Rentap (born Libau Anak Ningkan) was a famous Iban Dayak warrior and the most renowned Iban hero in Sarawak (now part of Malaysia), during James Brooke's "White Rajah" colonisation era. He is most well known by his brief praise-name "Rentap".
"Rentap Tanah, Runtuh Menua" in the Iban language, means the "Earth-tremor, World-shaker". He was proclaimed by his followers as "Raja Darat" (King of Upland) or "Raja Ulu" (King of Upriver) at the height of his power at his Sadok Hill fortress.
Rentap was selected as one of the leading fighting men for the great war leader, Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana "Bayang", who led war expeditions to the areas around the mouth of Kapuas River in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. With his war experience, Rentap had a long-lasting fight against James Brooke, notably at Sadok Hill until his death when he was hiding away in 1870.
Birth and becoming a warrior
Rentap was born in Skrang area of Second Division in Sarawak. Rentap's father and mother were Ningkan and Imbong, who had five siblings, namely Libau anak Ningkan, Jarop anak Ningkan, Ringgit anak Ningkan, Lepo Anak Ningkan and Serini anak Ningkan.Libau, Jarop and Ringgit stayed in Skrang while Lepo migrated to Sungai Ngemah, a tributary of Batang Rajang. His sister Serini migrated to Sungai Muput, a tributary of Sungai Anap in Tatau, Bintulu.
Not much was known about Rentap until he was appointed one of the leading fighting men ("manok sabong" which literally means fighting cock) by a paramount chief in the division whose name was Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana "Bayang".
The chief, as the great war leader, had led major ngayau (war) expeditions from south of Sarawak to the mouth of Kapuas River in the now West Kalimantan in Indonesia. In one of those raids, the chief obtained a famous cannon. One of its handles was broken, thus it was called "Bujang Timpang Berang" (One-armed Bachelor). It was marked with the year "1515", and had belonged to the Dutch East Indies in Kalimantan, West Borneo. This cannon was later used by Rentap in his fight against the Brooke's troop at Sadok Hill until his final defeat in 1861. Libau Rentap, as a famous fighting man (Manok Sabong) of the Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana Bayang, was a very brave fighting man, and he always joined him in these sea war expeditions. Dana Byang was the mentor of Libau Rentap and another Paku Iban chief, Linggir Mali Lebu.
When Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana Bayang grew old, Libau Rentap took over as the commanding officer, and he led a number of similar sea war expeditions to raid Sambas and Pontianak, Indonesia. During one of these raiding voyages, Libau Rentap attacked and killed a boatful of Sambas people. One of them was the nephew of Sultan Sambas, whose keris (dagger) was distinguishable by its golden handle. The keris was taken by Libau Rentap. From that incident onwards, Libau Rentap’s name became famous and was recognised by the Dayak Iban Skrangs as their great war chief. This experience had prepared Rentap for the upcoming struggles, especially in the rebellion against the Rajah James Brooke of Sarawak.
According to a book written by Sir Spenser St. John, James Brooke was born on 29 April 1803 at Secrore, the European suburb of Benares, India. He remained in India until he was twelve years old, when he was sent to England to be educated.
In 1819 Brooke received his ensign's commission in the 6th Madras Native Infantry, and soon left for India. He was promoted to his lieutenancy in 1821, and in the following year was made a Sub-Assistant Commissary-General, a post for which, as he used to say, he was eminently unfitted.
When the war with Burma broke out in 1824, Brooke helped the general in command to establish a cavalry of horsemen. During an action in January 1825 he performed very efficient service with his irregular cavalry, charging wherever any body of Burmese collected. He received the thanks of the general, and his conduct was mentioned in despatches as 'most conspicuous'.
Two days later Brooke was sent out to reconnoitre and shot on his chest while in action against the enemy's stockade. Colonel Richards found him still alive and had him removed to hospital. A slug had lodged in his lungs, and for months he lay between life and death. He recovered in July 1829 after given a long furlough and a change of climate to Bath, England.
Brooke was late to rejoin his regiment before the legal expiry of his leave because the first company's ship Carn Brae was wrecked, and the next ship Huntley Castle in the following March was delayed by bad weather while sailing to India. He consequently resigned the service and proceeded in the Huntley Castle to China and returned to England.
Brooke then employed all his spare time in studying the subject of the Eastern Archipelago, finding out what was already known, and drawing attention to his plans by a memoir he wrote on Borneo and the neighbouring islands, summaries of which were published in the Athenaum and in the journal of the Geographical Society. He felt a great admiration for Sir Stamford Raffles in Singapore, and ardently desired to carry out his views in dealing with the peoples of the Further East.
Brooke sailed from Devonport on December 6, 1838, in the Royalist, and arrived in Singapore in May 1839. There Brooke was requested to visit Sarawak to deliver a letter and presents from the Chamber of Commerce to a Malay prince Rajah Muda Hashim who was an uncle to the Sultan of Brunei, who was then residing there, for taking care of the crew of a shipwrecked English vessel, and sending the men in safety to Singapore.
At the time of Brooke's first visit to Sarawak, the Malays of the country had revolted against the oppressive rule of Pangiran Makota, the governor of the district. Fearing that they might call in the aid of the Sambas Malays, and thus place the country under the control of the Dutch, the Sultan sent down Rajah Muda Hassim, his uncle and heir-presumptive, to endeavour to stifle the rebellion. Three years had passed, and he had achieved little: he could prevent the rebels from communicating with the sea, but he was powerless in the interior.
