The Process of Pacification

This was the situation Rajah James Brooke encountered when he came into contact with the Iban. It took the Sarawak state, founded by James Brooke, about 80 years to end Iban piracy and wars and to control the five divisions of which Sarawak was composed in the early 20th century.

In the first phase of pacification, Rajah James Brooke successfully quelled the coastal piracy of the Saribas, Skrang, and Lemanak Iban with the support of the Balau and Undup Iban, who had suffered the most from the piracy of the Skrang and Saribas Iban. In the second phase (between 1849 and 1863), the Sarawak state pursued the pacification of the Skrang and Saribas Iban on the lower reaches of the rivers with the help of the Balau, Undup and Sebuyau. In a third phase (between 1863 and 1917), state control was extended over the Iban on the Upper Ba tang Lupar with support mainly from the Saribas and Skrang, but also from the Iban of the Lower Rejang.

In the process of ending warfare among the Iban, the Brooke Rajahs mainly used two strategies: repression (punitive expeditions) and economic pressure (trade embargoes). The Iban groups in the already pacified areas benefited from secure trade and profitable production of cash crops, as well as from institutions of peaceful conflict resolution. In pacifying the Iban in the interior regions, the government of Sarawak drew to a large extent on already pacified Iban as auxiliary troops. However, military conflicts were exacerbated, and pacification was delayed by the fact that these “pro-government” Iban were fighting wars against their old Iban enemies further upriver on behalf of, and with the support of, the government. Not surprisingly, the unpacified Iban perceived the government as an ally of their enemies.

Principal Actors in the Pacification Process

The colonial government of the Brooke Rajahs in Kuching was the dominant player in the pacification of the Iban. The Sarawak raj (or

The Iban in Sarawak (1840-1920) 117 “kingdom”) was divided into divisions, each of which was administered by a (European) Resident Magistrate who also presided over a divisional court. Each division was subdivided into districts and administered by District Officers (usually Europeans) who were accountable to the respective Resident Magistrate (Wagner 1972: 38). However, the Resident Magistrates as well as the District Officers often pursued their own policies that were at times independent of, and at odds with, the central authority in Kuching.

On the side of the Iban, the main actors were the government-friendly Iban who settled primarily downstream and “wild” Iban groups on the upper reaches of the rivers. In what follows, we will be focusing on the following Iban groups: the Skrang, Saribas, and Lemanak Iban, who had practised coastal piracy early on and were the first to be defeated and pacified, after having successfully resisted for some time under leaders such as Remap; the Lower Batang Lupar - especially the Undup, Balau and the Sebuyau Iban - who supported the Brooke government from the beginning and were enemies of both the Skrang and Saribas Iban; the Iban of the Upper Batang Lupar (also called Ulu Ai), who under the leadership of Ngumbang and Bantin were some of the most persistent opponents of the government and of the Iban of the Lower Batang Lupar; the Lower Rejang Iban who, under their chief - Penghulu Dalam Munan -supported (and manipulated) the government, which supported them against the Kayan; the Upper Rejang Iban who partially joined the Iban in the Upper Batang Lupar and later migrated into the Baleh Valley, displacing the non-Iban who settled there.

The various Iban groupings maintained differing relations with the Brooke government, with some groups opposing and fighting it, whereas others were allied to it in fighting other Iban groups. Sometimes even within a river grouping competing leaders stood for diverging strategies: Gassing and his people from the Lower Skrang supported Brooke against the Iban from the Upper Skrang under their leader Remap; the Saribas chief Aji, son of Dana, fought against another Saribas leader, Bakir; son of Unggang Lebor Menoa, who was an ally of Brooke.

But first let us focus in detail on the main player in the process of pacification, the government of the Brooke Rajahs.

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