The Malaysian Concord (Part 3) – The Malay and Bumiputera Special Rights

Recent protest against ICERD – Bernama

One of the functions and roles of the Malay Rulers is to safeguard the interests of the Malay and Bumiputera communities enshrined in the Federal Constitution.  That is what HRH The Sultan of Selangor did when he voiced out against ICERD and liberalism.

In the previous posts (The Malaysian Concord (Part 1) – The Sanctity of Islam and The Malaysian Concord (Part 2) – The National Language) I have shown you why Islam was made the religion of the Federation, and why the Malay language was made into the National Language.  I also explained why the Reid Commission was just a commission and not a party to the discussions and negotiations to the independence of Malaya and whatever put forth by the commission were recommendations for the Constitution, not the hard-and-fast rule.

The Malay precedence had always been the mantle of the British Residents.  Frank Athelstane Swettenham, the first Resident-General of the Federated Malay States, saw himself as the patron to an heir (the Malays) who was in danger of losing his inheritance to the immigrant Chinese and Tamils.  He wrote:

“The position he occupies in the body politic is that of the heir to the inheritance. The land is Malaya and he is the Malay. Let the infidel Chinese and evil-smelling Hindu from southern India toil, but of their work let some profit come to him.” (Sir Frank Swettenham, The Real Malay (London, 1899): pp. 37-40)

The economic situation of the Malays, pushed to the hinterland by the immigrants, became dire that they had to take loans from the chettiars putting their land as collateral.  When even the interest could not be serviced, these lands were taken into possession by the moneylenders.

The Federated Malay States government intervened and introduced a series of legislations to curb the Chettiars’ operations, one of which was the Malay Reservations Enactment, 1913, which objective was “to provide means for preventing the passing of Malay landholdings into the possession of foreigners”(Frederick Belfield, Legal Adviser, FMS, Report for the Secretary of State on the FMS Enactment 15 of 1913).

In 1910, E.W Birch, the 8thResident of Perak, noted the need for such Enactment:

“It will mean that we shall free our peasantry from the clutches of those people who now remit to India the large sums of which they now bleed the people.”(Hastings Rhodes, Objects and Reasons, Malay Reservations Enactment of 1913, quoting a Minute by E.W Birch dated 7 September 1910; in Selangor Secretariat, File 3013/1912, Conf. File 10/1912).

Two constitutional changes were introduced in 1909, the establishment of a Federal Council, and the enactment to change the title Resident-Generalin the FMS to that of Chief Secretary.

The Governor responsible for these introductions, Sir John Anderson, said that the intention of these changes, in his words, was for“the full safeguarding of Malay interests.” (Proceedings of the Federal Council, FMS, 11 December 1909).

Sir Laurence Guillemard, High Commissioner for the Federated Malay States wrote:

“The moral is clear that real danger lies ahead if the Malays do not get their share of the benefit of the development of their own country.”(C.O 273, Vol 539, Laurence Guillemard to Secretary of State, 3 May 1927).

To put things in perspective, not only were the Malays left out economically, they were also already minorities in the Federated Malay States.  According to the census of 1931, the population of the FMS comprised of a Chinese majority (41.5 percent), followed by Malays (34.7 percent), Indians (22.2 percent) while various other ethnic groups made up the remaining 1.6 percent (Loh Fook Seng, Malay Precendence and the Federal Formula in the Federated Malay States, 1909 to 1939, JMBRAS, Vol 45, 1972: p.48).

When the discussions for the independence of Malaya took place, the MCA which represented the interests of the Chinese community in Malaya, agreed for the continuation of Malay special privileges that was already being enjoyed by the Malays under the Federation of Malaya Agreement of 1948 (Straits Times, 28 August 1956).

Even on the issue of making Mandarin a national language at par with Bahasa Melayu, the MCA Central Committee which debated the Alliance memorandum to the Reid Commission put the issue to a vote: 15 votes were against the recommendation that Mandarin be recognised as an official language, 14 voted for, 31 abstained (Straits Times, 28 August 1956).

Reid Commission was required by its terms of reference to “safeguard the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of the other communities” (CO 889/6, C.C. 2000/15, Summary record of Commission’s meeting, 27 August 1956).

The Constitutional Bill was then debated in the England’s House of Commons.  Three amendments to the Bill was sought.  The third proposed amendment pushed by Conservative MP Joan Vickers (Devonport) noted that the 15-year limit for Malay special rights recommended in the Reid Report was omitted from the Bill.

However, the majority felt that any eleventh-hour amendment could upset the political compromises embodied in the Constitution (Commons Debates, 19 July 1957, pp. 1590-1591).  The Secretary of State concluded that any accepting of proposed amendments would result in the reopening of all issues on which agreement had already been reached (Ibid., pp. 1592-1594).  Therefore, all the proposed amendments were rejected and the Federal Constitution of Malaya, as part of the Malayan Independence Bill, was adopted unchanged.

