KUCHING: Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing believes that Sarawak became an independent state on July 22, 1963.
Masing, who is state senior minister pointed out Datuk Stephen Kalong Ningkan was sworn in as chief minister on July 22, 1963 after a legal election process that was held in June-July 1963 and a cabinet was formed. Thus, he said a beginning of a self-rule for Sarawak began on July 22, 1963.
“Does self rule mean the beginning of a country’s independence? Yes. So from July 22, 1963, Sarawak was on its own as a self governing entity, “ Masing, who is Land Development Minister, told The Borneo Post when contacted yesterday.
Masing, was responding to a claim by Sarawak Malay Graduates Association president Datu Dr Sanib Said that it is wrong to think that July 22 is Sarawak’s Independence Day.
Sanid was quoted as saying that there had been factual errors and misleading assumptions concerning this date, particularly in newspapers and social media by some quarters.
He said July 22 was just the beginning of a process towards independence and Sarawak achieved independence from the British for only a few hours on Sept 15, 1963, when the colonial governor Sir Alexander Waddell left for Britain.
“The next day, Datuk Abang Openg Sapiee was proclaimed as the governor and at the same time, we formed Malaysia and our independence continued. It is on Sept 16 that Sarawak became independent in Malaysia.”
Sanib, who is also a historian, said he has done many studies on this period and believed that there was need for people to know the background of July 22.
“July 22 was when the governor proclaimed the appointment of Datuk Stephen Kalong Ningkan as the chief minister and new Supreme Council members who formed the first ministerial cabinet in Sarawak.
“We were not independent yet because some powers were still with the colonial governor and the Queen in London. July 22 marks the process of becoming independent. All colonies under British government must go through similar process. It was to train to local people to run the country,” he said.
Masing, who is Baleh assemblyman said the formative years of Sarawak and Malaysia as a Federation had been subjected to some confusion and interpretations.
“In part, it was due to the hurried nature the Federation was created and a few ‘participants’ taking part in the acts such as the UK, Malaya, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia and later Sarawak and Sabah were brought in.
“Thus we had confusion on Malaysia’s independence, for instance, was it Aug 31 or Sept 16? Did Sarawak attain its independence on July 22 or Sept 16?”
Meanwhile, UPP secretary-general George Lo opined that Sanib’s view that Sarawak was ‘not independent on July 22 because some powers were still with the colonial governor and the Queen in London’ was too myopic.
“With all due respect to him, that view is too myopic. We need only look across to Australia where, to this day, the Governor General is still the representative of the Queen in London.
“Sarawak was as independent a nation on July 22, 1963 as Australia is independent today. And Australia is not the only example. Look across the Commonwealth countries.”
Lo, who is also UPP Batu Lintang branch chairman, said the mere fact that some vestige of symbolic power remained with the colonial governor did not detract from the greater symbolism when the colonial flag was lowered and that the Sarawak flag raised and Sarawak had its own government and its own Chief Minister on July 22, 1963. He called on Sanib: “Please don’t try to rain on our parade as Sarawakians celebrate that historic day of independence on 22 July”.