The Right Perspective On 1963 Federation

Two leaders from Sabah and Sarawak, one from the Opposition and another from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), found common ground on the Sept 16, 1963 Federation of Sabah and Sarawak with the peninsula.

Sarawak Minister of Land Development James Masing and Penampang MP Darell Leiking told a book launch at a university in Petaling Jaya on Fri that the celebration of the independence of the peninsula on 31 Aug, 1957 should not take precedence over Malaysia Day.Sarawak became independent on July 22 and Sabah on Aug 31, both in 1963 just weeks before Malaysia on 16 Sept, 1963.

“If Aug 31 (Independence Day of the peninsula) is made (within the national context) a more important date than Sept 16, it would worsen already strained ties between Sabah/Sarawak and the peninsula,” warned the duo.

“It could only heighten the anger of Sabahans and Sarawakians, who already feel that they are being robbed of development funds by Putrajaya despite billions in oil revenue from the two states.”

They noted that Sept 16, unlike Aug 31, was not a public holiday until 2010 shortly after Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak assumed office.

“We came a long way, i.e. 47 years, to get the date 16 Sept 1963 recognised as the birthday of Malaysia,” said James.

Ignoring Sept 16, reiterated the duo, is yet another example of how Putrajaya alienates the people of Sabah and Sarawak and caused ill-feelings among them.

“Our school textbooks and our songs also do not teach the right facts. There was no Malaysia before 1963,” fumed James. “Even my children won’t believe me.”

Darrel, echoed by James, reiterated his call for the review of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) which was supposed to be held in 1973.

Borneo not destructive and politicians should not kill the messenger

He refuted accusations that calling for a review of MA63 meant that a secession movement was brewing in Sabah.

“The expression of dissatisfaction on the part of Sabahans cannot be regarded as a movement for secession,” said Darell. “This is about the treatment of Sabah by the federal government.”

James pleaded that “these are positive criticisms, so we could look into solving the problem. These dissatisfactions of the people of Borneo are not destructive and politicians should not kill the messenger”.

The book titled, 50 Years of Malaysia: Federalism Revisited, was co-authored by James Chin of Monash University Malaysia and Andrew Harding of National University of Singapore, with James Masing being among the contributors.

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