M’sia Day ’22 No Mention Of Najib’s Compliance On MA’63

Ex-PM Najib Razak, taking the cue from the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA’63), began devolution of powers by way of transfer of greater administrative authority to Sabah and S’wak by administration

It cannot be denied that former Prime Minister Najib Razak was the first head of government to recognise Malaysia Day 16 Sept 1963 as a public holiday and initiate compliance with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA’63). Yet, incarcerated since Wed 23 Aug 2022, he remains virtually forgotten this year as Malaysia Day was observed in a lowkey manner. Sabah and Sarawak have so far not stripped him of titles and Awards.

Najib also did away with draconian laws, introduced progressive legislation, pushed for various reforms and gave cash handouts to the people as advised by the World Bank and IMF. He set up 1MDB to channel political donations for party financing and activities. It’s not known whether some of the RM5b raised through bonds became political donations.

MA’63 remains a never-ending story.

The British, MA’63 or no MA’63, transferred the Administration of Sabah and Sarawak — the Borneo Territories — to the Malayan central government on 16 Sept 1963. The Malayan central government became the Malaysian Federal government. Ironically, as evident from Article 160(2), Malaysia isn’t a Federation but an Equal Partnership of Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya under MA’63. We can skip Singapore which left Malaysia on 9 Aug 1965.

The British saw Malaysia as a microcosm of the British Empire in general and British India in particular. British India occupied a large part of the Indian subcontinent but did not include 500 Princely States. The British also separated Afghanistan, Tibet, Xinjiang, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius and Penang from India.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Andaman Sea, not far from Langkawi and Thailand, remained part of India.

Najib’s reversal of the British transfer of the Administration of the Borneo Territories to Malaya, for want of a better term — albeit partial — came to a grinding halt after GE14 when the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition fell from power after an uninterrupted 61 years which provided great political stability. All hell virtually broke loose after that as political and economic instability continues to reign.


Mahathir Mohamad, who succeeded Najib on Thurs 10 May 2018, aborted the devolution of administrative powers. He also scrapped the RM30b Pan Borneo Highway initiated by Najib. Locals refer to the project as Pain Borneo Highway i.e. a reference to the muddy timber tracks, through the jungle, which was taken over by the Pan Borneo Highway.

Mahathir formed the Cabinet Committee on MA’63. No one knows what the Committee discussed. Muhyiddin Yassin ousted Mahathir, as Prime Minister, by forming the backdoor Federal government on Sun 1 Mar 2020. He scrapped the Committee and placed it under the Official Secrets Act 1972 (OSA).

There was a hue and cry in the Borneo Territories on the Committee being placed under the OSA. Muhyiddin, taken aback by the strong reaction on the other side of the South China Sea, announced the virtually scam Council on MA’63.

Therein the matter lies. Nothing was heard from the Council until it announced that, in principle, the Federal government under Ismail Sabri was agreeable that veto powers in the Malaysian Parliament, held by Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore before 1965, would be returned to the Borneo Territories. Sabah and Sarawak would hold a collective 35 per cent of the seats in Parliament.

Too Many Promises

The people in Sabah and Sarawak are not keeping their fingers crossed. They don’t expect the Federal government’s compliance on the 35 per cent of seats in Parliament. Much water has passed under the bridge since 16 Sept 1963. The Federal government has made too many promises, especially on the eve of elections. None have been kept.

Sabah and Sarawak don’t speak the same language on MA’63, and with good reasons. The government in Sarawak, proxy rulers, has not changed since 1966 when an emergency was declared and Stephen Kalong Ningkan was ousted as Chief Minister. Penghulu Tawi Sli was briefly Chief Minister. No Orang Asal has been Chief Minister since Tawi Sli. The people have lost their sovereignty to a small group in power. Election results cannot be perfected in law. There’s no legitimacy. Let’s not go there. That’s another story for another day.

It’s an open secret, that unlike Sabah, the Sarawak government pays lip service to MA’63. The Sarawak Malay (Orang Laut or Kirieng) and Melanau (Orang Sungai) appear quite comfortable with the status quo since 1966. They fear that the Federal government’s compliance on MA’63 may see big changes (read Orang Asal as Chief Minister and perhaps as Governor too) in Sarawak.

In Sabah, the people seek greater autonomy. They want the Federal government to confine itself to Internal Security, Defence, Foreign Affairs and the Malaysian Common Market. Singapore, when push came to shove, left the merger with the Federation after it was kept out of the Malaysian Common Market.

Sabahan, especially the young Orang Asal, want Sabah restructured as six states — Labuan, West Coast, Interior, Kudat, Sandakan and Tawau — and a regional Parliament and regional Federal government. The states would be headed by a Chief Minister and the regional Federal government by a 1st Minister as in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Australia and Sarawak, the 1st Minister is known as Premier.

Writing On The Wall

It’s said that if anything has a beginning, it will have an end.

It’s unlikely that Malaysia, as it stands, will last another half-century in the Borneo Territories. The writing is on the wall.

If the Federal government has been non-compliant on MA’63, it’s because of the lack of political will in Putrajaya. There’s also no leadership in the Borneo Territories on MA’63.

Change is in the air. The young are restive and want the old leaders like Jeffrey Kitingan, long in politics, to make way for them or be pushed out. That would be the day.

Putrajaya can no longer call the shots in Sabah, perhaps in Sarawak as well, especially since the politics in Malaya has been split down the middle since 2008. Since Mahathir resigned on Mon 24 Feb 2020, no one has been able to become Prime Minister in Putrajaya without the support of Sabah and Sarawak and/or at least one Borneo Territory.

That’s the pressure point which will force local leaders to bring change in the relationship with the other side of the South China Sea.


Already, fearing loss of sovereignty, Sabahans are demanding that the PTI (pendatang tanpa izin or illegal immigrants) be removed from the electoral rolls. The Sabah MIC Chief Peer Mohd’s case in the Magistrate’s Court on Thurs 22 Sept 2022 may be the tip of the iceberg.

If the National Registration Dept (NRD) says that “MyKad Peer Mohd ada dalam sistem” (Peer Mohd’s MyKad is in the system) questions will arise.

Does Peer Mohd hold Malay MyKad when the document is meant only for S’pore and Malaya under Article 160(2) and governed by the Merdeka, 31 Aug 1957, cutoff point to be classified as Malay?

Does Peer Mohd hold citizenship by naturalisation or by operation of law?

If citizenship by naturalisation, did he enter Sabah with valid travel papers and an Entry Permit?

How long did he stay in Sabah before being given citizenship by naturalisation?

If he holds citizenship by operation of law, how was he given the document when he’s not descended from a citizen?

Does Peer Mohd hold a late registration birth cert? How was he given this document when he was not born in Sabah?

The PTI phenomenon was explored by the 2012/2013 Sabah Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on illegal immigrants. There’s a case for Amnesty by Parliament on the PTI and stateless in Sabah. The Orang Asal are against Amnesty including for the stateless if they are not local. — NMH

About the writer: Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez keeps a keen eye on Malaysia as a legal scholar (jurist). He was formerly Chief Editor of Sabah Times. He is not to be mistaken for a namesake previously with Daily Express. References to his blog articles can be found here.

The points expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the NMH.

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Joe Fernandez
Longtime Borneo watcher Joe Fernandez has been writing for many years on both sides of the Southeast Asia Sea. He should not be mistaken for a namesake formerly with the Daily Express in Kota Kinabalu. JF keeps a Blog under FernzTheGreat on the nature of human relationships.

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