Rajah Muda Hashim requested that Brooke assist in crushing the rebellion. Brooke succeeded, and the rebels agreed to surrender unconditionally after some fighting if their life, women and children would be spared. Peace was restored to the country, and Brooke was able to study the position. Brooke spared their lives, and reinstalled the Malay chiefs into their former positions to help him to administer their own people in the state.
In return, Muda Hassim occasionally mentioned his intention of rewarding Brooke for his great services by giving him the government of Sarawak; but when the document was prepared for submission to the Sultan it proved to be nothing more than a request for permission to trade. Muda Hassim later carried out his original promise, and in a formal document handed over the government of the district of Sarawak to Brooke. This event took place in September 1841 which was a grant confirmed by the Sultan; he had gained the confidence of the former, who leaned on him for support, and who hoped through his influence to recover his former paramount position in the capital.
In December 1843 Brooke again visited Singapore, and there he received news of his mother's death. Whilst visiting Penang, Brooke joined in an expedition to punish some pirate communities on the coast of Sumatra. As a guest on board HMS Wanderer, he went with the boats that were sent to attack the town of Murdoo. A strong current swept the captain's gig under an enemy's stockade. There was no help for it, so Brooke sprang out and led a rush upon the fort, during which he received a gash in the forehead and a shot in the arm. Reinforcements came up, and the place was soon captured.
On the return of the expedition to Penang, the ship's crew begged the captain's permission to man yards and give three cheers for their gallant guest. Here he met Captain Keppel in the HMS Dido on his way to Calcutta. Keppel promised to pick him up at Singapore on his return and visit Sarawak again, and chastise the pirates of Skrang. Brooke therefore waited, but was again disappointed, as the Dido was ordered to China. He had therefore to remain in the Straits until the end of May, when Captain Hastings gave him a passage over to Borneo in the Harlequin.
Meanwhile, this long absence of Brooke had encouraged his enemies, who now hoped that they were free from their troublesome neighbour. Sharif Sahib did not feel secure in Sadong, and therefore prepared his vessels to remove himself and all his immediate followers to the interior of the Batang Lupar river, where he would join the other Arab adventurers who commanded the different districts of that mighty stream. In defiance of Sarawak, he invited all the Skrang Dayaks to meet him at the entrance of the Sadong river, and there they gathered to the number of two hundred Dyak bangkongs and Malay war boats. Some mischief was done along the coast, but Brooke surprised one of their expeditions and captured several of their war vessels.
At length, however, the Dido came, accompanied by the company's steamer Phlegethon. It was decided to begin operations by attacking the Arab sharifs in their strongholds on the Batang Lupar river and then the Dayaks on the Skrang river.
War between White Rajah and Ibans of Saribas
According to a book written by Captain Henry Keppel, on 4 June 1843, Raja James Brooke and Captain Henry Keppel organised a war expedition to attack the Dayak Iban of Saribas area because of their piracy along the coast.
The strongest and most important Dayak Iban longhouse belonging to Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana Bayang at Nanga Padeh was about sixty miles up the Batang Saribas River. It was defended only by two forts and a barrier of fell trees that blocked the river from being easily entered by their enemies. Their longhouse was completely burnt and taken by James Brooke on 11 June 1843. By this time, Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana "Bayang" was already old, and he delegated the fighting to his three sons Nanang, Luyoh, and Aji.
On 14 June 1843, the troop of James Brooke went up to Sungai Paku, the branch of the Saribas River and attacked Linggir Mali Lebu fort at Karangan Pinggai. On 17 June 1843, Rajah James Brooke and his war forces went up the Sungai Rimbas which is another branch of the Saribas River. They attacked the fort belonging to the Dayak Iban leader by the name Rekaya Antau "Linggang Neneri" and Rekaya Gun "Mangku Bumi" at Sungai Tawai.
Later, James Brooke summoned the Iban Dayak chiefs Dana Bayang, Linggir Mali Lebu and one Linggi representing Libau Rentap of the Skrang to his ship to sign the peace treaty of Saribas, we which would force them to stop headhunting. They had surrendered during the fighting, but they refused to sign it.
War between White Rajah and Malays of Patusin
About a year later, the Sarawak troop led by James Brooke and Captain Keppel on 7 August 1844 attacked and destroyed Patusin, which is slightly upstream of Nanga Lingga on the Batang Lupar river, where Sharif Sahib and his followers built five fortifications for denfence. The force attac led, and found Sharif Sahib's residence with his extensive wardrode and a magazine of two tones of gun powers and "Dartford" fine powders from England. Indeed, he was prepared to fight but he escaped.
Next, the camp of Pengiran Makota -- who had fled here from Kuching -- was ransacked and destroyed for his aiding and abetting Sharif Sahib in his piracy. He had located himself near a bend in the river, about a mile above Sharif Sahib's settlement. He ran away with his followers. Brooke's force chased after the Sharif and Makota upstream until they fled overland. During this chase, Lieutenant Wade was shot dead and Mr. Simpson was wounded with a pistol-shot by a man armed with a rifle. The force heard that Makota had retreated with the Sharif.
