RECENTLY, there have been renewed calls for Sabah and Sarawak to assert their interests and rights within the federation of Malaysia. These calls, including by State Reform Party (Star Sabah) chief Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, have included proposals to consider secession. The same sentiments are also apparent in Sarawak. The Union of Sarawak and Sabah Nationalists has called on newly sworn-in Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem to fight for equal rights, or secede from the federation.
The Nut Graph speaks to political scientist Wong Chin Huat to find out what’s behind these calls for secession, and whether secession by any state in the federation would even be possible.
TNG: What is triggering these calls for secession in Borneo?
First, the sense of betrayal is growing stronger and stronger among most Sarawakians and Sabahans. The Malaysia project was meant to bring about decolonisation, which would lead to prosperity and dignity. However, many Borneans feel that they did not get decolonised after 1963. Rather it would seem that the colonial office was transferred from London to Kuala Lumpur – a claim initially made by Indonesian President Soekarno, who vehemently opposed Project Malaysia.
How can you blame Sabahans and Sarawakians for feeling this way? Sabah and Sarawak have the richest natural resources and yet, today, they are among Malaysia’s poorest. In Sabah, just about 200km from Kota Kinabalu, three villages in Pangi are connected to the next town, Tenom, by just a railway, not a road. Beyond the limited train service, the locals have to creatively transport themselves on “trolleys”. Is this “Sabah Maju Jaya Dalam Malaysia”?
The second trigger for renewed secession calls is Umno’s weakening hold of power in Malaya. This has emboldened the Bornean elite. At the same time, it also pushes Umno to play up ethno-religious issues, such as the “Allah” ban, in order to secure its vote base. This only enrages many Sabahans and Sarawakians, both Christians and Muslims.
Do you think the call for secession will gain traction in either Sabah or Sarawak? Should Putrajaya be taking these calls seriously?
The obstacle to Sabah and Sarawak nationalism – greater in Sabah than in Sarawak – is the Malaya-style ethno-religious politics imported since 1963. Sabahans and Sarawakians are generally proud of their harmonious and tolerant communal relations. But things changed fundamentally after the installation of Tun Mustapha Harun as Sabah chief minister in 1967 and Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub as Sarawak chief minister in 1970.
Umno laid down a new ground rule: the chief minister had to be a Muslim. While this built resentment against Kuala Lumpur among the non-Muslims, especially the Christian bumiputeras, it also tied the political interests of Muslims structurally. Being a Muslim is like holding a political lottery to the top job.
Umno created a captive market among Muslim Borneans through “Muslim supremacy”, hence keeping itself in power nationally and through its Muslim vassals at the state level. In Sabah, where Muslims were 37.9% of the population in 1963, Mustapha and later Tan Sri Harris Salleh actively converted non-Muslims to Islam. Later, under Project M, Muslim electoral strength was boosted with instant and en masse naturalisation of Filipinos, Indonesians and even Pakistani and Indian Muslims.
Just last year, the Sabah mufti called for Muslim bumiputeras to be categorised as Malays, indirectly admitting the political process of Malayisation: Non-Muslim bumiputeras → Muslim bumiputeras → Malays.
Sarawak is by and large spared from this Malayisation process because it hurts the Melanau ruling elites’ interests. If Malays became the majority, the Melanau would soon be out of the running for both the offices of chief minister and governor. But in Sarawak as in Sabah, entrenched “Muslim supremacy” creates incentives for some Muslims to vote for the Barisan Nasional (BN) no matter what. So, how can secession gain enough appeal to command a majority?
Putrajaya is not too worried about Bornean secessionism as long as the religious card still works. In the 2013 general election, Umno and Parti Pesaka Bumipetera Bersatu (PBB) – the only other Muslim-dominated BN component party – won 46% of seats, just 10 seats away from a simple parliamentary majority of 112. They did this with a mere 32% of total votes. If Putrajaya gets to increase seats in Sabah and Sarawak, you can bet that there will be even more Muslim-majority constituencies, keeping Umno solidly in power for two more terms. Then any talk of secession would just be a pipe dream.
For Sabah and Sarawak nationalists to be a real force to be reckoned with, even before any talk of secession, they must be able to present an inclusive discourse. This discourse must cut across the Muslim-Christian divide. So far, the Bornean nationalists have been disproportionally Christian. That speaks volumes.
Do you think this growing sense of dissatisfaction with and distrust of Putrajaya is stronger in Sabah or Sarawak?
The question may not be the intensity of discontent per se, but its distribution. After all, we must not assume that Sabah or Sarawak, like any other state or nation, is a unitary actor. In Sarawak, there is general consensus across political parties to keep Umno out. The only exception may be a few Malay PBB leaders who want to end the Yakub-Taib Mahmud Melanau dynasty by setting up a Sarawak Umno. Former Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s success in keeping Umno out has also made many Sarawakians feel more distant from its threat.
