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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

British ensured Sabah's rights are safeguarded

The British colonialists have always been portrayed as blood sucking foreign powers bent on imposing their cultures and religion on the poor natives in the country with the intention of enslaving the people and their economy.

But does this description correctly represent the face of the colonialists who, for more than 80 years, controlled the lives of the people in Sabah and then washed their hands and left the people to chart their own destiny in 1963?

"On the contrary! A careful reading of history showed that the British had every intention to safeguard the rights of Sabahans and Sarawakians with the hope that the people in the Bornean states will one day chart their own destiny," said political activist Zainnal Ajamain.

This legacy, as Zainnal put it, is found in a series of documents particularly the three documents - the Cobbold Commission Report, the Inter-Governmental Committee Report and the Malaysia Agreement 1963 - which formed the basis for the Federation of Malaysia.

He said in the documents, it was clear the British had been very particular about making sure that the rights of Sabah and Sarawak are not trumped by the Federation of Malaya who proposed the federation.

"I have studied the documents for more than 15 years and I am impressed at how the British had shown obvious commitment to safeguard our rights. The more I read, the more I am convinced that had the Federal government followed the agreement to the T, we would have a very different Malaysia today," he said.

The history of Malaysia's formation is barely mentioned in the country's history subjects taught in schools, where history of the Federation of Malaya took a far more prominence and Zainnal said this may be done intentionally to erase what is supposed to be 'the most important piece of our history'.

The move seemed to have reached its goal when nowadays, he said, many Malaysians are ignorant of the Malaysia Agreement 1963, even among leaders, learned individuals from parliamentarians, professors in universities and senior civil servants in the country.

Furthermore, the documents cannot be found anywhere else in the country except in Kota Kinabalu, making it more difficult for any curious Malaysians outside of the State to study these documents.

"This is why I decided to compile all three documents in one book I entitled The Grand Design so it can be used as reference for those who wish to know more about our history and what it means to be Malaysians," he said.

Zainnal said the compilation was initially meant to help readers of his first book "The Queen's Obligation" to refer to the three documents as the book cited extensively from the documents.

He contended that reading the material may be a dry and boring endeavour.

"However, as more and more people in Sabah and Sarawak are awakening to their own history, especially to the history of the formation of Malaysia, and once they understand these, their nationalistic tendencies would begin to manifest in their outlook towards the existing Federal-State relationship," he said.

"Adenan even went so far as to declare that Sarawak should not be referred to as 'State' because according to Malaysia Agreement 1963, Sarawak is a nation which entered into an international treaty with the Federation of Malaya."

Both Sabah and Sarawak were demoted to 12th and 13th states of the Federation in an amendment to the Constitution in 1976 instead of the second and third territories as agreed in Part II of the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

The amendment was made without the consent of both Sabah and Sarawak, a clear breach of the agreement.

"I encourage Sabahans and Sarawakians to read the documents in The Grand Design. This is the British legacy for us, to protect us with the view that one day, when we are ready, we may decide our fate.

"But it would be a fruitless venture unless we know who we are and what we are. These documents would open our eyes and they should be in the shelves of every Sabahan and Sarawakian, in every school and every government department.

"At least, we should teach our children their real history," he said.

The Grand Design is set to hold its Sabah launch by former Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat on July 25.

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