Nickname(s): Bumi Kenyalang – Land of the Hornbills
Area. Total 124,450 km2 (48,050 sq mi)
Population (2015). Total 2,636,000; Density 21/km2 (55/sq mi)
Human Development Index HDI (2000) 0.757
Time zone. MST (UTC+8)
Self-government. 22 July 1963; Malaysia Agreement 16 September 1963
Sarawak (/səˈrɑːwɒk/) is one of the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo (Sabah being the other). Located in northwest Borneo, Sarawak is bordered by 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 seat of the Sarawak state government. Other cities and towns in Sarawak include Miri, Sibu, and Bintulu. As of the 2015 census, 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, located at the Niah Caves, dates back to 40,000 years ago. A series of Chinese ceramics dated from the 8th to 13th century AD was uncovered at the archaeological 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, arrived in Sarawak. He, and his descendants, governed the state from 1841 to 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 and subsequently became one of the founding members of the Federation of Malaysia, established on 16 September 1963. However, the federation was opposed by Indonesia leading to a three-year confrontation. The creation of the Federation also resulted in a communist insurgency that lasted until 1990.
The head of state is the Governor, also known as the Yang di-Pertua Negeri, while the head of government is the Chief Minister. Sarawak is divided into administrative divisions, and districts, governed by a system that is closely modeled on the Westminster parliamentary system and was the earliest state legislature system in Malaysia.
The economy of Sarawak is strongly export-oriented primarily in oil and gas, timber and oil palms, due to its abundance of natural resources, however, the state also has manufacturing, energy and tourism sectors. 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. The generally-accepted 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. 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.
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.
Sultanate of Brunei 15th century–1841
Kingdom of Sarawak 1841–1946
Empire of Japan 1942–1945
British Sarawak Crown 1946–1963
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. 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. Chinese ceramics dating to the Tang and Song dynasties (8th to 13th century AD, respectively) found at Santubong (near Kuching) hint at its significance as a seaport.
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. By the early 19th century, the Bruneian Empire was in decline and only retained a tenuous hold along the coastal regions of Sarawak, which were controlled held by semi-independent Malay leaders. Away from the coast, territorial wars were fought between the Iban and a Kenyah-Kayan alliance.
The discovery of antimony ore in the Kuching region led Pangeran Indera Mahkota, a representative of the Sultan of Brunei, to increase development in the territory between 1824 and 1830. Increasing antimony production in the region led the Brunei Sultanate to demand higher taxes, which ultimately led to civil unrest. In 1839, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II (1827–1852) assigned his uncle Pangeran Muda Hashim the task of restoring order but his inability to do so caused him to request the aid of British sailor James Brooke. Brooke’s success in quelling the revolt was well rewarded with antimony, property and the governorship of Sarawak.
Upon receiving authority over Sarawak, the Brooke family, later called the White Rajahs, set about expanding the territory they had been ceded. With expansion came the need for efficient governance and thus, beginning in 1841, Sarawak was separated into the first of its administrative divisions with currency, the Sarawak dollar, beginning circulation in 1858. By 1912, a total of five divisions had been established in Sarawak, each headed by a Resident. The Brooke family generally practiced a paternalistic form of government with minimal bureaucracy, but were pressured to establish some form of legal framework. In 1928, a Judicial Commissioner, Thomas Stirling Boyd, was appointed as the first legally trained judge. However, due to unfamiliarity with local customs, the Brooke government created an advisory Supreme Council, mostly consisting of Malay chiefs, to provide guidance. This council is the oldest state legislative assembly in Malaysia, with the first General Council meeting taking place at Bintulu in 1867. A similar system relating to matters concerning various Chinese communities was also formed. Members of the local community were encouraged by the Brooke regime to focus on particular functions within the territory: the Ibans and other Dayak people were hired as militia while Malays were primarily administrators. Chinese, both local and immigrant, were mostly employed in plantations, mines and as bureaucrats. Expanding trade led to the formation of the Borneo Company Limited in 1856. The company was, and still is, involved in a wide range of businesses in Sarawak including trade, banking, agriculture, mineral exploration, and development.
Between 1853 and 1862, the Brooke government experienced a number of uprisings but all were successfully contained with the aid of local tribes. To guard against future uprisings, a series of forts were constructed to protect Kuching, including Fort Margherita, completed in 1871. However, by the time of its completion, Brooke’s control of Sarawak was such that defenses were largely unnecessary.