These special rights were then extended to the Bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak through Paragraph 62 of the Malaysia Agreement, 9 July 1963, pages 43 and 44. But this did not come easy.  Many non-Bumiputera groups were opposed to the idea of according the natives of Sarawak with special rights.

A group from the Sarawak United People’s Party led by Ong Kee Hui had a contempt for the backwardness of the natives and had regarded their leaders as men of no consequences.  This prompted the SUPP’s leader in Sibu Jonathan Bangau, an Iban, to resign.

The Ibans, however, told the Cobbold Commission that they were all for Malaysia and some even emphasised on the need for a speedy arrival of better education and development for the Iban community.  In North Borneo, the only negative views were given by the British officials and expatriates as well as the rich (non-Bumiputera) local businessmen.

Both Donald Stephens (Chairman of the Committee of the North Borneo Alliance) and Stephen Kalong Ningkan (Secretary-General of the Sarawak Alliance) both accepted the Inter-Governmental Committee report.  Sarawak Council Negri voted unanimously to adopt the report on 8 March 1963, while the North Borneo Legislative Council unanimously adopted the report on 13 March 1963.

The special rights of the Malays and the Bumiputeras are there to protect their interests so that they do not get swallowed whole in their own land.  The Fijians learnt this the hard way when the Indo-Fijian (Indian descent) minority which numbered less than 40 percent of the population, dominated everything from government to economy, leaving the ethnic Fijians on the sideline.

If the rights of the Malays and the Bumiputeras that was agreed upon by our forefathers are now being questioned, should they now not ask for a better position for themselves? Perhaps a 70-percent equity and quota in everything from now on, or something even better?

(This article was first published on The Mole)

The Malaysian Concord (Part 2) – The National Language

IN part one (The Malaysian concord (Part 1) – the sanctity of Islam), I wrote about HRH The Sultan of Selangor’s displeasure of the challenge by a certain group against the sanctity of Islam, the National Language, the special rights of the Bumiputera, as well as the function and position of the Malay Rulers that are enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

I read the comments on the issue at the online page of a mainstream newspaper.  What I saw was blatant ignorance on the part of the readers. This ignorance, if gone unchecked, will be dangerous to the future of this nation.

Many commentators mentioned that the Reid Commission had recommended for certain special privileges to be reviewed after 15 years, but was never done.  

I need to put this record straight. In many of my writings, I mentioned that those party to the agreement of the independence of Malaya were the British government, the Malay Rulers, and the Alliance party as the government of the day.

Lord William Reid was tasked to form an independent commission to draft the new constitution for a post-independence Malaya.  

The idea to have an independent, non-Malayan constitutional commission came from Tunku Abdul Rahman himself.

The Malay Rulers were for a commission that consist of local politicians, lawyers and other professionals, just as India and Burma (later Myanmar) had. Ghana, Pakistan and Ceylon (later Sri Lanka) opted for a mix of local and foreign constitutional experts.

Tunku felt that it was important to have a non-Malayan independent commission to draft the Malayan post-independence Constitution as it would be able to avoid local prejudices and perform its task with complete impartiality (PH/A/008/4, MCA Files, Memorandum by Tunku Abdul Rahman, 1 March 1955).

This he intimated to Sir Donald Charles MacGillivray, the last British High Commissioner in Malaya, and told the latter before leaving for the January 1956 Independence Conference in London that the commission should consist of legal experts with sufficient knowledge of constitutional developments in the Commonwealth (CO1030/132(3) MacGillivray to A.M. MacKintosh, Head of the Southeast Asia Department of the Colonial Office, 5 January 1956).

So again, I would like to reiterate that the function of the Reid Commission was only to draft the Constitution with input from all those party to the independence agreement, and make recommendations to those parties.  

The Commission itself was never a party to the discussion, let alone of the agreement.

Going back to the issue of the national language, it was in the Alliance’s manifesto for the 1955 federal elections to have a national language to foster a common nationhood, with plans to upgrade the Malay language as the national language.  

As safeguarding the interests and rights of the Malay and Chinese communities being the key features of its manifesto, protection for the languages of the other communities as well as their growth and development was also guaranteed.

The earlier version of the Alliance’s memorandum to the Reid Commission did state a 15-year time frame for the special position of the Malays and Malay as the national language.  

However, in view of the radicals in both Umno and MCA at the time where the former questioned the principle of jus soli while the latter questioned the need for Malay special rights and a national language, an inter-communal constitutional bargain was made and was conveyed to the Reid Commission orally that the time-frame be omitted (PH/A/008/4, Memorandum by Tunku Abdul Rahman, 1 March 1955).

