The resistance and submission of Saribas and Skrang Iban

Saribas and Skrang Iban.


In 1854 the Rajah and his nephew led a punitive expedition against Libau “Rentap” at Sungai Lang in the Skrang. After some fighting, Libau “Rentap” was wounded and was carried away  to the top of Sadok Mountain, situated between the headwaters of Penabun, Manjuau, Spak and the Layar Rivers of the Saribas and Skrang regions.


On the summit of the Sadok, Libau “Rentap” and his Skrang followers built a stockade which they defended till their final defeat in 1861.


In 1857 Libau “Rentap” was attacked for the first time at Sadok by ‘the Rajah’s forces under the Tuan Muda. During the fighting Abang Aing, a senior Native Officer of the Skrang fort was wounded, and as a result the government force retreated un¬conditionally.


In April 1857, the Tuan Muda with the Balau Iban from the lower Batang Lupar attacked Aji and OKP Nanang in the Padeh. After a very short fight, both OKP Nanang’s and Aji’s longhouse were burnt by the Balau Dayaks.


While he was at Betong after this expedition, the Tuan Muda called on Bunyau and his brother Maoh at Rantau Anak in order to persuade them to submit to the Brooke regime. After they consulted their people, Bunyau and Maoh asked the Tuan Muda what profit they would get if they submitted themselves to the rule of the white man. They also informed him that they would face much danger if they submitted to the government without first informing Aji and his followers in the Padeh and Linggir “Mali Lebu” and his people in the Paku. The Tuan Muda assured Bunyau and Maoh that if they submitted to the Brooke regime he would build a fort fully equipped with cannons at Betong. This fort was to be under their combined charge. In their hesitation, Bunyau and Maoh told the Tuan Muda that before they finally submitted to him, they must first consult their Malay neighbour, Datu Patinggi Udin of Betong. In their negotialion with the latter, the Datu said that he and his Malays were in the minority and therefore if Bunyau and his followers were to submit to the rule of the Brooke’s, they too would have to follow as they could not resist the Rajah’s power alone.


After their discussion was over, Bunyau and Maoh accom¬panied by Dalu Patinggi Udin went to the Tuan Muda’s boat to assure him that from that day onward they would be loyal to Brooke rule. Hearing this, the Tuan Muda assured Bunyau and Maoh that, if they went to “Sarawak proper” (Kuching) by boat, they need not be afraid anymore, as they were now the friends of the government and had no enemy to harm them as before. The Tuan Muda then commanded Bakir, the son of Bunyau, and Malina “Panggau”, the son of Maoh, to collect enough wood for the building of a fort at Munggu Senggang, Betong. The Tuan Muda directed them to work hard on behalf of their aged fathers, so that they could later become the pro-government chiefs-in-charge of the Betong fort. Having instructed Bakir and Malina in this work, the Tuan Muda also ordered Abang Kadir, the son of Datu Patinggi Udin, to help with the construction of the fort on behalf of his father, and, on behalf of the Sarawak government, the Tuan Muda promised to supply them with nails and carpenters.


Finally, before his departure, the Tuan Muda instructed Bunyau and Maoh to visit Linggir “Mali Lebu” in order to persuade him to submit to the Brooke Raj with them. He asked them to inform Linggir that the Balau and Sebuyau Iban had become loyal to the Brooke government, and therefore he should not be hostile to these people anymore. “If Linggir were to declare war against the Balau and Sebuyau Iban as he did in the past,” said the Tuan Muda, “the government of my uncle will surely aid the latter with guns which he cannot defeat.” At the same time, he instructed Datu Patinggi Udin to visit the Laksamana Amir and his eldest son Abang Apong of the Paku for the same reason.


After the Tuan Muda had gone back to Skrang fort, Bakir and Malina led all the lower Saribas Iban under the control of their family to start collecting belian for the fort at Betong. At the same time Abang Kadir led his father’s people to collect the strong nibong palm trunks to be split for the purlins to be laid across the rafters for the attachment of the roofing material.


At this time Aji, the chief of the upper Saribas, was busy visiting warriors and warleaders including Libau “Rentap” of the Skrang at Sadok. During his visits he incited them to support him and his warriors in a fight against the Sarawak govern¬ment which had extended its power over the people of the lower Saribas River, as it had done over the people of the lower Skrang after Linggir’s defeat at Beting Maru in 1849.