Within a few days after their return to Kuching, the news came that the Arab sharifs and their followers were collecting at Banting on the Lingga, the chief village of the Balau Dayaks, under the protection of Sherif Jaffer. The expedition immediately returned, and drove off the intruders. Pangiran Badrudin, who was a brother of Rajah Muda Hashim, deposed Sharif Jaffer in the name of the Bornean (Brunei) Government. The country was this settled under the advice of Brooke, and comparative peace reigned there for nearly five years.
Battle of Kerangan Peris
After eliminating those sharifs of Patusin, James Brooke was determined to pacify the Iban Dayaks of Skrang and led a strong troop to attack Libau "Rentap" at Skrang. On 19 August 1844 at Karangan Peris in the Skrang area, Libau Rentap first fought against the White Rajah's armed forces. He stood bravely blocking the advance trackers of Datu Patinggi Ali’s reconnoitring troop with a formidable array of war boats and thousands of men on each bank of the river. They had selected a good positions where they could effectively use their spears and blowpipes, and boats and bamboo rafts for blocking retreats.
Although the old Datu Patinggi Ali and his small contingent fearlessly fought against Rentap and his men, they were outnumbered and overpowered. Datu Patinggi Ali, a British officer George Steward, and 29 of his devoted followers were killed, and 56 were wounded. The main party of the White Rajah armed forces were not in time to support him. Datu Patinggi Ali and his devoted followers were buried in the Batang Undup area.
Later, on 26 August 1844, Linggi, a Skrang chief, arrived, deputed (as he asserted, and believed truly) by the other chiefs of Skrang to assure Captain Keppel of their submission and desire for peace.
Nanga Skrang fort
In 1850 after the battle of Betting Maru, James Brooke sent Arthur Crookshank to build a fort at the junction of the Batang Skrang and the Batang Lupar to prevent the warriors under Libau Rentap from collaborating with those under Linggir and Aji in raiding the peaceful people living along the coast. The establishment of Fort James at Skrang was strongly opposed by Libau Rentap and the upper Skrang chiefs. It was indeed a nuisance to the Skrang people because its purpose was to block their passage to the open South China Sea.
One of the principal Iban war leaders who did not submit to the rule of James Brooke at that time was the famous Skrang hero, Libau Rentap. He was said to be very daring and crafty, and a powerful and determined man. He disliked the establishment of the fort at Nanga Skrang because he could no longer go out into the South China Sea to collect salt and other essential commodities.
He and his faithful followers moved farther up-country to the headwaters of the Saribas and Skrang. There Libau Rentap established a strong stockade on the mountain ridge up the Sungai Lang, the branch of the Batang Skrang River.
The fort at Nanga Skrang was then managed by William Brereton and he was being supported by two of the best and the most capable Malay Chiefs, Pengiran Matali who was a Brunei of rank, and another Malay Chief named Abang Aing who was a Malanau from Matu at the mouth of the Batang Rajang River.
Battle of Lintang Batang
In 1853 Libau Rentap collected his men with the intention of attacking Fort Kubu at Nanga Skrang, and pushed his way to the South China Sea. When Brereton received the information that Libau Rentap and his large group of warriors were coming down the river to attack the following, Brereton sent a message to Alan Lee. Lee was the officer in charge of another fort at Nanga Lingga which was located ahead to the mouth of the Batang Lupar River after the Simanggang (Sri Aman) town.
Alan Lee arrived at Skrang with a scratch party, and heard that the Dayak Iban warriors who were under the command of Libau Rentap, were approaching at Fort Nanga Skrang. Lee urged Brereton to defend the fort instead of attacking the Dayak Iban warriors in the open. But by his own plan, Brereton had built a small stockade a few miles above up river from Fort Nanga Skrang at a place called Lintang Batang, cand insisted that they should defend it from the attack.
On the morning after Lee and Brereton had arrived at Lintang Batang, Libau Rentap sent his two pilot war boats down the Skrang River. A gun was fired from the fort to stop the two war boats but they took no notice of it. After that, the Dayak Iban warriors were approaching them. The men in the two war boats were in a state of confusion after being fired at by the fort men. Brereton rushed forward to attack them in the open on the river. He was soon followed by Lee.
Their small boats were swamped by the heavy war boats of Libau Rentap’s main fleet. Brereton’s small boat capsized but with difficulty he managed to save himself by swimming to the river bank. Lee continued to fight against the Libau Rentap warriors fearlessly, but he was overpowered and killed, and fell into the Skrang River with his head almost severed from his shoulder. It was Layang, the son-in-law of Libau Rentap, who chopped off Lee’s head.
Libau Rentap and his warriors then came under heavy fire from the stockade and had to retreat upriver. It is uncertain whether or not Libau Rentap and his warriors were successful in taking Lee’s head.
On retreating upriver, Libau Rentap and his warriors were attacked by another Dayak Iban rival chief led by Orang Kaya Gasing who had sided with the White Rajah. They also burnt down twenty longhouses belonging to the Libau Rentap and his warriors.
In December 1853, the Rajah James Brooke went up the Skrang River with the objective of meeting Libau Rentap and Bulan Apai Jelani for a peace talk. It was said that these two Dayak Iban chiefs were men of different characters. Libau Rentap was strongly opposed to the presence of white men, and Bulan Apai Jelani was the figurehead of a party that did not support either any of the other side. He watched to see which side would win the battle. Rajah James Brooke, who was accompanied by Tuan Muda Charles Brooke, had arranged for several meetings to discuss about the matters between the two parties, but without any satisfactory results.