This was the version that was accepted not just by those within the Alliance, but also by the Malay Rulers as well as the British government.

Five years later, this same subject was brought forth to all who would be affected by the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

The Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee chaired by North Borneo’s Donald Stephens in its memorandum stated the it accepted the view that the Federation of Malaysia should have a national language and placed no objection to the adoption of the National Language of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore and Brunei which is also the lingua franca of the region (Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee Memorandum, 3 February 1962: pp. 122).

Even the Cobbold Commission, a Commission of Enquiry set up to gauge the support of the people of North Borneo and Sarawak for the creation of the Federation of Malaysia noted in its report that its Chairman (Lord Cameron Fromanteel Cobbold) felt in view that Malay is the closest to a lingua franca in Borneo than any other language, no derogation from the Federal provision was necessary (Report of the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak, 21 June 1962: pp. 54).

The Inter-Governmental Committee (a committee that consists of the Federation of Malaya, and Great Britain – looking after the interests of its colonies of North Borneo and Sarawak)  reported that Malay should be the language of the Federation of Malaysia, but Article 152 of the proposed Federal Constitution (based on the Federal Constitution of Malaya) be modified in its application to the Borneo states so as to secure that the English language may be used in an official capacity for a period of ten years after Malaysia Day (Malaysia Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee, 1962: pp. 26).

A national language is an important tool for creating “national” consciousness.  

Hindi is the national language of India, as Mandarin, Thai and Bahasa Indonesia are respectively in the China, Thailand and Indonesia.  

It is difficult to understand why, after 61 years, are we still having this argument about what the national language should be.

What kind of national identity are we to have when we cannot even communicate with each other in one common language?

(This article was first published in The Mole)

Sabah 20-Point Agreement: Language

Colonial passport for the colonised people of North Borneo
For the previous installment on religion, please click HERE.

 

Dr Jeffrey Kitingan also raised the point on language on pages 11-12 of his book, ‘The 20 Points – Basis for Federal – State Relations for Sabah, 1987′.  Language was the second point of the 20-Point Memorandum put forth before Malaysia was formed.

His points were, that:

  1. Malay should be the national language of the Federation;
  2. English should continue to be used for a period of ten years after Malaysia Day;
  3. English should be the official language of North Borneo, for all purposes, State or Federal, without limitation of law.

Dr Jeffrey wrote that it was Tun Mustapha’s administration that had changed the status of English by passing a bill and introducing a new clause 11A into the State Constitution, making Bahasa Malaysia the officia language of the State Cabinet and the State Legislative Assembly.

At the same time, he claimed, the National Language (Application) Enactment, 1973 was passed purporting to approve the extension of an Act of Parliament terminating or restricting the use of English for other official purposes in Sabah.

He also said that the National Language Act, 1963/67 was only amended in 1983 to allow it to be extended to Sabah by a State enactment, but no such enactment had been passed.  Therefore, the National Language Act, 1963/67 is still not in force in Sabah.

He claims that the amendments hae brought about the following consequences:

  1. Many civil servants who were schooled in English are employed as temporary or contract officers because of their inability to pass the Bahasa Malaysia examination.
  2. The change in the medium of instruction in schools have affected the standard of teaching due to lack of qualified Bahasa Malaysia teachers.
  3. The teaching of other native languages has been relegated to the background.

Now, let us see what the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee (MSCC), the Cobbold Commission, the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) as well as the Federation of Malaysia Agreement had to say about the points raised above.

Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee (MSCC) Memorandum

On Page 122 of the MSCC Memorandum, the Committee accepted that the Federation should have a national language and placed no objection to the adoption of the National Language of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore and Brunei (the Malay language) as it is the lingua franca of the region.

However, the MSCC had asked the Parliament to make provision for the English language to remain to be used for a period of TEN YEARS after the formation of the new Federation in 1963.  This is in light of the same period given to the states in the Federation of Malaya in the Federation of Malaya Constitution that is TEN YEARS after 1957.

The Cobbold Commission

According to the Report of the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak (the Cobbold Commission) dated 21 June 1962 on page 54, the objection to the use of Bahasa Melayu as the language of the Federation and its application to North Borneo and Sarawak are matters that the people of the two states should resolve themselves when fully-elected representative bodies have been constituted.

The Chairman and members from Malaya do not think that their opinion of Bahasa Melayu being the language closest to those spoken in the region and therefore should be the lingua franca should not offend the non-Malays and any derogation from the Federal provision is necessary.

On the issue of official languages the Cobbold Commission found that there is majority support for both Bahasa Melayu and English to be used as the official languages in both the Borneo states without any time limit.  This was the view of the Chairman of the Commission and its British members.