It was in these intervening years that Aji continually raided the people along the coast between Sadong and the mouth of the Saribas River with a small number of warriors. On many of his raids, due to his hatred of Linggir who had submitted to Brooke rule without first consulting him, he shouted falsely to the enemy that the warriors who had raided them belonged to Linggir of the Paku.


In the midst of these troubled days, Aji was assisted by Lintong “Moahari” of the Kanowit in carrying out a raid on the Malay village at Buling under Laksamana Amir and his son Abang Apong of the Paku. On their way down the Layar, they passed Betong fort in the dead of the night in order not to be seen by Mr. Watson and the fortmen under Bakir.


When they reached the Paku at dawn, Aji secretly hid his boat and warriors in the Buling stream to await a good chance to attack the nearby village. But fortunately, early that morning certain Buling Malay went down the Paku River to collect apong leaves for atap thatch. When he passed the mouth of the Buling stream, he noticed a number of warriors and Aji already assembled inside the Buling stream. The man returned quickly to the village to inform Laksamana Amir that Aji and his warriors were going to attack them some time that day. Hearing this, the Laksamana sent his men upriver to tell Linggir so that the latter would be able to intervene as soon as possible.


Hearing that Aji was preparing to attack his Malay friends at Buling, Linggir went down with a friend named Munji to meet Aji. When Linggir came, Aji told him that he had brought a small number of warriors to attack the Malays of Buling. But Linggir disapproved of Aji’s plan to attack his peaceful Malays. “If you attack these Malays,” said Linggir, “your hostility will automatically involve me in the quarrel.”


Due to Linggir’s intervention, Aji and his warriors reluctantly returned overland to the Upper Layar in order not to be seen by Bakir and Malina of the Betong fort. But unfortunately the news soon spread to the fort. Due to this, Bakir went with a well known warrior named Ijau Umbol of Bukit Bungai to report Aji’s hostile act towards the peaceful people of the lower Saribas to the Tuan Muda at Skrang fort.


Hearing this, and with it the ceaseless reports about Linggir’s regular raids on the peaceful coastal people, as falsely spread by Aji, the Tuan Muda sent out his Balau sea scouts to attack any Saribas Iban who appeared in the sea without carrying a letter issued at the Betong fort. These Balau sea scouts were ordered to wait secretly at various spots along the coasts between Maludam beach and the mouth of the Batang Lupar for the Saribas Iban to come out from their own river.


At this time Aji, chief of the Padeh and Layar Iban, and his warriors were in the habit of attacking the Balau Iban with kayau anak (small wars) at the mouth of the Batang Lupar and along the Lingga tributary. While passing the fort at Betong they did not dare to paddle their war-boats openly on the river. Therefore they pulled them from Lubok Bemban upstream at midnight to Nanga Pasa across the land at Tanjong Betong. This badly damaged the Iban and Malay padi fields and young sago palms in that area.


One day during this time of unrest in the Saribas, Orang Kaya Janting of Banting came with a Balau force and landed at Betong fort to meet Bakir and Malina. The latter asked why he, Janting, had come with a force to the Saribas. Janting told them that he was on his way to take revenge on Aji who had killed a number of innocent Balau farmers at and around the Maludam stream, and other people who lived between the Batang Lupar and the Saribas Rivers. He also said that he had gone to the Rajah at Sarawak proper (Kuching) to report to him about Aji’s cruelty to these people. At the same time he had begged for his approval to attack Aji in the Padeh. The Rajah told Janting that he could not stop him from doing what he thought right, as Aji had not yet submitted himself to his rule. Orang Kaya Janting asked Bakir and Malina how far up the Saribas River the Iban were loyal to Brooke rule. They told him only up to a village called Tanu. Above this all were Aji’s hostile followers. They explained that although Aji’s house was at Padeh, all the women and children had been sent to live at Nanga Spak under the care of many of the leading warriors. They said that Aji’s longhouse at Padeh was only guarded by a small number of his brave fighting men. Although he was very disappointed by this story related by Bakir and Malina, Janting said that as he had come, he must attack Aji’s half-vacated longhouse at Padeh. Early next morning Janting left Betong fort for Aji’s house in the Padeh. When he and his warriors came to the Padeh they stopped and stayed below Aji’s landing place.


