Stephens, Ningkan plan opposition front over KL’s treatment of both states
Published on: Tuesday, January 03, 1967

DAILY EXPRESS (Monday, July 3, 1967) - JESSELTON, SUN. — There is a move to form a combined opposition front by opposition parties in Sabah and Sarawak, it was learnt here today.

For this purpose, Dato Stephen Kalong Ningkan, President of the Sarawak National Party and other leaders of his party are expected to arrive there on Thursday to hold talks with leaders of the United Pasok-Momogun Kadazan Organisation on the subject. 

Confirming this move, Dato Donald Stephens told UPI here today that he hoped the Sarawak United Peoples Party, another opposition party in Sarawak, might also on join the Front.

In his speech to the Upko Division Committee in Keningau yesterday, Dato Stephens called for radical changes in Kuala Lumpur’s thinking and treatment of Sabah and Sarawak.  He said, in their attitude to these states, the most important of all is that time should be allowed for the East Malaysian states to be “worked in” into the Malaysian pattern. 

He said, “We are not anti-Malaysia as some are trying to make out. We worked as hard, if not harder than, anyone else to bring Malaysia into being. We sincerely want Malaysia. To us ‘Malaysia Forever’ was no idle slogan, it came from deep inside us, but we also know that if Malaysia is to be a real success there must be some radical changes in the thinking of our leaders in the Federal Government; in their attitude towards Sabah and Sarawak, and most important of all in their treatment of these two states,” Dato Stephens said. 

The Federal Government should understand that having the guns, the soldiers, the aeroplanes, the naval ships and the PPSO is not enough. With these they may be able to keep Sabah and Sarawak indefinitely — but where then will be the Happy Malaysia which our Bapa Malaysia had so often spoken about? 

The people in Sabah must also realise that they themselves must alter their attitudes and their thinking towards a genuine Malaysian consciousness. They would naturally find this easier if there is better understanding of their problems and their difficulties, and genuine efforts are made to solve them. It is easier for the former Malayan states to think of themselves as Malaysians. They have had independence since 1957, we in Sabah had always been Sabahans, and a Sabahan national consciousness had, willy nilly, been imbued in us.

When we agreed to join Malaysia, we were of course willing and proud to be Malaysians but at the same time it cannot be expected that “ our feeling of what may be called “Sabah nationalism” could be extinguished overnight.

It should be easy enough to understand. “why Sabah had asked for safeguards and different status from the other states of Malaysia. Apart from the fact that we are a thousand miles away from Kuala Lumpur and we had not, until Malaysia, had any very close contact or association with Western Malaysia, it was also this sense of Sabah nationalism which made us ask for the safeguards and different status from the other states of Malaysia.

It can be argued that if this was so then the feeling of Sabah nationalism should be extinguished as soon as possible but everyone knows that this cannot be done in a hurry, or by the use of force. That was why the safeguards and a transitional period agreed upon in the was needed: time should be allowed for the Eastern: Malaysian states to be “worked in” into the Malaysian pattern. 

One of the most important factors involved in the “working in” process of the Eastern Malaysian states is confidence and confidence cannot be maintained if promises are broken and the people are made to feel that the safeguards they had been given are themselves in need of safeguarding. The use of force or coercion will, instead of making the people forget their sense of Sabah or Sarawak nationalism, only increase it and if force and coercion is increasingly employed the result will be a corresponding increase in our Sabah and Sarawak consciousness and this could reach the extent where acute, antagonism is felt for Malaysia itself. 

It would appear that Kuala Lumpur has not given much thought to this aspect of Malaysia and had been irked by those in Sabah and Sarawak who speak of Sabah’s or Sarawak’s rights.

 There has been a lack of sympathy for and understanding of the true feelings of the people of Eastern Malaysia. Having found opportunists in both Sarawak and Sabah who are willing to do it their way Kuala Lumpur has apparently embarked on a policy aimed at the elimination of the feeling of Sabah and Sarawak nationalism in these states as quickly as possible. The result is a feeling of resentment and the growing suspicion that Malaysia means a new form of Colonialism. 

Trying to do a short-cut cannot work. Pressures used have already done much damage to the Malaysian cause in both Sabah and Sarawak. Indications are that these pressures will be increased and the object is the elimination of the political forces in Sabah and Sarawak which want integration into a Malaysian whole but who also strongly believe that this can only be done’ in time.  Before they continue with this policy would strongly urge that those who hold the destiny of Malaysia in their hands would pause and think again. 

The Upko is in the Opposition because the Upko represents those who genuinely want Malaysia to succeed and believe that the best way for Malaysia to succeed is to stick to what had been agreed upon before Malaysia in the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee, the Inter-Governmental Committee, and the verbal exchanges which had take a place all of which pointed to the acceptance at that time of the policy of gradual integration. 

I myself feel that it, may be in the national interest that the Federal system should in time be altered into a unitary system. But time is the essence, time for the building up of mutual confidence between the states and the Centre.

 If a unitary state is to evolve out of the Federation, it must come about by the genuine voluntary surrender of states rights to the centre any other way can only prove disastrous to the Federation. 

The Upko therefore will endeavour as a member of the Opposition to persuade those who, hold the destiny of Malaysia in their hands to desist in their efforts to force the pace of integration and to make them realise that if Malaysia is to succeed, they must agree to a Re-examination of Malaysia which would help infuse new confidence in Malaysia among those who are now beginning to have serious doubts about Malaysia’s future. 

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