The members from Malaya however thought that with MALAYSIA in total consideration such provision cannot be accepted as it breaches the existing provisions in the Federation of Malaya Constitution.  Therefore the Malayan members recommend that a provision be made without affecting the position of Bahasa Melayu as the official language of the Federation where English shall continue to be an official language in the states of North Borneo and Sarawak along with Bahasa Melayu for a period of ten years after the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia.

This shall continue until such time the Federal government in consultation with the State governments provides otherwise.  The same was recommended for application to the indigenous languages used in debates and discussions in the respective state assemblies.

The Chairman and the British members however opined that there should be no time limit applied to the indigenous languages, until and unless the State governments decide otherwise.

The Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC)

The IGC on Page 26 of its report recommended that Bahasa Melayu be made the official language of the Federation of Malaysia but Article 152 of the Constitution should be modified for its application to the Borneo states as follows:

  1. For a period of TEN YEARS after Malaysia Day and until the State Assemblies provide otherwise, English becomes an official language not just for the State Assemblies but also in other official purposes of both State and Federal, including correspondences with Ministries and Federal departments.
  2. For a period of TEN YEARS after Malaysia Day and until the Parliament of Malaysia provides otherwise, English shall be allowed to be used by representatives from the Borneo states in both Houses of Parliament.
  3. For a period of TEN YEARS after Malaysia Day and until both State Assemblies provide otherwise, all proceedings in the Supreme Court for cases involving cases from the Borneo states and all proceedings in the High Courts of both Borneo States shall be conducted in English.
  4. Until the State Assemblies provide otherwise all proceedings in the subordinate Courts in the Borneo states other than the taking of evidence, shall be in English.

Of course at the end of it all parties agreed upon something hence the Federation of Malaysia Agreement, 1963 was signed.  So what does the Agreement say?

Federation of Malaysia Agreement, 1963

Taking into account the recommendations and points made in the MSCC, the Cobbold Commission and the IGC, the Federation of Malaysia Agreement, 1963 on pages 42 and 43 made provisions that no Act of Parliament terminating or restricting the use of English for the purposes stated below shall come until TEN YEARS after Malaysia Day:

  1. the use of the English language by the representatives from the Borneo states in either house of Parliament,
  2. the use of the English language for proceedings in the High and Subordinate Courts of Borneo until the State Assemblies provide for otherwise, or for proceedings in the Federal Court that involves cases from the Borneo states,
  3. the use of the English language in the Borneo states in the Legislative Assemblies or for other official purpose including the purpose of the Federal Government,
  4. the use of native languages in the native courts and in the case of Sarawak, the use of native languages in the State Assembly until otherwise provided for by an Enactment of the legislature.

During the Tun Mustapha Administration the status of the English language was altered in a bill by inserting a new clause called Clause 11A into the Sabah State Constitution, 1989 (pages 17-18), making Bahasa Malaysia as the official language of the Sabah Cabinet and of the State Legislative Assembly.

The content of this Clause is as follows:

“Without prejudice to clause (8) of Article 24, the official language of the State Cabinet and the Legislative Assembly shall be in Bahasa Malaysia:

Provided that:-

a) notwithstanding the provisions of this Article, the English language may be used for such period and for such purposes as may for the time be provided by or in accordance with Article 152 of the Federal Constitution; and

b) an official English version shall be provided of anything which is required to be printed or reduced into writing and may be published in the Gazzette.”

However, Jeffrey disputes the passing of the National Language (Application) Enactment, 1973 that allegedly allows the application of an Act of Parliament to terminate or restrict the use of the English language for other official purposes in Sabah.  This preceded the National Language Act 1963/67 that was only amended in 1983 to allow it to be applied to Sabah through a state enactment.  Nonetheless, there was no state enactment on the matter that was passed as of 1991.  As such, as of 1991 the National Language Act, 1963/67 was still not enforced in Sabah.

Based on the Federation of Malaysia Agreement (Malaysia Agreement), 1963, it is clear that the position of the English language as an official language can be altered TEN YEARS after Malaysia Day.  It was put into force through a law that was enacted by the State Legislative Assembly of Sabah in 1973.  Having said that, no specific enactment was passed as of 1991 to enforce the National Language (Amendments and Extension) Act, 1983 in Sabah.

Jeffrey Kitingan’s assumptions and allegation pertaining the illegality of the National Language Act, 1963/67 and State Enactment No.7, National Language (Application) Enactment, 1973 which preceded the National Language (Amendments and Extension) Act, 1983 by ten years was more of playing a regional sentiment especially in the context of teaching and learning of the indigenous languages in Sabah.

