The Great Kayan Expedition of 1863


The Great Kayan Expedition of 1863.

Early in 1863, the Tuan Muda, who was posted at Skrang, visited Betong fort. On his arrival, he directed the Assistant Resident, Mr. Watson, to call ail the leading chiefs, Bakir, OKP Nanang of the Padeh and Linggir of the Paku to come to meet him at the fort. When they came the Tuan Muda directed them to build warboats for a punitive expedition against the Kayans and Kejamans of the upper Rajang. The latter, had given refuge to Sawing, Tani and Skalai the murderers of the Government Officers Messrs. Fox and Steele at the Kanowit fort. Sibu was to be their point of assembly and the date for all to arrive at Sibu was fixed during this meeting.

From the Saribas, the Tuan Muda went to Kabong, then the headquarters of the Kalaka District, to meet Penghulu Minggat and Chulo “Tarang” for the same purpose. These two chiefs had migrated recently to the Awik and the upper Krian from the Rimbas.

Early in May 1863, all the Batartg Lupar, Saribas and Kalaka warboats assembled at Kabong to proceed to Sibu. On arrival at Sibu they found that Penghulu Minggat and Chulo “Tarang” boats had already arrived from the Krian and were waiting for the warriors from the Saribas and Skrang led by the Tuan Muda and Mr, Watson.

The Tuan Muda assembled the chiefs together. During the assembly he informed them that the purpose of the expedition was to punish the Kayans and Kejamans for hiding the murderers of Fox and Steele, and for making raids against the Iban of the upper tributaries of the Rajang River. He directed that the Saribas boats under OKP Nanang, Linggir, Bakir and the Krian flotilla under Penghulu Minggat and Chulo “Tarang” must not go far from his while going upriver into the enemy’s territory.

The force left Sibu on the next morning and went up the Rajang as far as the Kanowit fort where they stayed one night. At this station they were joined by the Kanowit Iban under Mujah “Buah Raya”, Ubong and Lintong “Moahari”.

Early on the second day, the force left Kanowit and went up as far as the mouth of the Katibas River, where they spent another night. Here a force of Iban led by chiefs Balang, Ringgau, Unggat and Gerinang joined the expedition. At this time no Iban had migrated up the Rajang above the Katibas tributary. In the presence of the Tuan Muda, Balang vowed that he and his warriors would not retreat until they had killed many of the enemy to revenge all those of his people who had been killed by the Kayans.

From the mouth of the Katibas River the force went up the Rajang and spent the third night between the Kapit stream and the Baleh tributary. This force was the greatest that had ever joined in one expedition.

The force broke camp early on the fourth day, but due to difficulty in getting across the Pelagus rapids they only reached Pasir Nai by late afternoon. As the force arrived at Pasir Nai, the enemy under chief Dian Abun began shooting from their stockade at Nanga Sama.

Penghulu Minggat’s boat instantly advanced and landed at the fort. Shortly after landing, Penghulu Minggat’s warrior Luing led a party in an attack upon the fort. The door of the fort was closed, so Luing used a wooden shaft to ram the door open. As the door opened, Luing was speared and killed by a Kayan defender inside the fort. His body was promptly carried back to the boat by his friends. Due to this death, the Tuan Muda ordered that the force not venture beyond the enemy’s stockade that evening.

In the evening the Tuan Muda called a council of war, for upriver from this point lay the Kejaman and Kayan settlements. In the conference, he directed a number of trusted warriors to stand guard against a surprise attack on the government forces. After the warriors who were to guard the troops had been selected and had taken their posts, the Tuan Muda ordered all the Kanowits and the Rajangs to station them¬selves slightly upriver above the Iban aad Malay boats. This arrangement was made because only they could understand the Kejaman and Kayan dialects, if the enemy should came to attack the force.

During the night, the enemy vacated the stockade. In the morning some of the Ibans and Malays said that they had heard the- enemy call the Rajang and the Kanowit peoples in their own dialect which the Iban and the Malay could not understand. Early that morning when the force surrounded the stockade, they found that it had indeed been vacated. Consequently, many native leaders suspected that the enemy had been allowed to escape because they had made a secret arrangement with the Kanowit and the Rajang peoples.

From Pasir Nai, the force proceeded up the Rajang. Aided by their intimate know¬ledge of the country above this place, the Katibas forces under Gerinang, Unggat and Balang raided one big Kejaman longhouse full of women and children, and killed or captured almost all the inhabitants. On their return from the expedition, their boats could hardly carry the enemy heads and the captives. They were helped to transport their loot, captives and heads by Kanowit warriors under Mujah “Buah Raya” and Lintong “Moahari”. The latter also killed a considerable number of enemies, but were not so fortunate as the Katibas group.

Because of their ignorance of the country, the forces of the Saribas and Skrang were not so successful as those of Katibas. The warriors under OKP Nanang of the Padeh killed only a few of the enemy, as did those under Penghulu Minggat, Bakir and Chulo “Tarang”. The warriors under Linggir of Paku had better success, since those who joined Birai’s war boat killed and captured a considerable number of the enemy to add to those killed by the warriors who steered Linggir’s own boats.

Besides killing and capturing the enemy, many Ibans took as loot valuable Kayan jars, knives and mats. Among those still remembered, Linggir of the Paku looted one sergiu jar now kept by his great-grand daughter at Tanjong, Paku.

After the expedition was over a number of Kayan chiefs went down to Kanowit to submit themselves to the Tuan Muda. The Tuan Muda said that their submission could not be accepted unless the criminals Sawing, Skalai and Tani were surrendered to the government. The Kayan chiefs assured the Tuan Muda that they would hand over those criminals as requested, for the sake of peace in the region. Later the Kayans handed over Sawing to the Government and he was executed at Sibu. Skalai and Tani who had escaped were killed by the Kayans in the upper Rajang.



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