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)

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 4 – Merdeka & Malaysia Day

Children in different costumes holding the Malaysia flag - BERNAMA
Children in different costumes holding the Malaysia flag – BERNAMA
This article is the last installment in a series on the Formation of Malaysia, and is a continuation from The Road to Malaysia: Part 3 – The Cobbold Commission.

“… there is no doubt about the wishes of a sizeable majority of the peoples of these territories to join the Federation of Malaysia.” (UN Secretary-General U Thant, 13th September 1963]

After World War 2, the British was economically and financially strained to maintain its colonies especially those east of Suez.  It would be a matter of time before Britain would have to give up all of its colonies abroad, save for some of the smaller ones.  The Cobbold Commission’s report agreed unanimously that a decision in principle should be taken by governments as soon as possible; that the new state should be called Malaysia; that the constitution of the Federation of Malaya should be adapted for Malaysia, instead of drafting a completely new one; that there should be no right to secede from Malaysia after merger.

Although the Tunku had asked the Malayan Commissioners to sign the report, he was still apprehensive about what “Malaysia” would do to his political position, and what kind of repercussions “Malaysia” would have on Malaya’s relationship with Indonesia and the Philippines.

The Malaysia Agreement was signed on the 9th July 1963.  Although not sovereign nor self-governing, the leaders of both North Borneo and Sarawak were invited to sign it. Annexed to the Agreement were a number of Constitutional instruments that included admission to the federation of the three former British dependencies; state constitutions for Sabah (as North Borneo would be called), Sarawak and Singapore; a scheme to compensate officers retiring from government service in North Borneo and Sarawak.

A separate legislation ending British jurisdiction in North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore was enacted at Westminster. It did not provide for the separate independence of the three territories but transferred sovereignty to the new Federation of Malaysia (Commonwealth Relations Office and Commonwealth Office Briefs for Malaysia Bill, 1963 – Dominions Office DO 169/329).  Therefore the self-rule given by the British to Sarawak on the 22nd July 1963 and the declaration of independence by Sabah on the 31st July 1963 were not a recognition of the independence of either Sarawak or Sabah, but an independence of the states in adherence to Malaysia (Ghazali Shafie’s Memoir on the Formation of Malaysia, p438). For all intents and purposes, both North Borneo and Sarawak remained as Colonies of Great Britain until the coming into operation of Malaysia.

If the appointment of a Chief Minister is to be taken as the point when independence had been achieved, Malaya would have been independent in July of 1955!

The late President Wee Kim Wee of Singapore, then a young Straits Times reporter, covered Sabah’s Merdeka Day and filed a report that, from all the obvious evidence, it was a declaration of independence within Malaysia.

The Malaysia Agreement referred to North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore as Colonies.
The Malaysia Agreement referred to North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore as Colonies.
Malaysia Day was supposed to have happened on the 31st August 1963.  However, several last minute events forced Malaysia Day to be postponed.

 1) a last-minute interference by British officials prevailing upon Iban leaders to demand for the post of Sarawak Governor whilst also keeping the post of Chief Minister, thus reneging on an earlier understanding that for the first two years, the post of either the Chief Minister or Governor should go to a Malay if the other was given to an Iban.  The Tunku was livid and decided that Malaysia would happen without Sarawak. All the cabinet ministers of Malaya except Tun Razak agreed with the Tunku.  Through Ghazali Shafie, Razak negotiated with the leaders of Sarawak and in the end Abang Haji Openg was the Governor designate, Stephen Kalong Ningkan as the Chief Minister, and Temenggung Jugah as a Federal Minister in-charge of Sarawak Affairs.  Had it not been for Razak’s persistence, the Tunku would have had things go his way and Sarawak would not have been in Malaysia.

2) the protest by both the Philippines and Indonesia at the United Nations against the formation of Malaysia. They requested that the UN secretary-general, or his representative, should ‘ascertain’ the extent of support in the Borneo territories for Malaysia, that observers from all three governments should accompany the UN mission, and that the formation of Malaysia should be postponed until the completion of the UN report.

Led by Lawrence Michelmore (the American deputy director of the UN Office of Personnel) the mission consisted of Argentinian, Brazilian, Ceylonese, Czech, Ghanaian, Pakistani, Japanese, and Jordanian members of the UN Secretariat. It was accompanied by observers from Indonesia and the Philippines—an arrangement which the British government grudgingly accepted. From 24th August to 4th September they held public hearings in widespread locations and reconvened in Kuching on 5th September, past the 31st August 1963 deadline.  This forced Malaya to change the date for Malaysia Day to 16th September 1963.