Britain. Sarawak, along with Sabah and Brunei, became a British protectorate in 1888. This agreement granted Britain jurisdiction over Sarawak’s foreign affairs but administration was still handled by the Brooke government. Towards the latter half of the 19th century, Charles Anthoni Brooke succeeded his uncle as the next White Rajah of Sarawak. He would go on to increase the territorial expanse of Sarawak by acquiring Limbang and the Baram and Trusan valleys from the Sultan of Brunei. Apart from territorial expansion, he also established the Sarawak Museum, the oldest museum in Borneo, in 1891, and brokered a peace in Marudi. Economic development in Sarawak continued under his rule and in 1910, the first oil well began drilling followed two years later by the opening of the Brooke Dockyard. Anthony Brooke, who would become Rajah Muda in 1939, was born in the same year.
WW II. At the height of the war in the Pacific, in 1941, a centenary celebration of Brooke rule in Sarawak was held. During the celebration, a new constitution was introduced that would limit the power of the Rajah and granting the Sarawak people a greater role in the functioning of government. That same year saw the British withdrawing its forces defending Sarawak to Singapore. With Sarawak now unguarded, the Brooke regime adopted a scorched earth policy where oil installations in Miri were to be destroyed and the Kuching airfield 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. 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. 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. After the surrender of Japan, the Japanese surrendered to the Australian forces at Labuan on 10 September 1945. Sarawak was immediately placed under British Military Administration until April 1946.
Independence. Lacking the resources to rebuild Sarawak after the war, Charles Vyner Brooke decided to cede Sarawak as British Crown Colony and a Cession Bill was put forth in the Council Negri (now Sarawak State Legislative Assembly), which 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. Despite the resistance, Sarawak became a British Crown colony on 1 July 1946. Anthony Brooke opposed the cession of Sarawak to the British Crown, for which he was banished from Sarawak by the colonial government. He was only allowed to return 17 years later after Sarawak had become part of Malaysia. In 1950 all anti-cession movements in Sarawak ceased after a clamp-down by the colonial government.
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 Commission reported 80 percent support for federation. On 23 October 1962, five political parties in Sarawak formed a united front that supported the formation of Malaysia. Sarawak was officially granted self-government on 22 July 1963, and became federated with Malaya, North Borneo, and Singapore to form the federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963. The governments of the Philippines and Indonesia opposed the federation, as did the Brunei People’s Party and Sarawak-based communist groups, and in 1962, the Brunei Revolt broke out. Indonesian President Sukarno responded by deploying armed volunteers and, later, military forces into Sarawak. Thousands of Sarawak communist members went into Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo, and underwent training with the Communist Party of Indonesia. The most significant engagement of the confrontation was fought at Plaman Mapu in April 1965. The defeat at Plaman Mapu ultimately resulted in the fall of Sukarno and he was replaced by Suharto as president of Indonesia. Negotiations were restarted between Malaysia and Indonesia and led to the end of the confrontation on 11 August 1966.
A number of communist groups existed in Sarawak, the first of which, the Sarawak Overseas Chinese Democratic Youth League, formed in 1951. Another group, the North Kalimantan Communist Party (NKCP) (also known as Clandestine Communist Organisation (CCO) by government sources) was formally set up in 1970. Weng Min Chyuan and Bong Kee Chok were two of the more notable communist leaders involved in the insurgency. As the political scene changed, it grew progressively more difficult for the communists to operate. This led to Bong opening talks with chief minister Abdul Rahman Ya’kub in 1973 and eventually signing an agreement with the government. Weng, who had moved to China in the mid-1960s but nonetheless retained control of the CCO, pushed for a continued armed insurrection against the government in spite of this agreement. The conflict continued mostly in the Rajang Delta region but eventually ended when, on 17 October 1990, the NKCP signed a peace agreement with the Sarawak government.
Government. The head of the Sarawak state is the Yang di-Pertua Negeri (also known as TYT or Governor), a largely symbolic position appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia) on the advice of the Malaysian federal government. Since 2014 this position has been held by Abdul Taib Mahmud. The TYT appoints the chief minister, currently held by Abang Johari Openg (BN), as the head of government. Generally, the leader of the party that commands the majority of the state Legislative Assembly 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, the cabinet ministers and their assistant ministers.
To protect the interests of the Sarawakians in the Malaysian federation, special safeguards have been included in the Constitution of Malaysia. These include: control over immigration in and out of the state as well as the residence status of non-Sarawakians and non-Sabahans, limitations on the practice of law to resident lawyers, independence of the Sarawak High Court from the High Court Peninsular Malaysia, a requirement that the Sarawak Chief Minister be consulted prior to the appointment of the chief judge of the Sarawak High Court, the existence of Native Courts in Sarawak and the power to levy sales tax. Natives in Sarawak enjoy special privileges such as quotas and employment in public service, scholarships, university placements, and business permits. Local governments in Sarawak are exempt from local authority laws enacted by the Malaysian parliament.
