The Malaysia Agreement 1963 signed between Federated Malaya, North Borneo (now Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore, was not a deed of subservience but rather an invitation to share equally a political table.
Come July 9, it would be 49 years since Britain, the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo (now known as Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore entered into an agreement that gave rise to the formation of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. But how many of us knew that?
The fact is we remember, easily enough, Aug 31, 1957 as Merdeka day and of late Sept 16, 1963 as Malaysia Day but what about July 9, 1963 – the day the Malaysia Agreement was signed by a then independent Sabah and Sarawak?
The agreement was not a deed of subservience but rather an invitation to share a political table and march ahead into a bright future.
But that did not happen. History has distorted the facts and killed off its proverbial leaders. A generation of children have been born into thinking that Malaysia is one and not 1+2 (Singapore withdrew from the Federation of Malaysia in 1965 leaving only Sabah and Sarawak).
FMT took to the streets in downtown Kuala Lumpur recently to ask if Malaysians have heard of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement that lured the Borneo states into the federal loop.
Of the 50 people we spoke to only three had heard of it but they couldn’t elaborate on what they knew of the agreement.
The shoulder-shrugging, furrowed foreheads and sheepish smiles were testimony to the fact that this might just be something not important enough to remember, to teach or to acknowledge.
As shallow as this sounds, perhaps what makes it harder to remember this day is that it’s not a public holiday. One has to tell it like it is sometimes. We call a spade a spade.
The Malaysia Agreement 1963 – in a more contemporary nutshell – would be living in an apartment building, or a guarded/gated housing area.
Being in this collective protective enclave doesn’t in any way mean that a person has to give up their individuality or privacy.
Sabah, Sarawak not ‘states’
It just means that no matter how different these homes and apartments are, they will all be given the same kind of protection by the company mandated to do just that.
That is no different with Sabah and Sarawak’s agreement with then Malaya and Singapore.
North Borneo (now Sabah) and Sarawak agreed to enter into the Malaysia Agreement 1963 with the Federation of Malaya based on the terms of a 20-point and 18-point agreement respectively.
For the record, the formation of the Federation of Malaysia was not conceived with the idea that Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak would be “included” and recognised as the 12th, 13th and 14th states of the new federation, thus adding to the 11 states in the federation of Malaya.
What was agreed upon was that the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak would come together to form the federation of Malaysia as equal nation-state partners within that new federation.
This was agreed upon on the grounds that there would not be any loss or decrease in their respective status as independent sovereign nations.
Look closely at Clause 18 of the 20-point agreement in relation to Sabah and you will find that it hypothesises that the head of the state of Sabah was to be called “Yang di-Pertua Negara” and not “Negeri”.
Clause 3 of the 20-point agreement, which relates to Sabah, states: “Whilst accepting that the present Constitution of the Federation of Malaya should form the basis of the Constitution of Malaysia, the Constitution of Malaysia should be a completely new document drafted and agreed in the light of a free association of states and should not be a series of amendments to a Constitution drafted and agreed by different states in totally different circumstances.”
The real kingmakers
An avid Kuala Lumpur-born Sabah observer who gives his name as Sharif, opined that Peninsular Malaysians and Putrajaya “owe” Sabahans and Sarawakians the truth.
“I think Peninsula Malaysians and the government owe it to the people of Sabah and Sarawak to get to the truth of what was agreed in 1963.
“It is imperative that we demand that all that was agreed on be carried out no matter if a new or old government takes over post-general election,” Sharif said.
He also stressed the importance of perusing the contents of the Malaysia Agreement as tedious as it may be – to take a good hard look at the 20- and 18-point agreements and re-learn what it’s truly about with particular attention to the status and position of Sabah and Sarawak.
DAP national adviser and parliamentarian Lim Kit Siang, during his visit to Kota Belud, Tuaran, and Kota Kinabalu in February 2010, declared that the natives of Sabah were ‘kingmakers”.
The term “kingmaker” drew rousing applause and supporters billed Lim’s visit as a “powerful political whirlwind of change” stirring in the whole of Sabah, state party publicist Dr Edwin Bosi said in a press statement.
To this, Sharif added: “Native leaders of Sabah in the past and now are being touted as the real ‘kingmakers’ in Sabah and Malaysian politics.
“Some believe that the banned book ‘The Golden Son of the Kadazan’ gives a good account of the struggle of the local natives, especially the Kadazan community. The book which describes the struggle of the Sabah native Peter Mojuntin was banned, while the book by [former premier] Dr Mahathir Mohamad ‘Malay Dilemma’ has been lifted.
“Where is the fairness in that?”
He also spoke of the betrayal the BN government has inflicted on the Sabah native community.
“This became obvious after the reverse takeover of power in Sabah in 1994. Anyone who is familiar with what happened will recall that the rotation system of the Sabah chief minister had only allowed Bernard Dompok to serve as CM for nine short months.
“After winning the following election, Umno-led BN government decided to drop the rotation system, and that is the end for a Kadazandusun and Murut chief minister,” he added.
Sharif is also of the opinion that the state’s political history must be a reminder to Kadazan natives of their role in the rise of Berjaya and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) governments.
He said the Kadazan natives had been marginalised and emasculated.
“The future is in the hand of the Sabah natives. They have fantastic power that they can release and become equal citizens, ” Sharif said.
Another Sabah observer encapsulates the situation lucidly when she proferred, “Before any nation building can happen, Sabah needs to first consolidate its identity.
“The 13th general election is perhaps the most significant election for Sabah because for the first time, Sabahans feel like someone is there to champion their cause.
“Barisan Nasional will win, but the question of what would that victory mean remains.
“If the opposition were to secure a 10-seat [majority] win, this will be very significant. Because then, there might be the possibility that Sabah will be looked at as a nation.”