Sarawak Independence Day

Sarawak Independence Day (Malay: Hari Kemerdekaan Sarawak)[1] or Sarawak Day (Malay: Hari Sarawak) is the official independence day celebrated on 22 July annually by Sarawak, celebrating the establishment of de facto self-government and independence on 22 July 1963.[2][3][4][5][6]

Sarawak Independence Day
Also calledSarawak Day
Observed bySarawak
TypeStatewide in Sarawak
SignificanceMarks the de facto self-government and independence of Sarawak
Date22 July
Next time22 July 2023 (2023-07-22)
The flag of the Raj of Sarawak used as the first flag of Sarawak after achieving de facto self-government on 22 July 1963.

The official Sarawak Independence Day public holiday was gazetted by the government of Sarawak in 2016[7][8][9] to raise awareness about Sarawak's past and contributions of its past leaders. Despite this official name, there are those who still avoided using this title, due to lack of awareness of its legality (it is, in fact, officially gazetted),[8] while some still argue about its historical accuracy, citing British legislation did not provide for an official, full independence.[10] Nonetheless, there was indeed a degree of de facto independence in the form of self-government ahead of it taking part in the founding[11] of a new federation in the form of Malaysia with other partners.

The idea of a Sarawakian holiday was mooted by the Sarawak state government and citizens since 2012, after public discontent about the public holiday Hari Merdeka being too Malaya-centric.[12][13][14] The day was officially named Sarawak Independence Day and declared as a public holiday for the first time in 2016.[15] Although there have been persistent attempts to falsify the historical record for political purposes, it is incontrovertible that Sarawak as a British crown colony achieved independence on 16 September 1963 as a member state of the Malaysian Federation under the Malaysia legislation passed by the sovereign United Kingdom and Malayan Parliaments in July 1963.[16]


The Sultanate of Brunei granted the Raj of Sarawak to rule of the Brooke Dynasty in 1841, Sarawak was subsequently recognised as a sovereign nation by the United States (1850) and Great Britain (1864), and it voluntarily became a British protectorate (military protection) in 1888.[17] After the end of World War II, the territory was briefly administered by the British Military Administration, then became a Crown Colony in 1946 when it was ceded to British Government by Charles Vyner Brooke.[18] The transferring of the territory to colonial administration had led to major protests by Sarawakian citizens who wanted the independence of Sarawak to be restored. This led to the assassination of Duncan Stewart, the second governor of the Colony, by Rosli Dhobi,[19] who was captured and subsequently hanged for murder.[20] The position of the Governor was succeeded by Anthony Abell, who also became one of the members for the Cobbold Commission which brought Sarawak and North Borneo to the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

Sarawak was granted independent self-rule on 22 July 1963,[2] on the expectation that it would jointly form the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September the same year.[21][22] It is said that before the ceremony on 22 July 1963, Alexander Waddell, the last Governor of the Colony, left the Astana and boarded a white sampan to cross the Sarawak River, then handed the administration of Sarawak to the Sarawakian citizens, with the colonial Union Jack flag lowered for the last time, and the Sarawak flag raised.[23][24] Some historians dispute the significance of that event and whether it was tantamount to a granting of full independence.[25] However, on the same day, the outgoing Governor did indeed proclaim the appointment of Stephen Kalong Ningkan as the first Chief Minister of Sarawak[24][26] as well as the appointment of new Supreme Council members who formed the government's first ministerial Cabinet of Sarawak.

In 2016, the Sarawak Government under Chief Minister Adenan Satem officially gazetted 22 July as a Sarawak public holiday and that it henceforth be known as "Sarawak Independence Day".[7][27]

Further reading

See also


  1. Declarations of independence by Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore. The National Archives. Archived from the original on 1963.
  2. "The National Archives DO 169/254 (Constitutional issues in respect of North Borneo and Sarawak on joining the federation)". The National Archives. 1961–1963. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  3. Vernon L. Porritt (1997). British Colonial Rule in Sarawak, 1946-1963. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-983-56-0009-8.
  4. Philip Mathews (28 February 2014). Chronicle of Malaysia: Fifty Years of Headline News, 1963-2013. Editions Didier Millet. pp. 15–. ISBN 978-967-10617-4-9.
  5. Murray Hunter (27 July 2013). "Sarawak's "Independence Day"". New Mandala. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  6. Bob Teoh (6 August 2012). "Tanah airku - My homeland - 美丽的国家". Sin Chew Daily. Archived from the original on 30 May 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  7. Goh Pei Pei (26 May 2016). "Public holiday for Sarawak on July 22". New Straits Times. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  8. "July 22 is 'Sarawak Independence Day'". The Star. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  9. "It's official, July 22 public holiday in Sarawak". The Borneo Post. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  10. A J Stockwell, ed. (2004). British Documents on the End of Empire, Series B Volume 8: Malaysia. The Stationery Office. p. lxxx. ISBN 9780112905813.
  11. Despite commonly phrased, the notion that Sarawak "joined Malaysia" on 16 Sept 1963 is factually incorrect, as the Federation of Malaysia was not an existing entity until its four founding nations (North Borneo, Singapore, Sarawak and the Federation of Malaya) brought it into being.
  12. "Numerous Events Organised For Sarawak Independence Celebration". Sarawak Chief Minister Department. Bernama. 28 March 2013. Archived from the original on 16 June 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  13. Michael Kaung (27 August 2012). "Merdeka 'no relevance' to Sabah, Sarawak". Free Malaysia Today. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  14. "Sabah, Sarawak: 50 Years in Malaysia plagued by bad politics — Joe Fernadez". Malay Mail. 7 October 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  15. "Sarawakians celebrate Sarawak Day for the first time today". The Borneo Post. 22 July 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  16. Malaysia Act 1963 (c.35); Federation of Malaysia Act 1963 (no.26)
  17. Khairie Hisyam Aliman (13 September 2014). "No, Sarawak did not gain independence in 1841". Malay Mail. Archived from the original on 15 September 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  18. Patricia Pui Huen Lim; Diana Wong (2000). War and Memory in Malaysia and Singapore. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 124–. ISBN 978-981-230-037-9.
  19. Mike Thompson (12 March 2012). "The stabbed governor of Sarawak". BBC News. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  20. Antonia Chiam (22 September 2013). "Farewell to the Crown Prince". The Borneo Post. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  21. "Formation of Malaysia 1963". Official Portal of Sarawak Government.
  22. Frans Welman (9 March 2017). Borneo Trilogy Sarawak: Volume 2. Booksmango. pp. 134–. ISBN 978-616-245-089-1.
  23. "Sarawak 'brave' to celebrate July 22 independence day, says Kitingan". The Borneo Post. 22 July 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  24. "The day Sarawak was briefly an independent state". The Star. 22 July 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  25. "July 22 not Sarawak's independence day — Historian". The Borneo Post. 23 July 2015. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  26. Asia Yearbook. Far Eastern economic review. 1964.
  27. "22 Julai diisytihar cuti umum Hari Sarawak" (in Malay). Berita Harian. 23 April 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
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