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About Sibu

Sibu is an inland town, and the capital of Sibu District (229.8 square kilometres) in Sibu Division, Sarawak, east Malaysia. It is located at the confluence of the Rajang and Igan Rivers, some 60 kilometres from the ocean and approximately 183.3 kilometres (114 mi) east-north-east of the state capital Kuching. The population is dominated by Chinese especially the Fuzhou as well as indigenous Melanau, Malay, and Iban. The town population (year 2010) is 257,800.

Sibu is the main tourist gateway to the Upper Rajang River, with its small riverine towns and its many Iban and Orang Ulu longhouses.

There is no known adjective for the people from Sibu, although there have been many unofficial suggestions: Siburian, Sibuian, Sibunite, Sibu-yan - none is officially recognised.

There has been a marked increase in public buildings in recent years. Sibu now boasts the largest town square in Malaysia,[3] and the tallest building in Sarawak - the Sanyan Tower (三洋大厦,"Wisma Sanyan" in the official Malay language), a newly refurbished waterfront and a large number of public parks. Sibu also has university-level courses offered by Laila Taib College (previously known as United College Sarawak), which has built a campus on the site of the old Sibu airport.In 2010,Sarawak Government had announced that Sibu will have its own Sarawak Islamic Complex Building,the second in the state after Kuching.

Sibu Jaya, located 25 km away, is being developed as a satellite town. Sibu Airport, built during World War II, was relocated to its present site 23 kilometres from town near Sibu Jaya in 1994.



Sir James Brooke (18031868)
Wong Nai Siong (1849─1924)
Rosli Dhobi (19331950)


Before 1 June 1873, Sibu was known as "Maling", named after the winding portion, "Tanjung Maling", on the other side of Rejang River. Maling was a small village with a few small and simple shop houses with atap roofs and wooden walls and floors. The main population was Malay; and Chinese were in a minority.

In 1841 "Sarawak" (the present Kuching - Sarawak Capital) was ruled by 'White Rajah', James Brooke. On 1 June 1873, the third division was created and the division was named after the native rambutan fruit because the division had a lot of native rambutan known as "Buah Sibau" in the Iban language.

In 1901 Pastor Wong Nai Siong (Huang Naishang) led the first batch of Foochow Christians from China to Sibu to open up the fertile lands of Sibu for cultivation, a massive opening up of Sibu. This was a landmark year in the history of the development of Sibu.

Pastor Wong Nai Siong came to Singapore in September 1899. From there, he proceeded to West Malaysia, Sumatra and the Dutch East Indies. For six months he explored the places but failed to find a suitable place for the immigration and settlement of his folks in China. In April 1900, Mr. Wong Nai Siong came to Sarawak and got the approval of the Sarawak Rajah to look for a suitable site for Chinese immigrants.

Pastor Wong explored the lower valley and upper reaches of the Rejang River. He soon discovered that the Rejang Delta was very fertile and particularly suitable for cultivation. So he decided to choose the area for opening up for cultivation. With that decision, Mr. Wong went to see the second Rajah of Sarawak, Rajah Charles Brooke, for discussions regarding the matter of opening up of land for cultivation. In those days of the Rajahs, Sarawak was sparsely populated with vast land yet to be developed, Pastor Wong's plan was timely and very much appreciated.

So, when Pastor Wong Nai Siong went to see Sir Charles Brooke and explained to him his plan to lead large groups of Foochows to open up Sibu for cultivation, the Rajah immediately agreed. Both parties signed an agreement.[4]

The Chinese immigrants came in three batches. The first batch consisted of 72 people, the second batch 535, and the third batch 511, totalling 1118 people. Of the total, 130 brought their spouses and families, while the others were bachelors. After working in Sibu, nearly all the immigrants chose to settle down and made Sibu their new home. They were happy to settle down for a brighter future in Sibu.

Sibu Fort

There used to be a Sibu Fort, which was built by Rajah Brooke in 1862. The fort was located at Race Course Road, however it no longer exists now. It was common for the White Rajah to build such forts to stake his territorial claim as well as means of protection.

