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Sarawak (Jawi:سراواك) is one of the two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo. Situated on the north-west of the island, Sarawak is the largest state of Malaysia, the second largest being its sister state, Sabah. The administrative capital is Kuching (pop. 458,300 in 2000) which literally means 'cat'. Major cities and towns also include Sibu (pop. 200,000), Miri (pop. 202, 000) and Bintulu (pop. 102,761). As of last census (July 5, 2000), the state population was 2,176,800. For more details about the population see Demographics of Malaysia.



Sarawak had been a loosely governed territory under the control of the Brunei Sultanate in the early 19th century. James Brooke became governor of Sarawak on September 24, 1841 and was appointed Rajah by the Sultan of Brunei on August 18, 1842; originally this territory was just the western end of later Sarawak, around Kuching. He ruled Sarawak until his death in 1868. His nephew Charles Anthoni Johnson Brooke became Rajah after his death; he was succeeded by his son Charles Vyner Brooke. The territory was greatly expanded under these three, mostly at the expense of areas nominally under the control of Brunei. In practice Brunei had only controlled strategic river and coastal forts in much of the lost territory, and so most of the gain was at the expense of Muslim warlords and of the lost de facto independence of local tribes.

The Brooke dynasty ruled Sarawak for a hundred years and became famous as the "White Rajahs", accorded a status within the British Empire similar to that of the Indian Princes . In contrast to many other areas of the empire however the Brooke family was intent on a policy of paternalism to protect the indigenous population against exploitation. They governed with the aid of the local Malay and Muslim classes and employed the Ibans and other 'Dayak' peoples as their army. They also encouraged the immigration of a Chinese merchant class.

Japan invaded Sarawak in 1941 and held it for the duration of World War II until the area was secured by Australian forces in 1945. The Rajah formally ceded sovereignty to the British Crown in 1946, under pressure from his wife among others. His nephew Anthony continued to claim sovereignty as Rajah of Sarawak. The Malays in particular resisted the secession to Britain, dramatically assassinating the first British governor.

Sarawak was one of the main sites of the Indonesian Confrontation between 1962 and 1966. It became an autonomous state of the federation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963 despite initial opposition from parts of the population.


Having land area of 124,450 km² spreading between latitude 0 50′ and 5N and longitude 109 36′ and 115 40′ E, it makes up 37.5% of the land of Malaysia.

There are eleven Administrative Divisions in the state, namely Kuching, Samarahan , Sri Aman, Betong , Sarikei, Sibu, Mukah , Kapit , Bintulu, Miri and Limbang. They decentralise the administration of the state, enabling the District Officers to do their job better.


The Ibans form the major ethnic group on this land. The Chinese, who generally live in the cities are the second largest group, followed by the Bidayuh, Melanau and other native tribes of Sarawak. The Malays constitute large portion of the population as well, mainly concentrated along the coast.


Sarawak is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Natural gas and petroleum form the major income to the state. Its forest provides the world of tropical hardwood timber. It produces approximately 9 to 10 million cubic metres of logs annually.

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