Questioning the use of Bahasa Malaysia as the official language after 27 years of Sabah being part of the Federation of Malaysia clearly displays the arrogance on Jeffrey’s part, and his refusal to accept the fact that the Bahasa Malaysia is the reflection of the spirit of the people of Malaysia that forms a bridge for all races towards national integration.

In the next installment, we shall talk about the third point – CONSTITUTION.

Sabah 20-Point Agreement: Religion

Colonial passport for the colonised people of North Borneo

For the previous installment on the background, please click here.

In his book on Page 101, Dr Jeffrey Kitingan wrote that although there is no objection to Islam being the religion of the Federation there should not be a STATE RELIGION in North Borneo.  Therefore, anything pertaining to Islam in the MALAYAN CONSTITUTION cannot be applied to NORTH BORNEO.

His grouse on this matter came about as a result of the late Tun Datu Mustapha expelling Christian priests from Sabah and accused both Tun Datu Mustapha and Datuk Harris Salleh of acting in such manner to strengthen their political position with the Federal government, therefore Islam should not be the religion of the state of Sabah.

The above controversial statement goes against the agreements reached as recorded by the Cobbold Commission, the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee (MSCC) , and the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) in 1962.

According to the memorandum of the MSCC that was chaired by Donald A Stephens (later Chief Minister of Sabah, Tun Fuad Stephens) with representatives from Singapore, Malaya, Sarawak and North Borneo, the MSCC found that the acceptance of Islam as the religion of the Federation does not endanger religious freedom as evident on Page 120 of the MSCC memorandum dated 3 February 1962:

MSCC Memorandum dated 3 February 1962 PP 120

MSCC Memorandum dated 3 February 1962 PP 120

The MSCC had scrutinised the position of Islam in respect of states other than the Malay States and found no objection was made against the then-present arrangement for Pulau Pinang and Melaka to also be adopted by North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore.

Each of the states above would have its own constitution to address the requirement with Yang DiPertuan Agong as the Head of Islam in those states.  The respective State’s Assembly will enact laws to govern Islamic affairs and form a Board to advise the Yang DiPertuan Agong on matters pertaining to Islam.

On pages 120 and 121 of the memorandum mentioned it is stated so:

 

MSCC Memorandum dated 3 February 1962 PP 120-121

MSCC Memorandum dated 3 February 1962 PP 120-121

In the Report of the Commission of Enquiry (Cobbold Commission), North Borneo and Sarawak, dated 21st June 1962 found that there was everywhere agreement that as the Muslims are minorities in North Borneo and Sarawak, there should be no restrictions on complete freedom of other religions in those states.

Cobbold Commission Report dated 21 June 1962 PP 39

Cobbold Commission Report dated 21 June 1962 PP 39

In relation to that, the Inter-Governmental Committee, headed by Lord Landsdowne produced a report in 1962 and made the following recommendations on religion on Pages 5 and 6 which have been passed by the Sabah (and Sarawak) state assembly as follows:

IGC Report 1962 on Religion PP 5-6

IGC Report 1962 on Religion PP 5-6

The IGC, which has representation from the Federation of Malaya representing the states in the Federation, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak, recommended that Article 3 needed no amendment.  However, the provision of financial aid to Muslim establishments should only come with the concurrence of the states of North Borneo and Sarawak.  This has since been provided for via Section 3 of the Sabah Islamic Laws Administration Enactment, 1992 where the Yang DiPertuan Agong is the Head of Islam in Sabah, and a Council (Majlis Agama Islam Sabah) was formed to manage and administer the Islamic affairs in Sabah. This has also been provided in the Sabah State Constitution (Articles 5B(1) and 5B(2)).

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Dr Jeffrey Kitingan was angered by Tun Datu Mustapha’s action to chase out Christian missionaries from Sabah in 11972.  Dr Jeffrey used this as the basis of raising the religion issue that was presented as part of the 20-point memorandum for the inclusion of Sabah into the Federation of Malaysia.

Having understood the reason for his raising the issue again, we must also understand the events that had taken place after Tun Datu Mustapha’s ousting of the Christian missionaries.

Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) won the state elections and formed the Sabah state government in 1985.  From that point up until 1991, the Sabah state government built 825 churches compared to only 216 suraus and mosques.

The state government’s refusal to entertain a request by the Sabah Islamic Council made on the 2nd August 1986 and again on the 12th August 1986 to amend the state’s Shariah Law (Administration) Enactment No.15/77 to accord to the Yang DiPertuan Agong the power to administer Islam in the state of Sabah as required by Article 3(3) of the Federal Constitution (as amended on the 12th August 1976) and Article 5B of the Sabah State Constitution (as amended on the 28th December 1985) clearly denied the Yang DiPertuan Agong His Majesty’s prerogative that was agreed by the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Council, the findings of the Cobbold Commission as well as the Inter-Governmental Committee, and the wishes made by the Muslims of North Borneo in 1962.

