields to protect him, escaped and built his fortress at Bukit Sadok.
Mid-way during the expedition Rajah James fell ill and soon after Brereton contracted cholera and died.
On November 13, 2001 I decided to try what no journalist—western or local—had so far done.
I was going to trek up the jungle part to seek out Rentap's renowned stockade at the peak of the 3,000ft high Bukit Sadok.
After a night at the longhouse of a friend I wrote:
“I rose at 5 a.m. on a chilly day. The mist was dense and the wind began to howl.
The sun rose as we entered the dewy forests while the clouds swept past us as Kanyan and Linggi, both pint-sized descendants of Rentap, led the way.”
"Ribut (a gust of wind)," Linggi whispered indicating that deities who protected this holy mountain been awakened.
I noticed that thick undergrowth camouflaged the 150-year-old track which was used by Charles Brooke and his army to capture Sadok in October 1861.
Rentap's stockade lay high up in the steep hills about four hours away.
As we continued upwards towards the skyline, Kanyan jokingly gave me some friendly advice: "Try not to make too much noise lest we upset the sprits."
After an hour we reached Bukit Sanggau—the first of four hills we had to overcome.
On reaching Bukit Tugong, we were now on now on sacred ground. Linggi reminded me to observe the adat (law).
Not wanting to upset the jungle spirits, I customarily placed a twig on a pile of branches, and meekly doing as I was told.
Charles Brooke in “Ten Years in Sarawak” wrote “It was now fiery hot. One of our Europeans was completely exhausted; he had only lately arrived from England and was not yet inured to our broiling climate.
“On a good road in the old country, he would doubtless have passed us, but now, was so thoroughly ikak (exhausted) as to be obliged to be carried on the back of a Dyak.
“He was a man over six feet in height, and heavy in proportion. The Dyak who carried him up hill after hill, as if he was an infant, was only five feet two inches without shoes."
At 9.30 a.m. Kanyan, Linggi and I finally reached the outer ring of Rentap's fortress leading to the summit of Bukit Sadok.
On both sides of the site was a steep declivity of at least 1,000 feet.
Before we reached the summit at I had a strange sensation that we were being watched.
But there was also a sense of exhilaration, having made it to the top.
Was this how Charles felt when he conquered the mountain which led to the defeat of grandfather “Aki Rentap”—first of the Great Iban chiefs?
Standing at the site of Aki Rentap’s stockade I was exhilarated as what lay before me was the vast Iban hinterland—the Skrang-Saribas plains and beyond, the South China Sea.
At last, I had fulfilled a promise to scaled mythical mother of all mountains, Sarawak’s “Bastion of Pride.”
Rentap 2 -
Rentap’s Supernatural Birth
Libau anak Nuing better known as “Rentap”, was born in the Batang Kanyau district of West Kalimantan bordering the Sarawak border at Lubuk Antu in the late 1790s.
According to legend, a week before his birth, Rentap’s mother Imbong heard the cries of her son in her womb.
//As the story goes, Rentap after he was born, the infant was placed in a “Meligai” (special apartment) in the attic of the longhouse.
Imbong placed “Piring” offerings under the “suspended baby cot” to ensure that her child would be protected from evil.
Soon after this a python—representing the snake deity Kelieng, was found wound around the cot.
The Iban believe if a snake appears it is actually the “Orang Panggau” (spirit-heroes) taking the form of a reptile.
Cobras, pythons and Hamadryads (King Cobras) and Coral snakes are mostly associated with the Orang Panggau.
Two nights after this, infant suddenly disappeared and Imbong had another dream in which Kumang told her not to worry because her son had been taken to the heavenly home of “Panggau Iibau”.
In order to appease the spirits, it was customary to hold a “Gawai” festival as certain rituals and taboos had to be strictly observed.
After this ths wife of Kelieng Kumang spoke to Imbong and said: “You will have a son called Rentap (earth tremor) for the world will tremble when they hear his name.”
Libau would be blessed with the powers of “kebal”—which made him invulnerable to weapons--sword, spear or bullet.
In 1815 Rentap who was a teenager joined Dana’s expedition of 100 fast moving “Bangkong” war boats who raided Pontianak where the Skrang youth gained notoriety.
In an encounter with a ship load of Malays, Rentap killed the nephew of the Sultan of Pontianak who carried a “keris” whose handle was forged from gold.
From that incident he earned the first “Ensumbar” “Libau Panggau Dara” meaning a young “Bujang Berani” hero.
The Sarawak Museum Journal (SMJ, Special Monograph No.7, 1994;167) states: “At this time the Orang Kaya Pemancha’s (Dana Bayang from Saribas) leading warrior Libau Rentap and his fighting men from Skrang killed a boatful of Pontianak Malays and gained a gold-handled kris.”