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. 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. These parties later joined the national coalition of the Alliance Party. The Alliance Party (later regrouped into Barisan Nasional) has 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.
In 1969, 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) which subsequently waged a guerilla war against the newly elected Sarawak state government, was formed. The party was dissolved after the signing of a peace agreement in 1990. 1973 saw the birth of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) following a merger of several parties. 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.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. This made Sarawak the only state in Malaysia to hold state elections separate from the national parliamentary elections since 1979. In 1983, SNAP started to fragment into several splinter parties due to recurrent leadership crises. 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 retained his position as chief minister.
Since the 2006 state election, the Democractic Action Party (DAP) has derived the majority of its support from urban centres and became the largest opposition party in Sarawak. In 2010, it formed the Pakatan Rakyat coalition with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS); the latter two parties had become active in Sarawak between 1996 and 2001. 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.
Divisions and districts. Unlike states in Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak is divided into divisions, 12 in all, as well as districts, each headed by one resident.
Security. The first paramilitary armed forces in Sarawak, a regiment formed by the Brooke regime in 1862, were known as the Sarawak Rangers. The regiment, renowned for its jungle tracking skills, served in the campaign to end the intertribal wars in Sarawak. It also engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Japanese, in the Malayan Emergency (in West Malaysia) and the Sarawak Communist Insurgency against the communists. Following the formation of Malaysia, the regiment was absorbed into the Malaysian military forces and is now known as the Royal Ranger Regiment.
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. Since the formation of Malaysia, the Malaysian federal government has been solely responsible for foreign policy and military forces in the country.
Territorial disputes. Sarawak has land and maritime disputes with neighbouring Brunei. 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. This was however denied by the second Foreign Minister of Brunei Lim Jock Seng, stating the issue was never discussed during the meeting. 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. Meanwhile, there are several Sarawak–Kalimantan border issues yet to be settled with Indonesia.
Geography. The total land area of Sarawak is nearly 124,450 square kilometres (48,050 sq mi), making up 37.5 percent of the total area of Malaysia, and lies between the northern latitudes 0° 50′ and 5° and eastern longitudes 109° 36′ and 115° 40′ E. 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.
Sarawak has a tropical geography with an equatorial climate and experiences two monsoon seasons: a northeast monsoon and a southwest monsoon. The northeast monsoon occurs between November and February, bringing heavy rainfall while the southwest monsoon, which occurs between March and October, brings somewhat less rainfall . The climate is stable throughout the year except for the two monsoons, with average daily temperature varying between 23 °C (73 °F) in the morning to 32 °C (90 °F) in the afternoon. Unusually, Miri has the lowest average temperatures in comparison to other major towns in Sarawak and has the longest daylight hours (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, with annual rainfall varying between 330 centimetres (130 in) and 460 centimetres (180 in) for up to 220 days a year.
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 and Damai beaches in Kuching, Tanjung Batu beach in Bintulu, and Tanjung Lobang and Hawaii beaches in Miri. Hilly terrain accounts for much 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 while 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, where a number of villages such as Bario, Ba’kelalan, and Usun Apau Plieran are located. A number of rivers flows through Sarawak, with the Sarawak River being the main river flowing through Kuching. The Rajang River is the longest river in Malaysia, measuring 563 kilometres (350 mi) including its tributary, Balleh River. To the north, the Baram, Limbang and Trusan Rivers drain into the Brunei Bay.
Sarawak can be divided into two geological zones: 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 type in southern Sarawak is schist formed during the Carboniferous and Lower Permian times, while the youngest igneous rock in this region, andesite, can be found at Sematan. Geological formation of the central and northern regions started during the late Cretaceous period. Other types of stone that can be found in central and northern Sarawak are shale, sandstone, and chert. Significant quantities of Sarawak soil are lithosols, up to 60 percent, and podsols, around 12 percent, while abundant alluvial soil is found in coastal and riverine regions. 12 percent of Sarawak is covered with peat swamp forest.
Sarawak has a number of national parks including Niah National Park, within which the Niah Caves are located, and Lambir Hills National Park, known for its various waterfalls. Sarawak is also home to the Gunung Mulu National Park, which was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. The park is known for Sarawak Chamber, one of the world’s largest underground chamber, Deer Cave, the second largest cave passage in the world, and Clearwater Cave, the longest cave system in Southeast Asia.