The ousting of the Christian missionaries in 1972 was made because the nine missionaries who were foreigners abused the work permit given to them to work in Sabah, not to conduct evagelical missions.  They were Roman Catholics, Anglicans, the Basil Mission and from the Borneo Evangelical Mission.

As Immigration affairs is a Sabah prerogative as accorded in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, the first act by the Sabah state government under Tun Datu Mustapha was to deny them an extension of their work permit.  They were then given a 14-day special pass to enable them to make arrangements to leave Sabah.  However, the missionaries refused to obey the 13-day order.

Consequently, they were removed from Sabah through a Removal Order issued by the Sabah Immigration Department made under Section 32 of the Immigration Ordinance 12/59.

The Federal government had no role whatsoever in the removal of these missionaries.  It was purely a state decision that was made based on a sound reason – the people of Sabah, regardless of race or religion had been living harmoniously.  However, these missionaries have been sowing the seeds of hatred among the Christians of Sabah towards the Muslims by telling them to fear the “Islamisation” of Christians through forced conversions, a claim the missionaries themselves could not substatiate.

There was a plea made by the Christians in Sabah to the then-Prime Minister for the missionaries to be allowed to remain in Sabah.  Tun Abdul Razak however recommended to the Christians of Sabah to instead allow priests from the Peninsular and Sarawak to replace the nine missionaries.

In his book, Jeffrey Kitingan had profusely spoken about alleged digressions from and breach of the Federation of Malaysia Agreement but avoided on the issue of the Sabah state government of 1985 breaching agreements made by the MSCC, findings of the Cobbold Commission, the IGC as well as the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

On the contrary, the Federal government has been fulfilling its end of the agreement by allowing the freedom for other religions to be practiced by its followers as per the agreement.

At no point was there any intrusion made by the Federal government in the affairs of Sabah, and that the removal of the missionaries from Sabah for violating the conditions of the work permit was totally a state issue, made using the powers accorded to the state of Sabah, as agreed by all parties that had agreed on the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

In the next installement, we shall talk about the second point – LANGUAGE.

Sabah 20-Point Agreement: Prologue

Colonial passport for the colonised people of North Borneo

Of late, there has been many attempts at attacking the unity of the nation through the skewing of historical facts.  Unfortunately, many in the government, too, do not have institutional memory of what our forefathers had gone through to allow the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

The same lack of absence of institutional memory has also contributed to inability by many in 2011 to rebut Mat Sabu’s claim that the policemen who died in Bukit Kepong were ‘running dogs’ of the British colonials, and that the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) were true fighters for the independence of Malaya, while Ronnie Liu of the DAP sang the same tune in 2005.

I wrote at length to debunk Mat Sabu, whom I regard as DAP’s own ‘running dog.’  Since then I have embarked on my personal crusade to explain to the people through talks and forums about how the British came to Malaya, the treaties, who were colonised, which parts of Malaya that were not colonised, and what the CPM was fighting for.

On Malaysia Day 2016, I began posting about the making of the Federation of Malaysia.  I started off with the concept of Malaysia, followed by the consultations between the Government of Malaya, the British Government, the representatives from British North Borneo, and the British colony of Sarawak.  Then I wrote about the Reid Commission and reaction from our neighbours.  The last part covered the reasons we have Hari Kebangsaan and Hari Malaysia.

You may want to read the above links before I get into the heavy stuff.

Between now and Hari Malaysia, I shall write about the Sabah 20-Point Agreement.  In 1987, Dr Jeffrey Kitingan had commented on the Memorandum on the 20-Point Agreement for the Inclusion of Sabah into Malaysia.  This memorandum was presented by the leaders of British North Borneo to the Cobbold Commission as a prerequisite for the inclusion of Sabah into Malaysia.

However, the notion that this memorandum had been accepted in toto as the basis of British North Borneo’s inclusion into the Federation of Malaysia alongside the colony of Sarawak, the state of Singapore, and the states of the Federation of Malaya is inaccurate or baseless.

The contents of the Memorandum was not an agreement made by North Borneo, Sarawak, the British Government, and the Government of Malaya but were rather demands made by the leaders of North Borneo as a precursor to the consultations.

What became the basis for the inclusion of Sabah are the points that had been agreed upon by all parties, no more and no less.  After all, why had the leaders of North Borneo agreed for the colony to be included into the new Federation had there not been an agreement for that to happen in the first place?

The lack of understanding as well as misunderstanding of what had been agreed as well as the developments that had taken place since has presented the exploitative opportunity for certain elements to create resentment and anti-Federation sentiments  among the people of Sabah.

