No, Doc, not 1 country, 2 systems, but 3 nations, 1 federation

Posted on October 7, 2011


  FreeMalaysiaToday reports that Dr Jeffrey Kitingan has called for a ‘1 nation, 2 systems’ governance of Malaysia.

One system, he proposes, will apply to Peninsular Malaysia, and another, to be applicable to Sabah and Sarawak.

This, Jeffrey opines, will be in line with the United Borneo Front’s “Borneo Agenda” and the aspiration to restore political autonomy to Sabah and Sarawak.

Since first learning, at SABM forums in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching last year, of the spirit and intent of the Malaysia Agreement, 1963 and the 18 / 20 point agreements,  I have come to understand that the formation of the federation of Malaysia never intended or envisaged that Singapore and the independent nation states of North Borneo ( now Sabah ) and Sarawak were to be subsumed and stand as the 12th, 13th and 14th states of the new federation, thus adding to the 11 states in the federation of Malaya.

Rather, the then federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak had agreed to come together and, without any loss or reduction in their respective status as independent sovereign nations, form the federation of Malaysia as equal nation-state partners within that new federation.

Clause 3 of the 20-point agreement, which relates to Sabah, states : Whilst accepting that the present Constitution of the Federation of Malaya should form the basis of the Constitution of Malaysia, the Constitution of Malaysia should be a completely new document drafted and agreed in the light of a free association of states and should not be a series of amendments to a Constitution drafted and agreed by different states in totally different circumstances.

The full text of the 20-point agreement can be viewed HERE.

As we all know, this clause has never been adhered to.

The Constitution of 1957 was intended for application in the federation of Malaya, and details the sharing and distribution of powers of governance, being that of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, between the 11 states and the federal authority.

The 1957 constitution represented the social contract, if you will, of the 11 states that had, with a view to obtaining independence from the British, agreed to come together to form one nation, the federation of Malaya and, in so doing, had agreed to surrender much of their respective powers to the federal authority.

Such a constitution clearly would not be appropriate for the entity that was sought to be created in 1963 where, the member states were intended to retain their sovereign and independent nation-state status.

Seen in this light, Dr Jeffrey’s proposal, most respectfully, does not come any where close to pressing for an honouring of the agreement of 1963.

It merely serves to entrench further what has been done thus far : the surreptitious subsuming of Sabah and Sarawak into the Federation of Malaya as the 12th and 13th states.

As long as Sabah and Sarawak continue to be made subject to the constitution of 1957, the reality is that the federation of Malaysia is no more than a renaming of the federation of Malaya, save that 2 more states have been added to the original 11.

Rather than pushing for ‘1 nation, 2 systems’, in my view, it serves the interests of the people of Sabah and Sarawak for the recognition of the status of Sabah and Sarawak as the 2nd and 3rd nation-states in the federation of Malaysia, and to press for the honouring of the promise of the new constitution.

Such a move would enable a more realistic federal-nation state divide of powers to be put in place, that would return greater autonomy to the people of Sabah and Sarawak.

Posted in: Sabah & Sarawak