Early Iban Migration – PART 3
THE IBAN UNDER BROOKE RULE.
When James Brooke was installed Rajah of Sarawak by Raja Muda Hashim and Pengiran Makota in 1841, the Dayaks of the Saribas and Skrang combined their forces and attacked settlements as far north as Bintulu and to the southeast as far as Pontianak. Due to the trouble caused by these attacks, the Rajah, with the help of a British Royal Navy contingent under Captain Henry Keppel, attacked the Saribas in June 1843, at first taking Padeh, then Paku and finally Rimbas.
For the same reason an expedition made up of the joint services of James Brooke and the Royal Navy under Captain Henry Keppel attacked the Batang Lupar Iban of the Undup and Skrang rivers. In 1844, in the Undup a large number of raiders were killed, including Lieutenant Ward, while in the Skrang a Malay Chief, Datu Patinggi Ali, and Mr. Steward suffered the same fate at Kerangan Peris.
In January 1845, Linggir of Paku led a party of Saribas chiefs for formal submission to the Rajah at Kuching in accordance with the promise they had made at Padeh, Paku and Rimbas in 1843. The Skrangs were represented by chief Linggi.
The sea-fight at Beting Maru and the Saribas Iban and Malays.
In 1849 Linggir and his Saribas warriors raided Igan, Paloh and Matu. On the way home, they decided to attack Sarikei, fifty miles inside the Rajang River. Upon arrival they found that Sarikei was strongly defended, for the refugees who had fled from Igan, Paloh and Matu had sounded the alarm. Consequently the party turned back and attacked Duri near the mouth of the Rejang River. Duri had only a short time before been raided by the Layar Dayaks under OKP Dana “Bayang” of the Padeh and Datu Patinggi Udin of Rantau Anak on the middle Layar.
When Linggir and his warriors reached the mouth of the Kalaka, they saw a huge steamer moored there. They paddled hard towards the mouth of the Saribas River. When they came to the sand bar of Beting Maru, they were met by another steamer with guns and canons. Sensing danger, Linggir ordered all his men to land at the sand bar and make an attempt to escape to the Undai stream whilst his boat and Laksamana Amir’s boat will be used to attack the steamer to avert its attention. Unfortunately, most of the Skrang followers boat choosed to escape across the Saribas River mouth onto the Batang Lupar River. While attempt to do this, they suffer most casualties in the hand of Brooke’s men. Those who managed to escape to the Skrang were the Apai Dendang’s men, Linggir’s staunch allies from lower Skrang. As for Linggir’s men who managed to land at Cape Maru, they left their boat on the sand bar and escaped under cover of darkness by land to the Undai Stream, a tributary of the Rimbas above Pusa settlement. That is why there is no casualty for those who escaped on land, as the Brooke’s men would not dare to risk chasing after the stragglers in the dark. Their boats were later either destroyed or being used by the Brooke’s men in pursuit of Linggir and Abang Apong to their hideout inside Paku River.
With great courage, Linggir and Abang Apong’s warboats attacked the schooner. While attacking the Schooner, Linggir’s brother-in-law named Chabu or Saribas Jack slipped and fell to the sea. Linggir’s men made a brave attempt to climb onboard the schooner, but it was defended very well by its crew. After sometime, Linggir ordered their men to abort the attack and escape up the Saribas River. Out of 17 boats only two managed to escape up the Saribas that night under the guidance of Linggir and Abang Apong. When they had escaped all danger, Linggir’s men beat a gong so that their friends who escaped onland in the darkness that night would know the direction to the Saribas River.
Early next morning a man was seen floating on a nipah palm log which was drifting towards shore with the tide. Seeing him, the Malay crewmen in one of the ships caught him and brought him before the Rajah. On his arrival on board the Rajah’s ship, some of the Malays asked the Rajah if they might kill him. Hearing this, the captive struggled, struck one of his captors on the chest and severely wounded him. The Rajah ordered that the man be detained on board, despite his demand for instant release. The Rajah would not let him go, as a messenger, for he knew that if other Iban met him alone they would kill him. He was kept on board the ship until the return of the expedition to Sarawak (Kuching). When the crewmen asked him his name, he refused to tell them. So the sailors nicknamed him “Saribas Jack”.
Next day, the combined forces under the Rajah and Captain Henry Keppel went on the tide up the Saribas River. At the vacated Malay village of Buling, near the mouth of the Paku River, the forces stopped for the night. All the Malays of this settlement had already fled upriver to live with the Iban at Kerangan Pinggai in the Paku.