In Sabah, Umno’s entry polarised the population. While many became more anti-Malaya, others found that their political and economic fortunes were tied to Umno.
Taib reportedly told his successor Adenan to keep Umno’s brand of politics out of Sarawak and to protect the state’s rights under the 1963 Malaysia Agreement. How able do you think Adenan will be in doing that?
Adenan will not do that. Neither will Taib actually want him to do that. Mustapha was once Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman’s darling and was allowed to run Sabah like his own fiefdom. Taib was no different in Sarawak. But when Mustapha’s head grew too big, Kuala Lumpur propped up a new party, Berjaya, and brought him down in the elections.
For Taib, all Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak needs to do is to get the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate more seriously the allegations of graft against him. And if even the 33-year reigning Taib didn’t challenge Putrajaya to protect his state, why should newbie Adenan risk his own political future?
One of the calls has been for Putrajaya to set up a cabinet-level committee to review the Malaysia Agreement, which has been overdue for 40 years. What’s preventing this review?
A review would mean decentralisation and greater autonomy. This would mean greater political independence for the Bornean elite and possibly also their masses. This in turn would mean the BN losing its fixed deposit, or at least having to pay more for support from the East. Why should Umno risk this political suicide? Until Sabahans and Sarawakians can unite across ethno-religious lines, it would be foolish for Umno to make any concessions.
Singapore left the federation of Malaysia in 1965. So, we know from history that it is possible for a state to leave. From a political and legal point of view, what needs to happen for either or both Borneo states to secede?
Singapore did not secede. It was expelled because its ruling party, the People’s Action Party, initiated a second coalition, the Malaysian Solidarity Convention. This coalition consisted of allies from both Malaya and Borneo to challenge the Alliance Party. In Project Malaysia, the right to divorce is only one way. You can be ditched, but you can’t ditch.
In our Federal Constitution, there is only a provision for the admission of new territories (Article 2) but no provision for secession of the existing states. The 20- and 18-point agreements signed away the rights of Sabah and Sarawak respectively to secede. Former Sabah state secretary Tan Sri Simon Sipaun has said several times in public that Sabah locked herself into a prison and threw away the key.
But eventually, what will decide the matter is not the law but politics. If the idea of secession gains ground, and crackdown becomes too costly, then any federal government will have to deal with the challenge politically. If the majority of people want to go, how do you keep them?
For now, however, secession is but a self-indulgent fantasy for many Bornean nationalists.
Do you think calls for secession are treasonous?
I am against secession but all for the right to secede, in the same way that I believe in the right to divorce as a necessary condition for happy marriages. First of all, without the right to divorce, people have to stay in the same marriage even though they are unhappy. Secondly, if divorce is not legally possible, one party may be induced to abuse or exploit the other party, knowing well the latter cannot leave.
It would be mad if people married just to divorce eventually. But the vow to stay together until “death do us part” must be voluntary, not a blank cheque for one party to point a gun at another to stop the other from leaving.
Any breakup is hard and requires difficult negotiations. But this is not an excuse for a tyrannous union. Much as any talk of divorce cannot be construed as adulterous, talk of secession must also not be construed as treacherous. In fact, any coercive means to suppress the idea of divorce or secession is antithetical to the very idea of a celebrated union. If you’re sure of happiness in the union, why would you need to force people to stay?
Do you think secession would end the exploitation of Sabah and Sarawak?
If it does, then all Malaysians are morally bound to agree to the divorce should Sabah and Sarawak want it.
The truth is, however, likely the opposite. Even if we assumed that Sabah and Sarawak could remain independent and not be annexed by Indonesia or the Philippines at some point, independence may not end the exploitation of Sabah and Sarawak. Sabah and Sarawak suffer “double internal colonisation”, first by the Malayan elite in Kuala Lumpur, then by their own elite in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. And these rajahs may just have greater power when they no longer have a colonial master to report to.
To free Sabah and Sarawak from land grabs, rent-seeking and elite capture, you need democratisation, which must include elected governments at the division level. Sabah and Sarawak are so geographically wide and diverse that their divisions are like Malayan states.
Independence without real democratisation can be a recipe for greater disaster. But if you have real democratisation, Sabah and Sarawak may not need independence at all, as they may truly benefit from the union with Malaya.
