This article was earlier posted at Sarawak Headhunter.
From uppercaise "A political sop from neo-colonial masters":
21 October 2009
After almost half a century, the Federation of Malaya grudgingly accorded official recognition this week to the State of Sabah and the State of Sarawak as being equal partners in forming the federation of Malaysia.
The post-colonial history of Borneo just lurched foward an inch.
To add insult to injury, the NST (the voice of the post-colonial master) patronisingly described the declaration of a federal public holiday for Malaysia Day on Sept 16 as the blooming of a 46-year love story — the implication being that we were never married, we were just fooling around you know. It ignores the long bitterness felt in Borneo towards this slight, and ignores the fact that not only did the three partners get into bed with each other, they have official papers declaring their union.
The NST also, quite condescendingly, treats the matter as nothing more than an electoral ploy to fend off oppositionist sentiments. It is not surprising that no mention was made of Lim Kit Siang’s statement a year ago on 31 August 2008, calling for the exact same thing: public holidays and recognition of two national days, Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day.
If the effusive over-the-top coverage in the major newspapers was anything to go by, Malayan Malay condescension towards fellow Malaysians in Borneo will take a long time dying. The words of the 1Najib, the federal prime minister, reveal how strongly held is a sense of Malayan Malay political superiority.
He told Dewan Rakyat today that the formation of Malaysia as an independent and sovereign country was an important chapter in the nation’s history. [Bernama, in Business Times]
And the NST’s front page lead story would have had the words an important milestone in the history of the nation but these were excised before publication.
In the history of which nation? There was no political entity as “Malaysia”, let alone a nation, until 16 Sept 1963. But the 1Najib himself, in his own words in his 1Malaysia blog last month, shows unequivocally he believes this distorted version of history:
On this day (16 September) forty-six years ago, Malaysia welcomed Sabah and Sarawak as states… I was only 10 years old when my father, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, witnessed the historic proclamation of Sabah’s independence in 1963, but I remember how proud he was… Sabah and Sarawak occupy a special place in my heart because of that history.
How special can they be if on the one hand he says they achieved independence and on the other hand says they were welcomed into an already existing Malaysia? The 1Najib clearly still believes that Malaya absorbed Sabah and Sarawak and gave itself a new name.
That is exactly why for 46 years east Malaysians have taken exception, when the formation of Malaysia — with their consent — is viewed as merely another event in the continuum of Malay political history.
No less an eminence than Prof Shad Faruqi believes so too. Writing in the Sun in 2006, he said:
Last Saturday was Malaysia Day. Forty-three years ago on Sept 16, 1963, the Federation of Malaya was transformed into the Federation of Malaysia.
He discusses a constitutional suit brought by the Kelantan state government and goes on to say:
And so, the Federation of Malaya expanded to 14 states. A new name (Malaysia) was emblazoned on the political firmament.
Malaysia Day remembered
New members admitted. Change of name. You have been assimilated. Case closed. (Or was he merely pandering to the orthodoxy of that prehistoric time before 1Malaysia?)
That argument ignores the real political wrangling at the time, and the opposition of Borneo politicians to domination by Malayans, their proposal that Malaysia be called a confederation, that they be recognised as self-governing territories and that the Malaysia Agreement of 9 July 1963 was made between the Federation of Malaya, the United Kingdom, the colonies of North Borneo and Sarawak and the State of Singapore.
It was agreed that there shall be federated the States of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore with the Federation of Malaya … and that the Federation shall thereafter be called “Malaysia”.
Up to the 1980s, Sabah and Sarawak took out newspaper supplements in the Malayan newspapers every Sept 16 to celebrate “Independence within Malaysia” and Sabah and Sarawak have continued to maintain a state public holiday on Sept 16.
But the purple prose of the NST’s adulation of the 1Najib reveals that the declaration of the federal holiday is nothing more than a sop towards restless eastern voters by Malayans scrambling to keep federal political power in their hands.
Were he still alive the fiery Indonesian leader Soekarno, who waged war against Malaysia on grounds of neo-colonialism, might feel vindicated. But he failed to pin down the neo-colonialist and imperialistic impulse behind federation as stemming from the nationalism of Malay political leaders revelling in having taken over political authority from Britain. We are the masters now was the unspoken rallying cry, for where London once called the shots in Malaya and Borneo, now Kuala Lumpur would. We are the masters now.
Independence as self-governing territories was what they in Borneo had sought and gained, by retaining most legislative powers including finance and immigration, except foreign affairs and defence, an arrangement similar to other self-governing territories (such as Hong Kong). Their own Cabinets, their own Ministries. Their heads of government were to be titled Prime Ministers, too. But that was negotiated away to being Chief Ministers instead (and reinforcing the false notion of being merely two of 14 states).
There exist a separate High Court of Malaya and a High Court of Borneo, for those reasons, and admittance to the Bar of Malaya does not entitle one to practise without being admitted to the Bar there — just other lawyers must do in other self-governing common law jurisdictions, as, say, between the State of New York, and the State of California.
And as for the two territories retaining powers over immigration — nationals of China, too, must submit to the immigration authority of the self-governing semi-independent territory of Hong Kong.
These powers, inherent to the sense of nationhood of the two states, were fundamental to the formation of Malaysia. But they are pooh-poohed — “these blockades” the NST calls them — as impediments to Malaysian nationalism.
Can the peoples of the eastern territories rise to a Malaysian consciousness when they are reminded in that very manner that for half a century they have been subject to Malayan hegemony in a neo-colonial arrangement?
The 1Najib’s own words show that nothing has changed except for an extra federal public holiday.
© 2009 uppercaise