Biodiversity. Sarawak contains large tracts of tropical rainforest with abundant plant and animal species. The Sarawak coastline is covered with mangrove and nipah forests, comprising two percent of the total forested area in Sarawak, and these forests are 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 cover 16 percent of the forested land and are largely concentrated in southern Miri and the lower Baram Valley. The dominant trees in the peat swamp forests are: ramin, meranti, and medang jongkong. Kerangas forest comprises 5 percent of the total forest area, while Dipterocarpaceae forests dominate in mountainous areas. The broad diversity has led to a number of plant species being studied for medicinal properties.
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. The state is the habitat of endangered animals, including the borneo pygmy elephant, proboscis monkey, orangutans and rhinoceroses. Matang Wildlife Centre, Semenggoh Nature Reserve, and Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary are noted for their orangutan protection programmes. Talang–Satang National Park is notable for its turtle conservation initiatives. Birdwatching is a common activity in various national parks such as Gunung Mulu National Park, Lambir Hills National Park, and Similajau National Park. Miri–Sibuti National Park is known for its coral reefs and Gunung Gading National Park for its Rafflesia flowers. Bako National Park, the oldest national park in Sarawak, is known for its 275 species of proboscis monkeys, and Padawan Pitcher Garden for its various carnivorous pitcher plants. 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.
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. The Sarawak Forest Department was established in 1919 to conserve forest resources in the state. 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. The Sarawak Biodiversity Centre was set up in 1997 for the conservation, protection, and sustainable development of biodiversity in the state.
Conservation issues. Varying claims have been made regarding the area of forest coverage remaining in Sarawak. Former chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud has stated that between 2011 and 2012 Sarawak’s forested land area fell from 70% to 48%. In contradiction with Abdul Taib Mahmud, Resource Planning and Environment Second Minister Awang Tengah announced in 2012 Sarawak was 80% forested area. The Sarawak Forest Department also held that the forest cover was 80% in 2012. According to Wetlands International 10 percent of all Sarawak forests and 33 percent of peat swamp forests were cleared between 2005 and 2010. This rate of deforestation is 3.5 times higher than found in neighboring Asian countries.
Sarawak’s rain forests are primarily threatened by the logging industry and palm oil plantations. The issue of human rights of the Penan and deforestation in Sarawak became an international environmental issue when Swiss activist Bruno Manser visited Sarawak regularly between 1984 and 2000. 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. 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. 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. 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. Since 2013, the proposed Baram Dam project has been delayed due to ongoing protests from local indigenous tribes. 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. Through the course of 2016 over 2 million acres of forest, much of it in orangutan habitat, were declared protected areas.
Sarawak GDP share by sector (2013): Services (37.2%), Manufacturing (26.6%), Mining & Quarrying (21.5%), Agriculture (11.4%), Construction (3.1%), Import Duties (0.3%)
Sarawak is abundant in natural resources making primary industry a major contributor to its economy. Industries such as mining, agriculture, and forestry accounted for 32.8 percent of the state economy in 2013. Apart from primary industries, Sarawak also has a significant manufacturing industry in food and beverages, wood-based and rattan products, basic metal products, and petrochemical products, as well as a services industry dealing in cargo transportation services, air transport, and tourism.From 2000 to 2009 Sarawak had an average annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 5.0 percent. 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). 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.
Sarawak’s highly export oriented economy is dominated by Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) exports, which account for more than half of total exports, with crude petroleum exports accounting for 20.8 percent and palm oil, sawlogs, and sawn timber accounting for 9.0 percent. Sarawak receives a 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. Most of the oil and gas deposits are located offshore next to Bintulu and Miri at Balingian basin, Baram basin, and around Luconia Shoals.
Sarawak is one of the world’s largest exporters of tropical hardwood timber, constituting 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.
In 1955, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC Bank) became the first foreign bank to open branches in Sarawak. Apart from domestic banks, 18 European, 10 Middle Eastern, 11 Asian, and five North American banks have local branches in Sarawak. Other notable Sarawak-based companies include Cahya Mata Sarawak Berhad (CMSB), Naim Holdings, and Rimbunan Hijau.
Electricity in Sarawak, supplied by the state owned Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), is primarily sourced from traditional coal fired power plants and thermal power stations using Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), but diesel based sources and hydroelectricity are also utilised. There are 3 hydroelectric dams as of 2015, Batang Ai Dam, Bakun Dam, and Murum Dam with several others undergoing feasibility study and planning. In early 2016, SEB signed Malaysia’s first energy export deal to supply electricity to neighbouring West Kalimantan in Indonesia.
In 2008, the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) was established as a framework to develop the energy sector in the state, specifically the Murum, Baram, and Baleh Dams as well as potential coal-based power plants, and 10 high priority industries out to 2030. The Regional Corridor Development Authority (RECODA) is the government agency responsible for managing SCORE. 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. Samalaju will be developed as an industrial park, with Tanjung Manis as a halal food hub, and Mukah as the administrative centre for SCORE with a focus on resource-based research and development.