Battle of Sungai Lang
The word nundok, which means surrender, was a word that Libau Rentap never said in his life. He swore that he would never meet the white men to talk about peace or anything else. He and his men kept strengthening his fort in Sungai Lang. This was located at the headwaters of the Skrang River with many of the Libau Rentap followers, comprising the Dayaks Iban and the Malays from the Lingga and Kuching area. They defended themselves strongly against the attack of the white men.
In August 1854, Brooke proceeded up the Skrang River with a large group of warriors, about 7,000 from the Dayak and the Malay community from Kuching, with the objective of attacking Libau Rentap in his fort at Sungai Lang. Libau Rentap and his warriors were ready to defend the fort at Sungai Lang. Libau Rentap and his followers were well prepared to defend the fort and the two Dayak Iban longhouses located on the ridge of a hill surrounded by steep grounds. High stakes were driven into the earth forming a firm and thick stockade. The fort was situated at a place about four days’ journey on foot from Enteban in the Skrang where James Brooke had established his base camp.
The Tuan Besar, Captain Brooke-Brooke, was placed in command of the war expedition by land to Sungai Lang against Libau Rentap. He was accompanied by his younger brother the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke, Mr. Crookshank, Mr. William Brereton and the other four English officers to assist him in the war. Due to his poor health Rajah James Brooke was unable to accompanied them in the war expedition against Libau Rentap to Sungai Lang. He stayed behind with a very strong force to protect their war long boats and the baggage at Enteban.
The war team of Tuan Besar Captain Brooke-Brooke proceeded up the Skrang River. After two days’ journey they reached a place called Tebat. They continued their journey until the fourth day, then they saw the Libau Rentap’s fort standing on a hill cleared of all the thick old jungle. Their heavy armament consisted of four-pounder and three-pounder guns and rockets. When they were mounting the last rising ground on which Libau Rentap and his warriors were fortified, they found that some of the Dayak Iban leaders had braved themselves foolishly by guarding the fort. They had advanced too close and a few of them had been killed and wounded.
The Tuan Besar Captain Brooke-Brooke's warriors then mounted the four-pounder gun, and rockets were fired on one end while the three-pounder guns were fired at the other end of Libau Rentap's fort. Libau Rentap and his warriors returned the fire with their small cannon commonly called bedil in the Dayak Iban tongue. The Libau Rentap warriors also shouted out loudly in their war-cry against the White Rajah with the slogan Agi Bedarah, Agi Ngelaban which means "Still Bleeding, Still Fighting". They also shouted the slogan Agi Idup, Agi Ngelaban, which means "Still Living, Still Fighting", which is still commonly used by the Royal Malaysian Armed Forces.
Early in that afternoon, there was a commotion among the Libau Rentap warriors inside the fort. The women and their children were seen leaving the fort from the opposite side of the hill where the Tuan Besar Captain Brooke-Brooke stroked the attack. But Libau Rentap and his braved and strong warriors stood fast and kept guarding their post along the fort.
The old Malay Chief Panglima Seman, a Kalaka Malay of the White Rajah’s forces, had not yet made any move to lead an attack against the Libau Rentap. Some knew that he would act cautiously but the others challenged him. He replied "Your words are more than your deeds." As the sun reached the horizon, Panglima Seman and his warriors moved up toward the Libau Rentap fort. They silently opened the stakes with their hands and jumped inside the Libau Rentap fort. They shouted with a loud cheer and drew their swords during the attack.
Then 50 to 60 of Libau Rentap's warriors were seen tearing away over the open ground covering their bodies with shields and fleeing towards Bukit Sadok. They were followed by the defenders of the fort who rolled down the side of the hill. Libau Rentap was said to be wounded and had to be carried away by his warriors who fled down the hill to a second and much more stronger fort located on the summit of Bukit Sadok. Libau Rentap's fort at Sungai Lang was defeated and conquered by the White Rajah's men. The White Rajah's forces spent a night at the Sungai Lang Libau Rentap fort. It was a mere victory for them, as Libau Rentap was wounded but did not surrender himself to the White Rajah.
William Brereton died of dysentery shortly after this war expedition. In October 1854, the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke was placed in charge of Batang Lupar district. Raja James Brooke’s advice to him was: "Encourage the good, intimidate the bad and confirm the wavering".
Rentap's fort at Bukit Sadok
Libau Rentap’s fort at Bukit Sadok was regarded by the Dayak Ibans as impregnable. Since Libau Rentap retreated from the loss of his last fort at Sungai Lang, he had strengthened his position at Bukit Sadok. In the Dayak Iban legends and chants, the Iban Dayak community mentioned that Bukit Sadok as a mountain so inaccessible and it was protected by the legendary characters of Panggau Libau, namely Keling Bunga Nuing, Laja Bunga Jawa and many others, that no enemy would ever dare to attack it.
Libau Rentap had gathered all the Iban Dayaks from all along the Skrang River who were faithful to him, and those in the upper Saribas River who offered him aid so long as he occupied the top of Bukit Sadok. The fort stood as an unapproachable centre far removed from danger and to which they could all retire in case of need from the rule of the White Rajah.
