Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Greater Malaysia - Happy " Malaysia Day" at last.

The first local Governor of Sarawak upon the formation of Malaysia, His Excellency Tun Abang Haji Openg bin Abang Sapi'ee, carried on a pedestal while visiting a 'kampung 'or village.

A treasured book of mine , first published in 1960. However, the above copy is a second edition - 1967 just after the formation of Malaysia. The gentleman posing is the first white Rajah ( Ruler) of Sarawak by the name of Sir James Brooke.

( Inset : The Sarawak Council Negeri sitting on Malaysia Day 1963)
This morning I'll take a bit of time to blog about the "Malaysia Day". For many years now Malaysia has not recognised its own creation in the form of a public holiday. Malaysia was formed in 1963, when the states of Sarawak, Sabah, Singapore and Semenanjung ( 11 states of British Malaya) decided to form a federation. The federation was very much engineered by the British which saw its time to govern overseas colonies was nearing its end. After a series of table negotiations , referendum etc., the British got the leaders to agree on a Constitution based on a federalised structure and a new name for the political entity called " Malaysia".
Tomorrow is the first time ever that the Federal government of Malaysia recognise its formation by celebrating 16th September as "Malaysia Day" and a public holiday. This is long wanting because since 1963 till today, i.e after a period of 47 years Sarawak and Sabah get to celebrate its struggle for independence by the formation of Malaysia. Previous to this, Sarawak and Sabah were "forced" to celebrate the National Day as Independence Day when the Semenanjung states (British Malaya) obtained independence from the British..i.e. on the 31st of August, 1957 - a date of no political historical relevance to Sarawak and Sabah. I think it was a political mistake on the part of our political leaders to sideline the birth date of Malaysia and to disregard it with a public holiday. Well, politicians can make darn and damned mistakes and some they pay heavily by losing power and influence. It was also due to rising unease engineered by the opposition parties in Malaysia lately on the opposition political campaigns to adopt 16th September as a public holiday that got the brains of federal leaders wired properly. So tomorrow the whole of Malaysia will celebrate a most meaningful holiday in their political existence. Therefore to all Malaysians of Sarawak origin I wish to say "Hidup Malaysia" or " Long Live Malaysia" to you all.
Sir Alexander Waddell, the last Governor of Sarawak under the Crown Colony. He is seen above entering the Council Negeri to open its 1960 session. Besides him is Mr.F.D. Jakeway, the Chief Secretary.

As a reminder to Sarawakians I wish to highlight certain aspects of its history before Malaysia from a little history book which was my basic school history text about Sarawak then ( see top picture )

Excerpts from The Story of Sarawak , pp.70-74.
"Sarawak was a crown colony of Great Britain from 1946 to 1963. During that time four governors directed the development of the country. The first was Sir Charles Arden-Clarke. After three years Mr. Duncan took his place. Mr. Stewart did not govern long. Unfortunately, on his first visit to Sibu while he was walking past a row of Malay school children he was killed by a young Malay teacher. A group of men called "The Society of Thirteen" had ordered the teacher to attack the governor with a knife. This society did not want Sarawak to be a colony. Soon afterwards the British government appointed Sir Anthony Abell to be the third governor. Sir Anthony was governor of Sarawak. He left the country when Sarawak became a part of Malaysia.
In 1948, the Sarawak government made a law which allowed Local Authorities to be set up in each part of the country. Each Local authority is a council of men from the same district or division. It has the power to make laws for its own area and to have its own schools. Some councils also take care of such things as houses, fire stations, bus stations, electricity and water supply, bazaars and local roads. The country was divided into rural districts, and there were urban districts in Kuching, Sibu, and Miri. In 1956 the first election by secret vote in Sarawak was held for choosing the Municipal Council of Kuching.

Three years later, in 1959, the first general election was held in Sarawak. People in most parts of the country voted to choose members of their District or Municipal Councils. These councils in turn elected some of their members to go to Council Negeri. Finally, the Council Negeri elected some of its members to belong to the Supreme Councl.
In 1957. Sarawak got a new constitution which increased the size of the Council Negeri to forty -five members. This Constitution gave the Council Negeri to make more laws and to direct spending of government money. At the same time the Supreme Council was increased to ten members. The duty of the Supreme Council was to meet regularly in Kuching to discuss matters of importance to Sarawak and to give advice to the Governor.

While Sarawak was a Crown Colony, both the Sarawak and British government gave large sums of money to be used for Sarawak's growth and development. This money was spent to build roads, bridges, landing places for ships, airfields, and radio, and telephone services. It was used for new schools of at levels. It provided water and electric systems in towns, improvements in agriculture fisheries, forestry, hospitals and medical services, and many other things.
On 16th September 1963, Sarawak joined with Sabah ( the new name of North Borneo), Singapore, and the eleven states of Malaya to form the new Federation of Malaysia."

Credits: Vernon Mullen (1967) The Story of Sarawak (2nd edn.), Oxford University Press, London. pp.70-74

Two things I learn from this historical episode: Political mistakes can be corrected and Sarawakians are truly a tolerant lot.

Thanks God for
" Malaysia Day"

Think how you can make Malaysia a sustainable political , socio-economic and sovereign entity in your own small way because smart partnership starts with a little care, a tiny wish list and individual love. Do you love your country?