The Kingdom of Sarawak (Malay: Kerajaan Sarawak) is situated on the northwest of Borneo, bordering the British North Borneo to the northeast, Dutch East Indies to the south, and surrounding the Sultanate of Brunei. Sarawak is a one of the two native states on the island of Borneo.
The Brooke dynasty has ruled Sarawak for a hundred years and became famous as the "White Rajahs", accorded a status within the British Empire similar to that of the rulers of Indian princely states. In contrast to many other areas of the empire, however, the Brooke dynasty was intent on a policy of paternalism to protect the indigenous population against exploitation. They govern with the aid of the Muslim Malay and enlisted the Ibans and other "Dayak" as a contingent militia. The Brooke dynasty also encouraged the immigration of Chinese merchants but forbade the Chinese to settle outside of towns to minimise the impact on the Dayak way of life. Later the oil and mining exploitation encouraged the growth of Miri and Subu with Europeans, Indians, Malays and Australians.
The Sarawak territories were greatly enlarged under the Brooke dynasty, mostly at the expense of areas nominally under the control of Brunei. In practice Brunei had only controlled strategic river and coastal forts in much of the lost territory, so most of the gain was at the expense of Muslim warlords and of the de facto independence of local tribes. However large areas of Sarawak are practically uninhabited and remain unexplored.
The residents have became exposed to and trained in many British and European methods and culture. However, the Brooke dynasty has retained many of the customs and symbols of neighbouring Malay monarchies and combined them with its own style of absolute rule. James Brooke, and his successors, are very particular in ensuring the local customs and beliefs of local indigenous races like the Dayaks, Ibans, etc. were maintained and respected. As the Rajah, he had the power to introduce laws and also acted as chief judge in Kuching.
The Kingdom of Sarawak is protectorate since 1888. This means that the United Kingdom is reserved the control of defence and foreign relations, however has an autonomous full internal administration. A British Agent for Sarawak and North Borneo is in charge of managing diplomatic relations.
Before 1921, the Kingdom of Sarawak was an absolute monarchy, with the Rajah welding extensive executive, legislative and judicial powers, assisted by a Chief Secretary (and Chairman of the Committee of Administration) named by the Rajah and counselled by the Council Negri, an assembly representing the subjects of Sarawak.
In 1921, the Rajah granted and issued the Cardinal Principles of the rule of the English Rajah and a Constitution. The Cardinal Principles are the bill ofrRights and established the limits of the power of the Rajah. According to the Constitution the Kingdom is organized as follows:
- The Rajah, who is the head of State of Sarawak and also Paramount Chief (Commander in Chief) of the Royal Sarawak Armed Forces. He names the Rajah Muda (the heir apparent) and if he is a minor a Regency council acts in his name until his coronation. The Rajah names the Chief Minister, after consulting with the Speaker of the Council Negri and the chiefs of all political factions. The Rajah can dissolve the Council Negri and call for elections if the government fails to have the confidence or a majority of Council Negri;
- The Chief Minister (Ketua Menteri) is the head of government, requiring the confidence of the Council Negri to govern, and the Supreme Council (the executive council), that is named by the Rajah on proposal of the Chief Minister;
- the Council Negri, a democratically elected unicameral assembly. Its members serve 5 years or as long as the government retains the confidence of the majority of the parliament. The Council Negri is the sole and supreme legislative body of the Kingdom and votes the national budget. There is an elaborate system Electoral Colleges under which members are elected to Council Negri by Divisional, Municipal and Urban Districts.
- The Judiciary is organized in a Supreme Court, headed by a Chief Chief Justice, Appellate Courts, Division Courts, District courts and the Native Courts system. All judges, except the Supreme Court, are appointed by the Rajah on the advice of the Ministry of Justice. Until 1921 the Rajah was also the Supreme Chief Judge. The Supreme Court is named by the Council Negri on a list provided by the Rajah.
The electorate are all men over 25 years old and foreigners with at least five years of residence.
A civil service known as the Sarawak Civil Service (SCS) which initially recruited European, mainly British officers to run district out stations, is in charge of the administration and several services such as Post.
Sarawak for purposes of internal administration is divided into divisions. Each division is headed by a Division Resident, named by the Rajah on proposal of the Home Affairs Ministers. Currently, the state been divided into five divisions. Below each division there are Districts headed by a District Officer, named by the Rajah on recommendation of the Division Resident. Residents and Officer are assigned and delegated with legal powers under the law, covering immigration, post, customs and excise, national registration besides the wide areas of public administration, development, planning, native courts and subsidiary courts.
Sarawak has an abundance of natural mining, agriculture and forestry resources. Sarawak is also one of the world's largest exporters of tropical hardwood timber. Only 6% of the country is under settled cultivation, and a further 18% under shifting cultivation
Since the signing the first Sarawak Oil Mining Lease to Royal Dutch Shell in 1909 and the first oil well operating in 1910, Sarawak has exploited the wealth of oil and gas in the Miri and Lutong fields. An oil refinery was built in 1914 in Lutong.
Borneo Company Limited, formed in 1856, is one of the oldest companies based in East Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah). Initially, the company was given rights in return for royalties to the Sarawak treasury to "take over and work Mines, Ores, Veins or Seams of all descriptions of Minerals in the Island of Borneo, and to barter or sell the produce of such workings". The commercial hub of the company was, however, in Singapore, and businesses were soon also opened in Thailand, and then Indonesia and Hong Kong.
The Sarawak Government Railway services Kuching-Sibu.
The Royal Armed Forces of Sarawak are organized in the following services
- Sarawak Rangers
- Royal Sarawak Air Force (RSAF)
- Royal Sarawak Navy (RSN)
The Sarawak Constabulary and Sarawak Marine Police have the role of maintaining public security.