Time to reflect, and to ask questions

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Let us keep the Jalur Gemilang and the Sarawak Flag flying side by side for the next 60-plus years. — Bernama photo

MALAYSIA is 60 years old this year.

Malaysians in Sarawak or in Sabah who were born on Sept 16, 1963, will be of the same age as their nation. So will all those born of Malaysian parents in the peninsula.

To every one of them, I say in advance ‘Happy Birthday’!

Why are they important?

In my view, they belong to the generation of Malaysians who may not have read the history of the formation of Malaysia until they were in secondary school. It is possible that a number of this age group may be members of the State Legislative Assembly or members of Parliament, or are active in politics.

The ordinary mortals in Sarawak and Sabah are looking up to those who are or will be walking in the corridors of power and authority to make this country great.

I say to them: upon your collective shoulder lies the responsibility to carry on with the tradition of practising racial and religious harmony in the country.

Among your contemporary there are in the Police Force, Immigration Department, the judiciary, and other institutions of government. Their integrity is of paramount importance in terms of sustaining the civilisation of this country.

You, the leaders and politicians, are responsible to us the people, to ensure prosperity and equitable distribution of wealth.

Should you fail in your duty, your children and grandchildren and mine will pay the price!

Many people are pinning their hopes on you to be playing an effective role in the management of the affairs and the resources at the level of the federal government.

I do not know how our young generation is taught history these days. For instance, do they know not just about Malaysia Day, but also the deliberations and inquiries that preceded it?

There was an official commission, headed by one Lord Cobbold, who presented a report on the situation. At Paragraph 237 of this report, containing a summary of recommendations, Lord Cobbold wrote: “237. The British and Malayan members have both concluded that, on the lines of their respective approaches, a Federation of Malaysia is an attractive and workable project.

“On the assumption that Singapore also joins the Federation, I strongly endorse this view.

“Adding that the inclusion of the Borneo territories would also be to the advantage of the other participants in the federation. It is a necessary condition that from the outset, Malaysia should be regarded by all concerned as an association of partners, combining in the common interest to create a new nation by retaining their own individualities. If any idea were to take root that Malaysia would involve a ‘take over’ of the Borneo territories by the Federation of Malaya and the submersion of the individualities of North Borneo and Sarawak, Malaysia would not in my judgment, be generally acceptable or successful.”

Having been in Malaysia for the past half a century, a lot of thoughtful people are getting worried about just these ‘individualities’ relating to, say the Special Positions of the Indigenous Races.

Lord Cobbold’s wording is very diplomatic, but the point he made is valid – if the larger members try to submerse (that means flood!) the smaller, the Federation will not be successful.

Question: Was Lord Cobbold farsighted?

On the bulk of evidence of the findings of views of those whom interviewed by the Commission here and in North Borneo before the formation of Malaysia, the Cobbold Commission ‘attached five matters of great importance’ to the East Malaysians:

In short:

  • Representation in Federal Parliament;
  • Special Positions of the Indigenous Races;
  • Development;
  • Land, Agriculture and Forestry, and;
  • Native Customs and Usage.

I have commented in previous articles on the need for a larger membership representation of Sabah and Sarawak in the federal Parliament. Sarawak now has 31 parliamentary seats, and should get at least five more seats and five more for Sabah (from 25 seats).

I have space only for one more matter, copied from the Report:

“(ii) Special Position of the Indigenous Races. The native races in the Borneo territories should be placed in a position analogous to the Malays in the Constitution of the Federation of Malaya.

“An Advisory Board should be set-up including representatives of the principal races, to advise on the interpretation and administration of those provisions….”

Article 153 of the Federal Constitution and Article 39 of the Sarawak Constitution have provisions covering native privileges. The question of equitable application of the provisions is the point to ponder during the 60th anniversary celebration.

Spare a thought for those who have not benefited from the constitutional provisions.

Normally, the press people would ask questions from people about their reflections of the success or failure of Malaysia a day or two before the celebration in September.

I would start the ball rolling by mentioning several matters of importance about Sarawak’s place in the Malaysian Sun, well ahead of the anniversary celebrations for a reason: time and space to enable readers to reflect and to answer questions such as those I am posing above or those that they themselves may like to frame so that by September of this year, we would be able to lean about the reflections and the answers.

Question: Was Lord Cobbold farsighted?

A word about learning from history.

The world is full of histories of fallen empires because the rulers were corrupt, cruel or incompetent. Read the history of China, of the Srivijaya, the Majapahit, the Roman, and the Ottoman, for instance.

For the end of the British Empire, I suggest you read the compilation of documents edited by AJS Stockwell, published for the Institute of Commonwealth Studies for the University of London, TSO 2004 – there is something about Malaysia in Series B Volume 8.

See you in September.