ASIAN POLITICS (COM 654)
NAME : CHE NOERDAWANI HAFIFA BT CHE AWANG
STUDENT ID : 2016653706
SUBMISSION DATE : 19 OCTOBER 2018
MALAYSIA AGREEMENT 1963
Signing of Malaysia Agreement in 9 July 1963, London
Malaysia Agreement 1963 is an international agreement that is signed in London, so Malaysian Parliament cannot alter the laws. The Malaysia Agreement was signed on 9 July 1963. This agreement can only be amended if all the signatory parties negotiate, where Sabah, Sarawak, federal government, and United Kingdom would have to meet up and renegotiate.
The formation of Malaysia was officially proposed by Tunku Andul Rahman on May 27 1961. The federation included Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah), Sarawak, and possibly Brunei. But, towards the end, Brunei and Singapore backed out from the federation.
There have been few propositions regarding the mergers before. But, there are few rising issues between the nations involved, especially Singapore. The mutual benefits regarding national security and economic development managed to finally win over the argument on merging the nations.
Formation of Malaysia is not a new concept. This ideology have been mentioned and initiated numerous times between the British territories in Asia since the 19th century. After that, this ideology was developed and improved over times. Even before the World War II, Malay political leaders have proposed the ‘concept of ‘Melayu Raya’.
A series of negotiations and discussions took place on the possible terms of federation, two years prior to the birth of Malaysia. First and foremost, the leaders of the merging states discussed at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Regional Meeting in Singapore, July 1961 (Milne, 1967). It led to the formation of Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee of the Association. Later, a memorandum supporting Malaysia and stating some general conditions for the federation was issued.
After that, federal government and Singapore held several negotiations in order to determine how Singapore would merge into Malaysia. By November 1961, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Lee Kuan Yew arrived at an understanding on certain points, recorded in the form of a White Paper (Simandjuntak, 1985).
REASON BEHIND FORMATION OF MALAYSIA
The formation of Malaysia is inspired mainly due to the ethnic factor. This matter is highly emphasized by Tunku Abdul Rahman to balance the etnic composition as Malaya is dominated by Malays, Singapore has large population of Chinese, meanwhile Sabah and Sarawak is comprised of various indigenous communities.
Moreover, the states involved wanted to gain independence through the merger because during this time, only Malaya has got the independence. Politically, Borneo territories are still considered not ready for independence as they are still poorly developed. Thus, this federation serves as a Grand Design, towards developing the states, paving a way for them towards ultimate constitutional institution (Stockwell, 2004). It would also bring the territories closer together, providing a stable federation that can cooperate together to improve the nation.
Besides, formation of Malaysia provides better opportunities to foster economic development, education, and security for the country. This goal is achieved by ultimate collaboration among the states, brainstorming the best strategies for boosting up its economy and regional development. Every states; Malaya, Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak have their own assets to offer. Thus, resources and expertise would be pooled together towards building a united, prosper nation.
DISTRIBUTION OF RIGHTS ; POWER
The distribution of rights and power is the most crucial aspect towards formation of Malaysia. Every states involved have to be tolerable towards each other for the sake of building a strong, united nation.
The federation of Malaysia mimics the Indian Constitution; federal, state, concurrent. Any residual powers are given to the states, and obviously the federal government possesses more substantial powers by far than the states. The states have a say in matters regarding natural resources including land and mining, agriculture, and forestry. They agreed that matters of defence, external affairs, and internal security would be handled by federal government. The White Paper also indicates that Singapore citizens would retain their citizenship as well as being Malaysian citizen. However, they can only vote in Singapore.
On the other hand, Singapore retains its power over education, labour, health, and social security. This means that Singapore is given semi-autonomy. This arrangement is considered fair and square because Singapore possesses low number of seats in the federal Parliament (15 seats) in order to protect Malaya from being overtaken by Chinese voters. In the first five years, Singapore has to provide an interest free loan for the Borneo governments. In return, any projects financed by the loan must recruit 50 per cent of the labour force from Singapore.
When the agreement was reached among the four states and the British government, the government of Malaya amended the Constitution accordingly via Malaysia Act 1963. Sabah and Sarawak also have their own Immigration Law courtesy of Malaysia Agreement 1963, where Peninsular Malaysians working or studying over there require permits. Visiting Sabah also requires a 90-day visit pass.
The agreement gives extra autonomy in land administration and immigration to Sabah and Sarawak as they are equal partners in the formation of Malaysia, unlike the peninsular states. In addition, Sarawak is excluded from the law stating Islam as the religion of the states.