When James Brooke was officially installed as “Rajah of Kuching” on September 18 1842, he found opposition to his leadership particularly the influential Brunei Arab-Malay subservient to Brunei viceroy to Sarawak Pengiran Mahkota aligned to the infamous Sea Dayak head-hunters.
Just before Brooke’s arrival the Karibas-Skrangf Sea Dayaks had raided Bung Bratak in upper Sarawak and killed thousands.
In May 1843 James Brooke sought the assistance of Captain Henry Keppel to crush the Saribas and Skrang Iban.
Brooke wrote: “This is to inform our friend that there are certain great pirates, of the people of Sarebus and Sakarran, in our neighborhood seizing goods and murdering people on the high seas.
“They have more than three hundred war-prahus and extend their ravages even to Banjarmasin (Dutch Borneo); they are not subject to the government of Bruni (Borneo); they take much plunder from vessels trading between Singapore and the good people of the country.”
In the first expedition in 1843 Keppel’s forces defeated the Saribas in the villages of the Padeh, Paku and Rimbas tributaries.
A year later August 7 1844, Keppel launched a second Dido expedition against Sharif Sahap of Patusan. Together with Keppel was 15-year-old Charles Johnson, Brooke favourite nephew.
Together with the H.E.I.C. steamer Phlegethon and the Jolly Batchelor Keppel captured Patusan who were allies of Rentap, the Skrang warlord who commanded about 10,000 fighting men and warriors.
During the capture of Patusan’s five forts and 64 brass guns, Keppel’s senior officer Captain John Ellis became the first European to be killed right before the eyes of Charles.
Keppel in his book “The Expedition of Borneo in the HMS Dido” said: “In this sharp and short affair we had only one man killed, poor John Ellis, a fine young man and captain of the main-top in the Dido. He was cut in two by a cannon-shot while in the act of ramming home a cartridge in the bow gun of the Jolly Batchelor.
“Standing close to poor Ellis at the fatal moment was a fine promising young middy Charles Johnson (Brooke), nephew of Mr. Brooke’s who fortunately escaped unhurt.”
A week later on August 14, another officer Lieutenant Charles Frederick Wade was killed at Undup when he was shot.
Captain Keppel in describing the tragic incident said they had pushed ahead on foot when they encountered several boats with the piratical Dayak and Malay rebels. Instead of waiting for the main force to arrive, Wade dashed forward.
Keppel added: “But my rash, though gallant friend deemed otherwise; and without the notice of caution of my upheld hand, dashed in advance, discharging his gun and calling upon our men to follow.”
Both the men crossed a 60-yard stretch of open land before reaching the foot of a steep ascent leading to the enemy’s longhouse. It was here that Wade was struck by two bullets and killed instantaneously as he fell at Keppel’s feet.
Three days later Keppel’s forces proceeded up the Skrang River where the British suffered one of their biggest losses.
A forward party led by Datu Patinggi Ali accompanied by an Englishman George Steward, was sent in front to watch out for the enemy while waiting for main party of 30 Brooke native vessels to arrive.
Keppel had instructed Patinggi Ali to advance cautiously with his light division and to fall back upon the first appearance of Rentap’s warriors.
Suddenly, as if the deities were with Rentap, a most fearful thunderstorm struck and Keppel noticed that it “was accompanied by the most vivid flashes of lightning I ever witnessed.”
Caught by a strong down current, Ali’s burntboats had entered a narrow pass when Rentap’s men launched huge bamboo rafts across the river cutting off their retreat.
With Rentap at the helm, his men threw spears and stones causing the Ali’s boats. Six large six large war “Bangkongs” with 100 warriors, three on each side, then bore down on the small sinking flotilla.
In the ensuing battle Patinggi Ali together with Steward were killed and decapitated-- a total of 31 men were killed and 56 injured in this tragedy which was Rentap’s greatest victory.
Describing the scene when he arrived just after Datu Patinggi Ali’s group was attacked, Keppel said:
“About twenty boats were jammed together forming one confused mass; some bottom up, the bows and sterns of others only visible, mixed up pell mell with huge rafts and amongst which was nearly all our advance division.
“Headless trunks as well as heads without bodies were lying about in all directions; parties were engaged hand to hand, spearing and krissing each other; others were striving to swim for their lives; entangled in the common melee was our advanced boats; while on both bands thousands of Dyaks were rushing down to join in the slaughter, hurling their spears and stones on the boats below.” (Keppel 1948, II: 111)
In another foray Keppel who was leading a charge of eight soldiers, lost his right-hand man Lt Wade who was killed by two rifle-shots and fell dead at his feet.
Lt Wade was given a solemn and ceremonial burial and a heavy price to pay for the four dead Europeans in one expedition alone!!
Rentap 3 -
Losing the “Spiritual” War
On June 2, 1857—a day before his 27th birthday-- “Tuan Muda” Charles Brooke and his commander Abang Aing advanced on Rentap’s fort at Bukit Sadok.
