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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Revisiting 1963: Joining federation a 'very bad idea'

Two NGOS, the Common Interest Group Malaysia (Cigma) and the Borneo Heritage Foundation (BHF), have brought forward by three years their plans for a whole day seminar jointly-organised by them on the formation of Malaysia.

NONEThe seminar, Malaysia '63 - The Promised Revisited, was originally scheduled for Sept 16, 2013 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the formation of the federation. Now, it will be held on July 31 in Kota Kinabalu, according to Cigma chairperson Jeffrey Kitingan (right). "We are going public now to whip up maximum interest in the issues for July 31."

"There are many issues to sort out before the 50th year watershed," added Jeffrey in explaining the curtain-raiser. "The catalyst was provided by history professor Ranjit Singh's recent bombshell in (Kota Kinabalu) that Malaysia has degenerated into a unitary state - strong centre, weak states - over the years."

There's also the need to drum up nationwide interest especially in Peninsular Malaysia, continued Jeffrey, in the three-year run-up to the 50th Malaysia Day celebrations.

"It seems that only Sabah and Sarawak take a genuine interest in Malaysia Day," lamented Jeffrey. "People in Peninsular Malaysia carry on as if Malaysia Day has nothing to do with them. This is in fact very demoralising for us in Sabah and Sarawak.”

NONEApparently, the misconception in Peninsular Malaysia is that Sabah and Sarawak joined the Federation of Malaya which was then re-named Malaysia. Malaysians in the two Borneo states never tire of pointing out that Malaysia was only formed on Sept 16, 1963 as a four-member partnership of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak - three ex-British colonies which became independent on Aug 31, 1963 - and the 1957 Federation representing the states of Malaya.

Ranjit earlier pointed out that the partnership idea seems to be in question now, said Jeffrey, and this will be one of the issues covered by the estimated 15 speakers expected at the seminar. "We need to conclude whether we are flogging the dead horse of partnership irrespective of whether Malaysia still remains a federation or is in fact now a unitary state."

What might have been

Sketching an overview of the seminar, Jeffrey sees the time now as right to muse on "the what might have beens" had the two sister states in Borneo chosen, like Brunei, the other greater road rather than Malaysia.

He muses on three points in favour of the latter.

Firstly Brunei lives free, independent and prosperous, to tell the tale and "so could, in hindsight, (have) both Sabah and Sarawak".

nice viewSingapore (left) too has been supremely fortunate to escape in 1965 from being "squatted on mindlessly by the feudalistic ruling Malay elite in Kuala Lumpur".

Meanwhile, on the third score, "both Sabah and Sarawak are dogged today by the curse of grinding poverty and caught in a vicious cycle of ignorance, disease and the dependency syndrome", despite their untold wealth in oil and gas, land and other immense natural resources, all of which have few parallels in the developing world.

"It would be a gross understatement to say that Malaysia has been a very bad British idea from the very beginning for both Sabah and Sarawak," said Jeffrey. "No amount of hype by the powers-that-be can cover up this verdict of history. We don't have to wait for 2013."

However, the question is also to put the tragic past behind, says Jeffrey, "chalking it to experience and move on by the time we solemnly witness our 50th year in bondage".

Star-studded speakers


Speakers at the seminar include Ranjit and Jeffrey, along with historian Prof Khoo Kay Kim, constitutional law expert Prof Shad Saleem Faruqui and former Sabah Attorney-General Herman Luping.

police abuse suhakam pc 050808 simon sipaunSeveral former state secretaries, led by Simon Sipaun (left) of Sabah, will also participate along with former chief ministers and deputy chief ministers from Sabah and Sarawak led by Harris Salleh and Peter Lo. Invitations are also being extended to former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, sacked Lord President Salleh Abbas and Queen's counsels.

They will explore topical issues like the compliance mechanism for the 1963 Malaysia Agreement, Umno's entry into Sabah and the imposition of proxy government, the 20 points, state's rights and autonomy.

They will also cover more historical issues like the ouster of Stephen Kalong Ningkan in Sarawak and Donald Stephens and Joseph Pairin Kitingan in Sabah.

The organisers have also extended an invitation to Hindraf Makkal Sakthi's London-based chairperson P Waythamoorthy, who has political asylum in the United Kingdom, to contribute a discussion paper on marginalisation and "ethnic cleansing" of the Indian community in Peninsular Malaysia, particularly the underclass, to give a macro view of the entire nation.

The organisers do not know at this juncture whether the federal government can be persuaded to participate as well. They are meanwhile waiting for a response from the Sabah and Sarawak state governments and Labuan.

Not following Singapore

Jeffrey disclosed attempts to interest Singapore Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew "since he was instrumental in persuading Donald Stephens to drop his opposition to Malaysia". Lee, it is reckoned, could answer the question on whether the Malaysia partnership ceased upon the expulsion of the city state from the federation in 1965.

NONEStephens wanted a review of the Malaysian partnership after Singapore "left" but this was brushed aside by Kuala Lumpur, which subsequently sent him into exile as High Commissioner to Australia.

KL, instead, handed Sabah over to the Suluk chieftain Mustapha Harun as virtually his personal fiefdom for a good many years "until he became too big for his boots".

Stephens' point was that the only reason for Malaysia, leaving aside the question of security and the need to protect the British commercial empire in the territories, was the need to balance overwhelmingly Chinese Singapore with the native numbers in the Borneo states. The first of the Malaysian founding fathers, Tunku Abdul Rahman, did not want an independent 'Red' Singapore on Malaya's doorstep. Since merger with Malaya would drown the Malay numbers in the peninsula, the only other alternative was Malaysia.

The question that Lee needs to answer at the seminar, stressed Jeffrey, was why in 1965 Sabah and Sarawak were not ushered out of the federation as well, along with Singapore. Singapore proved that its independence did not pose a Red threat to the peninsula, he pointed out, "while Brunei proved that the oft-cited security threats were a British scare tactic to goad the Borneo states into the new federation".

The number of invited guests for the seminar will be kept between 150 and 200. They will be from the alternative media including bloggers, besides the mainstream media, federal and state civil servants, NGOs, student representatives from various universities, lawyers and political leaders.

courtesy of Malaysiakini

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