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LETTER | Article 1(2) of Federal Constitution must be restored

LETTER | A Sarawak pro-autonomy advocate has called on Sarawak Premier Abang Johari Openg to propose the term constituent province instead of region for Sarawak in his coming meeting with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Giving region status for Sarawak and Sabah was recently raised by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi while delivering his presidential speech at the Umno general assembly on January 13.

Zahid said Sabah and Sarawak have been accorded the status of region and are no longer regarded as states within Malaysia.

With the greatest of respect, Sabah and Sarawak are states in Malaysia, not regions or provinces.

Malaysia is the name of the Federation pursuant to “an agreement relating to Malaysia” which came into force on 16th September 1963. The agreement is an international treaty popularly referred to as MA63.

It was registered by Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the first parties to MA63, in the United Nations on Sept 21, 1970, with registration number 10760.

Article I of MA63 states as follow:

The Colonies of North Borneo (now Sabah) and Sarawak, and the State of Singapore shall be federated with the existing States of the Federation of Malaya as the States of Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore in accordance with the constitutional instruments annexed to this agreement and the federation shall thereafter be called “Malaysia”.

Article II states as follows:

The government of the Federation of Malaya will take such steps as may be appropriate and available to them to secure the enactment by the Parliament of the Federation of Malaya of an Act in the form set out in Annex A to this Agreement and that it is brought into operation on [16th September 1963 (and the date on which the said Act is brought into operation is hereinafter referred to as “Malaysia Day”).

The first parties to MA63 gave effect to MA63 by passing the Malaysia Act 1963 (Chapter 35), “to make provision for and in connection with the federation of North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore with the existing States of the Federation of Malaya.”

Section 1(1) of the Act reads as follows:

For the purpose of enabling North Borneo, Sarawak Malaysia, and Singapore (in this Act referred to as “the new States”) to federate with the existing States of the Federation of Malaya (in this Act referred to as “the Federation”), the Federation thereafter being called Malaysia, on the day on which the new States are federated as aforesaid (in this Act referred to as “the appointed day”) Her Majesty’s sovereignty and jurisdiction in respect of the new States shall be relinquished so as to vest in the manner agreed between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Federation, and the new States. 

The second party, the Federation of Malaya too gave effect to MA63 by its Parliament passing the Malaysia Act 1963. The Federal Constitution on Sept 16, 1963, duly incorporated the terms of MA63.

Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution in 1963 was pursuant to Article II of MA63 and, importantly as well, in the form as set out in Annex A of MA63, namely:

The States of the Federation shall be:

(a) the States of Malaya, namely, Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu; and

(b) the Borneo States, namely, Sabah and Sarawak; and

(c) the State of Singapore. [Article 4(2) of Annex A]

The federation was left with the Malayan states as well as Sabah and Sarawak after Singapore seceded by mutual agreement in 1965, becoming an independent state.

Article 1(2) was accordingly amended to delete paragraph (c). The current version of Article 1(2) was the product of a further constitutional amendment in 1976 and lists all states within the Federation under a single category in alphabetical order – that is, Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, and Terengganu.

The amendment effectively placed Sabah and Sarawak on equal footing with the other states in the federation. It was justified as necessary to create equality among the states in the federation and ensure further unity within the federation. It received overwhelming support from members of Parliament (MPs), including MPs from Sabah and Sarawak.

Political scientist Wong Chin Huat gave an excellent account of what took place in the federal legislature in “Sabah and Sarawak downgraded by their MPs in 1976”.

Clearly from the above, Sabah and Sarawak are the Borneo States federated with the States of Malaya.

What needs to be done is to restore Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution to its 1963 wordings (minus Singapore) - that is:

The States of the Federation shall be:

(a) the States of Malaya, namely, Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu; and

(b) the Borneo States, namely, Sabah and Sarawak.

Sabah and Sarawak are States in the Federation of Malaysia, but distinguished from the States of Malaya. The 1962 Cobbold Commission, which was set up to determine whether the people of Sabah and Sarawak supported a merger with the Federation of Malaya, had called the proposed Federation of the Malayan states and Sabah and Sarawak a “partnership”.

If Article 1(2) in 1963 reflected that partnership, then it must be restored.


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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