Leading the way was Brooke’s chief guide Sandom, a sworn enemy of Rentap who violated his brother by dragging him down a hill and then “had his heart torn out”.
The entourage of 4000 warriors camped at Lintang Batang at the spot when Alan Lee was killed on April 29, 1853.
On June 6, they built a temporary Fort stockade and that evening at 4 p.m. held a “baum” council of war on a rocky sandbank.
A day later they were at the foot of the hill that led to Sadok while Rentap’s gongs were continuously beating warning his people to prepare themselves for war.
Apart from Sandom, Charles had an experienced Iban Orang Kaya Gasing as one of his advisors
On the other hand, Rentap who had the recuperated from his injuries sustained at Sungei Langit in 1854, had the services of Saribas chief Dana Bayang’s sons Saji Nanan and Luyoh who built their longhouses around the Rentap’s fortress.
The Dana brothers brought a special cannon nicknamed “Bujang Timpang Berang” which was given to them by Sharif Mashor, the Governor of Sarikei.
At 2 p.m. on June 7 soon after Brooke’s men commenced they reached the last 100 yards from the Sadok “kubu” (fort).
Charles continued: “In ascending this part, not more than twenty men were with me. My best fort-man was wounded by a spear, and to assist him many of the others left me.
“And now I must give credit to the Lingga people, for they were close at hand. I was within about five yards of the enemy, who were pitching spears from behind some wood on the brow of the hill while we were underneath, and the spears went flying over my head and struck some of our party in the rear.
“Here I stood propped up against a tree and poured thirty rounds from my smooth bore as fast as I could load directing it into a place where I saw a movement among the trees. After this I tried to ascend but the Linggas collared me, and one clung so firmly to my sword-sheath that he was nearly pulling me backwards.
“Here we sat on the side of the hill, at an angle of about 80 degrees, the whole night. A few cross-sticks were placed for me to sit on. One man held a shield at my back.”
The following day Brooke’s men killed Unsi, Rentap’s “Manok Sabong” chief fighting cock.
After eight days of daily downpour, Brooke’s army was beginning to suffer severely from cold as their little shelters became “leaking huts, the earth floors of which were soon converted into pools of mire.”
Frustrated that they were unable to make any headway, his men attacked Rentap’s allies camped around the hills, plundered and burnt their longhouses.
At 4 p.m. June 14, 1857 Abang Aing led a few members to within 20 feet of the fort’s outer wall but was shot in shoulder and injured.
Charles and his demoralised men then returned to their boats berthed on the river downhill, the “Tuan Muda” determined to launch a second expedition against his nemesis.
The following day the Brooke soldiers achieved some measure of success when Rentap’s “manok sabong” (fighting cock) Unsi was killed.
It is said that Unsi who had vowed to kill Charles had gone in search of the “Tuan Muda”.
However, he was confronted and surrounded by Brook’s men and fought with his sword to the last.
“The chief fighting cock named Unsi was shot through the heart and the party retired late in the evening carrying his dead body to Rentap’s abode.” (Brooke, Vol 1, 1866:252)
In the meantime, the Rajah’s forces established a base on the footpath leading to Sadok “a very formidable stockade impervious to rifle shots with almost perpendicular declivities on two sides of it” about 400 yards away.
The next day a division of Dayaks and Malays proceeded against Rentap’s allies, who they drove them back.
“ On the following days other parties were sent out to do as much damage, and to deter them ( Iban who fence-sitters) from joining Rentap’s party in the stockade, or harassing the main assailing force.” (Bamflyde and Baring-Gould, 1909: 176).
When the weather cleared and Charles decided to make the final assault. *
At 4 p.m. June 14, 1857 Abang Aing using a movable stockade, led a few members to within 20 feet of the fort’s outer wall with a pile of firewood, which they had hoped to set, alight.
However, the handful of men at the Fort threw stones and fire simultaneously from the inside causing the group to retreat.
Rentap’s followers were aware of the challenge posed by the Rajah and his men and prepared to face them it.
“The Rajah’s forces was under the command of the Tuan Muda and assisted by an outstanding Malay officer Abang Aing who were both experienced fighters. On top of that they were equipped with better and more effective weapons to fight with.
However, Rentap and his men had nothing to compare with, both in weapons and in the number of fighters.”
At 5.30 p.m. five men crouch towards the pile of firewood in a similar way but at this point Abang Aing, a loyal Malay leader from Simanggang, was shot and wounded in the shoulder.
Forced to retreat to attend to Aing’s wounds, the Malay leader urged him not to go further as “three or more were wounded by shot and some thirty to forty had received nasty blows from stones.”
As darkness set in Charles men were forced to return to their stockade while Rentap’s men in the fort release triumphant yells.
