Wednesday, 13 February 2013



IN 2011, the late Datuk Amar James Wong Kim Min, former Minister of the State Government of Sarawak, handed me an autographed copy of his book, “The Birth of Malaysia”.

Despite the United Borneo Front’s proposal to have this coveted piece of literature as part of the history textbooks in the national curriculum for Secondary Schools, many are still deprived access to this book and are completely unaware that the contents of this book merely includes the essential reports prior to the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Within these reports are essential viewpoints and insights into what the people of North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak wanted from the Central Government of the proposed Federation of Malaysia, now known as the Malaysian Federal Government.

There is no point harping on racial or religious grounds about the consequences of the IC issue in the RCI if we do not remember that these issues were the very fears expressed in the reports that were made and drafted over 50 years ago.

I consider it my duty to the nation as an ordinary citizen to now progressively work through these reports and summarise the key points of these reports prior to the election so that we will make an informed decision about who we really want as the masters of our economic fate in Borneo. I am writing this in response to the illegal IC debate which I believe goes to the very root of the issue of a breach of Sabah’s territorial integrity and the heart of our future political security.

The Malaysia Agreement 1963

The Malaysia Agreement was signed on the 9th July 1963 between the United Kingdom, the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo (now Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore. Without the Malaysia Agreement, Malaysia would not exist.

Without the Malaysia Agreement, Sabah and Sarawak would not be part of Malaysia.

The Malaysia Agreement therefore stands as the most important document in the history of Malaysia. Unlike the Federal Constitution, it can NEVER be amended by anybody unless the territories that originally signed it decide once more to return to the negotiation room and determine a new future. 

The Malaysia Agreement is also an agreement that has no time limit and not bound by any limitation. If the Malaysia Agreement had a time limit, then the territories which signed the Agreement will no longer be bound to one another upon expiry of that time limit. So, logically, the Malaysia Agreement stands timeless.

If this was an ordinary Agreement, breach of any of its clauses could be challenged. If it was an ordinary Agreement, it would have stipulated what must be done if there was a breach of the clauses. The Malaysia Agreement remains silent on the issue of breach.

This is deliberate. The Malaysia Agreement was drafted deliberately in its simplest form to allow the maximum loopholes and flexibility so that the territories which signed the Malaysia Agreement will have no unreasonable restrictions in determining their fates in the Federation of Malaysia.

With top lawyers as signatories to the Malaysia Agreement, it would be inconceivable that the Agreement was drafted without careful thought and arrangement. Some of the signatories were educated and could have had access to the best legal advisers in the UK. The Malaysia Agreement therefore was calculated to be silent on some issues and loud on others.

When Singapore exited the Malaysia Agreement in 1965, there was much debate in parliament which is well recorded. No matter how much discussion went on there, they knew full well that nobody could challenge Singapore based on the Malaysia Agreement.

Indeed they could not challenge Singapore based on any other legal document either. So it was all talk amongst Malaysian politicians with no impact on Singapore. Singapore went on to become the richest of the territories that entered into the Malaysia Agreement and Singapore was neither sued for their exit nor legally challenged.

Lee Kuan Yew had one of the best legal minds in the East and he was no fool. If he wanted to continue leading Singapore, he knew he could not screw up his decision for Singapore in 1965. Nearly fifty years on, the guy is still standing tall with no regrets except his admission to me of “deep collateral guilt” for the people of North Borneo and Sarawak.

To understand the gravity of this situation therefore, all Malaysians must understand that the Malaysia Agreement was not a unilateral decision made by the Government of Malaya. Malaysia was formed because the British had to decide how best to dispose of their two colonies, Sabah and Sarawak.

Before they could form Malaysia and sign the Malaysia Agreement therefore the British proposed that a Commission of Enquiry be carried out in North Borneo and Sarawak in 1962 to determine how the people of the Borneo territories felt about the proposal.

The idea had already been discussed between the British and Malayan Governments in 1961 and on principle, Singapore and Malaya had by then agreed to merge and it was merely a question of seeking the views of the people of North Borneo and Sarawak and also the Sultan of Brunei, as to whether Brunei would also wish to join the new Malaysia.

Brunei, which was far smaller than the territories of Sabah and Sarawak, and yet in view of its proximity would have been subjected to the very same fears of communism at the time, somehow had a far better excuse not to enter into the Malaysia Agreement, which the British Government seemed to have fully respected.

The Malaysia Agreement was eventually signed after a Commission of Enquiry was carried out in North Borneo and Sarawak and two reports were presented to the British Government. These two reports were:-

1.      Report of the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak 1962 (Cobbold Report)
2.      Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee 1962 (IGC Report)

The Commission of Enquiry

Appendix B of the Cobbold Report shows the Census Abstract for North Borneo and Sarawak in 1960.

In North Borneo, the population in 1960 was 454,421. They had 304 graduates, which was about 0.07% of their population.

In Sarawak, the population in 1960 was 744,529. They had 548 graduates, which was also about 0.07% of their population.

The Cobbold Commission sent out open invitations to the people of North Borneo and Sarawak to give their views both orally and in written form.

Of a combined total population of 1,198,950 people in North Borneo and Sarawak, the Cobbold Commission received 2,200 written letters and memoranda (0.183% of the population) and 4000 or so people appeared to give their views orally (0.334% of the population).

In 1962, the Cobbold Commission that heard HALF A PERCENT (0.5%) of the total population of North Borneo and Sarawak decided that this represented an affirmative decision to proceed with the signing of the Malaysia Agreement, even though a significant proportion of the 0.5% who bothered to respond to the Cobbold Commission had expressed reservations to the idea of forming Malaysia and requested more time.