Tourism plays a major role in the economy of the state contributing 9.3 percent of the state’s GDP in 2015. Foreign visitors to Sarawak are predominantly from Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and China. A number of different organisations, both state and private, are involved in the promotion of tourism in Sarawak: the Sarawak Tourism Board is the state body responsible for tourism promotion in the state, various private tourism groups are united under the Sarawak Tourism Federation, the Sarawak Convention Bureau is responsible for attracting conventions, conferences, and corporate events, which are held in the Borneo Convention Centre in Kuching. The public and private bodies in Sarawak hold a biannual event to award the Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Award, an award for achievements within various categories, to recognise businesses and individuals for their efforts in the development of tourism within the state.
The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) is the region’s premier “world music” event, attracting more than 20,000 people yearly. 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. Major shopping complexes in Sarawak include The Spring, Boulevard, Hock Lee Centre, City One shopping malls in Kuching, and Bintang Megamall, Boulevard, Imperial Mall, and Miri Plaza shopping malls in Miri.
Infrastructure development in Sarawak is overseen by the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Transportation, successor to the Ministry of Infrastructure Development and Communications (MIDCom) after it was renamed in 2016. Despite this ministerial oversight, infrastructure in Sarawak remains relatively underdeveloped compared to Peninsular Malaysia.
In 2009, 94 percent of urban Sarawak was supplied with electricity, but only 67 percent of rural areas had electricity, however, this had increased to 91 percent by 2014. According to a 2015 article, household internet penetration in Sarawak was lower than Malaysian national average, 41.2 percent versus 58.6 percent, with 58.5 percent of internet use being in urban areas and 29.9 percent in rural areas. In comparison, mobile telecommunication uptake in Sarawak was comparable to the national average, 93.3 percent against a national average of 94.2 percent, and on par with neighbouring Sabah. Mobile telecommunication infrastructure, specifically broadcast towers, are built and managed by Sacofa Sdn Bhd (Sacofa Private Limited), which enjoys a monopoly in Sarawak after the company was granted a 20-year exclusivity deal on the provision, maintenance and leasing of towers in the state.
A number of different bodies manage the supply of water depending on their region of responsibility, including the Kuching Water Board (KWB), Sibu Water Board (SWB), LAKU Management Sdn Bhd, which handles water supply in Miri, Bintulu, and Limbang, and the Rural Water Supply Department manages the water supply for the remaining areas. As of 2014, 82 percent of the rural areas have a fresh water supply.
Transportation. Much like many former British territories, Sarawak uses a dual carriageway with the left-hand traffic rule. As of 2013, Sarawak had a total of 32,091 kilometres (19,940 mi) of connected roadways, with 18,003 kilometres (11,187 mi) being paved state routes, 8,313 kilometres (5,165 mi) of dirt tracks, 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. Despite being a major highway, the condition of the road is poor leading to numerous accidents and fatalities. 16 billion ringgit worth of contracts were awarded to a number of local companies in December 2016 to add new vehicle and pedestrian bridges, interchanges and bus shelters to the highway as part of a multi-phase project.
A railway line existed prior to the war but the last remnants of the line was dismantled in 1959. A rail project was announced in 2008 to be in line with the transport needs of SCORE, but as yet no construction work has begun despite an anticipated completion date in 2015. In 2017, the Sarawak government proposed a light rail system connecting Kuching, Samarahan and Serian divisions with anticipated completion in 2020. Currently, buses are the primary mode of public transportation in Sarawak with interstate services connecting the state to Sabah, Brunei, and Pontianak (Indonesia).
Sarawak is served by a number of airports with Kuching International Airport, located south west of Kuching, being the largest. Flights from Kuching are mainly to Kuala Lumpur but also to Johor Bahru, Penang, Sabah, Kelantan, Singapore and Pontianak, Indonesia. A second airport at Miri serves flights primarily to other Malaysian states as well as services to Singapore. Other smaller airports such as Sibu Airport, Bintulu Airport, Mukah Airport, Marudi Airport, Mulu Airport, and Limbang Airport provide domestic services within Malaysia. There are also a number of remote airstrips serving rural communities in the state. Three airlines serve flights in Sarawak, Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia, and MASwings all of which use Kuching Airport as their main hub. The state owned Hornbill Skyways is an aviation company that largely provides private chartered flights and flight services for public servants.
Sarawak has four primary ports located at Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu, and Miri. The busiest seaport at Bintulu is under the jurisdiction of the Malaysian federal government and mainly handles LNG products and regular cargo. 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.