Examining Abang Aing, Charles ordered that the shot be removed from the injured chief’s shoulder.
With Abang Aing injured and the elements favouring Rentap’s forces, Charles realised it was time to call off the expedition. The majority of his army had run out of food. Charles had barely enough provisions to last for three days.
Because of the rain his warriors were being “half-chilled-to-death”. Charles himself had not changed his wet clothes for eight days during which he never washed, undressed, or scarcely slept. He reminisced:
“As I lay down to rest at night, after my last sip of brandy, I gave up all thoughts of gaining Rentap’s fortress, but resolved to see what could be done elsewhere when I rose the last morning.
“When I rose the last morning, the enemy were yelling (in triumph) and my first desire was to get about a hundred of the strongest young fellows together, command myself, and proceed to Attui where there were three longhouses of enemies about six hours walk distant.
This I promised to do in three days when I would return here and march back with the whole force.
“I could obtain no volunteers; some said they were sick, others out of provisions and I was obliged to bow to circumstances and at eight o’clock our party began to descend the mountain.” (Brooke I, 1866:258-259)
Even though the 1st Sadok expedition did not cause serious damage, it raised Rentap’s confidence in the “impregnability of his stronghold.”
“Practically it (the expedition) had been a failure and so it was felt to be among the Malays and Dayaks generally. The unrest in the country became more accentuated and the daring of the Saribas (Skrang) increased.” (Bamfylde and Baring-Gould, 1909:177)
After the retreat of the Rajah’s forces Rentap held a grand and elaborate “miring” celebration to thank the “Petara” (gods).
Worse was to occur when Charles made his way back. On his arrival at the landing point on June 15, he discovered to his horror that a large 12-foot high flash flood had swept away everything, including their stockade.
Many of the men who were waiting at the landing point were drowned.
More than 70 boats were missing while Charles boat, minus its covering, was recovered.
At least 1,000 of his soldiers were standing “disconsolately on the bank” and totally demoralized.
Charles added: “The news was not encouraging, but I at once persuaded the unhappy looking people to shake down the best way they could for that night, and in the morning we would do our best; at any rate we would not desert them.
“This had been the first fine day we had seen since starting for Sadok, and our fellows I found were not totally dispirited, but seemed to feel God was to be praised that they had arrived safe back so far.”
In this incident the Iban believe that Rentap had used all his heavenly powers to call out to the deities to come to his rescue.
A Sarawak gazette report said: “The Raja’s forces camped at Pulau Panyun near Entalau (Nanga Entalau) before they attacked Sadok.
“When Rentap heard that the Raja was moving towards Sadok he prayed to the gods for rain and beat the metal “beliong” (adze) in a ceremony called Gendang Pampat Puting Beliong.
“Rain came in torrents for two days and a night, flooding the Skrang. The Raja’s camp was destroyed.
Many of the Raja’s boats and men were lost. Those that survived abandoned the campaign and returned to Kuching.” (SG, March 31, 1972)
Ten months later in April 1858 Charles suffered similar circumstances when his army was stricken by cholera after the failed expedition against the Saribas war lords Saji and Lintong.
“To my great disappointment I found the cholera had followed us and three boat crews had already come alongside asking for medicine; two poor fellows in one boat had the complaint in the acutest form, and were suffering most excruciating pain from cramp.
“I administered as almost never-failing remedy, “The Bishop of Labuan’s Pill” and rubbed the men with Kaya Putih oil; they were better in the morning and so were all those who could take their remedies in time; but alas, many did not and died ere the morning sun rose.”
Charles was convinced that he should have heeded the omen bird’s warning; that it was futile to pursue the Skrang chief.
When Charles and his men had arrived safely from Sadok and so after their narrow escape, the Rajah Muda said a prayer of “sincere thankfulness to Him who ordainath all things.”
Rentap 5 -
From villain to Folk Hero.
After the fall of Sadok, Rentap and his band of warriors, fled to various parts of the vast Julau hinterland.
After several years on the run, Rentap, his younger brother Ringgit and his son-in-law Layang the slayer of Alan Lee ended up at Ulu Wuak in Julau.
A spent force, one of his most powerful charms--the Batu Jerenang stone which he received in a dream from Keliang, the god of war-- was beginning to lose its effect.
Spending the life of a fugitive, a small loyal band of bodyguards, they hid in the isolated headwaters of Katibas, Kanowit and Skrang rivers.
Benedict Sandin said that Rentap who was constantly on the run, first hide at Bukit Lanjak in the Ulu Skrang area and then moved to Entabai in Upper Julau.
His relatives who also feared that Rajah’s army would go after them, Brooke would also persecute those who joined the old chief.
Ringgit who together with Layang had taken many heads of pro-Brooke Balau warriors fled together with Rentap because they could not even trust even his closest friends.
