By Remy Majangkim, MA63 Activist, Researcher and Tutor
KOTA KINABALU: Salam Merdeka and good day, everyone. Did SABAH achieve independence or Merdeka with Malaysia? This is a question that has been toiling me since I was a little boy. To answer this mystery, it all goes back to looking at the relevant historical documents to shed light on this issue. So let’s talk about it.
To begin this quest for truth is to ask the right questions. What are the most venerated documents that link to Sabah Independence on 31 August 1963? So I begin my research from the Sabah State Attorney General’s website under Sabah Laws and treaties engagement. In my findings, there is no direct link between Sabah independence on 31 August 1963. Those in the legal fraternity, notably, study Constitutional Law definition and documents as a basic fundamental structure to address.
In the beginning, the Malaysia Agreement was signed on 9 July 1963 in Marlborough House, London. All the delegation that had agreed to the terms and condition set forth in the Inter Governmental Report 1963. The fundamental point for the formation of Malaysia is stated in Article 1 (MA63), says Article I
“The Colonies of North Borneo and Sarawak and the State of Singapore shall be federated with the existing States of the Federation of Malaya as the States of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore in accordance with the constitutional instruments annexed to this Agreement, and the Federation shall thereafter be called” Malaysia “.
The key words here are”federated with”, meaning a self-governed State that has their own sets of law and regulation. This effectively made Sabah and Sarawak together with Singapore as a Confederation of Nation.
During the signing ceremony in London, the Malayan delegates were ecstatic, they had landed a jackpot from obtaining this oil rich States, assuming it was a transfer of colonies from the British Monarch (Crown Colony Status) to the Federation of Malaya. At this juncture many assume that the British had made an error as colonies could not participate in the international arena due to their current status.
The world aspirations under the United Nation, then and now, were to move away from colonisation. This paved the way for former colonies to pursue self-determination and equal rights. The Formation of Malaysia was not merely an annexation but a continue effort of decolonization process from the British to the Federation of Malaya, under Trust Territories.
This comes into full circle on 31 July 1963, when the British Parliament enacts the Malaysia Act Chapter 35. This is a very important act as it spells out a Trust Agreement consisting of Setlor, Trustees and Beneficiary. In the same bill it also recognizes these former Crown colony territories as a NEW State, together with a State Recognition, from a sovereign State. The Malaysia Agreement registered and binds it under the new guidelines called the Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaty, which Malaysia ascended on 27 July 1994.
The follow-through by the Federation of Malaya was to enact another important bill passed in the Malayan Parliament, it is called the Malaysia Act No 26. This reflects in changes made in the new Federal Constitution to accomodate Sabah & Sarawak into the federation. The legal requirement is spelled out in article 2 (MA63) as per below.
The government of the Federation of Malaya will take such steps as may be appropriate and available to them to secure the passage of an act by the parliament of the Federation of Malaya in the form set out in Annex A to this Agreement and that it is brought into operation on 31 August 1963 * (and the date on which the said Act is brought into operation is referred to as”Malaysia Day”).
Now Tunku Abdul Rahman was adamant that the commencement date was to be on 31 August 1963, but the formation was objected by the Republic of Philippines and the Republic of Indonesia. This is further deliberate in the signing of the Manila Accord between the Federation of Malaya, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The Philippines under President Macapagal lays claims to Sabah through Sulu Sultanate and President Sukarno concerns a neo- colonial experiment, and that any expansion of Malaysia would increase British control over the region, with implications for Indonesia’s national security.
The United Nation responded by sending a United Nation representative to again ascertain the will of the people on 8 August 1963 that ended on 12 September 1963. In the period between 31 August and 16 September the State was under a caretaker government (British Crown Colony Administration) until the United Nation report was completed. The United Nation declares that the formation of Malaysia using a new method under the United Nation resolution 1541 principle 9 confirms our status as a ready state. Meaning” One foot towards Independence”.
So what is the meaning behind United Nation resolution 1541 Principle 9? It says;
Integration should have come about in the following circumstances:
(a) The integrating territory should have attained an advanced stage of self-government with free political institutions so that its peoples would have the capacity to make a responsible choice through informed and democratic processes;
(b) The integration should be the result of the freely expressed wishes of the terrttory’s peoples acting with full knowledge of the change in their status, their wishes having been expressed through informed and democratic processes, impartially conducted and based on universal adult suffrage. The United Nations could, when it deems it necessary, supervise these processes.
Now in reference to Malaysia Day in the Sabah Interpretation and General Clauses Enactment 1963, it says:”Malaysia Day”means the sixteenth day of September, 1963. There is no mention of the independence day for Sabah but acknowledges 16 September as Malaysia Day. So, Sabah Day should be celebrated on 16 September 1963, not as an independent state, but of new trust territories as we have not yet received our independence bill from the British Parliament as Singapore has received theirs.
Below is the link to the United Nation of Trust Territories schedule.
In conclusion, there are no supporting documents that independence has been granted to Sabah concurrently with Sarawak. Instead, the British handed the responsibility to the Federation of Malaya to complete the decolonization process through their Malaysia Act Chapter 35, and Malaya received the responsibility by passing the Malaysia Act no. 26. The United Nation’s and their final report has further strengthened the British ascertain in the formation of Malaysia that our self-determination under the resolution 1541 Principle 9. The call for Sabah Merdeka Day declared by the recent Sabah Cabinet does not hold any significant importance to Sabahan, and our status as it is only a holiday, so let us just enjoy it.