RECARS >> Migrated Archives
The Migrated Archives
The Migrated Archives are a substantial collection of documents sent [migrated] to the UK on the eve of decolonisation, for storage in the archives of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO], where they remained untouched until 2011. In response to a Freedom of Information request from Kenya, from former Mau-Mau members who were trying to sue the UK for their torture during the uprising, the Foreign and Colonial Office denied the very existence of these highly sensitive Kenyan documents – which themselves are a collection of 1500 files in 300 boxes measuring 100 linear feet. It was only the persistence of certain Foreign and Colonial Office officials, and a witness statement by Professor David Anderson, that resulted in the migrated archives coming to light in January 2011 [ibid]. The Foreign Secretary then appointed a former British High Commissioner to Canada to review why these records had been hidden, and their very existence denied in Court. Cary explained the existence of the ‘migrated archives’ as follows:
As British dependent territories came to independence decisions had to be taken about which papers to destroy, which to leave for successor administrations, and which to ship back to the UK. The general rule, as set out in a Colonial Office guidance telegram of 3 May 1961 on the 'disposal of classified records and accountable documents', was the successor Governments should not be given papers which:
- might embarrass Her Majesty’s Government or other Governments;
- might embarrass members of the police, military forces, public servants or others e.g. police informers;
- might compromise sources of intelligence information; or
- might be used unethically by Ministers in the successor Government
In addition "There would be little object in handing over documents which would patently be of no value to the successor Government". A great many documents were destroyed on this basis, but others were returned to the UK. These became the so-called 'migrated archives', eventually totalling around 8,800 files. [Cary, Anthony (24 February 2011).
The Migrated Archives collection at the Pustaka Negeri Sarawak.
- After the perusal of a great many files, only those that were deemed to be of the greatest historical importance have been copied, and lodged with the Pustaka Negeri Sarawak. It should also be noted that few of those files have been copied in their entirety, as the sheer volume, time and expense of doing so was beyond our resources. The ‘Migrated Archives’ have been released in a series of tranches, the first becoming available to researchers in April 2012. Most of the material now held in the Pustaka Negeri Sarawak comes from that first tranche. By November 2013 the final eighth tranche of documents had been made available publically. The seventh tranche contains further material on the Cession of Sarawak to the British Crown and constitutional development in Sarawak 1940-47. Documents from the seventh tranche have now been added to the collection.
- Certain original files are themselves incomplete, and the quality of some pages leaves much to be desired. The original UK files include mimeographed documents, smudged carbon copies and chemical copies [of the 1950s/1960s] that reversed black and white, and are now most difficult to decipher.
- This guide follows the broad categories and exact file sequence designated in the UK National Archives guide to the first tranche of the Migrated Archives. Each of the files below has been assigned titles that give some idea of their contents and date range. The numbering of these files follows strictly the UK National Archive cataloguing, and their sequence follows the order in which they are listed in the Guide to the first tranche of the Migrated Archives [pp. 65-71].The relevant extract from that guide appears below, pages 9 – 15. When quoting from any file, the UK file reference number remains definitive, and in all cases is preceded by FCO141. Maintaining that number is vital in a collection of archival material, and must be cited whenever any extracts from these files are quoted.
- The copyright of all these files remains with the UK Archives, and the conditions of use are as follows: You may use and re-use Crown copyright information free of charge in any format or medium, under the terms and conditions of the Open Government Licence, provided it is reproduced accurately and not used in a misleading context. Where any of the Crown copyright items are being republished or copied to others, the source of the material must be identified and the copyright status acknowledged. [http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/legal/crown-copyright-website.htm]
The contents of the Sarawak collection of migrated archives.
The migrated archives contain a number of files that are of particular interest to Sarawakians, files that will add to an understanding of history, from the start of the Colonial period in 1946, through the turbulent period leading up to the formation of Malaysia. This guide provides notes on the historical context of the documents that have been copied from the UK National Archives, as just the title of a file may be quite insufficient. These notes are to assist students, scholars and all Malaysians who care to understand the history of this vital region. These historical comments are entirely the view of the author, not of the Pustaka Negeri Sarawak.