The UN report, which was published on the 14th September, was generally favourable to Malaysia. In his assessment of the mission’s findings, U Thant was in no doubt that ‘a sizeable majority of the peoples’ wished to join Malaysia, although he also rebuked the Malayans for fixing a new Malaysia Day before the mission had completed its work. Even before the survey was finished, however, Indonesia and the Philippines were attempting to discredit it and, on its publication, they rejected the report and refused to be bound by its findings.

3) was of the PAS Government in Kelantan wanting the Malaysia Agreement and Malaysia Act to be declared ‘void and inoperative.’  Kelantan argued that the Act would abolish the Federation of Malaya, thereby violating the Federation of Malaya Agreement of 1957; that the proposed changes needed the consent of each state of Malaya and that this had not been obtained; that the Sultan of Kelantan should have been a party to the Malaysia Agreement in the same way as the Malay rulers had been signatories of the Malaya Agreement of 1957; that constitutional convention called for consultation with the rulers of individual Malay states regarding subsequent changes to the constitution; and that the federal parliament had no power to legislate for Kelantan in this matter.

On the 14th September 1963 the Chief Justice ruled that both the Malaysia Agreement and the Malaysia Act were constitutional (Tan Sri Mohamed Suffian bin Hashim, An introduction to the constitution of Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur, 1972) pp 13–14).

By 16th September 1963, we are all Malaysians.

Looking back, I remember an article quoting Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Gilong relating his experience visiting Kuala Lumpur on the invitation of the Tunku, he said:

“Kami naik kenderaan yang dipandu. Bagi sesetengah anggota delegasi saya, itulah kali pertama mereka menikmati air paip dan tandas berpam.” 

“Kami dibawa ke beberapa tempat dan kampung yang sudah mendapat pembangunan seperti jalanraya dan sebagainya. Saya sendiri apabila balik ke Sabah telah berkempen menyokong penubuhan Persekutuan Malaysia dengan memberitahu kawan-kawan mengenai pembangunan yang ada di Malaya ketika itu.

Katanya satu kejadian lucu ialah apabila ada anggota rombongannya tidur di lantai dalam bilik hotel mereka dan bukan di atas katil yang empuk.

“Apabila saya nampak, mereka memberitahu saya mereka ingatkan katil itu adalah untuk ‘tuan’, seolah-olah hanya orang kulit putih boleh tidur di atas katil dan anak tempatan tidur di atas lantai sahaja.”

“Saya beritahu mereka katil itu mereka punya untuk tidur di atasnya.”

(“We rode on a vehicle that came with a driver. For some members of my delegation, that’s the first time they enjoyed tap water (running water) and flushing toilets.”

“We were taken to several places and villages that have received development such as roads and so on. When I went back to Sabah I campaigned in support of the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia by telling my friends about the existing development in the then Malaya.

He said that one funny scene was when there were members of his entourage who slept on the floor in their hotel room and not on their comfortable.

“When I saw, they told me they thought it was a bed especially for the ‘master’, as if only the white people could sleep on the bed while the local people sleep on the floor.”

“I told them that that was their bed and to sleep on it.”) (Free Malaysia Today – 13th September 2013).

Such was how inferior the people of Sabah and Sarawak felt of themselves before Malaysia existed, and it was not that long ago.


I believe that there has been progress that has been made in both Sabah and Sarawak although there should be more.  When I was working offshore, most of my drilling and marine crew are from Sabah and Sarawak, especially the Ibans.  My last Chief Mate is a Kelabit from Bario, while one of our vessels’ Captain is a Kedayan from Limbang.  In my opinion, both the Merdeka Day on the 31st August and Malaysia Day on the 16th September are equally important to us.  Without the 31st August 1957 event, Malaysia would not have happened and I shudder to think what ill-fortune would have befallen the people of Sabah and Sarawak, especially with China, Indonesia and the Philippines staking a claim in both the states.

I also believe that the current Federal Government is doing all it can to fulfill the promises made back in 1963, an uhill task given that previous Prime Ministers, especially a particular former Prime Minister for 22 years, did not do much for the people of Sabah and Sarawak.

Let us concentrate on nation-building, and put aside state-nationalism as that brings about nothing beneficial to any of us.  And let us not let hatred destroy us.  Our forefathers who agreed to form Malaysia did so following the democratic system, and not through violent nor nonsensical demonstrations or coups.

And let us remember the famous words by the great Temenggung Jugah ak Barieng:

“Anang aja Malaysia tu baka Tebu, Manis di pun, tabar Di ujung”

(Let’s hope Malaysia does not end up like a sugarcane. Sweet at the beginning, bland at the end)

SELAMAT HARI MALAYSIA

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.

The Road to Malaysia: Part 2 – Consultations

The Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee
The Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee

This article is a continuation from The Road to Malaysia: Part 1 – The Malaysia Concept.