The existence of Sibu Fort is proven by historical writings:

...There is a fort in Sibu, as indeed there is at most of the river places in Sarawak. The fort at Sibu was close to the Resident Dr. Hose's house and was attacked by Dayaks only a few years ago. Johnson, one of Dr. Hose's assistants, showed me a very long Dayak canoe capable of seating over one hundred men...

The river at Sibu was of great width, over a mile across, in fact, and close to the bank is a Malay village, and a bazaar where the wily Chinaman does a thriving trade in the wild produce of the country, and makes huge profits out of the Dayaks and other natives on this river.[5]

Rosli Dhoby

Rosli Dhoby, a Sarawakian nationalist, is one of the more illustrious sons of Sibu. He is well-known for his assassination of Sir Duncan George Stewart, the second governor of colonial Sarawak in 1948. He was then sentenced to death by hanging and was buried at the Kuching Central Prison in 1950. After 46 years of his remains resting in the prison compound, it was moved out from the Kuching Central Prison and buried at the Sarawak's Heroes Mausoleum near Sibu Town Mosque on 2 March 1996.

In order to honour his involvement in the anti-colonial movement and his struggle against the British, he and his associates who were involved in the assassination (Awang Ramli Amit, Bujang Suntong, and Morshidi Sidek) were later given a full state funeral by Sarawak Government.


The population of Sibu experienced a slower growth rate compared to other towns and cities in Malaysia. There are many reasons resulting in a decline in the Sibu population.

However, the real numbers of people living today in Sibu is much higher due to high numbers of individuals not being counted in the census who live and work in other cities and countries.[6]

Year 1970 1980 1991 2000 2009 2010
50,635 85,231 133,471 166,322 209,616 210,879



The Sibu town has been the stronghold of the ruling Sarawak Barisan Nasional for many years. The Barisan Nasional in Sibu is usually represented by SUPP while DAP is the usual opponent to the Barisan Nasional. Recently, PKR would like to negotiate the allocations of state constituencies in Sibu with DAP in order to face the upcoming Sarawak state elections. The Sarawak Barisan Nasional is currently controlling 1 out of 2 parliamentary seats and 2 out of 5 state seats.

The Sibu town is represented in the House of Representatives of the Malaysian Parliament by 2 parliamentary constituencies (Lanang and Sibu) where Lanang parliamentary seat is further divided into Bukit Assek and Dudong seats for Sarawak state legislative assembly. On the other hand, the Sibu parliamentary constituency is divided into Bawang Assan, Pelawan, and Nangka state constituencies.[7] Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew was the Sibu member of parliament and the deputy transport minister in the Malaysian cabinet. On 9 April 2010, he passed away due to liver cancer. On 16 May 2010, a by-election is held and DAP candidate Wong Ho Leng, who is also the state assemblyman for Bukit Assek, won the by-election and become the new Member of Parliament for Sibu.

The opposition won the Sibu parliamentary seat in 1982 and Lanang seat in 1990 with a slim majority. The Bukit Assek and Pelawan state constituencies fell into the hands of opposition in 1996 state election. In 2006 state election, the opposition regained the Bukit Assek state constituency. Wong Ho Leng, the state assemblyman for Bukit Assek, is the chairman of Sarawak DAP. On 2010 Sibu by-election, DAP candidate Wong Ho Leng won the parliamentary seat for Sibu with a majority of 398.

Local government

The current chairman of Sibu Municipal Council is Tiong Thai King who is also the Lanang member of parliament. He was appointed municipal chairman in 2004. However, the deputy chairman, Daniel Ngieng Kiong Ann lost his Bukit Assek constituency to DAP in 2006 Sarawak state election. The councillors are normally chosen by the state government. The Sibu Municipal Council is responsible for improving the quality of life of Sibu community by active and effective local administration. Some of the roles assumed by the municipal council includes facilities management, regular roads and drain services, effective traffic control, maintenance of street lightning, public health and vector control, licensing, building plans processing and grass cutting services.

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