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Sarawak up to expectation: Jason Brooke

Brooke (second right) watches a Sarakraf Pavillion craftsman work on a ‘sape’, a traditional Orang Ulu musical instrument.

A great grandson of Charles Brooke, Jason Brooke, said Sarawak was up to his expectation after one week in the state. The youngest of the Brookes to visit the state 62 years after the rule of the White Rajahs ended, Jason has visited Fort Margherita, Sarawak Cultural Village, Sarawak Museum, Square Tower and the old courthouse.

On a three-week private visit, he was all praise for the hospitability of those he met throughout his stay here, adding that it was quite overwhelming.

“Sarawakians are famed for their hospitality, but being here and actually experiencing it is quite unbelievable,” he said.

The fascinating stories told by his grandfather, Anthony, when he was small has influenced him greatly, and he wanted to learn about the culture and people of Sarawak.

“Since young, I always felt a connection with Sarawak through my grandfather and I have always wanted to come here and experience the culture and tradition for myself,” said the 23-year-old when he visited Sarakraf Pavillion yesterday and said it had been a memorable trip for him.

He said he was waiting for the right time to make a trip down memory lane of his forefathers and figured that the suitable time would be after he completed his studies in English Literature at University College Dublin, Ireland.

“I always felt that I should wait until I am old enough to appreciate it (Sarawak ethnic culture) rather than come here as a teenager.

“I was thrilled to find that most of the old colonial buildings are still open and well-looked after.
“Most of them are now museums. It’s a nice feeling to be able to go around the main parts of the city like the waterfront on foot,” he said.

His grandfather, the heir apparent and nephew of the Third Rajah Sir Vyner Brooke, was banished from Sarawak after the end of the Second World War for opposing the cession of the Rajah’s territory to the British Crown but was allowed to return 17 years later, after it gained independence through Malaysia.

In tracing his family’s long heritage in Sarawak, Jason said he also grew up knowing about his family’s connection through his father, James Brooke, who actually lived here as a baby in the early 1940s and now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“I kept in touch with a lot of people in Sarawak, including various writers such as Vincent Foo, who authored the “Sarawak Steamship Company” and “A History Of Sarawak Club” and through family photographs,” said Jason who delighted many guests present when he wore a tie of the Sarawak Association which traced its roots back to 1924.

He was also actively involved with the United Kingdom-based association, which will mark its centennial celebration in 16 years’ time and whose membership is drawn from British expatriates who had served in the state, as well as Sarawakians.

The younger of two brothers, Jason is thrilled that Kuching city had lived up to his expectation, with so many historic buildings which could be traced to the Brooke era, still in existence and well adapted to the present time.