Jeffrey Kitingan claims that Sabahans are now paying the price for the follies of these yesteryear political novices.
KOTA KINABALU: Amateurs in Sabah’s political arena were the cause of the state losing its autonomous rights and privileges when it joined joined Singapore, Sarawak and Malaya to form Malaysia in 1963, local opposition politician Jeffrey Kitingan charged.
He said Sabahans are now paying the price due to poorly educated and inexperienced founding leaders having been selected to negotiate Sabah’s entry into the federation as a founding member.
“All we had were Donald Stephens (Fuad Stephens), a Form Five school leaver and Mustapha Harun who completed only Primary Six, at the top of the leadership of a young nation,” he said.
The head of State Reform Party (STAR) Sabah chapter told a gathering during a Borneo Tea Party in Kota Kinabalu that this was the reason Sabah became dependent on Kuala Lumpur and Malayan leaders for guidance and leadership, which the latter gladly provided.
Kitingan said little did those Sabah leaders realise that Malayan leaders had their own agendas and priorities.
“Their agendas and priorities were not the same as ours and they took full advantage of this situation.
“It was unfortunate that when Sabah was persuaded to join Singapore, Sarawak and Malaya to form Malaysia, she was politically unprepared and did not have educated nor experienced leaders to negotiate and take on the responsibilities of a young nation, what more be part of a federation,” he said.
Sabahans, he added, should now therefore grow up and take charge of their state and resolve their problems instead of relying too much on Kuala Lumpur.
He said Sabahans must realise what dependence had brought them and understand that the “neglect of responsibilities meant the loss of our autonomy and special rights, loss of political franchise, loss of revenues and control of the state’s most valuable natural resource”.
“Yet we Sabahans continue to be dependent on KL and Malaya for leadership. We continue to believe that without the support of the said leadership of the so called national or Malayan political parties we are doomed,” he said.
Divided on joining federation
Former Sabah attorney-general Herman J Luping in his book “Indigenous Ethnic Communities of Sabah – The Kadazandusun” wrote that the important personalities in the making of the Malaysian Federation from Sabah – Stephens, Mustapha, G S Sundang and Khoo Siak Siew – were divided on the offer.
Luping, also a former deputy chief minister during the Usno-led Alliance government (1967-1976), said when Tunku Abdul Rahman proposed the formation of Malaysia in 1961, the first reaction of the four Sabah leaders differed.
“Mustapha accepted the plan outright, Stephens did not, nor did Sundang and Khoo,” he wrote.
However, after several rounds of meetings the four founding leaders agreed that Sabah join Singapore, Sarawak and the Federation of Malaya to form a new nation called Malaysia. Sabah officially became part of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.
What subsequently happened was Stephens became the chief minister, Mustapha was made head of state (then known as Yang di-Pertua Negara), Sundang was deputy chief minister and Khoo was appointed a Cabinet minister.
Singapore was ejected from the federation in 1965.