Libau Rentap was given the title "Raja Ulu" by all of the Iban Dayak warrior chiefs, and Bukit Sadok became the centre of all opposition to the rule of the White Rajah of Sarawak. The fort at Bukit Sadok was about 2,725 feet above the sea level and almost inaccessible on every side because of the steep cliff. Libau Rentap was satisfied that his fort was very strong and could not be conquered by his enemies. The Iban Dayak thus boasted to themselves that: "The White Man are powerful, having arms and ships at sea but it is only we who are the Iban Dayak, who can walk and fight on land and clamber mountains."
Brooke's attack on Rentap's allies
In April 1857, the Tuan Muda with the Balau Iban from the lower Batang Lupar attacked Aji and OKP Nanang in the Padeh for supporting Libau "Rentap" at Bukit Sadok and attacking people along the coast who had submitted to the Brooke government. After a very short fight, OKP Nanang’s and Aji’s longhouses were burnt by the Balau Dayaks.
While he was at Betong after this expedition, the Tuan Muda called on Chief Bunyau Apai Bakir and his brother Maoh at Rantau Anak to persuade them to submit to Brooke's regime. These brothers then consulted their Malay neighbours under Datu Patinggi Udin who obliged as they were the minority. In return, the Tuan Muda built a fort at Munggu Senggang, Betong complete with cannons and under their combined charge. This fort aimed to prevent Rentap's allies going out into the South China Sea via Batang Saribas river and attacking people along the coast as in the past especially under Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana "Bayang".
Finally, before his departure, the Tuan Muda instructed Bunyau and Maoh to visit Linggir "Mali Lebu" to persuade him to submit to the Brooke Raj with them. He asked them to inform Linggir that the Balau and Sebuyau Iban had become loyal to the Brooke government, and therefore he should not be hostile to these people any more. "If Linggir were to declare war against the Balau and Sebuyau Iban as he did in the past," said the Tuan Muda, "the government of my uncle will surely aid the latter with guns which he cannot defeat." At the same time, he instructed Datu Patinggi Udin to visit the Laksamana Amir and his eldest son Abang Apong of the Paku for the same reason.
At this time Aji, the chief of the upper Saribas, was busy visiting warriors and warleaders including Libau "Rentap" of the Skrang at Sadok. During his visits he incited them to support him and his warriors in a fight against the Sarawak government which had extended its power over the people of the lower Saribas River, as it had done over the people of the lower Skrang after Linggir’s defeat at Betting Maru in 1849.
In these intervening years Aji continually raided the people along the coast between Sadong and the mouth of the Saribas River with a small number of warriors. On many of his raids, due to his hatred of Linggir who had submitted to Brooke rule without first consulting him, he shouted falsely to the enemy that the warriors who had raided them belonged to Linggir of the Paku.
In these days, Aji was assisted by Lintong Moahari of the Kanowit in carrying out a raid on the Malay village at Buling under Laksamana Amir and his son Abang Apong of the Paku. However, due to Linggir's intervention, Aji and his followers reluctantly returned to the upper Layar over land. But the news soon reached the Betong fort men who reported the incident to Tuan Muda at the Skrang fort.
Hearing this, and with it the ceaseless reports about Linggir’s regular raids on the peaceful coastal people, as falsely spread by Aji, the Tuan Muda sent out his Balau sea scouts to attack any Saribas Iban who appeared in the sea without carrying a letter issued at the Betong fort. These Balau sea scouts were ordered to wait secretly at various spots along the coasts between Maludam beach and the mouth of the Batang Lupar for the Saribas Iban to come out from their own river.
In revenge for Aji's attacks, during this time of unrest in the Saribas, Orang Kaya Janting of Banting came with a Balau force and landed at Betong fort to meet Bakir and Malina who were informed that they came to attack Aji's longhouse but were fiercely fought by Aji's force. During this fighting, some Balau warrirs were killed in action and thus they retreated and returned to Lingga.
First war expedition to Bukit Sadok
The Tuan Muda Charles Brooke was determined to crush Libau Rentap in his stronghold on top of Bukit Sadok. On 2 June 1857, Tuan Muda Charles Brooke organised a war expedition to attack Libau Rentap with a large group of warriors consisting of 3,500 Dayaks and 500 Malays.
On 8 June 1857, the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke and his warriors were building a stockade at the Rapu. It was located at the end of the Bukit Sadok facing the position being occupied by Libau Rentap. Libau Rentap's fort was formidable as it was being made of the vertical iron wood (Tebelian) planks which could not be penetrated by the firing of the rifle shots. It was also surrounded on all sides by the steep cliff. Inside the fort, Libau Rentap's warriors had built a platform from which they could shoot their enemies who were moving ahead in a narrow file along the backbone of a rock leading to Libau Rentap's fort. It was almost impossible for the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke's warriors to attack Libau Rentap's fort from the Rapu end of the Bukit Sadok. Libau also had muskets, cannons and a small swivel-gun which Libau Rentap had captured when Alan Lee was killed at the war battle at the Lintang Batang in 1853.
On 9 June 1857 a group of the Dayak Iban warriors believed to be led by Aji Apai Limba from Padeh, who came to assist the Libau Rentap, had attempted to attack the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke camp at Rapu. The following day the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke sent a division of Dayaks and Malays to counter-attack them. Tuan Muda Charles Brooke's warriors drove them back, then plundered and burnt their longhouses. The Tuan Muda Charles Brooke then tried to get his men to storm the Libau Rentap fort at night but they refused to face the risk.