With only 852 graduates in total, it is unclear how many of these graduates bothered to give their views. In any event, North Borneo and Sarawak did not have the intellectual capacity to form a pool of educated leaders to decide their political destiny in 1962.

Like schoolboys in a sandpit, a parody of ‘Lord of the Flies’ was inevitable as power struggles developed between people who were selected based on their popularity and political leanings rather than their intellectual prowess.

For men who had only known subservience and wars, our forefathers were expected to develop democracy and political structures with civilisations that were centuries ahead of us. In 50 years, we are expected to develop the intellectual capacity of nations that began developing these political structures in the 16th century. Barely a hundred years ago, we were considered merely savages and uncivilised people.

It is no wonder to me that in 2013, we are still sweeping the mess under the carpets. The arrogance is more than evident, the greed glaring in the face of the nation and the vast majority of us, nearly all of us, stay silent, as we did in 1962, still somewhat savage and uncivilised in the way we attack each other politically.

The Cobbold Commission must therefore, posthumously, take full responsibility for a premature recommendation that has on hindsight led to more devastating consequences than could have possibly been predicted by even 0.07% of the population in 1962.

We have lost all sense of harmony as documented in the Cobbold Report and we have become angry with each other, with foreigners, with our fingers pointing in all directions so that everybody has a part to play in the chaos and hatred.

This is, by all accounts, tragic and devastating and, as a nation, we have lost our humanity. We no longer have faith in our system because we have stopped trusting anybody. We assume first and foremost that our neighbour has a bone to pick with us.

A small proportion of the population cares about the weak, the animals, the refugees and those who seek shelter in our country. A huge proportion of this population feel disenfranchised and cheated of their rights: their voting rights, their racial rights, their religious rights, their native rights, their territorial rights, their economic rights, their political rights, their freedom rights, their civil rights, their marching rights, their union rights, their welfare rights, their medical rights, their educational rights, and it goes on.

They will get to the cause of this disenfranchisement and someone must take the blame: those who lead, those who benefit, those who are related, those who are more well-off, those who try to stop the chaos, those who are simply in the way of these arguments.

The rights can easily be negotiated within reasonable parameters but we still have savages who can never get it right.

We are simply, in the eyes of all developed civilisations, pathetic and ridiculous. By all accounts, it is still perhaps only 0.07% of the nation that can reasonably lead this country. Yet, the nation will stay silent, as they did in 1962. Our votes will never be enough to make a sizeable representation of what we feel as a nation and what we want as our future political destiny. We vote not by logic but by sentiments and so it is easy for us to be manipulated and fooled.

The security of Sabah and Sarawak

And so, in Borneo, we have no choice. To be known as the Borneo Kingmakers, to be the one who could hold the Federal Powers to reason and harness the security of our borders and immigration status, to be in a position to secure our 60 State seats and 25 Parliamentary seats in Sabah, to be in a position of phenomenal wealth and power so as to never have to bow and say yes to Malayan Federal orders, and more importantly to be able to hold Malaya to its Malaysia Agreement promises, the leaders at the helm of Sabah and Sarawak must be the type of leaders that common ordinary folk commonly describe as a dictator and a tyrant; men accused typically of rising to the top through corruption and raping of resources and holding the populace at bay with enough to keep them financially stable.

Such leaders would belong to 0.07% of the population of Sabah and Sarawak and they stand out as leaders who are charismatic enough to secure the forests and immense oil and gas reserves that are offshore and onshore the island of Borneo.

We need these leaders to secure our rights in Borneo and ensure that every nominated Sabah and Sarawak minister at the State and Federal level will be taken seriously enough to hold immense portfolios and corporate positions so that the reality of Borneonisation is observed without having to say so.

They secured these realities through ways which we can never agree with and yet, there is no other way than to go through the coffers of our immense resources. They needed a form of silent mandate from the silent majority of people in Borneo to gather enough wealth to put them in a position of power that makes them more powerful than any other leader in the other 11 States of Malaysia. They know full well they can never secure the mandate of the public to reach the top and so they did what they felt they had to do before any other leader from the other 11 States got there first.

Any man or woman with the ambition of being powerful enough to sit on the same level playing field as the Prime Minister of Malaysia would have done exactly the same thing as such leaders in Sabah and Sarawak without a shred of remorse.

We are too small to be significant and so we simply cannot afford to be sentimental and idealistic. We have to be ruthless, bold and follow the path of fierce logic to achieve our part of the bargain in 1963 when we signed the Malaysia Agreement.

Neither you nor I, if we qualified as 0.07% of the brains of Borneo, would have done it differently. It comes to mind therefore that even if I were ever given the mandate to lead Sabah as the Chief Minister, I would have probably followed in exactly the same footsteps as Musa Aman and Harris Salleh before him, with one exception.

I would have amalgamated with Taib Mahmud and ensured the victory of whichever coalition we wish to negotiate with in West Malaysia but I would not allow Taib to take Sabah for a ride.

It does not matter who the next Prime Minister of Malaysia is because at this point, by whatever means they took to achieve it, both Musa and Taib are the only two leaders in Sabah and Sarawak who would have the tenacity, the money and the balls to stand to the end like Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein and Robert Mugabe: big guys in small places who wrapped big guys in big places around their little fingers, while the rest of the world complains.

(Copyright 13 Feb 2013 and published with permission from writer).

(Note : Nilakrisna James is a lawyer, writer and activist who co-founded the apolitical NGO, United Borneo Front, in 2010 with politician, Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan. They parted ways at the end of 2011 when Dr. Jeffrey assumed the Chairmanship of STAR as an oppositional leader independent of any Federal led coalition. Nilakrisna remains a member of UPKO, a native component party of the ruling Barisan National alliance.)

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