Wanganui home gifted to peace group

By Merania Karauria

Gita Brooke and her late husband, Anthony, spent a lifetime together helping people and striving for world peace.
At Mr Brooke's memorial service in the Sarjeant Gallery on Sunday night, Mrs Brooke continued their generosity by bequeathing the couple's Allison St home on Durie Hill to the Peace Through Unity Charitable Trust, which is now based in Wanganui.
Mr Brooke, the last Rajah Muda of Sarawak, died in Wanganui on March 2. He was 98.
Mrs Brooke shared her memories at the service, which was attended by Mr Brooke's son Lionel James, and grandsons Jason and Laurence from Britain, family from Brisbane, British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell, and friends from Wanganui and around New Zealand.
Mrs Brooke spoke of her late husband breezing into her life in Sweden more than 30 years ago.
It was not love at first sight, but "a deep and instant recognition, as though we had known each other all our lives".
They had deep, fiery discussions in an evolving relationship, Mrs Brooke said, but it was always friendly fire. "Utterly invigorating discussions, but never arguments, on the purposes of life, human rights issues and the challenges and opportunities facing the world."
Mrs Brooke said her husband was a "soul-infused human being who overcame his shyness".
Innuendo and small-mindedness from some quarters marked a large part of Mr Brooke's life because of his belief in world peace through social justice, underscored by his love of Sarawak and that country's people's right to their sovereignty.
In his tribute, grandson Jason described Mr Brooke as "a man of courage and integrity", despite the British Government banning his grandfather from entering Sarawak for 17 years.


In a filmed interview that was played at the service, Mr Brooke said that in February 1946 he had read there had been a silent announcement in the House of Commons that his uncle Vyner had ceded Sarawak to the King of England.
Mr Brooke said it was not only illegal, but the people of Sarawak were not considered, and he would fight tooth and nail to make sure they were properly consulted so they could choose what government they wanted.
He said he did not want a British colony.
Mr Brooke was returning to Sarawak from Britain in 1946 but got only as far as the Philippines when he was stopped by police and told that he could not enter Sarawak.
Mrs Brooke said the British Government never relinquished the "undesirable persons enactment," that they placed on her husband's name, despite his written request to Prime Minister Tony Blair and the House of Lords for his name to be cleared.
Lord Avery took up the cause last year, but the wording of the act could not be found, so it could not be relinquished.
Jason said his grandfather received a letter from the Queen sending her best wishes and affirming Mr Brooke was a "citizen of good standing".
Unfortunately, Mr Brooke was too ill to comprehend the intention of the letter, said Jason.
In 1951 Mr Brooke made the decision to relinquish his ascension to the Sarawak throne, and he only returned there in 1964 and 1983 as a guest of the state.
Jason said his grandfather also returned there in 1991 to protest at the imprisonment of of the Penan people for obstructing the logging of their forests. The Brookes arrived in Wanganui in 1987, bringing to an end their globetrotting.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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