Therefore, I shall endeavour to explain and counter the points raised, not only to educate those in Sabah, but to also educate the rest of the people of Malaysia, as well as those in the Federal Government on the latter’s commitment towards not only Sabah, but also Sarawak and the specil privileges that have been accorded to them.

I shall make references to the following:

  • Report of the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak, 21st June 1962;
  • Inter-Governmental Committee Report, 1962;
  • The Sabah State Constitution as at 10th July 1989;
  • The Federation of Malaysia Constitution as in 1989;
  • The Federation of Malaya Constitution as in 1962;
  • The Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee meeting, 3rd February 1962;
  • The Administration of Islamic Law Enactment of Sabah, No.15/77 dated 23rd December 1977;
  • Act 32 (National Language Act 1963/67) as in 1983;
  • The National Language (Application) Enactment of Sabah, 1973; and,
  • The Federation of Malaysia Agreement, 1963.

In the next part, I shall write about the first point of the memorandum – religion.

In the mean time, have patience and read Another Brick in the Wall’s take, as well as by The Right of Reply, on this issue, written a few years back.

The Road to Malaysia: Part 3 – The Cobbold Commission

Cameron Fromanteel "Kim" Cobbold, 1st Baron Cobbold - by Godfrey Argent, 1970
Cameron Fromanteel “Kim” Cobbold, 1st Baron Cobbold – by Godfrey Argent, 1970
This article is a continuation from The Road to Malaysia: Part 2 – Consultations.

In Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia the communists were making advances while the number of American servicemen in Vietnam tripled the number sent in 1950.  In Indonesia, the influence of the Partai Komunis Indonesia on President Sukarno was strong.  In Singapore, all the political parties except Singapore UMNO accused the PAP of having carried out negotiations to be merged with Malaya without first consulting the people.  This gave ammunition to the communists in Singapore and their sympathisers to attack both Lee Kuan Yew and the Tunku.

In British Borneo, the communists and their sympathisers tried to intimidate the natives thinking that it would work as it did in Singapore.  Truth be told, it had quite the opposite effect.  Lee Kuan Yew observed that as in Singapore, those anti-Malaysia in Sarawak were the Chinese communists, chauvinists and their sympathisers, while in North Borneo, they were Chinese businessmen and Chinese who were under the influence of individual British officials who were opposed to the Malaysia Concept, or ignorant of it. Kuan Yew noted that the direct links between the Chinese in Perlis throughout Malaya and Singapore to the British Borneo are the Chinese newspapers.  Hence, Kuan Yew suggested to the Tunku for the Chinese chauvinists be separated from the Chinese communists and the two groups should be separated.

Members of the Cobbold Commission arrived in Kuching in the morning of the 20th February 1962.  The members were:

  • Sir Cameron Fromanteel Cobbold, former Governor of the Bank of England, also Chairman of the Commission of Enquiry,
  • Sir Anthony Foster Abell, former British Governor of Sarawak and the High Commissioner to Brunei,
  • Sir David Watherston, the last British Chief Secretary of Malaya,
  • Wong Pow Nee, the Chief Minister of Penang, and,
  • Ghazali Shafie, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaya.

They were first brought to the Astana, a house that was built in 1870 by the second White Rajah, Charles Anthoni Johnson Brooke as a wedding gift for his wife, Margaret Alice Lili de Windt.  It had been occupied by the British Governor since 1946.  Ghazali Shafie could not help but notice a Jawi inscription at the entrance of the Astana left by one of the Brookes “BERHARAP LAGI BERNAFAS, (Have Hope While There Is Still Breath)” perhaps an apt motivation for the colonial officials who did not want Sarawak to be part of the Federation of Malaysia.

The Brookes had built the Astana on the northern bank of the Sarawak river because it was where the Malays were.  The Brookes depended on the Malays for safety and security, the Chinese for prosperity and trading, while the natives were not entirely trusted.  The same compartmentalisation was practised in Sarawak by the colonial officials after taking over the state from the Brookes in 1946.

The first groups of interviewees were interviewed in Kuching on the 21st February 1962.  The first group amongst these interviewees was extremely pro-Malaysia.  They were led by Abang Mustapha, Datu Bandar of Kuching.  The second group was led nby Ong Kee Hui from SUPP.  This group was against the special rights to be accorded to the natives of Sarawak unless if it is not stated in the to-be-formulated Constitution. This group had a contempt for the backwardness of the natives and had regarded their leaders as men of no consequences.  This stand prompted an Iban by the name of Jonathan Bangau whom the SUPP had nominated as the party’s leader in Sibu to resign.

The next day, another group of Chinese in Kuching were interviewed.  Their spokesperson, a Chinese woman, twisted and distorted events in Malaya into something truly hateful.  She accused the Malayan Government of policies that turned very young girls into prostitutes and had labour laws that accorded workers not more than Ringgit 1.50 per fourteen-hour working day without holidays!  When these allegations were countered by Ghazali and Wong Pow Nee, she informed the Commission that she had read the stories from Chinese newspapers to which Wong Pow Nee murmured that these must have been communist publications.