According to some of his descendants in Ulu Wak, Rentap was said to have brought with him several Bukitan “Ulun” (slaves) whom he treated like his family.
But by then Rajah James Brook had a change of heart and was prepared to pardon him.
In a letter to Brookes staunch English supporter Baroness Burdett Coutts dated 16, January 1862, James Brooke said: “I received the welcome intelligence of the success of the operations against Sadok as I was starting yesterday morning for Totnes, and despatched the news hastily to you.
“The complete pacification of the Dayaks will follow the Capture of their stronghold, and I am only now desirous of reaping the full advantages of success.
“Runtap should be pardoned and cared for—he committed one atrocious act of cruelty, but with this exception, has been a fair foe and I hope he will be well treated for he is sure to come in (surrender).”
But surrender was the last thing on his mind.
Two years after the fall of Sadok a group of Brooke soldiers led by Malay Native Officer “Abang Sarkawi”—visited Karangan Panggil at Wak in the Julau district to meet Rentap.
Dato Sri Edmund Langgu Saga, co-author of “Rentap—Warrior, Legend and Enigma” said Rentap first spotted Abang Sarkawi having a bath at Karangan panggil to have a bath at the narrow rocky stretch leading to the longhouse.
Before Abang Sarkawi communicate with Rentap the Raja Ulu sent his most senior “manok sabong” (leading warrior) to the Malay chief to warn him “if you value your heads, you better return immediately from where you came.”
I learnt that despite the scores of heads the Skrang warriors had taken some of the special prized trophies were in the possession of a grand-grand-daughter residing in Sibu.
The Sarawak Museum Journal said the practice at that time was for each warrior to offer the first head taken in battle or that “captive that he took to the war leader.” (SMJ Vol XVI, 1968:143).
To look for Rentap’s head tropies I travelled to Sungei Aup in Sibu to meet an elderly great-grand daughter Madam Puyang anak Belusok.
Puyang said: “From what I was told Aki Rentap personally acquired only five heads out of numerous heads which was distributed all over Sarawak.”
She showed me 17 skulls which she had in her possession together with several porcelain jars such as “Gusi”, “Rusa”, “Puak” and “Naga” jars belonging to Rentap.
Among the 17 heads which were kept at a special room in her home at Sungei Aup, I asked whether she knew if Alan Lee’s head was in her possession?
I suggested that one unique skull which was larger than the others could be the skull Lee who was killed by Layang in April 1853.
I said that if a DNA test as taken it could confirm if the skull was that of a Caucasian or European.
Puyang said that it was ‘Mali” (forbidden) to remove Rentap’s possessions unless a special “miring” (offering) is carried out to appease the spirits.
She said that of 10 of Rentap’s jars, which was in her possession, was inhabited by spirits.
Puyang’s husband Antas anak Ambon said dozens of the Rentap’s prize skulls had been distributed among family members.
I wrote in then NST: “Of course, his (Rentap’s) group of men had more than a hundred heads of which many were given to him by followers as a mark of respect. (New Straits Times, December 21, 1992).
Among Rentap’s charms , amulets and talisman the most powerful was the “Batu Jerenang” stone which he had in his possession since he was a young man.
He received it from the god of war Keliang in a “Mimpi” dream at a teenager.
Rentap’s new wife Berinjan was childless and the old chief sent her back to her family.
Tambong had married Layang, her father’s trusted Lieutenant who killed Lee and they had a daughter Subang.
But Rentap’s fate was to change because after Subang eloped and married a prominent Brooke warrior Penghulu Dalam Munan Anak Penghulu Minggat of Awik.
Furious with his grand-daughter, Rentap adopted Ensimai, one of Ringgit’s daughters, and gave her part of his inheritance.
A loyal Iban-Dayak the chief led several punitive expeditions on behalf of the Sarawak government.
However, the curse of the Jerenang stone —a red colored stone also known as “Dragons Blood” is obtained from the dye of the fruit of a rattan cane---was broken after Subang and Munan adopted two daughters from different tribes.
Munan was promoted to the rank of “Penghulu Dalam” chief of the inner circleof Rajah Charles Brooke in 1900.
Later he became a member of the “council Negri” (legislative assembly) and a native magistrate.
Today Munan’s descendants are found not only in the Sibu region but all over Sarawak. Ensimai’s descendants still dominate the Ulu Wak region in Julau as well as the rest of the State.
Sandin states that Rentap was the “only Dayak leader of his time who swore after his defeat in wars against the white rule, that he would never see the face of any white man.” (Sarawak Gazette, February 28, 1966).
After his death, Rentap’s skeletal remains was placed in a “belian” (semi-ironwood) coffin and taken to a special hill named Bukit Sibau in Ulu Wak in the remote Julau district.
Descendants of the chief then decided to build a “lumbong”—a customary coffin for Iban royalty which is placed on a raised platform—and under a thatched hut to accord him a King’s burial.