Early next morning, on the tide, the forces used the light Saribas warboats they had captured at Beting Maru to go up the Paku River. Just below an Iban settlement called Matop, they encountered several huge impassible tree trunks lying across the river. These ensurai trees had been felled by Linggir’s warriors to hinder their advance. It took a long time for the Rajah’s men to cut through these barriers so that their boats could reach their destination at Nanga Peka that evening.
Hearing that the Rajah’s forces had landed at Nanga Peka, about half a mile below his settlement, Linggir gathered eighteen warriors to prepare for the ambush the next day. He was unable to summon additional fighters to join them in an attack on the Rajah’s advancing flotilla, as his other warriors had not yet managed to find their way home through the forest into which they fled following the Beting Maru battle.
Late in the evening, after the enemy had landed at Nanga Peka, Linggir sent Enchana “Letan” and his young nephew, a warrior named Gerijih, to spy on them. These warriors went as ordered, though they were nervous. When they had hidden themselves in the bushes close to where the enemy had assembled their boats, they heard the Rajah presiding over a council of war. He was heard to command Janting of Lingga and his Balau warriors to lead the Rajah’s bala to attack the Saribas next morning. In reply, Janting said that he and his fighting men would not dare to risk this, since, as he put it, “we are in fear of the two powerful leading enemies colored like the biring sempidan fighting cocks, who will arrogantly scratch the earth on the battle¬ground tomorrow.” This meant that Janting and his people, spiritually seen as fighting cocks, would not be able to defeat two of the leading enemies in the next day’s battle.
After the Balau chief had made this reply, the spies heard Jugah, chief of the Lundu Sebuyaus, telling his leader that he would command his three sons Kalong, Bunsi and Tujang to take the lead.
“We Sebuyaus”, he said, “once born, never return to our mother’s wombs.” By this he meant that, as human beings, we die only once.
After Jugah had assured the Rajah that his warrior sons would lead the attack, Abang Hassan of Kuching was heard prophesying that in accordance with the information from his katika, or ilmu palat (system of divination), these leading warriors must wear yellow headgear, in order to be successful in leading the attack. He also warned that the battle would be won by the warriors who first shouted victory; the warrior who first killed his foe would win the battle. After this, “Letan” and Gerijih hastened back to inform Linggir and the other warriors of what they had seen and heard while spying.
That night Linggir called a council of war. In it he asked the Laksamana Amir to determine their fate in the coming battle. The latter read his katika and said that Linggir, his son Abang Apong, and Abang Gambong his nephew should be the warriors to lead in battle. “You three”, he said, “must wear yellow head-bands, and as you go to fight the enemy, you must first shout the war cry. Then you will defeat them.”
Early next morning Linggir, Abang Apong and Abang Gambong led their warriors to set an ambush at the foot of a low hill overlooking Nanga Peka. While they were waiting for the enemy to advance, they directed three young men, Saang, Muking and Mula, to shake the top of a jackfrait tree on the hill top to draw the enemy’s attention.
When the enemy saw the boys playing and shaking the tree branches, Bunsi and his brothers Tujang and Kalong ran forward to attack them. But when Bunsi passed one of Linggir’s warriors named Kedit “Rindang” who had hidden himself inside a cluster of young bamboo, Kedit instantly struck him with a pedang sword on his neck and killed him on the spot. Seeing this Tujang rushed forward to assist his brother. But when he suddenly met Abang Apong, they both caught each other by the hands and started to wrestle. They did not pause to take up swords because they were both startled at meeting each other.
When he wrestled against Tujang, Abang Apong pushed Tujang to Linggir to help him. And as Linggir came forward Abang Apong pushed Tujang away so that he was struck by Linggir with his nyabor sword on the side of his head, slashing his ear. As Linggir was about to strike him again, Tujang threw himself into the Peka stream where he died. But when Linggir was about to cut off his head the enemy fired a volley of shots at them. One of the bullets wounded Abang Gambong severely on the arm. At this Linggir and Abang Apong left Tujang alone in order to rescue Abang Gambong.
After this lightning swift fight was over, Linggir and his men took away Abang Gambong up the Paku River. He died while they were carrying him by boat up the Anyut stream, and he was buried at Lubok Engkala near Engkarebai.
From Nanga Peka the Rajah’s forces went further up and burnt Majang’s house at Nanga Anyut, so that its inhabitants went to join the people of other houses after the war was over.