During the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association of Asia (CPA) meeting in Singapore on the 23rd July 1961, a conference resolution to establish a Malaysia Consultative Committee led by North Borneo’s Donald Stephens and Sarawak United People’s Party’s Yeo Cheng Hoe. Both would become members of the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee and hasten the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

We see today how some foreign plenipotentiaries act in contravention of Article 41(1) and (2) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 where the diplomat should not interfere with the internal affairs of the Receiving State and all businesses by the mission of the Sending State must be coordinated with the Foreign Ministry or any other relevant ministries of the Receiving State.  However, we see today various anti-government NGOs being courted by these foreign missions, even to the extent of having the number one diplomat attending and participating in the programs executed by these NGOs.

Things were not much different back in 1961 – especially for Singapore, although Singapore was still a Crown Colony with self-rule.  George Douglas Hamilton, the 10th Earl of Selkirk (Lord Selkirk) was often observed by Lee Kwan Yew to be making special efforts to court left-wing politicians especially PAP’s left-wing politician Lim Chin Siong, who are opposed to the Malaysia Concept.  This relationship grew stronger and especially after the Hong Lim by-election in April 1961 where an Independent thumped PAP’s candidate by a 4,927 majority, and later the Anson by-election in July 1961 where the Worker’s Party’s David Saul Marshall trounced PAP’s Mahmud Awang by a 546 majority.  Because of Lim Chin Siong’s ties with the communist-oriented Anti-British League, the PAP leadership began to be openly challenged by the pro-communist members of the PAP and were now prepared to assume leadership.  Tunku’s grouse with PAP is not that it is a pro-communist party, but that it is not anti-communist.

For the British, they did not mind if Singapore was governed by a pro-communist government as long as they are allowed to keep their base for use by the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO).  To the communist, it was a good rallying point for the British to continue keeping Singapore as a colony and a base in order to attract more anti-colonial supporters to Singapore and the Borneo territories, and intensive anti-merger campaign was undertaken by the communists in Singapore.  Lee Kwan Yew believed that the British authority in Singapore had encourage the communists in the PAP to revolt against the non-communist leadership in PAP.  Kuan Yew coud not take action by imprisoning the communists for fear that he would be branded a British stooge and that would exacerbate the revolt by the communist against the PAP leadership. Merger with the Federation of Malaya was now central in his struggle against the communists.

The mood for Malaysia in Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) however was very good. When Ghazali Shafie arrived there, Sir William Almond Condrington Goode, the British Governor for North Borneo who was leaving for Sandakan told Ghazali to use his car to get around Jesselton for the Commonwealth Committee meeting.  As he got into Goode’s car, Ghazali noticed that the driver had not removed the state pennant from the car and asked the driver to do so, so he (Ghazali) could travel correctly in the car.  The driver turned around and replied that because of “Malaysia” he would drive Ghazali with the state pennant flying, and drove off with policemen saluting.

The Committee agreed that its aims and objectives should be to collect and collate views and opinions concerning the creation of Malaysia; to disseminate information on the question of Malaysia; to initiate and encourage discussions on Malaysia; and to foster activities that would promote and expedite the realisation of Malaysia. While Donald Stephens chaired the meeting, North Borneo was represented by Datu Mustapha, Singapore by S Rajaratnam, and Sarawak by Yeo Cheng Hoe.  All of them agreed with the grand plan.

William Goode was not happy with Donald Stephens’s statement on Malaysia, in particular the latter’s target date of 1963 for the formation.  Lord Selkirk had prior to this expressed that the people in British Borneo were not ready to govern themselves as they were still headhunters twenty years earlier.  Therefore, Selkirk opined that it would be better for the people of British Borneo to come under a Federation of North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak for five to ten years before they could decide whether or not to merge with Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia. Sir Alexander Waddle, H.C White and Sir William Goode, the Governors of Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo respectively made mention on how the idea of Malaysia is being received warmly by the people of the respective states; however they were worried that the Singapore Chinese especially, would swamp them.

On the 26th and 27th August 1961, Ghazali Shafie met with Kadazan leaders as well as leaders from the United Kadazan National Organisation (UKNO) to explain to them the Malaysia Concept, and after hearing about the special position accorded to the Malays in the Federation of Malaya Constitution, they all agreed that Malaysia would be the best solution to protect especially the interests of the Kadazans.

Later at night on the 27th August 1961, the British District Officer had invited Ghazali for drinks with British, European as well as Chinese leaders.  Ghazali had suspected that it was more of an exercise to intimidate him.  True enough some asked what was the advantage that the Federation of Malaya would get from Malaysia to which Ghazali replied saying that the question of advantage to Malaya would not arise as Malaya would simply cease to exist with the formation of Malaysia.  Another pointed his finger at Ghazali and poked him in the chest asking why is Malaya in a hurry to form Malaysia since the people of British Borneo were not yet ready and to let the states of Borneo form their own Federation first?  Ghazali pointed his finger back at the person and reminded him that the Tunku had merely made a mention about the Malaysia Concept once in Singapore and one or two more statements after that, and if the person felt that he was being pressured it was not because Malaya had pressured him but that he had been caught in a new political whirlpool within the Borneo territories and he had little knowledge of and was not keen on adjusting himself to the new order.