Wong Chin Huat is a political scientist by training and was a journalism lecturer prior to joining the Penang Institute, a Penang government think tank. If readers have questions and issues they would like Wong to respond to, they are welcome to e-mail [email protected]
Sunna Sutta says
I am surprised that Chin Huat who is a key member of the Penang Institute neglected to mention that Penang almost seceded from the pre-independence Federation of Malaya (still under British rule) in 1949 to merge with Singapore to form a unified British crown colony. A motion for Penang to secede from the Federation was submitted by the Penang Chamber of Commerce which was dominated by the business interests of the Straits-born Chinese. As documented by Christie (1996), the motion was narrowly defeated 15 votes to 10 in February 1949 mainly because of opposing British official votes (http://teochiewkia2010.blogspot.com/2010/03/penang-secessionist-movement-1948-1951.html). Naturally, this is no more than counter-factual history, aka virtual history or in simpler terms, “What could have been if…” history. However, IF the 1949 motion had not been defeated, Penang would have set a precedent for secession which arguably could be availed by the East Malaysian states.
Chin Huat also argues against secession if it is not accompanied by “democratisation”, i.e., empowerment of the elected governments at the division level in Sabah and Sarawak. While this move may eliminate the neo-White Rajahs, I would argue that it does not solve the fundamental problem. Instead, it may lead to the rise of powerful political warlords who oppress the people as in the case of the Warlord Era (1916-28) in China. The real solution in Sabah and Sarawak lies in the need to bring about people empowerment, i.e., the political awakening of the impoverished natives. As long as a vote in state elections can be bought for as little as RM500 (http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/162448), the tyranny of the corrupt political elite will continue indefinitely.
Flag of Truth says
Penang Island (and later Province of Wellesley) was leased to Francis Light on 1786 by the Sultan of Kedah and in return the British will help Kedah in her quarrel with Siam ( a promised which the British failed to translate into action). That is why the British Government cannot accept the independence of Penang outside of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu because it is not legal to do so :). It is only logical now for the Federation to allow the Kedah state to annex Pulau Pinang as part of the state. 🙂
In the case of Singapore, it is Tunku Abdul Rahman’s decision to let Singapore be free from the federation, but maybe lots of people do not know that the Sultan of Johor is still the legitimate owner of Singapore. […]
The case is similar to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau (Formosa) whereby they can’t be declared independent without the blessing of Beijing as the heir to the Manchu Dynasty.
Flag of Truth says
@ Wong Chin Huat
Sabah and Sarawak has always enjoyed a certain degree of autonomy in the Federation. This is what was agreed by both the Federation of Malaya (Persekutuan Tanah Melayu), Singapore and Sabah (North Borneo)/Sarawak when they decided to form Malaysia. One of the most significant outcome is that the Federation through Malaysian Armed Forces and police have always ensured that the people of Sabah and Sarawak will be safe from any threat (from outside and within its borders). It is worth mentioning about the sacrifices made by security personnel during the Indonesian DWIKORA operation (Indonesian Confrontation)and the vicious campaign by the Communist elements through Parti Komunis Kalimantan Utara. Not to mention about the threat coming from philipines [during] Marcos’s [time].
It is worth mentioning also that some (if not most) of these security personnel came from various state in semenanjung and they have shown their willingness to sacrifice side by side with their sabahan and sarawakian brothers without any prejudice. I am writing not because I want people to acknowledge these soldiers sacrifices but it is better to say about good things here :). People always tend to see negative things but failed to look on the bright side.
Mr. Khan says
Thanks for your comment. It helped me understand the context much better than the article.
Borneo Wiki says
“WE WANT INDEPENDENCE NOT MALAYSIA”!!! (1963 NST NEWS HEADLINES)
Wong Chin Huat’s article on “secession of Sabah and Sarawak from Malaysia” presents some erudite and convincing arguments for secession which discusses many of the issues including review of the Malaysia Agreement.
But let us bear in mind that any discussion about the last 50 years in Malaysia must have its reference point the understanding that our 2 countries were supposed to stand on an equal footing as “equal partners” with Malaya in the “Federation of Malaysia” NOT colonized as the “12th & 13th States of Malaya”. AND then work it from the Malaysia Agreement and surrounding documents. Not just personal opinions.
Wong’s conclusion that “Sabah and Sarawak may not need independence at all, as they may truly benefit from the union with Malaya” is weak as water.
He again based this is on the bogey […] of “Indonesian and or Philippines takeover” as well as being victims of “double internal colonization”.
It is time for us to put to rest this bogey which Britain and Malaya used to justify formation of Malaysia as the best way to protect us. The irony was and is that Malaysia protects the foreign interests of Malaya and its foreign masters.
Malaya could not even stop a few boatload of Sulu invaders sailing into Sabah just a year ago.
Indonesia is too busy with its modernization to bother about competing with Malayan cheapskate imperialism.
