Sociocultural background of Sarawak
Sarawak is a Malaysian state located on the island of Borneo, flanked by Malaysian Sabah in the northeast and Indonesian Kalimantan in the south. Sarawak has a population of 2.07 million (Department of Statistics Malaysia 2009). The largest ethnic group in Sarawak is the Iban, which makes up 29.1% of the Sarawak population, followed by the Chinese (25.9%) and the Malays (22.3%). After these major ethnic groups, the second largest indigenous group after the Iban is the Bidayuh (8.1%), residing mainly in the Kuching and Kota Samarahan areas. The Melanau, Bisaya, Betawan, Kayan, Kedayan, Kelabit, Kenyah, Lahanan, Lun Bawang, Penan, Sekapan, Kejaman, Baketan, Ukit, Sihan, Tagal, Tabun, Saban, Lisum and Longkiput are much smaller groups (Sarawak Government 2009).
Some of the ethnic groups are found in larger numbers in certain lo- calities in Sarawak. For example, the Iban traditional settlements are lo- cated in the river valleys of Batang Ai, the Skrang River, Saribas and the Rejang River whereas the Bidayuh are found mostly in Kuching and its hinterland. In contrast, the Sarawak Malays are spread throughout the state although they “traditionally lived along the coasts, where they were fishermen, and the majority of Malays in Sarawak still live along the coast – mostly around Kuching and Limbang, near Brunei” (Sarawak Government 2009). The Chinese also live in all parts of Sarawak but the sub-groups tend towards certain geographical regions due to early im- migration patterns. “Chinese migration into Sarawak began under the British rule, when James Brooke, the British Resident of the time, brought in labourers from China to work in mines here. Over the years, the Chinese moved on, venturing into trade and industry, with their natural skills for business” (Sarawak Government 2009). According to Chew (1990), who wrote about the Sarawak pioneers from 1841 to 1941, the Foochows are concentrated in the Rejang River basin flanked by the towns of Sibu, Sarikei and Bintangor, whereas the Hakka mostly live in the rural parts of Kuching. Chew also described the Hokkien and Teochew as occupying the urban areas of Kuching. The smaller Chinese sub-groups such as the Liu-Chiu and Cantonese are found in smaller pockets.