When he heard that the Balaus had come to attack his house, Aji ordered his warriors to collect as much wood as they could for rafts and also trees with thick leaves. This wood was thrown into the Padeh River that evening, so that it drifted downstream towards the enemy’s boats. At sunset, Aji led his warriors to attack the enemy who had camped below their landing place. During the righting they speared the enemy from the floating logs on which they stood. When the enemy rushed forward, Aji and his fighters hid themselves behind the upright leaves of the trees which made it very difficult for the enemy to aim their spears at them.


The Balau, defending themselves, could not harm the enemy, as they were blocked by the thick mass of trees which drifted down the river to their boats. During the fighting a considerable number of Balaus were killed or wounded, but their heads could not be taken away by the Padeh Iban because of the same difficulty, the obstructing logs.


Early next morning the Balau force went ashore to raid Aji’s house. Seeing them, Aji and his warriors, who had prepared to defend themselves, attacked the enemy from all sides of the road. During the fighting more Balaus were killed which made Orang Kaya Janting retreat, stop the raid and return to Lingga.


Shortly after this trouble was over, a young man named Kedit of the Paku accompanied by five friends went to Sarawak proper (Kuching) with Linggir’s approval to visit the Rajah. This was the first visit of this kind to take place following the submission of the Paku Iban to Brooke Rule. Eventually when Kedit and his party came to Sampun near the mouth of Sadong River, they were attacked by Balau sea scouts with shot-guns. A bullet hit Adu, son of Majang, in the chest so that he bled from his mouth. Due to this, Kedit and his friends steered their boat as fast as possible to Kuching, or Sarawak, as it was then known, in order to save themselves. When they reached Kuching, Kedit removed the bullet from Adu’s chest with the tip of his sword. After that Adu’s condition very much improved.


The news came to Majang in the Paku, reporting incorrectly that his two sons together with all their companions had been killed by the Balaus at Sampun. Surprised by the news, Majang went to see Linggir “Mali Lebu” in his house to inform him of the fatal attack on his sons and their friends at Sampun. Majang urged Linggir to send him to Kuching as soon as possible to investigate. Linggir said that as the story was still not clear, it would be better for them to be patient and to wait for further news. Majang insisted that they must go right away. But Linggir said that at that time the people of Paku had no large boat to cross the sea to the Sarawak River.


Hearing this Majang became upset. He believed Linggir was refusing to accom¬pany him to Kuching. So he said that it had been useless for him to have approved the marriage of his eldest son to one of Linggir’s nieces, for Linggir, who was a well known warleader, now refused to help him when he urgently needed his assistance.


So Linggir called for a man named Belawan who lived at Samu to find out whether he would accompany Linggir’s party l(FSarawak as soon as possible. This man had the largest boat in the Paku at that time which could accompany Linggir’s own boat. Belawan said that he would go with his boat and crew, if Linggir himself was also going.


So a few days later they left the Paku for Kuching. Two days afterwards as they reached the Maludam beach at about 7 a.m., Linggir’s boat, a few hundred yards ahead of Belawan’s, was shot at by the Balau sea scouts with a medium-sized cannon. The bullets hit many men including Linggir himself, who sat right at the stern of the boat. Linggir fainted, but was quickly carried to the shore by his brother-in-law, Tindin. They were chased by about eight Balau warriors armed with swords and spears. But Linggir’s brave nephews, Mula and Muking fought hard to defend the life of their unconscious uncle. They managed to weaken and kill a number of the enemy, so that the latter retreated and left them alone. Belawan and his crew, on seing the danger, returned upriver without attempting to help their friends to fight the enemy.


While Mula and Muking were fighting the Balau warriors, Majang and others fought hard against a greater number of the enemy on the beach. Some of their friends had already been killed by cannon-fire as they arrived. However, after a long fight, Majang and twelve others, including the brothers Tur and Angga, were killed, and so were a number of their enemy.


After the enemy had left them, Tindin and his few friends who carried Linggir came to the edge of a forest. Here they heard a very loud noise in the tree tops. They looked up and saw a huge python pulling the branches of a meranti tree together. As they saw this, Linggir, who had regained consciousness, said that all was well as the goddess Indai Abang had come and had cured him. From that time on Linggir was able to walk by himself. The party then made their way to the house of a Malay friend named Kudus, at Tanjong Spinang, who sent them safely back to the Paku in his boat.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s