Is not Malayan annexation and occupation of Sabah and Sarawak an invasion?
So stop conning us you Malayans!
Continued next post
I am aware of Penang’s secessionist movement but did not mention it partly because the original story had exceeded the normal length. But Penang didn’t stand any chance of success as we can see in the case of Singapore, which the British actually forced Malaya to take. The British didn’t want to deal with statelets which could not survive on their own and likely to fall into the hands of those hostile to British interests. See Christopher’s “Decolonisation without Independence” at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023%2FA%3A1025165118672#page-1
Empowerment of the ordinary citizens is a noble goal that no one would object to. The question is always: how? How do you get people inland to pick up how modern governments operate? My suggestion for decentralisation within Sabah and Sarawak is actually to find a way to empower the impoverish natives in challenging settings. With important decisions on land, custom, language – at least jointly – made at division levels, the inland community would have more say because it is much easier to change government for a smaller entity than for a bigger one.
The emergence of military warlords in this case requires lawlessness and private army, so the China-like scenario you worry about would not happen. What about political bosses that control the divisions? In a way, isn’t this already happening with rich candidates from powerful clans buying off voters? The important difference that decentralisation makes is that, even if vote-buying continues, the scaling down of the political entity makes vote-buying cheaper and increases competitiveness even for vote-buying political bosses. Even in a cynical sense, competitive politics can take root even without rights-conscious citizens. The key is to end political monopoly, making it possible for the masses to “divide and rule” the elites.
@Flag of Truth,
Thanks for pointing out the sacrifice of Malayan soldiers. Their sacrifice will be in vain if Sokarno’s cynicism becomes prophecy.
Sunna Sutta says
Although I referred to the Warlord Era in China, I was not referring to military warlords but corrupt political warlords who maintain power through vote-buying. I still strongly maintain that decentralisation of democratic power without political conscientisation of the electorate is pointless. Undoubtedly, competitive politics without the political awakening of the masses may end the tyranny of the corrupt neo-White Rajahs. I agree that it may end the monopoly of power but not corruption itself. You seem to suggest (cynically of course) that at least corruption would decline as it would be cheaper to buy votes. I strongly disagree as can be seen in the case of Thailand where the balance of power has shifted to the Thaksin warlord faction in the Northeast. The cost of keeping Thai farmers happy through a rather high rice subsidy risks severely damaging the Thai economy but the PM seems determined to continue to use it as a legal way to buy the so-called fixed-deposit rural votes.
As can be seen in the case of West Malaysia, the political awakening of the masses is accelerating to the detriment of the ruling government coalition as the result of increasing economic well-being achieved through more equitable distribution of wealth (vis-a-vis East Malaysia) and greater penetration of non-print news and social media. Eventually, a similar situation can be achieved in East Malaysia with the resultant effect of decreasing tolerance towards corruption in government.
Assuming the above desiderata is achieved, the sixty four thousand dollar question which I would like to pose to you is, “What if the people of Sabah and Sarawak still desire to secede?” Should our federal government follow the example of the USA in 1861 and fight a bloody civil war to stop it or should it follow the example of the current British government to accede to the wishes of the Scottish people whether or not to part ways with the UK in the forthcoming referendum?
This comes back to the question of democratisation trajectory: contestation and inclusion, which one should come first.
I certainly have no objection or disagreement on the need of empowerment of the masses through political education and independent media. The difference that we may have is perhaps whether decentralisation should wait until the masses are fully empowered and transformed into right-conscious citizens. I believe such empowerment and transformation happen as elites compete for power and find themselves having to woo the voters rigourously.
Allow me to flesh out what I mean by “cheaper vote-buying”. To show how decentralisation of power may change the dynamics, ceteris paribus, vote-buying continues to be a norm. However, if currently one may need to organise for vote-buying for at least half of Sarawak to stand a chance to dictate the future of an-inland division, with decentralisation, one will only need to organise for vote-buying for just half of the division itself. The amount of resources needed for the former is of course greater for the latter, hence, even if one looks at competition merely driven by self-interests of corrupt elites, it would be hard to find effective rivals for whoever is already controlling Kuching. With decentralisation, it is much easier for new rivals to emerge.
As for your hypothetical question of secession demands, my stand is clear: you can only keep a marriage by love or benefits, not by force. If the system is democratic enough, including for Borneans to enjoy the economy of scale in the larger entity, would secession be the majority’s will? In UK, many opponents of Scottish independence are Scots themselves, who either move to England or climbed high up in the Westminster system like former PM Gordon Brown. However, the Scots outside of Scotland cannot vote in the referendum. In Malaysia, I doubt Borneans outside of Borneo will not want a say. And if they do, I doubt the majority of them will favour a divorce.