“After three or four days Rentap’s relatives brought the coffin to Bukit Sadok, about two days journey from Karangan Panggil, to hide it in the jungle and away from the Rajah.
About 10 years ago Director of the Sarawak Museum Dr Peter Kedit and a team of museum staff conducted a tradtional funeral for Rentap.
Langgu said Rentap and his warriors did not surrender, but retreated to Bukit Lanjak Entimau at the headwaters of Batang Skrang, Lemanak and Engkari.
He then moved down to the Ulu Entabai, the branch of Kanowit and Julau and built another fortress at Bukit Stulak.
When he retired from fighting, he moved to Karangan Panggil in Ulu Wak, Pakan, and died of old age in the year 1870.
He was not buried, but his remains were kept according to the symbol of the Iban-Dayak warrior which was honourably laid down to rest in peace in a mortuary known by the Iban Dayak as Lumbong.
Later, his remains were installed inside a jar in a traditional ceremony known as Ngerapoh.
His tomb, the Lumbong, is intact. It is located at the summit of Sibau Hill (Bukit Sibau) at the headwaters of Budu/Kabo River of Saratok and Wak River of Pakan.
His remains were placed inside a strong wooden coffin under a shrine after the reburial of his remains in October 1989.
Rentap 5 - Fall of Dana the Great
After the three failed Brooke expeditions, Rentap became more dictatorial and assumed he was invincible.
In September 1861 Charles was more determined than ever to make bring down Rentap who claimed he was the “Raja Ulu” –King of the interior.
Charles had the upper hand because a year earlier two of Rentap’s old allies Haji Abdul Gapur and Sharif Mashor had been banished from Sarawak.
Haji Gapur and Mashor, the Governor of Sarikei, had masterminded the assassination of Charles Fox and Henry Steele on June 7, 1859 in Kanowit.
Another factor in his favor was that Charles Saribas chieftain Orang Kaya Pemanca (OKP) Dana Bayang’s had died .
Dana was considered as one of the most famous leaders in Iban history. Rajah James Brooke described Dana as the "most dreaded Saribas pirate, the man who commanded the marauding fleets" (Pringle, 1970;561).
It was Dana, who had once boasted that he would not rest until he had obtained James Brooke's head.
Brooke wrote in his journal entry on July I, 1842, the following: "At Sarawak (Proper), I found most alarming reports of an intended invasion from the united forces of Saribas and Skrang, and received moreover, the agreeable information that Bayang (Dana), one of the leading men of the former river, had suspended a basket on a high tree, ready to receive my head when he returned in triumph from the conquest of my country.
“I cared little for these idle threats, though I did not neglect taking the necessary precautions" (Pringle,1970: 72).
Before the arrival of the Brookes, Dana was one of 16 Iban leaders who were accorded titles such as Orang Kaya, Orang Kaya Pemancha, Orang Kaya Panglima and Orang Kaya Temenggonu by the Sultan of Brunei for being loyal to his government.
Many years later, after the defeat of Rentap, one of Dana's son, Nanang, was bestowed the Orang Kaya Pemancha title by the second Rajah of Sarawak, Charles.
Dana's became famous in the early 1800s when he raided a Selakau village at Tanjung Datu (Cape Datu) which is now on the border of Sarawak and West Kalimantan.
Following Admiral Henry Keppel's expedition against the Batang Saribas in 1844, Dana's power was finally broken.
A year later, Dana and Linggir surrendered to the Brooke government at a special meeting at Tanjung Sabuloh in the lower Saribas River.
Rajah James wrote; “The Orang Kaya Pomancha of Sarebas, is now with me - the dreaded and brave, as he is termed by the natives.
“He is small, plain looking and old, with his left hand disabled and his body scarred with spear wounds. I do not dislike the look of him, and of all the chiefs of that river, I believe he is the most honest, and steers his course straight enough" (Mundy, 1848, II, 75).
Dana “Bayang” who had six sons, died of smallpox in 1854. Four of Dana’s children- Nanang, Saji, Luyoh and Buda- were prominent in Saribas affairs.
Saji had boasted of he could not die because he owned “kebal” amulet which protected him as no sharp instrument, sword, spear or bullet, could penetrate his skin until he was killed with a silver bullet.
After Saji’s demise two of his brothers- Nanang and Luyoh joined Rentap and built their longhouse just outside his fortress.
On the final expedition against Rentap at Bukit Sadok, Charles brought along a secret weapon; a 12-pound brass howitzer nicknamed “Bujang Sadok” which had been forged in Kuching.
Cast in Kuching, massive cannon which weighed 840 lbs had to be hauled up over muddy track in stages-- initially by 500 warriors followed then by 60 Chinese artisans and African soldiers over the steep mountainside by slings.