In Bau and Simanggang (now Sri Aman), banners and placards expressing anti-Malaysia slogans in Chinese characters plastered the town in anticipation of the Commission members interviewing residents there. The scene was different in Kanowit and Kapit.  People shook the hands of the Commission members, especially the Malayan ones.  One of the Tuai Rumah even held Ghazali Shafie’s hand as they walked through Kapit town.  They were all awaiting the arrival of Malaysia!

However, Ghazali learnt that under the colonial administration the Iban had suffered oppression and suppression.  This began when Sarawak was under the Brunei Sultanate and continued under the Brookes and subsequently the British. When they faced the Commission, they were all for Malaysia and some even emphasised on the need for a speedy arrival of better education and development for the Iban community.

At Binatang (now Bintangor), the division between the wishes of the natives and the Chinese was most prominent. The natives were all for the speedy arrival of Malaysia while the Chinese were divided into two groups: one favouring a referendum, while the other favouring a Federation of North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak – a line maintained especially by the communists.

In North Borneo, the only negative views were given by the British officials and expatriates as well as the rich local businessmen. At this juncture, Ghazali noted that these British officials knew nothing or chose to disregard Harold MacMillan’s famous “Wind of Change” speech in Cape Town made on the 3rd February 1960.

Cobbold, not having any experience in dealing with the Far East, succumbed to the ideas of these officials that in his draft, he recommended that both the British and Malayan Governments should have executive powers over the British Borneo states for five years.  Both Wong Pow Nee and Ghazali believe that the Malayan Government would never agree to perpetuate colonialism in any form. However, the two governments should discuss the matter should they want the British officials to stay on in Borneo in the service of the two territories.  Wong Pow Nee quoted the state of Penang where he was once a Chief Minister to demonstrate the point that the British fears were groundless and that the Tunku, the Malayan people as well as the 70 percent who advocate the creation of Malaysia in the North Borneo and Sarawak would not agree to Cobbold’s suggestions as it would still be a form of colonialism.  What more that the communists in Malaya, Singapore, Indonesia, China and the Soviet Union had branded the Malaysia Concept as neo-colonialism. Interesting also to note here is that in April 1962, the Philippines House of Representatives had made a formal claim on North Borneo.  On the 20th January 1963, Drs Subandrio, and alleged communist and also Sukarno’s Foreign Minister and Second Deputy Prime Minister announces Indonesia’s “confrontation” towards Malaysia.

In the end, on the 31st July 1962, Prime Minister Harold MacMillan told the Malayan delegates that Her Majesty’s Government was just as anxious to see Malaysia succeed. Soon after, an Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) was set up by the Malayan and British Governments that would include the North Borneo and Sarawak Governments.  On the 12th September 1962, the North Borneo Legislative Council adopted the following motion:

“Be it resolved that this Council do welcome the decision in principle of the British and Malayan Governments to establish Malaysia by the 31st August, 1963…”

Then on the 26th September 1962, the Council Negri of Sarawak adopted the following motion without dissent:

“This Council welcomes the decision in principle of the British and Malayan Governments to etablish Malaysia by the 31st August, 1963…” 

The Federation of Malaysia that would include the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo and Sarawak was to come into operation by the 31st August 1963. All in all, the IGC made recommendations in its report pertaining to the States’ Constitutions, legislative powers, financial provisions, elections, the Judiciary, public service, citizenship, immigration, religion, education, the National Language, status of existing laws, the position of the indigenous races and transitional arrangements prior to the formation of Malaysia.

North Borneo was thoroughly satisfied with the IGC report and the North Borneo Legislative Council unanimously adopted the Report on the 13th March 1963.  The Sarawak Government was satisfied and considered that the Report contained “generous terms of safeguards for Sarawak.”  Stephen Kalong Ningkan as the Secretary-General of the Sarawak Aliance said that his party “fully endorses the Report.”  Leong Ho Yuen, the Vice-Chairman of the SUPP said: “All in all, the Report is quite satisfactory. Though we cannot get all we asked for, at least we have been given a high percentage.”  The Sarawak Council Negri voted unanimously to adopt the Report on the 8th March 1963, five days before North Borneo.

Donald Stephens who was the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the North Borneo Alliance said: “The whole of North Borneo will now welcome with joy the creation of Malaysia.”


Tomorrow, on Malaysia Day, we shall look into the self-rule granted to the State of Sarawak and why was Malaysia formed on the 16th September 1963 instead of on the 31st August. We will also look at what was said by those who were involved in parts of the process.