Sunna Sutta says
It is not a matter of “which should come first”. The natural order of Malaysian politics is such that contestation indeed precedes inclusion. Decentralisation in fact exists in “Semenanjung”; there seems to be some kind of unwritten agreement among the warlords of the dominant Malay party such that the PM’s post is rotated among the northern, eastern and southern blocs. So far the ratio of PMs from the said blocs is 3:2:1, with the south expected to be next in line. However, such contestation has not alleviated corruption; in fact the scale of money politics has escalated. Each faction apparently has its own funding cronies which collectively negotiate whose turn it is next. Previous attempts to create a central bloc (Selangor, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan) had been killed off as a result (ironically) of alleged money politics! Thus politics has become, if anything, cheaper as a result of reduced, not increased rivalry! Nonetheless, it may be different across the South China Sea where the previous neo-White Rajah was allegedly his own crony.
In fact, there is yet another step preceding inclusion, that is upward socio-economic mobility, trickle-down economics notwithstanding. This can be seen in Penang and Selangor where economic empowerment has made voters not only immune to economic blackmail from the centre but also more exposed to alternative media to choose between corrupt and less corrupt alternatives.
I too am a democratic unionist and share your stance that East Malaysians are better off within the Federation. The Bornean secessionists seem to be moved by the illogic of “Why be corruptly exploited by local indigenous leaders within the Federation when you can be corruptly exploited by indigenous leaders of new independent nations? I empathise with the bitterness over entrenched hardcore poverty in East Malaysia. The solution lies not in independence for the sake of independence but eliminating corruption which has enriched the elite but impoverished the masses!
Borneo Wiki says
Comments concluded from previous post Re Wing Chin Huat’s article on Sabah Sarawak Secession.
“WE WANT INDEPENDENCE NOT MALAYSIA”
So stop conning us you Malayans!
Wong claims that independence will not end the “double internal colonization” and exploitation. It should be double colonization being external Malayan and local colonization. But these two issues are not automatically linked. Our right to independence is an inalienable right.
Independence is to first end external colonization by Malaya and that is the most important issue for us at present. Sabah and Sarawak’s subjugated situation cannot be solved by remaining external colonies of Malaya. It is a very arrogant presumption that we could not stand alone as independent countries.
Wong stated that the last 50 years reduced Sabah and Sarawak to be the poorest states. So how is it logical to argue that “Sabah and Sarawak may not need independence at all, as they may truly benefit from the union with Malaya”?
It could be equally argued that Malaya will collapse without Sabah and Sarawak’s wealth. Malaya needs Sabah and Sarawak more than they need Malaya. AND how can Malaya free us or protect us from anything when for 50 years it failed in all its undertakings and promises of “security and prosperity”? Why try so hard to argue re-imposing another 50 years of oppressive and exploitative Malayan colonial rule on us??
The 1960s People’s demand “WE WANT INDEPENDENCE, NOT MALAYSIA!” remains unchanged.
ROBERT NEWLY says
Right on brother. More freedom / independence is of God > so keep educating us dear brother, the truth. Only the truth shall set us free. Only the political truth will set Sarawak & Sabah free. Let those who loves truth speak & be blessed. Let those who lies be cursed.
Meramat Tajak says
If the questions posed to Wong Chin Huat are more academic; more SCIENCE than POLITICS, the inevitable conclusion would be that its better for the Borneo States to secede than it is to stay in the Federation.
I’m not an illustrious political scientist like Wong Chin Huat, but I would argue my case as follows:
Lets take Papua New Guinea. Why would it not be in the interest of the Papuans, to hypothetically federate with Australia? Isn’t it blatantly [obvious] that in such asymetrical relationship, the Australians would exploit the Papuans? And the most ironic, the exploitation would not be obvious.
The Australians, with the larger population will have more political power. No amount of constitutional safeguard will actually protect the interest of the weaker symbiot. And it won’t happen out of malice. In the simplest form; during any budget formulation for development fund the weaker symbiot will lose out.
Political decision-making is a vehicle to make the most efficient use of public fund. Along this same logic, Ulu Kapit will never be able to compete with Ulu Perak for public spending because the population density in Ulu Kapit is 1/10 of Ulu Perak.
We can see on a per GDP basis, development fund for Sabah and Sarawak is reduced compare with those for Malaya. Another very settled disadvantageous to Sabah and Sarawak is when public funds are allocated by the industry sector. When Najib proclaims RM x00 million is allocated for deep sea fishing, one can immediately deduce none of the funds will make it to Sabah and Sarawak.