Needless to say, what is contained in these files is the British perspective. It is only to be hoped that comparable Malaysian official records will be indexed and de-classified in order to complement, and at times correct, all these records that are now available from British sources.
The Migrated Archives collection on Sarawak starts with the Cession of Sarawak to Britain, by the Third Rajah, and the involvement of the Datus in legitimizing that decision. These sources discuss the shadowy role of Gerard MacBryan, private secretary to the Rajah, in securing Cession. The Tuan Muda opposed the decision to cede Sarawak to the British Crown. His son Anthony Brooke, who had for a time been designated the Rajah Muda, [until the Rajah stripped him of that title in January 1940], campaigned vigorously against Cession, but was blocked from returning to Sarawak. Within the state, the struggle against Cession was led by the Malay National Union. Over 3 years later, the struggle erupted in the murder of Sir Duncan Stewart, the second Governor of Sarawak. These archives include transcripts both of the preliminary hearing [FCO141/12491], and the subsequent trial [FCO141/12409-2] of ten “conspirators”, and many of the documents seized by Special Branch from the homes of Anti-Cessionists. As is well known, of those ten, nine were sentenced to death, and one acquitted. Seven of these nine had their death sentences commuted to prison sentences. The two ‘conspirators’ who were hanged were Awang Rambli bin Amit and Bujang bin Suntong [FCO141/12409]. This trial follows that of Rosli bin Dhobi and Morshidi bin Sidik, both of whom received the death sentence and were executed.
The files that form part of this collection give new insight into the range of opinions, considerations and compromises that were made in order that Malaysia could be formed on September 16, 1963. In May 1962, the joint Malayan and British Government-sponsored Cobbold Commission submitted their draft report to those two governments. The files spell out significant differences of opinion between the Malayan and British members of that Commission.
The final Cobbold Commission report concluded that approximately one-third of Sarawak’s population enthusiastically supported forming Malaysia, another third were vehemently opposed and the crucial final third of the population were yet to be convinced of the merits of merger. Much depended upon the terms and conditions of merger, and these archives contain a great many files that identify the issues that were of principal concern, especially to the Dayak peoples, who composed the vast majority of those who were unsure whether or not to embrace Malaysia.
Temonggong Oyong Lawai Jau’s speech articulated the concerns of many orang ulu, and he concluded that much more time was needed before Sarawak should merge with a more advanced entity. The aum held in Kapit, the meeting of Rajang River Penghulus, listed thirteen points that they believed needed to be incorporated into any agreement to form Malaysia. The original set of signatures and thumb prints of the 51 Penghulus is in file FCO141/21786. In Sarawak political parlance, those 13 points have been elevated to stand alongside the celebrated 20 points that Sabahans insisted be the basis on which their state would join with Singapore, Malaya and Sarawak in order to form Malaysia.
There are a significant series of files on Brunei, on the widespread popular support for the Partai Rakyat Brunei, the aborted negotiations for Brunei to become part of Malaysia, and the sticking points in those deliberations. The Sultan’s Government did not want the Cobbold Commission to investigate support for Malaysia in Brunei, but carried out its own assessment, a report that never saw the light of day.
The Brunei revolt of December 1962, and the start of Indonesian armed confrontation in April 1963, greatly assisted those who were making the case for the Malaysian federation. Emergency regulations were immediately gazetted following the Brunei revolt, certain newspapers were banned, activists arrested and in a number of cases deported or re-located to remote areas under the restricted residence ordinance. Both Tentara Nasional Kalimantan Utara [TNKU] supporters and a significant number of Sarawak Communist Organisation cadres were identified as leaving for West Kalimantan, for armed forces training across the border. At that crucial time, prominent Sarawak personalities who had fled to Indonesia provided influential local leadership for those opposed to Sarawak forming Malaysia.
In order to win over the undecided, the Government made much of the threat from Indonesia, as that threat became quite tangible following the April 1963 armed attack and killing of police at Tebedu. The officers who died there included the brother of the man who was to become Sarawak’s first Chief Minister.
The migrated archives contain many files on the Brunei revolt, the start of Indonesian armed confrontation and colonial efforts to reduce native support for the Sarawak United Peoples’ Party [SUPP]. SUPP was the first and best organised mass political party in Sarawak, and campaigned strongly against forming Malaysia before Sarawak could gain its independence.
