The Limbang Rebellion
I cannot remember when I first heard of this book and was wondering how I was going to get it. Luckily my colleague went off to Singapore and bought me a copy. The Limbang Rebellion was part of the Brunei Rebellion in December 1962. I noticed that lately many recent books write about the 1962 event as the start of the Malaysia-Indonesia Konfrontasi whereas we in Brunei see it in our own context and less in the context of the wider regional struggle.
Santa Oorjitham of the Malaysian Daily Star newspaper wrote a review of the book:
THE Limbang Rebellion in Borneo was the prelude to Malaysia’s confrontation – or Konfrontasi, as it’s more popularly known – with Indonesia and helped to convince Sarawakians of the wisdom of joining in the formation of Malaysia. Yet it is not mentioned in our school history textbooks and unless our families or our friends were directly affected, many of us know little about the weeklong uprising in December 1962. That’s why Limbang Rebellion should be on your year-end list of books to read.
Sydney-based historian Eileen Chanin brings a very personal angle and touch to her tale.
Australian-born Richard “Dick” Morris was British Resident of Sarawak’s Fifth Division when he and his wife Dorothy were taken hostage. Chanin, who later became their daughter-in-law, had access to the couple’s unpublished manuscripts and letters.She interviewed many of the players – including the Royal Marines who came to the rescue – and delved into archives in Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Britain.
In an extensive bibliography, she has meticulously listed all her reference material – right down to the date on which she accessed various websites.But don’t let the pages of maps, glossary, footnotes, bibliography and index overwhelm you. Limbang Rebellion reads more like a thriller, drawing you into the lives of the people caught in the conflict.
Chanin sets the stage, pointing out that rebellion has had a long history in the region of Borneo, starting with the 1841 rebellion which British adventurer Sir James Brooke helped the Sultan of Brunei to suppress.By 1962, Sarawak had passed through World War II and the Japanese Occupation. “Britain wanted out – but most Sarawakians wanted the status quo preserved,” writes Chanin. She traces the responses to the plan for the British territories of Borneo to form a new Federation of Malaysia, noting that “many in Sarawak were wary”.
And she notes that Britain’s Colonial Office was “apprehensive about Indonesian moves in the Borneo region. It was expecting that the Indonesian Government would distract attention from serious domestic problems by launching ‘claim’ to neighbouring territory.”
By Dec 6, although Dick had received reports about a possible uprising from Limbang and from Miri, he accepted the official opinion that there was no certainty of trouble.
“We agreed that the Police should be placed in a state of alert but that no further action should be taken.”
But at 2am on Dec 8, the armed wing of the Brunei People’s Party (which opposed the formation of Malaysia) launched coordinated attacks across Brunei, in Sarawak’s Fifth Division and the western edge of North Borneo (now Sabah). Chanin then picks up the pace with a blow-by-blow account of the rebel action, the experiences of the hostages and the rescue mission that succeeded even though the Royal Marines were vastly outnumbered.
The book is not available in Brunei as far as I know but in Singapore, it can be bought at Kinokuniya Bookshop for S$29.96