After the battle of Paku, the Rajah’s force returned to Buling on their way back to Kuching. There, Jugah’s son-in-law was accidentally killed by the force’s own gun which went off in the boat. His death shocked Jugah who begged for leave from the Rajah in order to return to bury in the Lundu cemetery his three sons killed in one day.
After the departure of the Lundu chief, the Rajah and his followers returned to their ships at Buiing. As they did so a gunner was accidentally killed by another gun-shot. He was buried in the Malay cemetery at Telok Semang near Seruai. About an hour after the burial, his head was cut off and taken away by Ujan “Batu” of Luban of the lower Paku. Some weeks after the return of the expedition the Rajah met Saribas Jack. The latter demanded to be speedily released. He told the Rajah that his five small children must be suffering much during his absence, as there was no one to look after them, after the recent death of their mother. These words moved the Rajah, so he ordered that Saribas Jack was to be escorted to Kabong with a letter to Abang Ali, charging him to send him safely home.
From Kabong, Abang All’s men sent him up the Krian River and let him go by himself from the upper Krian to the Paku watershed. At the source of the Paku, as he walked along the path near the Tampak Panas settlement, he was seen by his sister Angkis who was drawing drinking water from the river. But as all the Paku people were certain that he had died during the Beting Maru battle, she was so astonished that she returned to the house without speaking a word to him. On her arrival, Angkis told her friends that she had seen his brother. But no one believed her, as all were certain that her brother had been killed in the sea fight at Beting Maru.
At this time the people of Linggir’s house at Kerangan Pinggai on the middle river were preparing for the ngerapoh ceremony in which they would bury Chabu’s personal belongings in the cemetery according to custom. Chabu was the true name of “Saribas Jack”. When he came near his own house, his young sons who were collecting firewood for the ngerapoh ceremony saw him walking in the distance towards the house. They ran home and told the people that they had seen their father coming to the house. The old people said that it could not be their father, but all of a sudden he came in and was welcomed by young and old with tears of joy.
About three weeks later Linggir and other leaders from the Paku went to renew their submission to the Rajah at Kuching. On this occasion Saribas Jack found a way to meet the Rajah. He told the ruler that he wished to be forgiven. He admitted that in the past he had joined his people’s expeditions either by land or by sea, but now he promised not to take part in such raids in the future. Finally, he told the Rajah that he was a chief, a rich man, and that his name was Chabu, the brother-in-law of chief Linggir.
In 1850 after the battle of Beting Maru, a fort was built at the junction of the Skrang and the Batang Lupar Rivers to prevent the warriors under Libau “Rentap” from collaborating with those under Linggir and Aji in raiding the peaceful people living along the coast. The establishment of Fort James at Skrang was strongly opposed by Libau “Rentap” and the upper Skrang chiefs. As a matter of fact, Libau “Rentap” and his warriors attacked it in 1850, when Allan Lee was killed by Libau “Rentap” son-in-law named Layang, at Lintang Batang a few miles up the Skrang River.
In 1854 an innocent headmen named Apai Dendang “Gasing Gila” was attacked by the Tuan Besar and his brother the Tuan Muda, James Brooke-Brooke and Charles Brooke, near Tekalong in the Skrang River. Apai Dendang’s house was strongly defended by the bravest Skrang warriors, re-enforced by Aji and Linggir “Mali Lebu” of the Saribas.
Because of their commitment to assist Apai Dendang, Linggir and Aji were summoned by James Brooke to Kuching, in order to settle the dispute regarding their involvement in Skrang affairs. During their audience with the Rajah, they were accused of reinforced Apai Dendang who had been found guilty by the Tuan Muda at Skrang of having supplied salt to the rebel Libau “Rentap” at Sungai Lang. Therefore the Rajah fined them eight valuable jars to be deposited with the government.
Linggir and Aji told the Rajah that they could not accept the fine levied on them for their involvement in Apai Dendang’s affairs. They assured him that Apai Dendang was innocent and was a peaceful man. Furthermore they accused the Rajah’s nephews, the Tuan Besar and Tuan Muda, of having made a grave mistake in attacking Apai Dendang’s longhouse at Tekulong. Because of this, they said that they would fine the Rajah’s nephews for leading an unlawful invasion. The dispute ended without result. But the two chiefs again assured the Rajah that they would not attack peaceful people in the future, either by land or by sea.