Monday, August 27, 2007

Datuk Amar James Wong: Malaysia is 44 Years Old

August 31, 2007 Malaysia is 44 years old. The Nation of Malaysia was formed on September 16, 1963; which comprises Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo later renamed Sabah). That is a fact. Malaya gained independence from the British on August 31, 1957; hence Malaya is 50 years old and NOT Malaysia. Therefore August 31, 2007 Malaysians is celeberating the 44th. years the formation of Malaysia. That is a true fact. History doesn't lie!



EVERY year as we celebrate National Day on Aug 31, the debate on the actual age of our nation surfaces and it seems to rage with greater intensity than ever.

The federal government designated this year’s National Day celebration as the 50th anniversary of our/(Malaya) independence based on Aug 31, 1957 when Malaya gained independence.

However, for certain quarters in Sarawak and Sabah, it is inconceivable that Malaysia could be 50 years old this year as the formation of our nation took place on Sept 16, 1963.

The real bone of contention in this argument over the age of Malaysia is the question of whether Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore joined the Federation of Malaya or formed Malaysia, a new nation, with Malaya on Sept 16, 1963.

Those who advocate that Malaysia as a nation was actually born on Aug 31, 1957 cited the formation and expansion of the United States of America as a parallel to the formation of Federation of Malaya and its subsequent expansion when Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore joined the federation on Sept 16, 1963.

This is a classic case of comparing an orange with an apple because USA was formed by 13 former colonies of the British Empire on July 5, 1776 after a bloody war of independence and remained as the United States of America despite its expansion through the addition of other states to its federation.

This is not the case with the Federation of Malaya or Malaya as it ceased to exist as a nation when it joined Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore to form Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.

It must be noted that Malaysia was formed through an equal partnership between Federation of Malaya, Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore (which withdrew from Malaysia after two years) it was never a formation of the sovereign nation of Malaya and the three states.

Bearing testimony to this partnership is Sarawak’s autonomous authority on land and immigration as part of the list of special rights of the State would retain in the Federation of Malaysia.

An even more ludicrous argument put forward was the claim that Malaysia is actually the alternative name for Malaya citing references of the region around the Malay Peninsular as Malaysia by British Colonial writers in the 1800s and that the concept of the Federation of Malaya when it gained independence was not confined to the Malayan mainland but also the Malaysian regions still under British rule then.

The flaw in this argument is firstly the confusion of Malaysia as a reference to a geographical region with Malaysia as a nation which came into being only Sept 16, 1963.

As for the claim that the Federation of Malaya was formed with the plan of including Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore, there is no documentary proof and even if there was it had nothing to do with the three states as they never planned to join the federation.

During the formation of Malaysia, there was never any mention of the three states joining the Federation of Malaya in any of the historical documents signed by all parties.

To put to an end this polemic on the actual age of our nation and how it was formed thesundaypost traces the birth of Malaysia through the documents pertaining to its formation signed by all parties and interviewed Datuk Amar James Wong, the only surviving member of the Sarawak delegation of the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee which paved the way for the birth of our nation.

The Malaysian nation was the brainchild of Tunku Abdul Rahman when he was the Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya. On May 27, 1961 he brought up the subject at a luncheon meeting of Foreign Correspondents Association of South East Asia in Singapore Adelphi Hotel saying “Malaya today as a nation realises that she cannot stand alone and in isolation. Sooner or later she should have an understanding with Britain and the peoples of the territories of Singapore, North Borneo, Brunei and Sarawak.”

That speech set into motion a rapid succession of events that culminated with the birth of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.

The book ‘Formation of Malaysia’ published by the Federal Information Department soon after Malaysia was formed stated in the last paragraph of the section Milestones to Malaysia, ‘So in less than 28 months from the time he put forward his proposal, Tunku Abdul Rahman’s Malaysia plan is realised, uniting 10,000,000 diverse peoples — Malays, Ibans, Land Dayaks, Melanaus, Dusuns and Kadazans, Muruts and Bajaus, Chinese and Indians — in a new nation dedicated to justice, peace and prosperity, in pursuit of freedom and happiness for all.’

In his report for the Commission of Enquiry to visit Sarawak and Sabah and setting out Terms of Reference for the formation of Malaysia Lord Cobbold stated in article 10 of his findings that the name of the Federation shall be Malaysia.

No one is in a better position to talk about the formation of Malaysia from the Sarawak perspective than Datuk Amar James Wong, the former Deputy Chief Minister of the State.

When thesundaypost interviewed him at his office, Wong was adamant that Malaysia is 44 years old as he involved personally in the negotiations and consultations leading to the birth of Malaysia.

“I remember Sept 16, 1963 very well. I was in Kuala Lumpur when the agreement on the formation of Malaysia was signed. After the signing I flew straight to New York with Rajaratnam, one of the Singapore representatives, to attend the 18th session of the United Nations as representative of Malaysia.’

Referring himself jokingly as ‘the last of the Mohicans’ Wong said he is the only surviving member of the Sarawak delegation to the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee.

“I was directly involved in the negotiations on the rights of the State and you can quote me in stating that we never joined Malaysia, we formed Malaysia.”

Wong who wrote several books on diverse subjects also published a book ‘The Birth of Malaysia’ in 1993 in which he reprinted historical documents pertaining to the formation of Malaysia.

In the first two paragraphs of his introduction he wrote: “Our 30th year of Independence within Malaysia would be a fitting time and occasion to remind all Sarawakians of our great heritage and as to why and how Malaysia came about.

“This is particularly true of the younger generation, especially those in their mid-forties and below, who were then too young when Malaysia was formed, to grasp and understand the implications. But what all Malaysians in Sarawak must know and understand is that — We did not enter Malaysia, but we formed Malaysia together with North Borneo, (now Sabah) Singapore and Malaya.”

Anyone wishing to find out more about the positions of Sarawak and Sabah within the federation should read this book as it contains reprinted historical documents and reports and a chronology of events that led to the formation of Malaysia.

There should never have been any debate on the age of Malaysia as there are ample irrefutable documents that prove that the birth of our nation is Sept 16, 1963.

While Sarawakians and Sabahans rejoice with our fellow citizens in Semenanjung Malaysia in celebrating the Federation of Malaya’s 50th anniversary of independence from British rule, we cannot distort history by confusing it with the birth of Malaysia.

There is more at stake than the quibble over the dates of the birth of our nation for Sarawakians and Sabahans as accepting Sept 16, 1963 as the birthday of Malaysia means the two states formed Malaysia as equal partners with the Federation of Malaya while accepting Aug 31, 1957 implies we joined the Federation of Malaya.

The latter date could mean the rights of the State were temporary conditions granted by the Federation of Malaya while recognising Sept 16, 1963 clearly states that the two states joined as equal partners in the formation of Malaysia and their special rights are entrenched in the agreement on her formation.


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