As a final point: there are roughly 4 million people in Sabah and Sarawak with distinct culture from the Malayans. Malayisation has created an artificial cultural genocide. In 100 years or less, the culture will be gone, and replaced with the Malaysians culture which has dominated the landscape.
If Wong Chin Huat had thought about the “science” more in his “political science” viewpoint, he will have to conclude that the Borneo states should be allowed to develop on their own terms, at their own pace. Malayasia is truly a Malayan exploitation of a primitive culture on the island of Borneo. That, “scientifically” speaking is not good for the growth of humanity in the region.
Salman Ali says
I miss a slogan – ”Sarawak for Sarawakians, Malaysia for Malaysians” ever popular some times ago, in a glorious era at the early formation of Malaysia. We lived in harmony regardless of race, faith and creed.
May 13th, Memali, MAGERAN, etc., did not undermine the spirit of Sarawakians because we realized those were games of greedy politicians, those tragedies thus passed without attracting the attention of the people of Sarawak.
As Sarawak is unique and rich for her natural resources, all efforts are made by the leaders at the federal level to expand their power, thus managed to bury that patriotic slogan. The next mission is for UMNO to be given the opportunity to gain a foothold in the Land of the Hornbill as what they did to Sabah.
Sarawak is said to be a fixed deposit for BN component parties to gain power, but a high poverty index gives the impression that most of the people there are second-class citizens of Malaysia.
Yes, it’s true without Sarawak BN will fall and crush all hope of running the country. The Federal Government should be aware of the fact and should not neglect the people of Sarawak to be given priority on as those in Peninsular Malaysia.
I left Sarawak 22 years ago to settle in a state in Peninsular Malaysia and at the same time am running a business in Labuan. The slogan was no longer heard. Just today, I was compelled to read this article. Although in a somewhat different version, the message convey almost similar meaning.
Today, the spirit of Sarawak for Sarawakians, Malaysia for Malaysians is raging again. Today, the Chief Minister delivered a clear message to protect Sarawakians’ right or better still, take the same measures as Singapore – out of Malaysia.
Salman Ali says
I am a Malay, a Muslim and I am embarrassed by the racist attitude of some Malays in Peninsular Malaysia seems that Malaysia belong to Malays alone.
It only occurs in Peninsular Malaysia, while the Malays in Sarawak and Sabah only observe that obvious incestuous political game. Even if they kindled the flames of racism, it did not work to most Malays in Peninsular Malaysia.
Racism is old school because we are not in the era of Hang Tuah. Umno naked keris (Malay dagger) is no longer venomous and the spirit of Malay supremacy has been made a history because the key seats are either Sarawak or Sabah to determine rise or fall of UMNO and Barisan Nasional (BN) parties.
It did not stop on that, Extreme Malay NGOs in Peninsula Malaysia arouse sentiments of other religions. The world is watching us and it was very embarrassing [as it has] just happened in Malaysia that the rules of other religion are determined by naughty politicians.
Despite sentiment of other religions, the word of ”Allah” is banned in churches in all states in Peninsula Malaysia, while Sarawak and Sabah are exceptions to the rule.
Why only Sarawak and Sabah? What happened to the famous 1Malaysia slogan of the Prime Minister’s creation? Is this because those two states in Borneo Island have major followers of Christianity?
The rule itself looks awkward, but bear in mind, religion is sacred. There must be another issue in future and by then, the stupidity of our leaders will be obvious.. The world is watching us.
I am a “democratic unionist”. I cherish the union – even though its birth may not be a glorious one – like some Bornean friends of mine. It’s a legitimate option in democracy. If someday “secession” or “independence” becomes the mainstream thought in the two states, then I will support such negotiation to prepare for divorce rather than any crackdown in the name of “territorial integrity”.
So, Bornean nationalists out there, go persuade your fellow citizens to want independence, not blasting me for preferring the union. Remember,I dont even vote there! You can call me whatever names, but if you cant persuade your fellow Borneans to see a better future in independent statehood, you are but keyboard warriors. Go and form a party, or push the parties to go beyond lip-service on the secession threat. Come on, get real!
Flesh out your plan for your new nations — currency, defense, foreign policy, education, language, religion. I am sure you wont tell me “let’s have independence first, and worry about survival later”, right? That would be utterly irresponsible. Even the Scottish nationalists talk about their plans post-Independence on the pound and EU, before going for referendum. And if you can paint a realistic picture of an alternative future, surely more Borneans will be attracted by it. So, why not?
A victimhood discourse is a standard step for independence movements but all successful cases were eventually won in military battlefields or electoral/referendum campaigns, or on the potential to do so. OK, Singapore got it for being a threat to the ruling power (the Alliance) in the larger entity. Standing corrected, I have never heard of any independence that was won via archival research or in the International Court of Justice.