On October 16 Charles and his commander Abang Aing prepared for battle as they arrived at the foot of Bukit Sadok with several thousand from warriors.
The following day a “Baum” gathering Iban chiefs Charles was held to discuss a peace deal with OKP Dana’s two sons Nanang and Luyoh who wanted to leave Rentap.
Days later when Nanang went downhill with nine of their warriors “meet the Rajah’s nephew (Charles) to confer on the conditions of their surrender.” (SMJ, Special Monograph No. 7, 1994; 193)
In the early afternoon of October 25, Nanang and Luyoh with his followers evacuated their longhouses while the women and children the moved down to a safe place.
Charles said: “A fine handsome man clad in “Cawat” (loincloth), a long flowing garment and long sword dangling by his side, Luyoh Looked anything but like a conquered man; nevertheless, his manner was respectful and upright.
Before the start of the battle, Rentap had a change of heart and sent word to Charles he wanted to discuss a compromise.
Charles agreed on condition Rentap paid a fine of twelve Rusa jars, demolish the fort and abandon Sadok if “Grandfather Rentap” (Aki’ Rentap) was serious about his intentions.)
Charles then sent two former Rentap warriors to the fort at the summit to invite him for talks at the Tuan Muda’s camp.
“The two men had formerly been his “fighting cocks” (manok sabong) but now had been on friendly terms with us for four years. They informed me he (Rentap) was very surly and scarcely spoke a word. While in his presence they felt most anxious, fearing he would close his doors and hold them as hostages.
“They told him there was a gun coming up which was large enough to knock him to pieces. This he would not believe at all and said he was perfectly aware of the Akal” (cunning) of the white men, as they had attacked him often before and failed.
“This was enough from Rentap and the two men declared they would not go near his place in a friendly capacity as his pathway was so narrow and approach so small, that they might be murdered and thrown off the precipice without anyone being the wiser.” (Brooke II 1866: 142-143)
One factor against Rentap that he had committed a “pemali” or ritual prohibition by discarding his old wife and marrying a girl old enough to he is grand-child.
Charles realized that the chieftain was losing ground because he had become despot couldn’t care for the taboos.
Rentap, who was in his 70s, had taken new wife, a young “anak Umbong”—a fair maiden kept secluded in the longhouse attic and from sunlight until she was of marriageable age--named Berinjan.
Charles noted: “The old fellow had lately married a second wife whom he fetched from far down the river, among many people who were particularly averse to the match; however, the lady ran off with him at night and mounted his eyrie unmolested by her own party; the old wife was discarded and the young one became the Ranee of Sadok.”
After acquiring his first head, Rentap married Sawai and lived in Skrang.
When they failed to have any children, they adopted a daughter named Tambong, who was raised by Sawai while Libau often went on his headhunting excursions.
During the late 1830s, the Saribas and Skrang Than began to launch joint raids against the Land Dayaks (Bidayuh) and Chinese living in the Sambas-Pontianak region (namely the Montrado, Sambas, Mempawah and Sungei Raya districts in Dutch Borneo's western province) bordering Sarawak.
- Charles Brooke—a Rajah and Casanova?
When James Brooke arrived in Kuching on board the Royalist, he brought two Malacca Eurasian translators--Domingo de Rozario and Thomas Williamson.
In the early years, Domingo and Williamson married Kuching Malays while other Brooke officers followed suit.
They were Lt Henry Steel, constabulary officer Inspector Joseph Middleton and businessman George Steward also married into the Malay, Dayak and Chinese communities.
All their children were sent to St Mary’s, the first school built Reverend Bishop Dr Francis MacDougall.
However, Steward who accompanied Datu Patinggi Ali on an expedition in Batang Saribas was killed in 1844.
Williamson drowned shortly after and 15 years later in 1859, Steele was killed together with Brooke officer Charles Fox by Melanau rebels while building a fort in Kanowit.
When Charles first arrived in Sarawak in 1852, he dressed like an Iban and learnt the language and customs under Orang Kaya Jugah with whom he stayed in Lundu .
Another mentor was a brave Malay-Melanau leader Abang Aing from Lingga, who became Charles’ confidante and later army commander.
Like Aing who had several wives, Charles picked up the Iban custom of “Ngayap” courtship.
Sandra Pybus in “White Rajah” (1996) said:
“The uninhibited sexuality of the longhouse life was one of the great attractions. On visits to longhouses, Charlie would find himself invited to the bed of a young women he might fancy, as was the custom of single men when they came to visit.”
“Iban women were keen and sexually inventive lovers, he discovered. As Tuan Muda he was in a position to take his pick.
And he did. If he wanted a special young woman as a mistress, it was easy arranged.
“Should he tire of her, the woman could return to her longhouse to marry, her status and prospects enhanced by the experience.”
Ten years later Charles married Aing’s niece according to Muslim rites and together with his common law wife, had a son.
