Tuesday, October 16

Excerpts from Chapter 1: The Formation of SNAP

The formation of the Sarawak National Party (SNAP) in Sarawak on 10 April 1961, the third party to be formed after the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and Parti Negara Sarawak (PANAS), opened the way for Dayaks’ active participation not only in the efforts to prepare Sarawak’s independence, but also to be fully involved in political activities. Although there were Dayaks in SUPP and PANAS, which were and are essentially and basically Chinese and Malay in character and in their objectives respectively, the Dayaks’ interests in the two parties were secondary and their roles minimal.

Thus the Dayaks, particularly the Ibans felt that they might be left behind in the decision making of Sarawak that was desirous of becoming an independent country, if they did not have a party of their own. So SNAP was born in Betong, Second Division, and its formation was greatly welcomed by the vast majority of the Ibans, who formed one-third of Sarawak’s population then. Among the founders were Stephen Kalong Ningkan, who became its secretary-general, T.S. Tinker (chairman), Edward Howell, Edwin Howell, Ivory Kedit, Mathew Dana Ujai, David Lawrence Usit, Nyipa Julin and Lionel Bediman anak Ketit.
Ningkan was sacked as Chief Minister on 17 June 1966. Penghulu Tawi Sli was appointed as Chief Minister. Ningkan brought the Governor to court and subsequently won the case. He was reinstated by the court as Chief Minister.

Unhappy with the court decision, PESAKA, BARJASA and PANAS leaders went to Kuala Lumpur and urged Federal leaders to call for an emergency meeting of Parliament to amend the State Constitution to allow the Governor to call for a Council Negeri meeting. A state of emergency in Sarawak was proclaimed.

Thus Ningkan's government was dismissed when Council Negeri met on 23 September 1966 when 25 voted for the motion of no confidence on Ningkan as Chief Minister, while six from SNAP and 10 from opposition SUPP refused to attend the meeting. One independent member walked out during the meeting.

The Governor delivered a letter to Ningkan the same evening, calling on him to resign and if he did not resign, the Governor would sack him.

Four persons from PESAKA who were the brains in Ningkan’s dismissal were Thomas Kana (secretary-general), Temenggong Jugah (president), Sidi Munan (secretary of Jugah and secretary of Sarawak Alliance) and Alfred Mason, political secretary to Jugah. SNAP accused them of being used by Rahman and Taib Mahmud to get rid of Ningkan.

To the writer, this was the first public plot to undermine Iban unity, and consequently, the Ibans were there and then split in two main regions – the Batang Rajang represented by PESAKA and the Saribas by SNAP.

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