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Run -up to the first Sabah Day celebrations on August 31: It amounted to independence: Patel
Published on: Monday, August 28, 2023
By: James Sarda, Danny Wong
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THERE remains much confusion as to whether Aug. 31 should be considered as the day Sabah attained independence or self-government. In his column that appeared in the Daily Express in 2007, the late Datuk Mohd Fauzi Patel explained at great length what led to the creation of Sabah Day and Sarawak Day, and that however one looks at it, the day marked nothing less than independence for both states as last Governor Sir William Goode approved a resolution on the same introduced by Stephens in the Sabah Legco without realising the ramifications. It is also a fact that after achieving independence, both Bornean states proceeded to join in forming a new nation called Malaysia two weeks later, as agreed.
The truth remains that on Aug, 31 1957 Malaysia did not exist. Malaysia was born on Sept 16, 1963. Malaysia, therefore, is only 44 years old. 

On Aug 31, 1957 the old Federation of Malaya attained nationhood. The celebrations, therefore, mark the 50th independence anniversary of Malaya.

North Borneo achieved its independence from the British on Aug. 31, 1963. It subsequently together with Malaya, Singapore and Sarawak formed the Federation of Malaysia on Sept, 16, 1963.

When the Malayan delegation requested during the negotiations on Malaysia that Aug. 31 should remain as the Merdeka Day although the formation of the new Federation was delayed by two weeks, delegates from Sarawak, Singapore and Sabah readily agreed for they considered the request insignificant.

The request was included in the Federal Constitution.The Article 160 of the Federal Constitution states that “Merdeka Day” means the thirty-first day of August, nineteen hundred and fifty-seven. Since 1957, Aug. 31 has been celebrated as the independence day and remains a public holiday.

On the other hand, Sept. 16 is not a public holiday and Malaysia Day is all but forgotten.

During PBS rule, the State Government tried to revive the significance of Malaysia Day. It declared Sept. 16 as the official birthday of the Yang di-Pertua Neger Sabah. Since then, it is a State holiday.

It even tried to name it as “Sabah Day”. Sabah was alone in its attempt to revive the significance of Malaysia Day.

Brunei did not join the new Federation. Singapore had left Malaysia in 1965. Sarawak could not be bothered about it.

However, Sabah’s efforts to revive the Malaysia spirit bore some results.

When the Government launched the Merdeka Month celebrations some years ago, it incorporated Malaysia Day into it.

The celebrations begin on Aug. 16 and end on Sept.16. However, its significance is never highlighted.

The following pieces by Patel, who was a witness to the events as Chief Editor of the North Borneo News and Sabah Times, were extracted from a soon-to-be published book “When North Borneo Became Sabah: An Insider’s View on Issues and Controversies” by Daily Express Chief Editor James Sarda and Universiti Malaya history professor Dr Danny Wong.

Both articles appeared in a 2007 issue of the Daily Express.



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