Sunday, September 16, 2012

Being Sabahan, Feeling Malaysian (Part Two)

The federation of Malaysia was to be formed on 31 August 1963, which was the same date British would grant Sabah her independence. Despite great challenges, everything went according to the plan until the Philippines and Indonesia decided to throw a spanner into the works. 

At the eleventh hour, President Macapagal and President Soekarno demanded the United Nations to form a special team to ascertain the support or rejection thereof of the people of North Borneo and Sarawak in so far as the new federation was concerned. 

Tunku Abdul Rahman objected to the formation of the special team since the deadline for Malaysia Day was fast approaching. He also argued that the demand was redundant since British had earlier commissioned Lord Cobbold team to do the exact same thing. 

But by sheer twist of fate, Tunku Abdul Rahman and the leaders of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore relented to the request since they were adamant in proving the two Presidents wrong. Hence, the formation of Malaysia was delayed for two weeks to pave way for the United Nations team to report its findings.

Interestingly enough, the findings of the team reaffirmed the earlier conclusion by Lord Cobbold’s Commission that majority of Sabahans agreed to be under Malaysia.

When the date 31st August 1963 came, British decided to proceed with earlier plans to give Sabah her independence, with an understanding that, in two week’s time,  she would be forming Malaysia together with the states in Malaya, Singapore and Sarawak on the 16th September 1963.

Historians are of the view that Sabah independence was basically a paper declaration because the executive power to administer Sabah - even after 31st August 1963 - largely remained in the hands of the last British Governor, Sir William Goode. Sabah did not have her own Chief Minister and Head of State until the 16th September 1963 when Fuad and Mustapha were sworn in to fill the respective posts. 

For all intents and purposes, Sabah was still very much administered by the British in the span of two weeks between 31st August and 16th September 1963 even though Sabah was supposedly accorded self-government in that short nationhood of two weeks.

*Continue to part three in the next posting

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