At mid-day on 15 June 1857, Tuan Muda Charles Brooke's warriors started to attack the Libau Rentap fort under the cover of their pilan screen. At four o’clock in the afternoon, the attacking party had reached a position within six or seven yards from the Libau Rentap Fort. Libau Rentap and his warriors started throwing stones and spears from the fort, which fell on the attacking party. They also used their muskets and small swivel cannons to defend themselves.
At half-past five, the Malay leader of the attacking party named Abang Aing was advancing under cover of the pilan and tried to set fire to Libau Rentap's fort. Abang Aing was struck by a musket shoot, wounded and fell to the ground. When the evening came Tuan Muda Charles Brooke's warriors had to carry Abang Aing back to their camp. When Libau Rentap and his warriors saw that Abang Aing was wounded, they beat their gongs and yelled loudly with cheers in triumph.
The following day, instead of making another attack at Libau Rentap's fort at Bukit Sadok, the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke wanted to take only about a hundred of the strongest and bravest warriors with himself in command to proceed to Atui to attack the three longhouses belonging to the Dayak Ibans who supported Libau Rentap. However, nobody would volunteer to go with him, some of his warriors said that they were sick, while others ran short of provisions.
At eight o’clock in the morning, the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke's warriors began to go down the Bukit Sadok in retreat. Should Libau Rentap and his warriors attack them, then they would suffer greatly, but this was not done. Libau Rentap was very satisfied with his victory in defending his fort on Bukit Sadok. Libau Rentap's popularity with the Dayak Ibans increased greatly. The Dayak Iban then strongly believed that Libau Rentap's fort was under the protection of the legendary characters named Keling and Bunga Nuing, which could not be taken by their enemy.
When the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke and his warriors had reached their base camp at Sungai Antu, they found that the flood had swept away their stockade and carried off about 70 of their long war boats. Those who had lost their long war boats had to share with the others while going down the Skrang River. Some of the Libau Rentap’s warriors who were hiding in the thick jungle fired at the retreating party, but they suffered no casualties, except those who were already drowned.
The Dayak Ibans grumbled at the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke for not listening to their comment to the right bird of omen. Thus the First Bukit Sadok War Expedition led by the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke against Libau Rentap in June 1857 ended as a total failure.
War between Brooke and sons of OKP Dana "Bayang"
When the fort was built at Betong under the joint supervision of Mr. J.B. Craickshank and Bunyau apai Bakir in 1858, Aji, the third son of the late OKP Dana "Bayang", fought against all who had submitted to Brooke rule in the lower Layar River.
At the completion of the Betong fort, Aji and his warriors from the Padeh and Ulu Layar attacked it with a few exchanges of fire, showing their complete disagreement with the people of the lower Layar under chief Bunyau Apai Bakir. During this attack, Aji was assisted by another warrior from Julau whose name was Lintong "Moa Ari". At this time, Linggir "Mali Lebu" and all the people of Paku were completely neutral, as they had relatives in both of the quarrelling groups.
In response to Aji’s action, the Tuan Muda led a force from the Skrang fort, composed of the best Skrang and Balau fighters, to punish Aji and his supporters. When the Tuan Muda arrived at Betong he was joined by the Iban and Malays of Betong under Mr. Watson, the Officer-in-Charge, including Bakir, Malina and the other fortmen.
The expedition was very well planned. At the request of Bunyau and Maoh, no other warboats went up the Layar ahead of those owned by the Saribas Iban. This was to save the lives of the ordinary people who were living beyond Nanga Padeh. When the force reached a big dry gravel bed at the mouth of the Sungai Langit, Aji suddenly appeared and came forward to attack the Brooke's force assembled there. Seeing him crossing the shallow rapids fully armed, a Malay man from Spaoh named Bruang shot him with his gun and he fell down unconscious.
After Aji, the arch enemy of Brooke rule, had died, the Tuan Muda ordered his force to stay one night at the mouth of Sungai Langit. Next day the forces divided into two columns. One column was sent to the Julau to punish Mujah "Buah Raya", while another, led by the Tuan Muda, attacked Libau "Rentap" at Sadok. This later engagement was known as the Second Sadok expedition.
Before the force had left, no Saribas Iban dared to behead Aji for fear of becoming the deadly enemy of his brothers and their followers. So it was decided that the Skrang should do it, as they lived safely near Fort James at the mouth of Skrang River. The latter agreed and so took Aji’s head back with them to the Skrang when the expedition was over. Several years later it was taken back and buried in the Padeh, for Aji kept appearing in his own shape or in the form of a crocodile which killed a number of people in the Skrang River.
In anger over the death of his brother Aji, Luyoh went to Mukah to negotiate with Sharif Masahor who was also planning to rebel against the Brookes. The Sharif assured him that he would supply gunpowders for those who rebels against the government of Sarawak. Having been assured of this, Luyoh and his brother OKP Nanang built a stockade at the mouth of the Spak tributary so that they could avenge their brother’s death against the Brookes and Bunyau apai Bakir. This stockade was attacked by Mr. Watson and Bakir in 1859.
Within a month of his defeat, OKP Nanang rebuilt the stockade, but it was attacked again by Mr. Watson, Bakir, and Abang Aing. Very shortly after its reconstruction, the doomed fortress was completely demolished.
After these defeats, OKP Nanang and Luyoh joined Libau "Rentap" at Sadok. They brought to the mountain a gun known as "Bujang Timpang Berang" which their father had captured at Sambas many decades earlier. This famous gun can be seen today at Fort Lily, Betong, Saribas.