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, located 113 kilometres (70 mi) from the river’s mouth, is the main hub along the Rajang River mainly handling timber products. However, the throughput of Sibu port has declined over the years after Tanjung Manis Industrial Port (TIMP) began operating further downriver.
Health care in Sarawak is provided by three major government hospitals, Sarawak General Hospital, Sibu Hospital, and Miri Hospital, as well as numerous district hospitals, public health clinics, 1Malaysia clinics, and rural clinics. Besides government-owned hospitals and clinics, there are several private hospitals in Sarawak such as the Normah Medical Specialists Centre, Timberland Medical Specialists Centre, and Sibu Specialist Medical Centre. Hospitals in Sarawak typically provide the full gamut of health care options, from triage to palliative care for the terminally ill. In 1994, Sarawak General Hospital Department of Radiotherapy, Oncology & Palliative Care instituted an at-home care, or hospice care, program for cancer patients. The non profit Sarawak Hospice Society was established in 1998 to promote this program. In comparison to the number of other medical facilities, mental health is only serviced by a single facility, Hospital Sentosa. This abundance of medical services has made Sarawak a medical tourism destination for visitors from neighbouring Brunei and Indonesian.
In comparison to the prevalence of health services in urban regions, much of rural Sarawak is only accessible by river transport, which limits access. Remote rural areas that are beyond the operating areas of health clinics, about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi), and inaccessible by land or river are serviced by a monthly flying doctor service, which was established in 1973. A village health promoter program, where volunteers are provided with basic medical training, was established in 1981 but difficulty in providing medical supplies to remote villages, as well as a lack of incentive, resulted in a decline of the program. A variety of traditional medicine practices are still being used by the various communities in Sarawak to supplement modern medical practices but this practice is also declining. However, since 2004, there has been a resurgence in traditional medicine in Malaysia resulting in the establishment of a traditional medicine division within the Ministry of Health. A 2006 government program to have integrated hospitals led to numerous universities starting programs to teach traditional medicine and major hospitals, including Sarawak General Hospital, providing traditional therapies.
Education in Malaysia falls under the remit of two federal ministries; the Malaysian Ministry of Education is responsible for primary and secondary education, while the Ministry of Higher Education has oversight over public universities, polytechnic and community colleges. Early childhood education is not directly controlled by the Ministry of Education as it does with primary and secondary education. However, the ministry does oversee the licensing of private kindergartens, the main form of early childhood education, in accordance with the National Pre-School Quality Standard, which was launched in 2013.
Around the time of Federation, overall literacy in Sarawak was quite low. In 1960, the overall literacy rate was 25 percent, with a heavy slant in the literacy rate towards the Chinese population, 53 percent, compared with that of indigenous peoples which was substantially lower, only 17 percent. By 2007, overall literacy in adults aged 15 and over had significantly increased to 92.3 percent and in 2012, this had climbed to 96 percent.
A 2015 publication by the Sarawak State Planning Unit reported a total of 1480 schools in Sarawak, of which there were 1271 primary, 202 secondary and 7 vocational/technical secondary schools. Among these are a number of schools that date from the Brooke era including St. Thomas’s School Kuching (1848), St Mary’s School Kuching (1848), and St Joseph’s School Kuching (1882). As well as government schools, there are four international schools: Tunku Putra School, a primary and secondary school offering national and Cambridge curricula, Lodge International School, which is also open to local students and uses both the British National and Cambridge systems, Kidurong International School, which is owned by Shell and offers primary education mainly to children of employees but local children may enter depending on space availability, and Tenby International School, which opened in 2014 and is open to both local and expatriate children. There are also 14 Chinese independent secondary schools in Sarawak that teach in Chinese rather than English or Malay. Previously, only Chinese students were enrolled in these schools but mobility of the workforce has led to increasing turnover of students as parents move to other areas for employment. This has led to an increasing number of bumiputera students being enrolled in Chinese schools.
Sarawak is home to three public universities, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Kota Samarahan campus, and Universiti Putra Malaysia Bintulu Campus, as well as two private universities, Curtin University, Malaysia and Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus. The latter two are satellite campuses of Curtin University in Perth and Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.
With the establishment of SCORE, and the associated potential in job growth estimated to be an additional 1.6 million jobs by 2030, the importance of vocational training is getting particular attention from the government with RM1 billion being allocated, from 2016 to 2020, to a Skills Development Fund to fund vocational education. In 2015, the state owned oil company, Petronas, provided vocational scholarships to 150 underprivileged Sarawak students as part of its Vocational Institution Sponsorship and Training Assistance program, although there has been some criticism for an under-representation of Sarawakian students in the scholarship allocation in past years. Apart from direct support to students, Petronas also provided support to a number of Sarawak vocational education centers including the Center of Technical Excellence Sarawak, Pusat Pembagunan Kemahiran Sarawak, Institut Latihan Perindustrian Miri and Institut Kemahiran Belia Negara Miri.
