KUCHING, July 22 — An estimated 10,000 people turned up today at the Song Kheng Hai field here for the Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S) “Freedom and Independence Walk”, ignoring a previous warning by the police not to participate in the event.
According to Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar yesterday, the police had received information that some parties were planning to use the event to incite Sarawakians into calling for the state’s secession from Malaysia.
But despite the warning, organisers decided to proceed with the gathering today as many of its participants from outside Sarawak were already in town for the event.
The gathering went on peacefully with no reports of any untoward incidents.
Chief organiser Peter John Jaban said an estimated 10,000 people turned up for the event meant to mark Sarawak’s independence from the British.
The walk by the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA) and the S4S movement was organised to demand, among others, that July 22 to be made a public holiday to mark Sarawak’s independence.
“On this day in 1963, Sarawak gained its independence from the British and for 55 days, we were a sovereign nation before we formed the Federation of Malaysia with Malaya, Sabah (then known as North Borneo) and Singapore on Sept 16, 1963,” Jaban said.
He said the organisers will hold an even bigger gathering next year if July 22 is not made a public holiday.
He said those that formed the federation of Malaysia were meant to be equal partners, but over the years, Sarawak and Sabah were downgraded to state status.
Singapore was expelled from the federation in 1965.
He said history textbooks should be rewritten, pointing out that the fact that Sarawak had gained its independence on July 22 is not mentioned.
Jaban then called for a review of the Malaysian Agreement 1963 and the National Petroleum Development Act 1994, and urged for autonomy for the state on matters like education.
He also urged for tighter immigration control.
During the gathering, an old Sarawak flag was hoisted by four cyclists as the state anthem “Ibu Pertiwiku” was played.