The actual results of the District Council elections, held throughout the state in the key month of May, were much closer than many care to remember. In 1963, the composition of the Council Negri was based upon a three-tiered system, with each District Council selecting members of the Divisional Advisory Councils [DAC], which then chose who would represent them in the Council Negri. Whether the Alliance would carry the day was in doubt until the last minute. That was because Party Negara Sarawak [PANAS] and the Sarawak United Peoples Party [SUPP] had formed a coalition. This coalition controlled the 1st DAC and only needed to win a majority in the 3rd DAC in order to nominate 21 of the 36 elected members of Council Negri. The outcome depended upon whether the Sarawak Alliance or the PANAS/SUPP coalition could win majority support in the 3rd DAC, where the Alliance and the PANAS/SUPP coalition had secured 10 votes. One independent member of the Binatang District Council held the pivotal swing vote [see Leigh: Rising Moon p 75-76 for the story of how that vote was won]. Had the PANAS/SUPP coalition then gained the support of just one of the four Mukah independents, they would have controlled the Council Negri. The PANAS/SUPP Coalition agreement, signed by their respective leaders, stipulated that the UN conduct a referendum before the implementation of Malaysia. If that coalition agreement had held, there are real doubts as to whether the Tunku would have waited for a favourable outcome, given the international and domestic pressures bearing upon his government, and his absolute refusal to merge with Singapore prior to the inclusion of the Borneo states, as the British had long advocated.
These files also highlight the regional pressures of that time, and document that right up to the very last moment, there was real doubt whether or not the ‘Malaysia project’ could succeed. According to these British records, at several points in time the Malayan Prime Minister made clear his view that he and his government would abandon the whole idea of Malaysia unless the British agreed to his terms. Though implementation of the concept of Malaysia was first announced by Tunku Abdul Rahman in May 1961, it must be remembered that the real drivers for merger were Lee Kuan Yew and the British Government. Both were confronted with the very real prospect of Singapore becoming a socialist outpost, and being lost to the western alliance. Both Lee Kuan Yew and the UK Government saw a merger of Singapore and Malaya as the only way to keep Singapore out of the Communist bloc.
Inclusion of the Borneo states of Sabah, Brunei and Sarawak was the way to sell the idea of merger to the Malayan Government, and win the support of UMNOs Malay constituency. The British Government was under some United Nations pressure to de-colonise its remaining territories, and British Borneo’s inclusion within a pro-Western federation was a neat way to satisfy the UN, and tidy up the outposts of empire in Southeast Asia.
The regional context at the start of 1963 was one of a confident “new” China, a humiliating French military defeat in Indo-China in 1954, growing Viet Minh strength in Southern Vietnam, a newly declared socialist Burma under General Ne Win, and significant communist insurgent movements in the Philippines and Thailand. Most worrisome to Malaya and the UK was vibrant Indonesian nationalism, strongly supported by the PKI, the Indonesian Communist Party, whose membership was in the millions. With active US assistance, Indonesia had only just succeeded in wresting West New Guinea from the Netherlands, and was taking an ever more active stance on the global scene, President Soekarno casting himself as a staunch fighter against both colonialism and neo-colonialism.
Failure was a real option. Even as early as July 1962, the British High Commissioner to Malaya stated his fear that :
“Meanwhile a member of PAP has resigned from party in Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew is now in a minority. … this means we cannot rely on Lee surviving more than a matter of months and that even survival this long will depend on our reaching agreement with Tunku on Cobbold Report and on early implementation of Malaysia. There is absolutely no doubt that if Lee falls before Malaysia is established Barisan Sosialis will take his place and all hope of achieving Malaysia will be lost since Barisan itself is unalterably hostile to it and Tunku for his part would not pursue it with a Barisan Government in power in Singapore.
If Lee falls before Malaysia is brought about Tunku will close Causeway and treat Singapore as a foreign country. He believes that Singapore would thenceforward be lost forever to Communism, that we should progressively lose our defence facilities and our economic assets there (as and when the major Communist powers exploit the Singapore bridgehead) and that the Borneo Territories would be left to be pulled about by neighbouring states with the likely long-term prospect of absorption into a completely Communist Indonesia.”