Ethnic groups in Sarawak (2014): 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. However, due to the large area of Sarawak, it has the lowest population density in Malaysia with 20 people per km2. The average population growth rate per year from 2000 to 2010 was 1.8 percent. As of 2014, 58 percent of the population is urban while 42 percent of the population reside in rural areas.
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.
People from Sarawak are called Sarawakians. 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. 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. Sarawak has 150,000 registered migrant workers working as domestic workers or in plantation, manufacturing, construction, services and agriculture. However, the total number of illegal immigrants may be as high as 320,000 to 350,000 people. 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. Orang Asal refers to all the indigenous groups in Malaysia excluding Malays.
Ethnic groups. Sarawak has six major ethnic groups: Iban, Chinese, Malay, Bidayuh, Melanau, and Orang Ulu. Alongside these are several minor ethnic groups, including Kedayan, Javanese, Bugis, Murut, and Indian. In 2015 the two ethnic groups, the Bidayuh and Iban, were officially recognized by the government of Malaysia as comprising the Dayak people.
Sarawak’s population of 745,400 Ibans is the largest in Borneo, with a majority practicing Christianity. Iban settlements are usually in the form of a longhouse — a structure providing shelter, communal space, as well as defensive fortification. Today the longhouse retains significant symbolic value to the Iban people. Historically, Iban social status was determined by caste. Examples include raja berani (rich and the brave,) orang mayuh (free people,) and ulun (slaves.) The Iban still observe many of their traditional rituals such as Gawai Antu (festival of the dead) and the Gawai Dayak (Harvest Festival).
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. This migration was driven by the employment opportunities at gold mines in Bau, Sarawak. Sarawak Chinese are primarily Buddhist and Christian, and speak a multitude of dialects: Cantonese, Foochow, Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew, and Henghua (Putian people). The Chinese celebrate major cultural festivals such as Hungry Ghost Festival and the Chinese New Year. Most of the Chinese in Kuching settled near the Sarawak River in an area now called Chinatown. In 1901 Wong Nai Siong led people from Fujian to Sibu, settling near the Rajang River. In Miri, Chinese labourers work at coalmines and oilfields.
During the Brooke era, the Malays were fishermen, leading to their villages being concentrated along river banks. With the advent of urban development, Malay migrants found employment in public and private sectors. They are known for their silver and brass crafts, wood carvings, and textiles.
The Melanaus are native to Sarawak, primarily originating from the coastal town of Mukah. They worked as fishermen, boat-builders, and craftsmen. Pagan Animism was the traditional religion among the Melanaus, but over time as the Islamic rule of the Bruneian empire dominate, 73% of the population is now identify as Muslims.
The Bidayuh occupy the southern part of Sarawak. They are known colloquially as Land Dayaks because they traditionally live on steep limestone mountains. They consist of several sub-ethnic groups speaking mutually incompatible dialects, with English language and Sarawak Malay as de facto common languages. They are known for several musical instruments such as the pratuakng, a percussion instrument constructed of bamboo. Like the Ibans the traditional Bidayuh village consisted of longhouses, with the addition of the distinctive round baruk where communal gatherings were held. The majority of the Bidayuh are Christians.
The numerous tribes who reside in Sarawak’s interior such as the Kenyah, Kayan, Lun Bawang, Kelabit, Penan, Bisaya, and Berawan are collectively referred to as Orang Ulu. In the Iban language this name means “Upriver People,” reflecting the location these tribes settled in. Most of them reside near the drainage basin of the Baram River. Both woodworking and artistry are highly visible aspects of Orang Ulu culture exemplified by mural covered longhouses, carved wooden boats, and tattooing. 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. The majority of Orang Ulu are Christians.
Religion. 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. 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.
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. Other Christian denominations in Sarawak are Borneo Evangelical Mission (or Sidang Injil Borneo), and Baptists. 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. Other minor religions in Sarawak are Baha’i, Hinduism, Sikhism, and animism.
