The achievements of the pioneering students of Three Rivers School in Mukah, though they had to study in very trying of conditions and environment, should serve as a great encouragement to new students in their studies and in their preparation for jobs ahead of them.
The school, cited in an area, which has got a very long history of producing people with pioneering spirit, courage and boldness in facing the new situation, was considered to be most appropriate. Even the Colonial Administration then thought it was a good issue of how the people in the area of three rivers could rebuild their own society through proper education.
Actually, Three Rivers School, should serve as an example of how a school should continue to nurture the pioneering spirit of the past not only among the students but the people at large. The school must remain true to its original spirit to motivate the people and perpetuate the courage and boldness of their fathers or forefathers in facing problems and hardships.
One of the school’s earlier initiatives was to set up the students’ council and many Ministries namely the Ministry of Health, which look after the general cleanliness of the hostels, kitchen, toilets, the Ministry of grounds, which looked after the environment like landscaping and beautification, the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Sports.
The setting up of the students’ council was in fact a successful experiment, which could remain as part of the development of secondary school in Sarawak. The school should be proud of its history and build on that right path in order to build together through alumni, who has been playing a great role in producing many outstanding people, who have been serving the State and country in many areas.
Actually, the area has produced men or courage and men of determination, who were prepared to sail to Singapore in tug boats to board big vessels to Europe or America. On the way, they jumped ships in Liverpool or New York and stayed there. This is the spirit that must be preserved probably in different forms but they should be remembered.
It was quite common in those days for the people from this area because of their ability to face the sea to go to Singapore, jumped ship and became sailors for many years, established good connections with places that they had gone through in England, Europe and even America.
The Yang di Pertua Negeri, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, in his speech to launch a book on Three Rivers School – The Pioneering Years, said he had to talk about the background of the area, which stretches from Balingian to Kuala Rajang as the development ahead would be more challenging. As a general rule the future of Sarawak lies in the development of the North rather than the South.
Kuching will, of course, become more important by the day. But the time of occupation that will bring the people of Sarawak to the fullest development of talents are not like in the past, which used to concentrate on white collar jobs.
In the future, conscientious efforts have to be made to develop a wide variety of technical skills, occupations and professions as the country must develop further its potentials towards the year 2030 and beyond.
He believes Sarawak will do much by expanding into the Northern area towards Miri, which will cover a lot of young people, who will follow the footsteps of their fathers or grandfathers in working in Shell and wandering about to see new opportunities even today for business.
Besides, the decline of the oil and gas industries will see a lot of workers moving to Miri from Kuala Belait. Obviously, the people from this area will have to re – focus and adjust to the new environment, face new situation and to be much more concentrated to help their children to better in education.
Rightly, the people should know about their history as history and success come together. If the people do not have the consciousness of their own history and how they succeed to challenge their own limitation, they will never be able to get the best out of their own ability.
Tun Abdul Taib called on Three Rivers school to make it an obligation to nurse the pioneering spirit and counsel the people comprising Chinese, Malays, Melanau, Iban, Bidayuh and other ethnic communities to mix well so that they can develop something based on the struggle of the people have in facing difficulties of overcoming their limitation in building a new society of the year 2030.
He said the spirit of self -help and unity must be nurtured for the greater task of developing the second phase of development, which will be more business – like in nature and more complicated and engaging in science and knowledge. But the people should be able to rise up to the occasion.
Hence, the people had to find other types of occupations, so as to keep their homes, which were being run by their wives, daughters and children, to be able to survive the trying time such as in 1930s of the Asian depression.
All of these did not sound like good history; it was the history of facing hardship and suffering in the area. However, they should be remembered because they preserved as evidence of what the people could do when facing challenges.
Tun Abdul Taib believed a great deal that the education challenges are the best agents to change the people for the better. For example, a number of people from Mukah have done very well and adopted the relationships with other communities throughout Sarawak or even outside the State.