In December 1866, Dayang Mastiah who as pregnant with their first child accompanied Charles to Kuching where she stayed at the Astana for two months before returning to Simanggang to deliver her child.
On August 27 1867 “Isaka” was born and raised by Dayang Mastiah as a member of the local community and only spoke only Malay.
In his memoir “Ten Years in Sarawak” Charles said that the best people to administer Sarawak were a race of “mixed races”.
“If the Europeans were to contribute anything lasting to the East, they must blend their genes with those of the indigenous people to produce a people embodying the best of each culture and physiology,” wrote Charles.
In an extract published in Colin Crisswell's "Rajah Charles Brooke--Monarch of all he surveyed" (1978) Charles expressed the belief on several occasions that the products of mixed marriages would become the most able citizens of the East.
Even as the Brooke officers continued to have mistresses, Charles defended his officers against the moral criticisms of the clergy who complained that some of his officers had “kept local wives”.
He declared `I don't feel disposed to interfere with the private affairs of unmarried men (Europeans) employed in this country."
Charles ran the affairs of Sarawak from Simanggang until his 65-year-old uncle Rajah James suffered a stroke and died on June 11, 1868.
As the new “Rajah” “ Charles moved Kuching to administer the country but soon discovered that the government he had inherited was bankrupt.
As such it was imperative for Charles to marry a rich woman, so he left for England to court his first cousin the widowed Elizabeth Sarah Johnson.
In a twist of events, Charles didn’t marry his cousin but instead took Sarah’s daughter, 20 years his junior, as his wife on October 28, 1869 instead.
Margaret then moved to the Kuching Astana where the marriage was consummated and they had daughter Ghita on August 27, 1870.
Little did she know that Charles had married and had a son.
A year later Charles shocked “Ranee Margaret” when he brought Isaka to the Astana causing a furore and initiating a series of mishaps and tragedies!
In 1871 Margaret bore twins James and Charles hoping that one of them would eventually succeed her husband to the Sarawak throne.
A year later in January 1872, Charles got his son baptised as “Esca” at the Anglican Church in Simanggang hoping that his son would stand a chance to succeed him.
In May 20, 1873 Margaret who was pregnant with her fourth child, slipped and fell giving birth to a still-born child who was buried at the Muslim cemetery.
With another bout of bad news, in September 1873 Charles brought Margaret, Esca and his younger siblings, on a cruise back to London.
But when they left the port of Aden and entered the Red Sea tragedy struck; James, Ghita and Charles contracted Cholera and died October 11, 14 and 17 respectively.
Only Esca who was six, survived, but was given away for adoption by his domineering step-mother.
To cut a long story short, Margaret was bitter that first-born Isaka had a good chance he would one day become a Rajah.
So, she devised a plan to deprive Isaka of his birth right by giving him away for adoption.
In London Esca was raised by Reverend William Daykin and his childless wife who migrated with Isaka to Canada.
Charles and Margaret returned to Kuchig where she had three more children—3rd Rajah Charles Vyner (1874–1963), “Tuan Muda” Bertram (1876–1965) and “Tuan Bongsu” Henry Keppel Brooke (1879–1926).
As predicted by Charles, several children of mixed heritage excelled during the Brooke administration.
One of the first Sarawak-born Eurasians Rev William Howell who was a missionary, became a pioneering ethnographer and philologist who compiled the first Iban language dictionary.
Horace Gray established the first telephone line from Kuching to the Baram in the early 1900’s and was a noted pioneer of radio technology.
In 1921 Gray constructed a super-sensitive long-wave receiving tuner. His invention enabled Sarawakians to receive news on a regular basis from Moscow, Berlin and Constantinople.
The following year Sarawak received two Marconi radio telephones and Gray was able contact Singapore through wireless telephone.
In 1926 Gray created history by contacting London using his transmitter.
Lily Eberwein was a German-Malay Muslim Eurasian school principal who founded the Kaum Ibu women’s nationalist movement and opposed the cession of Sarawak to Great Britain.
In 1927 when Esca was 60 and a successful businessman, he claimed a right to the succession in Sarawak but failed.
After the War when his half-brother Rajah Vyner ceded Sarawak for a fee of one million pounds, asked for his share of his inheritance as Charles Brooke’s oldest child, but again failed.
Esca died in Toronto in 1953 at the age of 86. His half-brother, the 3rd Rajah Vyner died seven years later on May 9, 1963-four months after Sarawak became part of the Federation of Malaysia on September 16.
Melanau-English engineer Johnny Owen became the first Eurasian Council Negeri member in 1946 who was voted in favor of the cession of Sarawak to Great Britain on July 1, 1946
After graduating Esca married and then ventured into business where worked for Sir David Dunlap, one of Canada’s richest men at that time dealing in silver.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 2:08 PM