Sarawak National Party - History


The SNAP was formed on 10 April 1961, the third party to be formed after the Sarawak United Peoples' Party (SUPP) and Parti Negara Sarawak (PANAS), open the way for Dayaks’ active participation not only in the effort to prepare Sarawak’s Independence, but also to be fully involved in political activities. Although there were Dayak in SUPP and PANAS, which were and are objectives respectively, the Dayaks’ interest 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 their own. So SNAP was born in Betong, Second Division, and it 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 become its secretary-general, J.S. Tinker (Chairman), Edward Howell, Edwin Howell, Ivory Kedit, Mathew Dana Ujai, David Lawrence Usit, Nyipa Julin and Lionel Bediman Anak Ketit.

The first general assembly of the party was held on 29 April 1961 at Munggu Bangkit, Betong, where the party was born. It became the party headquarters. About 300 people throughout Sarawak attend the assembly. Soon after the assembly, Ningkan and Tinker went to the First, Fourth and Fifth Divisions canvassing for membership and at the same time forming branches and sub-branches. It took them three months before returning to Betong. Edward Jeli who joined the party later canvassed for membership in Miri while others concentrated in the Second Division.

After serious thoughts, SNAP accepted non-Dayaks as party members in 1963 with James Wong Kim Min as the first Chinese to join as a member. Others who later joined the party included Wee Hood Teck, Wee Boon Ping and Ho Ah Chon. Abang Othman Bin Datuk Abang Haji Moasili was the first Malay to join the party.

Wee Hood Teck and Wee Boon Ping became the main financers of the party. Their presence and that of other non-Dayaks made SNAP a multi-racial party, although the bulk of its members were Dayaks.

In August 1962, another party came into being in Sibu to cater for the Ibans of Batang Rajang. Its promoters refused to join SNAP, which they said, only catered for Ibans from Saribas. The party was known as Parti Pesaka Anak Sarawak (PESAKA) and among the initiators were Penghulu Masam Anak Radin, Pengarah Banyang, Penghulu Chundi Anak Resa and Penghulu Umpau. Temenggong Jugah, Temenggong Oyong Lawai Jau and Jonathan Bangau joined later. While Jugah and Oyong Lawai Jau wre incipiently members of PANAS, Bangau was from SUPP. Others Penghulus from other divisions such as Penghulu Tawi Sli (Second Division) and Penghulu Abok Anak Jalin (Bintulu) also joined PESAKA. PESAKA was, therefore, known as the Penghulus’ Party (Malay: Parti Penghulu).

However, the person who actually mooted the idea of forming PESAKA was Thomas Kana, a former dresser at Kuala Belait. He was made the first secretary-general of the party. Incidentally, Ningkan, a SNAP founding member, was also a dresser at Kuala Belait. During their days in Kuala Belait, Ningkan and Kana greatly disliked one another and often threw insults at one another. When they returned to Sarawak, Ningkan formed SNAP and Kana formed PESAKA and both started to sow the seeds of disunity among the Ibans of Sarawak principally between the Ibans of Batang Rajang and the Iban of Saribas. They refused to compromise as both wanted to become “big” in a party and in the government. As far-fetched as it may be, Dayak unity, as we know it today took roots in the major differences and personal animosity of these two men.

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