My point is, the past (history) may give you a reason but it’s the future that will swing the public opinion. Show us your detailed plan of your new state(s) – by the way, do Sabah and Sarawak form a union or go separately? Convince us with details!
Lynn Cheang says
Agree with Wong Chin Huat that Putrajaya is not worried about Bornean secessionism. because Umno and PBB (majority Muslims) together won 46% seats, only 10 seats away from forming a simple majority.
For Sabah and Sarawak nationalists to be a real force to be reckoned with, they must be able to cut across the Muslim-Christian divide. So far, the Bornean nationalists have been disproportionally Christian.
Borneo Wiki – yes, we were supposed to be on equal footing with Malaya but who co-horted with the Malayans to betray Borneons? Our own 100% full-blooded Sabahans and Sarawakians to attain power for themselves.
How do you propose to end external colonization by Malaya? How do you think Malaya could have ‘colonised’ us for 50 years without the collusion of those who walked the corridors of power at Petrajaya all these years?!
Try to look further down the road – do you not see some rajah-to-be hovering yonder eagerly waiting to be throned when Sabah/Sarawak have successfully shed off its ‘Malayan colonial master’?
Or the real possibility of being ‘annexed’ by nearby foreign powers eyeing our oil and gas? China has already shown its tail in eyeing the James Shoal territory, a small bank in the South China Sea, 80km from Bintulu within the Continental Shelf of Borneo.
Meramat Tajak – I don’t think you want Sarawak to secede to become like Papua New Guinea; really! I just googled and PNGuineans live in extreme poverty – 1/3 live on less than US$1.25 a day!
If it’s the allocation of funds you’re worried about, once we have a more democratic governance in place with assertive and people oriented MPs and leaders, those issues should not be impossible to resolve.
Finally, how do all the proponents of Sarawak for Sarawakians and Sabah for Sabahans propose to go about attaining their independence? Not forgetting that there is no provision for cessation in the Federal Constitution. Pray tell.
Borneo Wiki says
Sorry to say this, Wong Chin Huat but you are only preaching a new imperialism dressed up as “unionism”.. just like Tunku Abdul Rahman and his […] oil salesmen selling the “Mighty Malaysia Plan” in the 1960s.
What is your basis for this argument as you are fully aware as clear as Malaya is separated by the South China Sea from Sabah and Sarawak that our history, politics, people, cultures and national identities developed totally separately from each other prior to 1963.
To underscore this Sarawak was an independent country 100 years before colonial Malaya became a “Federation”. It was recognized by the USA as early as 1850 and by Britain by 1863. Have you overlooked this little point?
Sarawak Raja Muda Anthony Brooke in opposing cession to Britain in 1946 asked why should Sarawak an independent country be reduced to be a British colony? He also said Sarawak was not “British”. It should be added that Sarawak is neither “Malaysian” or “Malayan”.
In the 1960s the British pretending to heed the UN call for decolonization devised their Malaysia plan in collusion with Malaya to transfer the Borneo colonies to Malaya. It was Cession No.2!
You accurately quoted President Sukarno that this was just a transfer of colonial power from London to Kuala Lumpur. The declassified colonial documents confirmed this was the purpose of the whole Malaysia formation exercise repeatedly in black and white. The Sabah 20 Points underlines the people’s fear of Malayan colonization by saying that the federation was to be called “Malaysia not Melayu Raya”. But “Malaysia” has now been transformed into “Melayu Raya” with implementation of UMNO’s ketuanan divisive race/religion apartheid policies.
You said that 50 years in Malaysia hae proven many times over this reality of re-colonization for the Sabah and Sarawak people. So why would you be arguing to prolong our people’s sufferings by pushing a re-cycling of the Malaysia idea?
Dear Borneo Wiki,
Any separatists worth their salt would have a good plan of how they achieve nationhood, more than just looking back at history and crying about injustice.
It’s not about the country you have lost in the past as much as the country you can build in the future.
If you are intellectually competent to argue for the new statehood of Sabah, Sarawak or “Sabah and Sarawak”, please do so and go on to win the hearts and minds of your fellow Borneans.
Why do you care so much about how this Malayan thinks? After all, can you possibly see any good in Malayans unless they agree with you completely? But so what, even if I agree with you, I don’t vote in Sabah or Sarawak!
Call me names as much as you like but you can’t run away from the moral and political responsibility of coming out with a workable plan for your new country.
Sorry, I won’t waste time with you if all you can do is to look back in the past but cannot offer any concrete plan for the future.
I would rather save my energy to engage real secessionists, if there are any. We can at least respect each other despite disagreement.
