If you were old enough to remember the curfew days in Sarikei (with police sirens wailing once in a while) and wondered why you couldn't go out and play. Here's the background...
Indonesian President Sukarno opposed the formation of Malaysia which he believed would help British control SE Asia and threaten Indonesia's independence. On 20 Jan 1963, Indonesia announced "Konfrontasi" (confrontation) with Malaysia. (Source: 1) It deployed forces along the 1600km Sarawak-Kalimantan border.(Source: 2).
At around that time, some Chinese youths turned to communism with their "dream of creating a high-minded 'government of the proletariat' that would distribute Sarawak's wealth equally and without regard to race or class." Few Chinese would become fully committed to the cause and neither the Malays nor the natives would support. And "what support there was ... came not from its advocacy of Maoism ... but from its opposition to plans to federate the country within Malaysia.." (Source: 2)
Source: Once a marine
The Sarawak Government knew about the communists from their secretly handwritten materials: "advice to followers, directives, samizdats, test papers, propaganda guides, and even whole books". For example, Lenin's "What Is To Be Done?" was translated and circulated a page at a time.(Source: 3).
In early 1963, some Chinese youths crossed into Kalimantan to join the Indonesians to take to arms. Of those communists who stayed in Sarawak, mainly in the 3rd Division, they believed that the "peasant masses" would turn to them against "imperialism" However, they didn’t get a lot of support and had to stay at the fringes of towns from which they could cadge food. On 19 Apr 1963, the Sarawak Government ordered that arms held by non-natives in the 1st and 3rd Divisions (Sarikei was in 3rd Division then) had to be surrendered. (Source: 2)
Source: Royal Australia Regiment Association
There were about 12 Indonesian army battalions along the Sarawak and Sabah borders in early 1964 facing a lesser number (but better equipped) of Commonwealth British, Australian, New Zealand and Malaysian troops.
These were key events in 3rd Division: On 29 Sep 1963, the Indonesians killed several security folks 100 miles into the 3rd Division. Between 3-15 Jan 1964, Indonesia made "bizarre attempt to infiltrate the Sarikei area by sea" but "got no further than the mangrove on the beach." (Source: 2)
On 3 Oct 1963, 2 hand grenades were thrown at Jakar bridge (7 miles from Sarikei town) and exploded on the bridge in the morning. There were no casualties. Jakar bridge is the connection between Sarikei and Saratok on the old trunk road. (Source: 6)
At the end of 1965, General Suharto came to power in Indonesia with a coup. The Kronfontasi waned. On 28 May 1966, Malaysia and Indonesia declared the conflict was over and a peace treaty was signed on 11 Aug. (Source: 1)
Source: Indonesian Confrontation
In 1967, Tim Hardy (from Sarawak Special Branch) described a communist outpost on the outskirts of Sarikei:
Half-an-hour's crawl through one of its slime-floored entrance cum exit cum escape burrows cut through the dense secondary jungle (belukar) to reach "a clearing the size of a ping-pong table." This was circled by five sleeping places also hollowed out of the belukar; a slime-floored burrow to the latrine, "a stinking, waterlogged hole;" a "larder" of split bamboo holding half-a-dozen four-gallon tins, four large glass jars and several plastic boxes, all containing food; a kitchen with a "one-ring oil burner, bottles of kerosene, one small saucepan, one or two enamel mugs and a dozen chop sticks;" "a sealed jar containing aspirin, iodine, mepacrine tablets and bandages;" oilcloth sheets for protection against the rain; and "a tin full of documents". (Source: 2)
On 11 May 1967, after 2 Chinese were killed by communists 10 days ago, a nightly curfew from 11pm to 5am was imposed on Sarikei District but not including the downtown, Bulat or Roban Road. (source: 7)
Source: Indonesian Confrontation
From 1972, the communists were on their own when Indonesia, China and Russia recognized the Malaysian Federation. Rajang Area Security Command (Rascom) was formed in March 1972 to protect folks in the then Third Division – including Sarikei, Sibu, Kanowit and Kapit - from communists. Rascom was dissolved in 1995.
On 21 Oct 1973, about 500 communists laid down their arms. (Source: 2) In Mar 1974, a break-away group of 481 (about 75% of the communist force) led by Bong Kee Chok signed a peace treaty with the government (source: 4 and 5) in Simanggang (2nd Division) which was then renamed to Sri Aman (peaceful in Malay). On 17 Oct 1990, a peace agreement was signed in Kuching and the final group of about 50 communists gave up their struggle. (Source: 3)
During Konfrontasi (1962-1966), 114 members of the Commonwealth Forces, 36 Sarawak civilians and 590 Indonesian troops were killed. During the communists' armed struggle (1965-1973), 190 communists were killed in Indonesia and 340 in Sarawak. (Source: 2). Double trouble in a turbulent chapter of Sarawak's journey.
1. Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation - Wikipedia.
2. Tim Hardy: Special branch, Sarawak, December 1961-March 1968.
3. Vernon L. Porritt, The Rise and Fall of Communism in Sarawak, 1940-1990.
4. North Kalimantan Communist Party - Wikipedia
5. Malaysia: The Making of a Nation. By Boon Kheng Cheah. Page 152.
6. The Straits Times. 3 October 1963. Reel NL12150, National Library of Singapore.
7. The Straits Times. 11 May 1967. Reel NL12193, National Library of Singapore.