Rangkaian Khidmat Awam Negeri Sarawak
A MONTHLY SUPPLEMENT OF RAKAN SARAWAK BULLETIN

(People, events, activities and programmes which make for a total quality-managed Sarawak Civil Service)

ISSN 1394-5726

 
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Jauh Berjalan ... Banyak Pengalaman

Dato Sri Yao Ping Hua...
reminisces about the days of the Colonial Administration and briefly looks back at his role in the early years of the involvement of Sarawak in the formation of Malaysia.

Dato Sri Yao Ping Hua was born in a town named Binatang, now renamed Bintangor in Bahagian Sarikei, Sarawak on 8th May 1923. He was educated in Binatang, Sibu and Kuching before the Second World War broke out. He is married with six children.

Mr. Yao Ping Hua joined the Sarawak Government Service on 8th April 1940 at the age of 17 years when Sarawak was still under the White Rajah rule. He served in the District Office Kapit throughout the Japanese occupation of Sarawak from 1942 to August 1945.

From Kapit, he moved on to the Resident Office Sibu until April 1957. In May of that year, he was appointed as an Assistant Clerk of Councils (Council Negeri and the Supreme Council) up to 1960 when he was sent to London, England for a three-month attachment to the House of Commons to observe and learn Parliamentary practice and procedure.

Dato Sri Yao is 032002ly working on his memoir which spans 4 regimes: the White Rajah Rule; the Japanese Military Occupation; the Colonial Administration; and Malaysia.

Britain's House of Commons

He recalled his attachment to the House of Commons as one of the most interesting events in his life. "I was the first local officer ever sent for such kind of training. My successors, Mr. Peter Chong and Encik Maslan, as Clerks of Councils, also had the same privilege of undergoing a similar training."

Dato Sri Yao went on to recall that whilst in London, through the arrangements made between the then Chief Secretary of Sarawak with the British Colonial Office in London, he was allowed to inspect the Minutes of meetings of the Executive Councils of various Colonial Territories for one week in the Archive of the Colonial Office.

DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE... a group photo of the first Divisional Development Committee's meeting in 1964. Mr. Yao is seated in the middle and his expariate advisor, Mr. Robert Young is seated extreme right.
"The Chief Secretary was not too happy about the way the Minutes of Sarawak Supreme Council meetings were done, and he wanted me to take note of the way Minutes of various Executive Councils of different Colonial Territories were recorded with a view to improve on the Minutes of our own Supreme Council meetings so as to be more concise and comprehensive."

Whilst in London, Mr. Yao took the opportunity to visit the headquarters of the British Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) located opposite the House of Commons. "I met the then Secretary-General of the CPA and discussed with him the possibility of reviving the functions of CPA Sarawak Branch."

It was on his return from his stint in London that he recalled doing the following. "I prepared a pamphlet on 'Notes on procedure in the Council Negeri' for use by the members. The pamphlet was approved by the Chief Secretary who was also the President of the Council Negeri. With his approval, I invited Mr. Charles Gordon, the Fourth Clerk at the Table of the British House of Commons to come to Kuching to help revise the Standing Orders of the Council Negeri. The revised Standing Orders were later adopted by the Council Negeri."

On the basis of what he had observed in the Archive of the British Colonial Office, he introduced a new pattern of writing the Minutes of the Supreme Council meetings. The Chief Secretary was very satisfied with the change. Dato Sri Yao added that "with the consent of the Chief Secretary, the Sarawak Branch of the CPA convened a meeting of all CPA branches in South East Asia at Kuching in the fall of 1960. Australia and New Zealand sent observers to the meeting."

Mingling with the people

When he became the Resident of the 1st and 3rd Divisions, he travelled a lot, visiting the Malay kampongs in the coastal fringes and also the Ibans and Bidayuhs longhouses and Chinese settlements.