He recalled when Sarawak became a colonial territory the opportunities were opening up to all kinds of people, the Ibans, Bidayuhs, Melanaus, Malays and Chinese so as to get the country moving. That was the best that could happen in Sarawak. In the process some people moved from one place to another. In Miri there were all kinds of people from India, Europe from where Shell had to recruit its workers.
So Miri has become a good melting pot for a lot of people including those coming from Mukah area. A lot of them had to experience a lot of suffering being looked after by mothers while their fathers had to find new ways to improve their livelihood.
He recalled the people in Rajang particularly Mukah, at one time, depended so much on Sago. When the demand for sago, as a source of good flour, was quite good, Mukah became very important. Obviously, Mukah has to suffer and prosper according to the demands and prices of sago.
It was quite common for the people in this area to witness men wandering about in the jungle during the boom in the timber industries to Miri and anywhere else to settle in other parts of Sarawak to be absorbed and integrated into the Native society and they worked their way up in whatever they could do; a lot of them are doing quite well.
Tun Abdul Taib recalled Mukah area had in fact a number of economic activities in the earlier days as compared to other areas until the development of petroleum industries in Miri. The people in this area were among the earliest to jump for the opportunities to become carpenters, technical assistants and other practical and technical forms of employments in Miri. That broadened the ambition of the people in those generations.
Hence, efforts must be made to take a look at the history of these people to observe the energy that they have to propel the country for diversification of some aspects of development and the changing role that the people to play not only on agriculture but more importantly on knowledge – based industries.
He believed the change for Sarawak has got to be taken not only by the men who had to do other jobs either as fishermen or jump ships to become sailors with some of them had to settle in Liverpool or other cities in Europe.
Instead the people, the young people in particular should be inspired to take all kinds of professions and skills so that they can come according to their ability to take the opportunities that will come up in the country for the future.
But whatever undertakings, the people have to take they must have the spirit of pioneer ship, which must be nursed as the spirit will be needed much more towards the year 2030 and beyond.
The people should not be humbled by the ambition to develop Sarawak to become one of the most prosperous states in the country. The background is not that they come from which heritage but how the area has opened up and the people get together and adapt themselves to their new situation.
He believed Mukah is one of the few places that have been able to retain some of mannequin of the Seri Gayau period of the early days based on the development of sea power that enabled South East Asia to become an empire for a long time.
However, the spirit is something that needs to do more research to understand more and to keep alive so that the pioneering spirit can be evolved. He has great faith in the creativity of human beings to progress and do their best and ride over all the challenges. This has been happening in Australia and even in Malaysia after Independence.
The spirit must be understood much more and it should begin in school, not only learning the academic subjects but to see people of different racial origins in a setting which history of our forefathers sailing to China and forging relationship with Thailand.
Particularly during the Colonial period when Sarawak began to have real education promotion and the colonial government looked upon itself to develop Sarawak as a colony, which was handed over by the last Rajah handed over Sarawak to the Colonial Government
The last Rajah loved Sarawak very much and he knew that he could not develop this country. That was why he encouraged the development by inviting the immigrants, the people from outside like Chinese from China so as to diversify our farming in Sarawak. .
His dream was to develop the whole of Rajang for rubber; the plantation would spread out along the banks of the third division. But the venture seemed to be incompatible at the time because it would seem to be without returns.
Tun Abdul Taib said some of the boats that used to accompany the Sultan of Brunei were those from Mukah. He could not believe this until he saw the “ Awak”in front of Kpg. Masjid Lama.
In this regards, efforts must be made to revive not the awak but the ability to challenge the distance and personal limitation and develop the ability of the people to do something and accept change and hardship.
Generally, the people have done quite well in changing the status of their families to the new life of development, which will be increasing more and more into the development of the Northern area.
Tun Abdul Taib thanked the association ex- students of Three Rivers School for picking up his suggestion to publish the book as a way to make sure that the school, which is probably one of the good schools in Sarawak to be able to carry on with the task of pioneering to make the whole area from the two sets of three rivers to groom a lot more people to play their roles in the development of Sarawak.