From their stockade at Sadok, OKP Nanang and Luyoh and their followers together with Libau "Rentap" fighters supported Sharif Masahor’s rebellion. They openly joined the latter in his defence at Mukah and Igan until his defeat and deportation to Singapore in 1861.
Second war expedition to Bukit Sadok
After the death of Dayak Iban Warrior named Aji Apai Limpa, the large group of the Brooke forces erected a small stockade at Nanga Sungai Langit. From here, they pushed on to the Nanga Tiga at the Upper Layar River. Nanga Tiga meant the three river mouths, which one of it flows from the Bukit Sadok, one from the watershed where rises the Kanowit River and Julau River, and the third is the Layar River.
Here the Brooke forces left their long paddle war boats and erected a stout stockade. Then they moved advanced up-country with Tuan Muda Charles Brooke who was in command of this second Bukit Sadok War Expedition in 1858 to defeat and capture Libau Rentap.
From Nanga Tiga, they proceeded to Ulu Julau to attack Mujah Buah Raya. Here they defeated Mujah Buah Raya and they burnt their longhouses and destroyed the surrounding padi fields belonging to the Ibans. Women and children suffered greatly due to the loss of their homes and padi fields, and of their staple food.
After the return of the ravaging party, the Brooke force marched toward Bukit Sadok. In this expedition they carried along a small mortar with them up the mountain. After half past ten in the morning they reached the summit of Bukit Sadok. Libau Rentap and his were ready to defend themselves against the attack. The attacking party had erected a small stockade within firing distance from Libau Rentap's fort. They fired 50 rounds of shell which had little effect on the well-fortified fort. Libau Rentap did not returned the fire, and the place seemed to be deserted.
Then some of the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke men moved very close to the stockade, and Libau Rentap and his warriors opened fire on them. The Libau Rentap stockade was too strong for them to attack. Then some of the war chiefs on the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke side begged him to stop attacking Libau Rentap, saying "We cannot pull down the planks with our own hands, we cannot climb over them and our small gun and musket shots make no effect on them." Thus they decided to abandon the attack. The retreat began at once. Libau Rentap mocked them by saying "Bring all your fire guns from England and we are not afraid of you." He and his men threatened and followed the retreating party down the hill with the discharge of guns, spears and poison arrows.
This ended the Second Bukit Sadok War Expedition. It was again a total failure on the part of the White Rajah. Their mortar seemed useless as it could not penetrate and destroy Libau Rentap’s fortress which was impregnable. He won the battle and the White Rajah made no further attempts on his fortress until 1861.
Third war expedition to Bukit Sadok
After the death of their brother Aji Apai Limpa, the other two brothers named Nanang and Luyoh, the sons of Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana Bayang strongly supported Libau Rentap. They built a stockade at another ridge below the fortress of Libau Rentap at Bukit Sadok.
It was resolved in September 1861 that the Brooke forces under the command of Tuan Muda Charles Brooke should finally attack Bukit Sadok for the third time. Thus on 16 October 1861 the war expedition was ready to go up the Batang Saribas and destroy Libau Rentap.
In addition to the usual party of the Malays and the Dayaks, there were 20 Chinese labourers to make their paths through the thick jungle and to carry a large twelve pounder brass cannon specially cast for the occasion in Kuching. The cannon was given the name of "Bujang Sadok". It is still on display at the Police Museum in the Fort Margherita in Kuching.
On 20 October 1861, the Brooke forces led by the Tuan Muda Charles Brooke sent two messengers (seruan), named Jabu and Ngadan of Bangat, Betong to summon Nanang and Luyoh to a meeting which led to their submission. Their submission was accepted by Tuan Muda Charles Brooke on condition that theythatld pay a fine of 40 valuable ceramic jars named "Tajau Rusa". The ceramic jars were retained by the Government of Sarawak at Skrang Fort for three years. Nanang and Luyoh kept their promises and remained loyal to the rule of the White Rajah. The ceramic jars were returned to them after that.
When Libau Rentap heard that the two brothers of Nanang and Luyoh had surrendered without consulting him first, he was very angry and sent down a party of his men to burn down their longhouses which were close to his fortress at the Bukit Sadok.
The Tuan Muda Charles Brooke detailed 60 men to carry the twelve pounder brass cannon named "Bujang Sadok" (Sadok Bachelor) up the mountain of Bukit Sadok. It took them four hours to reach the summit of Bukit Sadok. Libau Rentap did not attack them on their way up.
At half past four in the morning of 28 October 1861, the "Bujang Sadok" was placed in position ready for action to destroy Libau Rentap. But due to a dense mist at those early hours, the cannon could not be used. When the mist was cleared away after half past seven, a strong wind came and rendered the rocket useless. Later on, "Bujang Sadok" was put into action but after the 17th round, the carriage gave way. However, it had done part of its duty in tearing away certain parts of the stockade of the Libau Rentap Bukit Sadok fortress.
Libau Rentap returned the fire with famous one armed iron cannon named "Bujang Timpang Berang" which had belonged to Orang Kaya Pemancha Dana Bayang, the father of Nanang and Luyoh. According to the story, Libau Rentap’s gunner was killed by a shot from "Bujang Sadok". His blood soaked the gunpowder which put "Bujang Timpang Berang" out of action.