"Whenever I found out that my SAOs and DOs seldom make their round of visits, I reminded them of the need to increase the frequency of their visits to the people on the ground. I told them that they are the direct link between the people and the government. You wouldn't know their problems otherwise. I would encourage officers who seldom go out to meet the people, especially in the rural areas to emulate us in the past."

Rapport and goodwill

HEADQUATERS... RASCOM headquaters in Sibu, now demolished. In its heyday, this place was a hive of activites where important decisions on security of the country was deliverated on
Mr. Yao was transferred to Kapit in 1942 during the Japanese Military Occupation when he was 19 years old. He was alone and there were no quarters available for his accommodation. He recalled, "but I got to know the second clerk of the R & DO by the name of Abdul Hamid. He was kind enough to invite me to stay with him and his family. His mother treated me as though I was one of the family. I taught the Malay boys in the kampongs how to play basketball and volleyball and they taught me the Malay language which is to prove useful later on in my career."

"I also met a Native Officer in the District Office Kapit, Abang Anuar bin Abang Matang who taught me to write romanised Malay as he needed me to help him write letters in Malay. I learnt to write Malay that way."

His interaction with the Ibans came when his job required him to mix with the Ibans for tax collection purposes. "During the Rajah's time, head tax collected from the Ibans was in the form of goods like padi and this was termed 'pupu.' On every occasion I accompanied the Ibans to the padi store on the ground floor of the District Office to measure the equivalent amount of tax in padi. From this interaction, I got to learn the Iban language and culture."

From this willingness to accept and be open to other cultural influence, he firmly believed that what was acquired incidentally became useful especially in his job later as the District Officer and the Resident. "Submitting myself to my surroundings had enabled me to bring down the barriers of communication between the people and the government."

"However, it came to my knowledge that my successor, a native Iban met with difficulties because of the language barriers between him and members of the general public. Hence the need to be more open and receptive towards the people around your area of jurisdiction," advised Dato Sri Yao.

Curfew

Being the Resident of the 3rd Division, he was also the Chairman of the Divisional Security Committee. In August 1971, a 24-hour curfew was imposed on Sibu town and the surrounding areas. "I travelled regularly to the rural areas to assess the situation and find out about the difficulties faced by the people during the curfew. At one of the places I visited, a few people approached me in distress complaining about the effect of the curfew on their livelihood." They were mainly farmers and livestock breeders and the curfew had curtailed their journey to the big towns to sell off their goods, or to seek medical treatment.

"I took up the matter with the higher authorities at one of the Divisional Security Committee meetings attended by the then IGP, Tun Ismail and General Ibrahim, Chief of General Staff. At first, the IGP was reluctant to accede to the requests of the people citing the reason that they be punished for their support and collaboration with the Communist Terrorists."

Nevertheless, he pleaded with him that punishment was one thing but the more important issue was to win back the hearts and minds of the local people long after the threat was over. "To come down hard on the people would only aggravate the situation and we could lose their support in the long run. General Ibrahim thought long and hard and finally managed to persuade the IGP to reduce the curfew hours from 24 gradually by 2 hours. Later, General Ibrahim gave me a pat on the back for speaking up to the IGP. To me, it was my duty and responsibility to the people in my Residency that mattered most. My close rapport with them eventually won the day."

Cobbold Commission & United Nations Assessment Team

In February/March 1962 and August/September of the same year, the Cobbold Commission and the United Nations Assessment Team respectively were in Sarawak to ascertain the views of the peoples of Sarawak regarding the formation of Malaysia.

"I was assigned to both groups as its Liaison Officer and Chief Interpreter. Encik Abdul Karim acted as my assistant. Although there were signs of protests against Sarawak joining Malaya and Singapore to form Malaysia, the majority of the people did agree to the proposal. On reflection, I would say that the Sarawak people had made a wise choice to accept the merger, thus enabling the State to achieve her Independence through Malaysia and make progress and advances politically, economically and socially."

