Last of Sarawak’s White Rajah rulers dies

KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 — Anthony Walter Dayrell Brooke, the last member of the White Rajah dynasty to have ruled Sarawak, died in New Zealand on Wednesday. He was 98.

As the Rajah Muda, he briefly governed Sarawak from 1939 to 1940 in the absence of his uncle Charles Vyner Brooke, who was the third and last of Sarawak’s White Rajahs.

Sarawak was part of Brunei until Englishman James Brooke, who became the first White Rajah, obtained it in 1841 after assisting the Sultan of Brunei in quelling a Dayak uprising.

The Brookes then ruled the Kingdom of Sarawak from 1841 to 1946, although their reign was interrupted by the Japanese Occupation.

Anthony is survived by his wife Gita, son James Lionel, daughter Celia and grandchildren Jason, Laurence and Sura.

Jason had written to the Sarawak Tourism Federation’s Heritage Development Committee stating that his grandfather had died, with his wife by his side, at Rumah Brooke in Wanganui, New Zealand.

Born in England in 1912, Anthony received his education at Eton and Magdalene Cambridge, before pursuing studies in Malay and Mohammedan law at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Anthony’s father Bertram was the co-ruling Tuan Muda as Charles had no male heir. He renounced his claim in favour of his son, who was made Rajah Muda (Crown Prince) and heir apparent in his place.

After administering Sarawak in 1939 and 1940 in the absence of Charles, he was deprived of his styles and titles on January 17, 1940, then dismissed and expelled from the state in September 1941, following a dispute with his uncle over his marriage to a commoner.

Anthony was restored as Rajah Muda after consultations between his uncle and father in 1944. He was, however, deprived of his titles again on October 12, 1945.

After World War II ended, and with Sarawak liberated from Japanese rule, Anthony strongly opposed the annexation of Sarawak as a British colony in 1946.

He responded to calls from the Malay National Union, Sarawak Dayak Association, Sarawak Youth Movement, Sarawak Women’s Association and other newly-formed political groups in Sarawak to lead the independence campaign against British rule.

Campaigning vigorously for five years, he withdrew in 1951 when the spread of communism seemed a greater threat to stability in Sarawak.

Anthony then embarked upon a programme of world travel, speaking with groups large and small on the rights, responsibility and power of the individual in helping to bring about a democratic world order.

He then co-founded with his wife Peace Through Unity, a charitable trust, and spent the next 60 years meeting world leaders like Chinese premier Chou En Lai.

He also met spiritual thinkers such as India’s Vinoba Bhave, considered the spiritual successor to Mahatma Gandhi, who dubbed Anthony “shanty doot,” which means Ambassador of Peace.

After Sarawak achieved independence through Malaysia, Anthony returned to the state as a guest on two occasions — in 1964 and 1983 — when he rekindled old friendships from the anti-cession days.

According to Jason, Anthony was cremated yesterday and a memorial service will follow later this year.



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