Is the name change from Chief Minister to Premier denoting an equal partnership during the formation of Malaysia?

By Remy Majangkim, MA63, Activist, Tutor, and Historian


KOTA KINABALU: It has been recently gathered that a proposition is set to be presented in Dewan Undangan Negeri Sabah, which seeks to alter the name of the current Chief Minister of Sabah to a new one. This follows in the footsteps of the Sarawak government, which changed its Chief Minister name to Premier of Sarawak through the Sarawak Constitutional Amendment effective March 1, 2022.

So why and what made this name change an important move for both Sabah and Sarawak? What is in the name? To answer these prevalent questions, we need to look at the documents within the Malaysia Agreement of 1963, the State Constitution, and the Federal Constitution.

It is imperative to comprehend and recognise that the formation of Malaysia was a result of a collaborative effort. The states of North Borneo (now Sabah), Sarawak, and Singapore played a crucial role in the creation of Malaysia. Without their contribution, the existence of Malaysia would not be possible.

Article 1 of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) explicitly states that these states were to be called Malaysia. This was the first and fundamental obstacle that needed to be overcome in the formation of the country. Therefore, acknowledging the significance of these states’ contributions is essential to understanding the formation of Malaysia.

Each Borneo State comes with its own state constitution that was drafted by the British as their former Crown Colony beginning in 1946, after World War 2.

This is the commencement of state jurisdiction on the matter relating to state affairs.

The Federal Government does not have the complete authority to impose certain policies on the Borneo States without the agreement of the respective state governments and within the confines of the Federal Constitution.

However, in cases of emergency ordinance declarations, the federal government can dictate policies. This declaration followed the May 13, 1969, racial riot that lasted for 42 years until it was finally lifted in 2011.

The definition matters in all aspects of our lives, so the name change from Chief Minister to Premier denotes an equal and agreed-upon partnership in this Malaysian experience and experiment.

Most importantly, these leaders understand the responsibility behind the names and rights of their people.

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