THE colourful history that sets Sarawak apart from other states in Malaysia can be reflected in the many different flags it has adopted over the years.
Likewise its anthem, as a total of three have been recorded so far since the early days of the Brooke era.
Quite possibly the only state in the country which has seen the most variations of its flag since it was first created in 1845 by the first Rajah of Sarawak, James Brooke, the history of its flags is a rather convoluted affair, with as many variations to the stories surrounding them as their designs.
Though it could not be counted per se as the first actual state flag, Brooke first flew a flag that depicted the St George’s cross — a red emblem on a white background which was flown over his fort at what is now Bau between 1841 and 1848.
Rumoured to have been designed by Brooke himself and based on his own family’s coat of arms, the first actual Sarawak flag consisted of a cross located in the centre of a yellow background, with the cross split in two and either side being blue and red in colour.
On May 7, 1870, the second Rajah of Sarawak Charles Brooke decided to change the colour of the blue side of the cross to black, with a yellow five-pointed crown located in the centre.
Though two versions, one with a crown and another without, exist, it is commonly held that upon the formation of Malaysia and subsequent independence of the state, the flag remained in use and unchanged until 1973.
The design of the state flag soon saw a radical change during the 10th anniversary of Sarawak’s independence in 1973, as made evident by a blue triangle occupying the left half of the flag and the top and bottom halves divided into red and white respectively.
With this new design credited to then Chief Minister Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, the flag, named the Trisakti, is rife with symbolism — the blue triangle represents unity among its people, the red half symbolises courage and perseverance while the colour white reflects honesty and purity.
Let’s not forget the state anthems though, as all along a tune titled Fair Land Sarawak was used as the anthem of the Kingdom of Sarawak until 1973, when the Trisakti was introduced.
With this new flag, another anthem, Sarawak Bahagia (Peaceful Sarawak) was also introduced along with a new motto, Hidup Selalu Berkhidmat (Live to Always Serve).
On Aug 31, 1988, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud raised a new flag during the state’s 25th independence anniversary at Sarawak Stadium.
Retaining the colours of the original flags from as far back as 1870, the new version which many know so well consists of a nine-pointed yellow star on two black and red diagonal strips, with the remaining corners also coloured yellow.
The nine-pointed star serves to represent the then nine divisions in the state, whilst the colour yellow denotes the importance of upholding the law, unity and stability in diversity.
The red portrays courage and black is the symbol of the abundant natural resources that Sarawak possesses.
The introduction of the new flag also saw a new state anthem being penned, titled Ibu Pertiwiku (My Motherland) and a new state motto as well: Bersatu, Berusaha, Berbakti (United, Striving, Serving).
It is also interesting to note that while the first two state anthems begin in the key of B flat, Ibu Pertiwiku starts off with a C, before descending a few steps as the song goes on.
Sarawak Bahagia and Ibu Pertiwiku also sport a signature drum roll before both anthems begin and retain an almost similar motif in their progression, whereas the first state anthem, Fair Land Sarawak, has a cheery air to its minute-long symphony.
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