Malaysia Agreement provides such distinctive provisions regarding Head of State, religion, immigration, and the special position of the natives. Members of all communities (not bias towards Malays) possess fair chance in becoming Head of State (Yusoff, 1962). As stated in the Federal Constitution, Bahasa Malaysia is mandatory for official purposes, but the Borneo territories do not have to adhere to that motion. These two states are allowed to use English for official purposes until 10 years after 16 September 1963, then the term will be reviewed.
These two states were also given autonomy over immigration matters, giving them veto power on entry and residence. To avoid domination of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak were given large number of seats in federal Parliament.
Positive assurancy by Tunku Abdul Rahman during Parliament sitting on 28 April 1962
There are several contemporary issues that were arisen, especially during the recent General Election (GE-14). Firstly, the issue of whether the government should allocate equal status between peninsular states, Sabah, and Sarawak. It has been long debated on the autonomy status of Sabah and Sarawak. Some have argued that if the autonomy status is maintained, it would be unfair towards other states, as Sabah and Sarawak is being given extra leniency in terms of its legislation. It may seem that Sabah and Sarawak are different entities, as if they are not states of Malaysian federation. For instance, people from peninsular states feel that it should be unnecessary for them to have work permit on special visa when entering Sabah or Sarawak.
Conversely, according to Penang Institute political scientist, Wong Chin Huat, Sabah and Sarawak should be treated as regions, not as states based on the Malaysia Agreement in 1963. Sabah and Sarawak should be equal partners in Malaysia, so they should be given more power to be “king” in their own states to fully fulfil the promises made in the agreement. Federal Constitution clearly states that Sabah and Sarawak have the rights to establish their own laws, as well as rights for revenues and financial allocations (Deva, 2018). In this case, it is only reasonable for the federal government to grant Sabah and Sarawak full control over the states’ oils and gas sectors.
On the other hand, there have been several breaches of Malaysia Agreement 1963. For example, Borneo Today describe a breach related to residual powers, when the insertion for Ministry of Tourism into the Federal list without any consultation or consent from Sabah government. This action clearly violate the Malaysia agreement, as any amendment made must have consent from involved states, namely Sabah and Sarawak. This action stirs up conflict. By creating an illegal ministry, it accidentally created an illegal act along with it. Much worse, the act overrides the power of every state in Malaysia which contravenes Article 77 and Article 95D of Federal Constitution (Ajamain, 2018). According to these conditions, federal government cannot simply amend or initiate laws solely for the purpose of unity among the states.
PERSPECTIVE ON AUTONOMY OF SABAH & SARAWAK
From my perspective as a millennial, I think that autonomy upon Sabah and Sarawak should not be abolished. In the past, during the early stage of Malaysia federation, the autonomy concept is very reasonable and necessary because these Borneo territories require a period of transformation. It is not easy for very distinctive governments to merge as a united nation. Also, the natives need assurance and protection from being dominated by peninsular states.
Since it has been 55 years since the birth of Malaysia, there would always be issues and debates about the special autonomy status of Sabah and Sarawak. The government should consider the rights of people from peninsular states, where they might not be able to tolerate such situations anymore. However, people from peninsular states need to keep in mind that Sabah and Sarawak is still lagging in developments, so they need their own form of legislation or administration for the sake of safeguarding their rights and resources. These two states are special in their own way, and the autonomy status is just a small token of appreciation for their continuous loyalty towards federal government.
The people of Sabah and Sarawak need better wealth distributions, economic development, educational system, and administration. Sabah and Sarawak should be given freedom in terms of building and improving their states in the way they see fit. Borneo territories are very distinctive in so many aspects compared to federal government, so they require some different form of legislations and administrations to help them prosper.
Therefore, the current government should re-evaluate and reinvestigate every aspects agreed in the Malaysia Agreement 1963. After careful consideration, negotiations, and investigations, only then the government may amend the conditions of the agreement accordingly. Change is a good thing, but in order to make the right move in such crucial matter like this, all of the signatory parties must evaluate every inch of the agreement, consider the relevancy of the legislations agreed according to current situation, only then it is possible to alter the terms of the agreement fairly.
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Selangor, Malindo Printers Sdn. Bhd.
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6. Ajamain, Z. (2018, February 19), MA63 Breach No 3 – Residual powers, ‘illegal’
Ministry of Tourism, Borneo Today, Retrieved from
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maker role’, The Sun Daily, Retrieved from