We thought our previous article was clear enough on the importance of 31st August as the date where Malaysia achieved it’s independence.
It is important not only as a platform to unite the various people in Malaysia but also as the focal point of our own spirit of patriotism. In other words, the seeds of patriotism should be conceived from one exact date of our independence.
But some felt otherwise and opined that Malaysia should only be recognised from 1963, not 1957. In that sense, whatever country we had in those early 6 years was irrelevant. Is this reasonable? Yes, you can celebrate 16th September but why must you ridicule 31st August?
Some argued that Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak should owe no gratitude at all to Malaya (at that time). They reasoned that they were already an independent state and that this country was established solely due to their own freewill when they joined to form Malaysia. But the fact of the matter is, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak couldn’t even achieve independence without the help of the Federal Government of Malaya especially through the main driving force behind its formation – Tunku Abdul Rahman.
Singapore, Sabah and especially Sarawak were under the British rule up to the formation of Malaysia in 1963.
Please read Tunku’s own writings below on the background story behind the formation of Malaysia. Maybe then people will understand the value of 31st August 1957 over this entire region.
Taken from his book ‘Political Awakening’, we hope people will be awakened to the fact that petty arguments over which date is more important could never replace the insurmountable force of a united country and its unified people.
THE BIRTH OF MALAYSIA
The year 1959 was one of the most successful and delightful years in the history of Malaya. Everything seemed to go well for the nation. So well it was that I as a leader of the party and the Government had a foreboding that something might go wrong because the year was much too good to be true. I declared myself ‘the happiest Prime Minister in the world’. Money poured into the country, business boomed, new industries grew up, and there was complete peace and harmony in the country.
And curiously enough it was a year which we could say was almost free of serious crimes, our fame spread abroad, and we made many new friends, and enhanced our reputation, so much so that the people in our neighboring States of Singapore, Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei made contacts with us with the request to join the Federation of Malaya. After all, according to them, the administration of all these States was run by the same British administration. Therefore it was easy, and only natural for these States to merge with Malaya.
On May 27, 1961, I was invited by the Foreign Press Association to a lunch in Singapore, and in the course of my speech I mentioned the need for the merger of these States – Singapore, Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei – with Malaya, little thinking that what I had to say would be given worldwide publicity. On June 3, 1961, the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, made a speech in support of my proposal to form the new State which would include Singapore, the Borneo States and Brunei.
In October 1961, the Malayan Parliament supported unanimously my proposal to form Malaysia. Umno at its meeting on November 4, 1961 in Kuala Lumpur agreed with the formation of the new State of Malaysia (Melayu Raya). This led me to London where I had a profitable discussion with the British Prime Minister who declared his support for the formation of Malaysia.
He suggested, however, that before we could make an official decision we had to ascertain the views of the people living in these territories of Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei. A commission would be appointed by both governments to ascertain the views of the people. Britain should be allowed to continue to maintain its defense base in Singapore.
As a step towards a merger, Sabah formed Usno (United Sabah National Organisation) under the leadership of Tun Datu Mustapha Datu Harun. Usno represented the people of all races and tribes living in Sabah. The Sultan of Brunei, Sir Omar Saifuddin, came to Kuala Lumpur to tell me how pleased he was that Malaysia was to be formed, and I could expect Brunei to be the first to join in. Me Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore was all the time behind this move because Britain would not give Singapore freedom except with Malaysia. Sarawak on the whole was most enthusiastic., but the people had internal problems. There were many communists in Sarawak, and there were some members in the Chinese community who preferred to remain under British rule. But it was agreed that we should not rush inot this new Malaysia concept without having first a referendum to ascertain the views of all the people.
In July, 1961 the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association held a meeting in Singapore to discuss the formation of Malaysia. At this meeting Sabah and Sarawak proposed that a solidarity consultative committee be formed immediately to discuss Malaysia. Prominent members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association consisting of the representatives of all the States of Malaya, the Borneo States, Singapore and Brunei were appointed.
This committee would take into account of every point raised at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and would make sure that the Malaysia plan which had risen so suddenly would not go wrong. This committee met four times in Jesselton, Kuching, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. At all these meetings the committee submitted their report on the progress of the Malaysia plan from the respective States. In general all the States supported Malaysia, and proposed that the need for the formation of Malaysia and their support should be widely publicized.
A memorandum was put up in Singapore on February 3, 1962 signed by the chairman of this committee, (Tun) Ahmad Fuad (Donald Stephens). Brunei was represented by Datuk Setia Pengiran Ali as observer. The Sabah representative was (Tun) O.K.K. Datu Mustapha Datu Harun; Sarawak: Teo Cheng Hoe; the Federation of Malaya: Khir Johari; and Singapore: Lee Kuan Yew.
On January 16, 1962 the British and the Malayan Governments agreed to appoint a commission headed by Lord Cobbold to investigate the wishes of the people of Sabah and Sarawak, and prepare the constitution of Malaysia. The two States promptly issued a white paper for the benefit of the Cobold Commission so that it would understand beforehand the feeling of the people of these two States with regard to Malaysia.
The Cobold Commission took two months to carry out their work, and they received many thousands of letters from associations, from tribes, from individuals and political parties, from workers’ unions, religious organizations, and members of councils/assemblies. Everybody who wished to offer their opinion either for or against Malaysia, was invited to send in their letters to this Cobold Commission. In June 1962 the commission submitted their report, favouring Malaysia. As a result of the unanimous support, a delegation of representatives from the States of Singapore, Sarawak and British North Borneo were invited to meet the British Government’s representative, at a conference with Lord Landowne, the Minister for the Colonies, as the chairman, and Tun Abdul Razak as a deputy.