Transfers

ON THE TERRACE... Mr. Yao Ping Hua pictured with Mr. R D Barlus, Fourth Clerk at the Table in the House if Commons, on the terrace overlooking the Thames at the Houses of Parliament in July 1960
It was whilst in London that he learnt of his promotion to the Sarawak Government Senior Service and confirmed as the Clerk of Councils to the Council Negeri and the Supreme Council.

In early 1963, Dato Yao was transferred to do special duties in the Resident's and District Office of the 1st Division and later appointed as the District Officer of Lundu, and Kuching. In November 1965, he was promoted to Resident, 1st Division, being the first local born Chinese officer to hold the appointment.

Advisors to the Residents

On 24 June 1965, three senior local officers namely Peter Tinggom, Arni Lampam, and Yao Ping Hua were appointed as Acting Residents of 2nd, 4th and 1st Divisions respectively. "Each of us had an expatriate officer attached to our offices as an advisor. The then State Secretary, an expatriate officer, was rather doubtful about our ability to tackle our jobs as the Divisional Residents. Because of the 'Borneonisation' of the Civil Service, he had to take steps to promote some local officers to replace expatriate officers as Residents, District Officers and Heads of Departments."

"My advisor then was Mr. Robert Young. He had very little to do, so I asked him to make arrangements with various District Officers for him to tour the districts and submit travelling reports to me in due course. After three months, my advisor came to me saying that since I was able to perform my duties well as Resident, he saw no point to stay on as my advisor and left on early retirement."

Operation Hammer

ROYAL ADDRESS...HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, on behalf of HerMajesty the Queen addressing the Council Negeri in Kuching on HRH first official visit to Sarawak in 1958
"On the night of 27 June 1965," recalled Dato Sri Yao, "a group of Indonesian soldiers came across the border from West Kalimantan and collaborated with members of the local Clandestine Communist Organisation (CCO). They attacked the Police Station at Mile 18 Kuching-Serian Road. During the two-hour long battle, two policemen including the younger brother of the then Chief Minister, Datuk Stephen Kalong Ningkan were killed and two wounded. That night the intruders also killed 6 civilians and wounded 2, all of them Chinese Kheh."

When reinforcement came from Kuching to repulse the attack, the infiltrators beat a hasty retreat back to the border through Padawan Road. That night, another group of them caused slight damage to the bridge at the 24th mile Kuching-Serian Road.

"As a result of the above incident, the State Government launched an exercise called 'Operation Hammer' on 28th June which involved the establishment of three new residential areas to resettle the Chinese families residing in the 15th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 21st and 24th Miles which were declared as Controlled Area." The objective was twofold: to provide protection for residents in the areas concerned; and to eliminate communist influence.

"Immediate actions were taken by the Public Works Department, SESCO and other agencies to build new houses, wire fences around the new villages and install electricity supply. All the necessary works were completed by 6th July 1965 and on that date, more than 8,000 people from 1285 families were regrouped in the three centres under curfew, namely Siburan Village at 17th Mile, Beratok Village, 19th Mile and Tapah Village, 21st Mile."

The controlled area happened to be in Kuching District of the First Division. "Being the Resident, I was asked by the State Government to pay special attention to the administration of the 3 new villages. On account of that, I had to pay frequent visits to the villages, held discussions with the SAO in charge and the local community leaders."

At the beginning the villagers were unhappy with their controlled livelihood in the area – very limited freedom of movement and subject to regular security checks, etc. "They often requested to be returned to their former abodes or visit their relatives outside the Controlled area," said Dato Sri Yao. "Now that the condition have normalised and improved so much, I believe that they prefer to stay put because there are now well-established bazaars, schools, health clinics, community halls and other amenities to cater for their needs."

RASCOM (Rajang Security Command)

The late Tun Abdul Razak together with other members of the National Security Committee visited Sarawak and declared the whole of the Sibu Division as a Special Security Area. "As a counter measure to the perilous security threat from the Communist Terrorists in the Sibu Division, a joint operational command called the Rajang Security Command or RASCOM was established on 25 March 1972."

