The striking differences in many aspects between Sarawak (part of Malaysia) and West Kalimantan (part of Indonesia)

The striking differences in many aspects between Sarawak (part of Malaysia) and West Kalimantan (part of Indonesia) on the island of Borneo are indeed influenced by the colonial history of the British and Dutch. These differences encompass not only infrastructure and public facilities but also culture, language, and social norms. Here are some factors that affect these differences:

Colonial Legacy
The British and Dutch were two colonial powers that occupied these territories in the past. Both countries brought different systems of governance and values that eventually shaped the culture and customs in the regions they ruled. The British tended to grant more autonomy and influence to the local population, whereas the Dutch implemented a more authoritarian colonial system.

The Dutch East Indies’ colonial governance system was characterized by colonization, control, and intimidation. It was highly centralized and authoritarian, viewing the population and the colony as subjects serving their masters. In contrast, the British rule in Sarawak was more open and suited the culture of a Commonwealth nation, making it more egalitarian.

The colonial legacies of the Dutch East Indies and the British are different. The Dutch East Indies exploited natural resources and colonized the people of the archipelago, providing little room for development and education. Meanwhile, under the rule of the James Brooke dynasty, the British provided education, left a legacy, and instilled values.

Language and Religion
The British introduced the English language and the Christian faith to Sarawak, while the Dutch brought the Dutch language and various religions, including Christianity and Islam, to West Kalimantan. Differences in religion and language have a significant impact on culture and the identity of the population.

The Dutch East India Company came to the archipelago with the aim of trading and controlling the economy; then came the scent of politics, not the goal of spreading the Protestant Christian religion. Although in practice, the Dutch East India Company granted privileges to Protestant Christians to thrive, even paying their clergy, but in reality, Protestant Christianity did not flourish significantly in the former Dutch East Indies. Catholicism was hindered by the Dutch East India Company in its former colonial territories in the archipelago. Meanwhile, the Anglican Church thrived in Sarawak, as did Catholicism; now, the majority of the population in Sarawak are followers of Protestant Christianity and Catholicism.

In terms of language and population, Sarawak and West Kalimantan are one and the same: the Dayak Bidayuh and Iban as the majority. Customs and culture are also similar.

The largest Anglican church is also referred to as a “cathedral” in the city of Kuching, while the Catholic church is also called a cathedral, even though the designation “cathedral” originates from the Catholic tradition, which literally means a large church where the bishop or archbishop oversees the jurisdiction of the local church, as referred to in the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church.

So, please don’t mistakenly enter the cathedral in Kuching, as it may look similar but it’s not the same.

The St. Joseph’s Cathedral, also known as Kuching Cathedral, is a Catholic cathedral located in the city of Kuching, the capital of the state of Sarawak on the northern and eastern part of the island of Borneo in Malaysia.

The Kuching Cathedral follows the Roman or Latin rite and serves as the principal church of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Kuching (Archidioecesis Kuchingensis; Archdiocese of Kuching), which obtained its current status through the papal bull “Quoniam Favente Deo” issued by Pope Paul VI.

The cathedral is under the pastoral responsibility of His Excellency Archbishop Simon Poh Hoon Seng since March 4, 2017.

As for the Anglican cathedral in Kuching, it is named St. Thomas’s Cathedral. The Bishop of Kuching serves as the ordinary of the Anglican Diocese of Kuching within the Province of Southeast Asia. The bishop holds episcopal authority over Anglican churches in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia, and the independent nation of Brunei Darussalam.

Legal and Governance Systems
The legal and governance systems enforced by the British and Dutch were also different. This includes the government structure, customary law, and administrative practices. These differences affect how people in both regions interact with the government and lead their daily lives.

The Dutch East Indies’ colonial governance system was characterized by colonization, control, and intimidation. It was highly centralized and authoritarian, viewing the population and the colony as subjects serving their masters. In contrast, the British rule in Sarawak was more open and suited the culture of a Commonwealth nation, making it more egalitarian.

Economy and Infrastructure
Colonialism also influenced economic development and infrastructure. The British and Dutch had different economic policies, which created disparities in economic development between Sarawak and West Kalimantan. Sarawak, for instance, may have more advanced infrastructure due to British economic influence.

Ethnic and Tribal Relations
These differences can also be seen in ethnic and tribal relationships in both regions. The British and Dutch might have had varying approaches to managing ethnic diversity, which affects how communities interact with one another.

Whether these differences are due to the “culture and intention of the colonial motherland” is a complex question. Indeed, the culture and values introduced by the colonizers played a role in shaping the culture in the regions they controlled. However, these differences can also be influenced by other factors, including geographical environments, demographics, and local historical developments.

Furthermore, after gaining independence, countries like Malaysia and Indonesia have sought to develop unique national identities and cultures, which might also influence the differences between Sarawak and West Kalimantan. Thus, cultural and historical factors interact to create the differences we observe today on the island of Borneo. *)

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