Borneo Wiki says
SHAM “MALAYSIA INDEPENDENCE” vs REAL SABAH SARAWAK INDEPENDENCE
LYNN CHEANG kindly read my above arguments in answer to your […] 1960s COLD WAR myth of “foreign annexation” threats to justify formation of “Malaysia”.
This absurd argument has been repeated for over 50 years whenever the Malaysia neo-colonial concept is challenged.
Are you arguing that in fear of local tyrants and foreign bogeymen, we should not stand up for ourselves as an independent country but that we should continue to be ruled as dependant colonial subjects of foreign Malayan rulers?
IS NOT “MALAYSIA” A COVER FOR MALAYA ANNEXING & COLONIZING SABAH AND SARAWAK?
IT HAPPENED UNDER OUR NOSES!
MYTH OF SECURITY IN “MALAYSIA”
1. If you believe so strongly in “Malayan protectionism”, [how did the] Sulus invade Sabah last year?
The Malayans themselves sunk this “defence from foreign annexation” argument not just with the Sulu example but worse, the “illegals” invasion of Sabah.
Were they not sworn to defend us “within Malaysia”, the cordon sanitaire? So please explain how?
2. If “Malaysia” is so “onderful” in defending us how is it that Sarawak Rangers are always used by Malaya to fight “enemies” as in Lahad Datu 2013 & to defend Malaya’s northern borders since before Malaysia was formed?
3. Why is it that Britain had to throw in a force of some 60,000 land, air and sea forces to secure Sabah and Sarawak and make them safe for Malaya from 1962 to 1970s?
The Malayans are simply ineffective at defending our borders they were entrusted to.
4. Tiny Brunei who refused to be part of Malaysia, as seen in its Anti-Malaysia Uprising 1962, is independent and not invaded by those countries you suspect.
Neither has even tinier Singapore been “invaded”.
They are both easy sport for your hungry neighbouring giants.
Can you therefore clarify your logic in arguing for SS being in “Malaysia”?
So it is a myth about Malaya protecting us!
WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
If this is what an independent Sabah/Sarawak/Borneo will ask of her citizens — “which side are you on?”, rather than allowing rational and rigourous debates, can there be democracy in independence? Or a new nationalist autocracy is indeed what you dream of or would settle for?
Borneo Wiki says
FLAG OF TRUTH The Tunku despite his overbearing arrogance [and] condescending […] attitude did not “allow” S’pore to be “free”.
S’pore chose to be “free” and left because Tunku and his gang […] (of Sabah Sarawak independence and later oil & gas) did not practise “equal partnership” pure and simple. Junk the myths about S’pore taking over Malaya etc.
It was the other way round as we in Sabah and Sarawak discovered. It was a Malayan takeover, invasion and annexation and then colonization.
S’pore saw through all these and left in July 1965 and a “Separation Agreement” was signed by Malaya and S’pore in Aug 1965 which excluded UK, an MA63 signatory and Sabah and Sarawak who were “equal partners in Malaysia! So the MA63 was abrogated in 1965.
Flag of Truth says
@ Borneo Wiki
Well you can say what you want but [to me] history indicates that Lee Kuan Yew really regretted the Tunku’s decision to free Singapore from the Federation.
You called it a Malay take over, but as far as I see, the internal affairs of Sabah and Sarawak has been always in the natives’ control. This can be seen in the state government. People from Semenanjung can not just go to Sabah and sarawak and do business or buy land there. We have always respected the agreement :).
The federation was made with the consent of leaders and people of the present Malaysia. They have the wisdom to see that [was] the only way to prevent […] Indonesian or Philippine annexation of Sabah and Sarawak. […]
Follow Crimea Example.
CRIMEA declared independence and applied to join Russia while the Kremlin braced for sanctions after the flashpoint peninsula voted to leave Ukraine in a ballot that will likely fan the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War.
Official results from Sunday’s poll showed 96.77 per cent of the voters in the mostly Russian-speaking region opted to switch to Kremlin rule, in the most radical redrawing of the map of Europe since Kosovo’s 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia.
Joe Fernandez says
This Wong Chin Huat knows nothing about Sabah and Sarawak.He does not know what he’s talking about. Who cares whether he’s against secession!?
When the Malayan Government has been in non-compliance on the Malaysia Agreement 1963, what’s the basis for Sabah and Sarawak to be in Federation with the peninsula?
There’s no basis.
[Can the] UN come in and decolonize Sabah and Sarawak? […] If the UN holds that the 1963 Federation was properly set up, there’s still a case for decolonization since it can be said that Sabah and Sarawak are victims of internal colonisation by the peninsula.