KUCHING: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s proposal that Sri Aman Division be renamed as Simanggang Division was a hot topic of discussion but just what does the name actually mean?
While there are many variations on the origin of the name Simanggang, they are more or less the same and they involve the Iban word ‘magang’ which means ‘all’ and ‘si’, which in the Hokkien dialect means ‘dead’.
There is one widely shared story, which tells the origin of the former name of Sri Aman.
According to the legend, a Chinese family once lived and traded along the Batang Lupar river and they did not get along with another Chinese family who traded from a boat.
The story goes that one day, an Iban who was the friend of the Chinese family trading on the river’s bank went to look for his friend.
Seeing the door to the house closed, he asked the Chinese in the boat where was the family.
Unable to speak good Iban, the Chinese man replied that the family was ‘Si magang! Udah si magang!’ which means ‘All dead! All dead already’ in English.
Each time, the Iban returned he was told the same and came to the conclusion that his friend had gone to a place called ‘si mangang’.
And, according to legend, the name stuck.
Modern history has it that Simanggang was also known as Second Division during the colonial times, an administrative area during the time, formed by Sarawak’s second English Rajah Charles Brooke in 1873.
On Oct 20,1973, a historic declaration of peace was signed in Simanggang town that marked the end of the communist insurgency in the state with the surrender of the director and political commissar of Pasukan Rakyat Kalimantan Utara, Bong Kee Chok, and his comrades.
Given the significance of the event, it was appropriate that the town and the division was renamed Sri Aman as the word ‘aman’ in Malay means ‘peace’.