Tuesday, December 7

Providing media link for Cobbold Commission


MONITORING: Lord Cobbold and observers from the Federation of Malaya and the UK arriving in Kuching.

IT is important the people be reminded that Sarawak is one of the components which formed with North Borneo (Sabah), Singapore and Malaya on Sept 16 1963. (Singapore seceded from Malaysia on Aug 9 1965)

MONITORING: Observers from the Federation of Malaya and the UK.

The then United Nations Secretary General U Thant released on Saturday Sept 14 1963 the report of the United Nations’ Assessment Mission which found that the great majority of the people of Sarawak and North Borneo ‘strongly supported’ the formation of Malaysia and there was ‘ little evidence of articulate and organised opposition to the Federation.’

The nine-man mission was sent to Sarawak and Sabah in August 1963 to satisfy Indonesia and the Philippines that the people really wanted to be part of the new nation. Earlier in February 1962 investigations of the Cobbold Commission and the studies and negotiations of the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) led by Lord Lansdownes had shown that a clear majority in Sarawak and North Borneo were in favour of Malaysia.

Many people were invited to freely air their views on the formation of Malaysia before the Cobbold Commission and the United Nations Malaysia Assessment Mission.

Most of them have passed on and notably two of the most prominent figures, Datuk Amar James Wong and Datuk Tra Zehnder who spoke up during these exercises died only this year.

GROUND VISIT: Cobbold being welcomed by the villagers.

The members of the Cobbold Commission comprised the Right Honourable Lord cobbold, Sir Anthony Abell, Sir David Waltherson, Datuk Wong Paw Nee (later Tan Sri) and Encik Mohammad bin Shafie (later Tun).

Three civil servants of the then British colonial government were assigned to help the commission accompanying the team as they went on the ground to garner feedback from the people.

They were Yao Ping Hua (later Datuk Seri), Abdul Karim Abol (later Datuk) and myself.

Both Datuk Sri Yao and Datuk Abdul Karim had passed on.

Datuk Abdul Karim acted as the principal Malay interpreter while Datuk Seri Yao, then the Clerk to the Council Negeri, was the secretary.

I was then working as a reporter with Radio Sarawak (now RTM) but was seconded to the Information Department.

Image from file

I was tasked with filing the news on the Commission as they moved across the state to the Information Department.

These exclusive reports were then processed into news releases for the local and international news media.

I remember Datuk Seri Yao was most helpful to me throughout our travelling together with the commission.

I am glad to have played the ‘invisible role’ from the centre of the arena in providing up to date information on the progress of the Cobbold Commission as they gathered the gauged the feeling of the people towards the formation of Malaysia.

The special assignments to the Cob-bold Commission and the United Nations Malaysia Assessment Mission are the highlights of my long journalistic career.

I hope the roles played by Sarawak and Sabah (then North Borneo) in the birth of our nation will be properly highlighted in our history books.

I have recorded my experiences in covering the Cobbold Commission and United nations Assessment Mission in my book, ‘ Indonesian confrontation and Sarawak Communist Insurgency 1963-1966’.

Malaysia Day should hold a special place in our hearts as it is the day when our state Sarawak together with Malaya, North Borneo and Singapore formed a union to create a new nation Malaysia.