Selamat Hari Merdeka

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A half-century ago on this day, Malaya was finally free from British rulership. The states of Sabah (North Borneo), Sarawak (West Borneo) and Singapore officially joined six years and 16 days later to form the initial Malaysia, therefore escaping the fate of colonization from the English as Malaya had. A fallout by Singapore ensued two years later, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Sabah is unique from the rest of the Malaysian states due to the 20-point agreement made with Malaya prior to joining Malaysia. The most integral points (as far as I’m concerned) are:

Point 2: Language

a. Malay should be the national language of the Federation
b. English should continue to be used for a period of 10 years after Malaysia Day
c. English should be an official language of North Borneo for all purposes, State or Federal, without limitation of time.

Now I know why those in Peninsular Malaysia keep saying that most Sabahans they know can speak English very well. I read in one induction programme book for Federal Civil Employees, that English was allowed to be used in official matters for the first 10 years after Malaya achieved independence. After the racial riot in 1969, on a Federal level every effort should be made to use only the Malay language for official purpose, for the sake of unity.

Point 6: Immigration

Control over immigration into any part of Malaysia from outside should rest with the Central Government but entry into North Borneo should also require the approval of the State Government. The Federal Government should not be able to veto the entry of persons into North Borneo for State Government purposes except on strictly security grounds. North Borneo should have unfettered control over the movements of persons other than those in Federal Government employ from other parts of Malaysia into North Borneo.

This is why our friends from Sarawak and the Peninsular cannot get in and out Sabah without a passport, and that our Peninsular friends must first get a work permit before they can be employed in this state. One of the easier ways non-Sabahans can work in this state is — what most people I see do — to marry a Sabahan 😀

Point 12: Special position of indigenous races

In principle, the indigenous races of North Borneo should enjoy special rights analogous to those enjoyed by Malays in Malaya, but the present Malays’ formula in this regard is not necessarily applicable in North Borneo.

Believe it or not, Malays from Sabah are not considered the same as Malays from the Peninsular. I have to ask my Malay-Sabahan friends to explain that.

In any case, don’t let labels detract us from the fact that a Malaysian is a Malaysian. So here’s wishing every Malaysian a blessed and united Merdeka Day 2007.

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