This was an independent command to be administered by the Chief Minister of Sarawak, who was the State Director of Operations. "Under him, all the civil, military and police authorities were unified under a single direction in an attempt to streamline its administration and military functions. General Ghazali Seth, then Commander of 3rd Military Infantry Brigade was picked by YAB Prime Minister to be RASCOM's new Security Forces Commander."

"The following day," recalled Dato Sri Yao, "YAB the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister came to Sibu and in a room of the Residency, they inform me that I have been appointed as the first Chief Executive Officer of RASCOM. I was tongue-tied for a few moment and finally replied, 'I thank you both very much for your confidence in me and I will try to do my best.' "

One of the most effective and successful efforts of combating the Communist Terrorists threat was the Civic Action Group (CAG) introduced by General Ghazali Seth in September 1972. "He saw the need for RASCOM to redress the adverse situation existing in the vast Special Command Area. The CAG was deployed as a follow-up action to all Security Forces operations or as part of a RASCOM operation in a selected target area."

"In early January 1973, after handing over duties as CEO to Datuk Wan Sidek, the then Federal Secretary, Sarawak, I left Sibu for Kuching to take up a new appointment as Chairman of Committee to Review the Administrative Boundaries of the State of Sarawak."

Committee to Review Administrative Boundaries of Sarawak (CRABS)

This job took him nearly two years to complete and enabled him to travel to all the Divisions and outstations throughout the State. "During my visits to all those places together with 3 other members of the Committee, I held discussions with Residents, District Officers, Heads of Departments and community leaders and sought their views on the matter under review."

At the end of 1974, the Committee submitted its report to the State Government through the State Secretary with recommendations to (a) divide the existing 5 Divisions into 11 Divisions, i.e. the 1st Division into 2; 2nd Division into 2; 3rd Division into 3, plus 1 coastal Division; 4th Division into 3; and (b) to increase development efforts to provide more and better infrastructure for linking up the various urban centres and rural areas and to provide more public utilities and amenities at those places for the benefit of the people as a whole. "The purpose of the exercise is to streamline the administration with a view to making it more effective and efficient," added Dato Sri Yao.

Chairman, Sibu Municipal Council (SMC)

SOLIDARITY... Datuk Donald Stephen of Sabah chaired the 2nd meeting of the Malaysian Solidarity Committee in 1961. Datuk Yao is on his right.
On 6th November 1981, he left Kuching for Sibu to take up the appointment as the Executive Chairman of Sibu Municipal Council. At the installation ceremony of the Council Chairman and 24 other members of the Council in early December 1981, he stated in his installation speech that 'this is the third time I come back to Sibu to serve the people in an entirely different capacity. On the other two previous occasions, in 1971 and 1975, I was here as the Resident. This time I have come back to make friends and not foe; neither for fame nor fortune. The Council as a whole has an important and difficult task to turn Sibu town into a clean and beautiful place for people to work and live in. I sincerely hope that all Councillors, Council staff and members of the general public will give their support and co-operate with the Council.'

He regards his seven-year-plus stint as the Mayor of Sibu from late 1981 till early 1988 as the most strenuous and challenging of his entire career in the Civil Service. He added, "nevertheless, I had to perform my duties with patience and much tolerance."

Faith

Dato Sri Yao gave an insight into his personal belief and faith. "One of the great abiding truth that I have deeply and vividly experienced in my long career in the government service is God's continuous and indwelling companionship. Over the years I have gone through many trials and tribulations, but God is ever merciful and I have always felt His assurance that "Fear not, I am your shield; I will not fail you or forsake you."

Awards

1960 : Long Service Medal

1963 : M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire)

1972 : K.M.N.

1975 : J.B.S.

1976 : P.P.C.

1978 : P.N.B.S. (carrying the title Datuk, now Dato Sri)

 
 



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