End of Rentap's power and death
When Libau Rentap realised that it was useless for him to defend the fortress of Bukit Sadok, he commanded his warriors to leave it from the opposite side of the mountain. Now the attacking party of Tuan Muda Charles Brooke, under cover of the musket shot, rushed over the neck of the rock and entered the fortress via the holes made by the shots from "Bujang Sadok".
They found out that Libau Rentap and his warriors had escaped except for the dead and the dying. Inside the fortress, they found the arms captured by Libau Rentap when he fought against Alan Lee and William Brereton at Lintang Batang stockade in 1853, a large quantity of gunpowder and the famous one armed iron cannon named the "Bujang Timpang Berang".
That afternoon the Brooke forces attacking party burnt down Libau Rentap fortress at Bukit Sadok. A gun was fired and in ten minutes, a tongue of flame shot up into the sky with thick black smoke. At dusk the summit of Bukit Sadok was seen burning for miles and miles away. It marked the end of Libau Rentap’s power over the White Rajah, and of his long career as a great Dayak Iban war leader where he got the title of Raja Ulu. But he did not surrender his life to the White Rajah.
Libau Rentap and his warriors did not surrender but retreated to Bukit Lanjak Entimau at the headwaters of Batang Skrang, Lemanak and Engkari. He then moved down to the Ulu Entabai, the branch of Kanowit and Julau and built another fortress at Bukit Stulak. In his old age, he moved to Karangan Panggil in Ulu Wak, Pakan and died of old age in the year 1870. He was not buried, but his remains were kept according to the symbol of the Dayak Iban warrior which was honourably laid down to rest in peace in a mortuary known by the Dayak Iban as "Lumbong".
His tomb, the "Lumbong", is still intact. It is located at the summit of Bukit Sibau at the headwaters of Budu/Kabo River of Saratok and Wak River of Pakan. His remains were kept in a large ceramic jar but they were later placed inside a coffin after the reburial of his remains in October 1989. This was done by the Sarawak State Government in the Dayak Iban traditional heroes burial ceremony named Gawai Ngelombong.
Libau Rentap’s arch-enemy, Sir James Brooke the first White Rajah of Sarawak, was born in India on 29 April 1803. He was proclaimed the Rajah of Sarawak on 24 September 1841 and retired due to ill health in 1863, after the defeat of Libau Rentap at Bukit Sadok on 25 October 1861. He died at Burrator, England on 11 June 1868 at the age of 65 and was buried in Sheepstor Churchyard.
Another principal enemy of Libau Rentap was Sir Charles Brooke, the Second White Rajah of Sarawak who was born on 3 June 1829 at Berrow Vicarage near Burnham, Somersethire, England. He was proclaimed Rajah in place of his uncle Sir James Brooke on 3 August 1868. He died on 17 May 1917 at the age of 88 and was buried beside the tomb of his uncle, Sir James Brooke.
The marriage of Layang to Rentap's daughter Tambong begot a grand daughter Subang who was married to Penghulu Dalam Munan Anak Penghulu Minggat of Awik who was a loyal Iban Dayak chief, led several punitive expeditions on behalf of the Brooke government and appointed a member of Sarawak supreme council. Rentap's principal enemy, the Brooke government placed much trust on Penghulu Munan who was married to a granddaughter of Rentap who was their nemesis in Sarawak.
While Munan was detained in Kuching for opposing the clearing of a forest reserved for the community's use by his late father Penghulu Minggat by the subsequent penghulu, Rajah Brooke advised the young Munan that he should not meddle in the affairs of his former place of origin in Awik. Awik was where his late father Penghulu Minggat lived before his death during a jar seeking sojourn to Sumatra. Brooke stated clearly that Munan should concentrate on continuing Rentap's family because he had married Subang who was the granddaughter of Rentap. Munan excelled at that and was rewarded by his appointment as the first and only paramount chief with a Penghulu Dalam title, a fixed monthly salary, an office in Sibau (now Sibu) and a member of the Sarawak Supreme Council.
Libau Rentap was a man of principle ("kih" in Iban). He swore that he would never see the face of a White Man again in his life. He was met with several defeats but never once surrendered. He had been branded as a great rebellious Dayak Iban War Leader, even though being hunted high and low, he managed to live until he met his natural death during the period of his retirement from active war fighting. He fought gallantly, defending his country and his people from several attacks made by the intruders until his power was broken on 28 October 1861.
His name is still mentioned and remembered as a great Dayak Iban Chief and Dayak Iban War Leader and also the Hero of Bukit Sadok in the history of Sarawak and Malaysia. He continues to inspire some Iban Dayaks especially those who joined the military initially as trackers like Malaysia’s most decorated war heroes Kanang anak Langkau and Awang anak Raweng.
The heroes in the Malaysian Armed Forces were 21 holders of Panglima Gagah Berani (PGB) (the bravery medal) with sixteen survivors to date. Of the total, there are 14 Ibans, one Bidayuh, one Kayan, one Malay and two Chinese army officers. The majorities in the Armed Forces are Malays, according to the book Crimson Tide over Borneo. The youngest of the PGB holder is ASP Wilfred Gomez of the Police Force.
However, now there is only one Iban general in the entire Malaysian Armed Forces, who is Major General Stephen Mundaw.
In Malaysia, Rentap is illustrious in Sarawak and is a national hero of the country.
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