Religious sites in Sarawak: St. Joseph Cathedral, Old Sarawak State Mosque, Hong San Si Temple
Languages. English was the official language of Sarawak from 1963 to 1974 due to opposition from First Chief Minister of Sarawak Stephen Kalong Ningkan to the use of the Malay language in Sarawak. In 1974 the new Chief Minister Abdul Rahman Ya’kub recognised Malay alongside English as an official language of Sarawak. This new status given to the Malay language was further reinforced by new education standards transitioning curriculum to Malay. In 1985 English lost the status of an official language, leaving only Malay. Despite official policy, Sarawak opposition members argue that English remained the de facto official language of Sarawak. English is still spoken in the legal courts, state legislative assembly, and certain government agencies in Sarawak. In 2015, Chief Minister Adenan Satem announced that English will be reinstated as an official language.
Although the official Malay dialect of Bahasa Malaysia is spoken by the government administration, it is used infrequently in colloquial conversation. The local dialect of Bahasa Sarawak (Sarawak Malay) dominates the vernacular. 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 and also the Standard Chinese.
The location and history of Sarawak has resulted in a broad diversity of ethnicity, culture and languages. Among the indigenous peoples of Sarawak, outside influences have led to many changes over time. The Iban tribal culture in Sarawak centred on the concept of the warrior and the ability to take heads from other tribes in battle. This practice, central as it was to the Iban people, was made illegal under James Brooke’s rule and ultimately faded away although reminders of the practice are still seen in some long houses. Two other tribal peoples of the Sarawak Highlands, the Kelabit and Lun Bawang, have seen fundamental changes to their ethnic identities as a direct result of their conversion to Christianity. One major change was the shift in the focal point of their social interactions from the traditional long house to the local church. Their religious devotion has also helped shape their worldview outside of their village, particularly in response to change. For the Penan people, one of the last tribes to still be practicing a nomadic lifestyle within the jungle, outside influence, particularly education, has resulted in a significant decline in the population that practice the nomadic lifestyle.Others settle down after intermixing with members of different tribes, such as the Orang Ulu. One direct result of this diversity in cultures, engendered by a policy of tolerance to all races, is the increasing numbers of tribal peoples marrying not only other Sarawakian tribes, but also to Chinese, Malays as well as citizens of European or American descent.
The indigenous tribes of Sarawak traditionally used oratory to pass on their culture from one generation to the next; examples of these traditional practices include the Iban’s Ngajat dances, Renong (Iban vocal repertory), Ensera (Iban oral narratives),and epic storytelling by the Kayan and Kenyah.
In the years before federation, the colonial government recognised that British education and indigenous culture was influencing a new generation of Iban teachers. Thus, on 15 September 1958, the Borneo Literature Bureau was inaugurated with a charter to nurture and encourage local literature while also supporting the government in its release of documentation, particularly in technical and instructional manuscripts that were to be distributed to the indigenous peoples of Sarawak and Sabah. As well as indigenous languages, documents would also be published in English, Chinese and Malay. In 1977, the bureau came under the authority of the federal government language planning and development agency, the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), which advocated publication only in Malay ultimately causing the demise of fledgling indigenous literature.
Print. It was a number of decades before print media began to appear in Sarawak. The Sarawak Gazette, published by the Brooke government, recorded a variety of news relating to economics, agriculture, anthropology, archaeology, began circulation in 1870 and continues in modern times. However, in the decades following federation, restrictive laws and connection to businesses has meant that the media is a largely state owned enterprise. One of the earliest known text publications in Borneo, Hikayat Panglima Nikosa (Story of Nikosa the Warrior), was first printed in Kuching, 1876.
There are a number of museums in Sarawak that preserve and maintain artifacts of Sarawak’s culture. At the foot of Mount Santubong, Kuching, is Sarawak Cultural Village,a “living museum” that showcases the various ethnic groups carrying out traditional activities in their respective traditional houses. 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. Orang Ulu’s Sapeh (a dug-out guitar) is the best known traditional musical instrument in Sarawak and was played for Queen Elizabeth II during her official visit to Sarawak in 1972.
Sarawakians observe a number of holidays and festivals throughout the year. Apart from national Hari Merdeka and Malaysia Day celebrations, the state also celebrates Sarawak self-government Day on 22 July and the State Governor’s birthday. Ethnic groups also celebrate their own festivals. The open house tradition allows other ethnic groups to join in the celebrations. Sarawak is the only state in Malaysia to declare the Gawai Dayak celebration a public holiday.
Food. Notable dishes in the state include Sarawak laksa, kolo mee, and ayam pansuh. The state is also known for its Sarawak layer cake dessert.
Sport. Sarawak sent its own teams to participate in the 1958 and 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, and 1962 Asian Games; after 1963, Sarawakians competed as part of the Malaysian team. Sarawak hosted the Malaysian SUKMA Games in 1990 and 2016, and overall champion in the 1990, 1992, and 1994 SUKMA games. Sarawak has been overall champion for 11 consecutive years at the Malaysia Para Games since 1994.