Back in Kuala Lumpur, Lee Kuan Yew was in absolute hurry for Singapore to be merged with Malaysia.  The threat of the communist was real.  In a discussion, he agreed with the Tunku that the rights of the Malays in Singapore would take precedence as the Malays in Malaya and Singapore, together with the “sons of the soil” in North Borneo and Sarawak, would form the single largest entity in the new Federation. The Tunku lamented to Kuan Yew that Malaya was very short of effective Chinese leaders. Tan Siew Sin of the MCA was a very sincere and clever man but could not speak any Chinese dialect to be really influential among the Chinese masses. It was no secret then that the Tunku would prefer to have Kuan Yew to assist him in managing the politics among the Chinese in the new Malaysia.

Back in North Borneo, trouble was brewing. The British Government had sent Donald Stephens to the UK to attend the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting, while colonial officials in North Borneo worked on to split the Kadazan by saying that Donald Stephens was not a real Kadazan.  As a result, UKNO was split into three factions: one following Donald Stephens, another following Abdul Ghani Gilong, while the other following Orang Kaya-Kaya GS Sundang. Datu Mustapha himself was offered two million Ringgit by a wealthy Chinese to form a political party that would espouse the Malaysia Concept but at its own pace, prefering to hang on to the colonial administration. On hearing this, Ghazali advised Mustapha to form a firm relationship with Donald Stephens in order to bring together the natives of North Borneo. Once a strong base was established, the Chinese would have no choice but to capitulate.

It was not an easy task.  Donald Stephens was from the Kadazandusun community.  The Kadazans and Dusuns were naturally biased towards the colonial officials and the white rulers who served the North Borneo Company before them.  These white rulers’ laws protected them from pirates and coastal marauders who plundered their homes and treated them with no respect – the Suluks.  Since Mustapha was a Suluk, the Kadazans and Dusuns treated him with fear and distrust though not without awe and respect.  That was how the British applied the divide et impera policy to keep them apart.

On the 27th September 1961, the British High Commissioner to Malaya, Sir Geofroy William Tory, called upon Ghazali Shafie to inform the latter that the Governors of North Borneo and Sarawak reported that the people of North Borneo were thinking along the thoughts of the Governors – that is to form a North Borneo Federation instead. When pressed for further explanation, Tory admitted that the Governors were talking in terms of what the Chinese businessmen said.

On the 9th October 1961, Donald Stephens, Mustapha and with about thirty people in the North Borneo delegation arrived in Kuala Lumpur at the invitation of the Tunku who spoke to them both about the need to forget past quarrels and work together for the people of North Borneo. The Tunku also spoke to them about the Chinese community in North Borneo who very much supported the colonial administration there but told them to not be hostile towards the Chinese.

After dinner that night, Mustapha spoke to the attendees about how he and Donald Stephens had decided to form a political movement that would devote itself towards the independence of North Borneo through the Malaysia Concept.  He also confessed to have regarded Donald Stephens as a rival for the leadership of the natives, but must now be brothers for the sake of North Borneo and encouraged the other community leaders in the delegation to do the same to one another.

Donald Stephens was more emotional. Tears were rolling down his cheeks when he admitted he had not trusted Mustapha before and asked for the latter’s forgiveness.  There was a thunderous applause and both Mustapha and Donald Stephens embraced each other and announced to those present that they were now blood brothers and pledged to work together for the well-being of the people through the Malaysia Concept.

A North Borneo Chinese by the name of Chan also spoke in support of the Malaysia Concept and thought the Chinese should also form a political party.  He, Donald Stephens and Mustapha then held hands together with everyone else and shouted Merdeka Malaysia ten times in keeping with the feng shui of the double ten – it was already the 10th October 1961, and this happened inside the Federal Hotel on Jalan Bukit Bintang.

After much deliberation at the second Malaysian Solidarity Consultative Committee meeting in Kuching, as well as some political maneuvering to get the support of Kalong Ningkan and his Sarawak National Party (SNAP) as well as to neutralise the opposition to the PAP within UMNO led by Aziz Ishak, it was decided that an Enquiry Commission, as envisaged by the Tunku and Harold MacMillan, to be appointed to gauge the desirability of the Malaysia Concept among the people of North Borneo and Sarawak.


In Part Three, we shall look into the Cobbold Commission’s work and findings, and reaction by our neighbours.