Before the federation of Malaysia was formed on Sept 16, 1963, there were meetings over meetings held attended by different delegates from Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo.

One of those meetings was held on Jan 6, 1962 in which the representatives met up in Kuala Lumpur. They touched upon different subjects including citizenship, transfer sovereignty, economy and special position of the indigenous peoples.

The meeting lasted for three days till Monday, Jan 8. During the closing session, Sabah’s Donald Stephens said that the pieces of Malaysia’s jigsaw puzzle had fallen into place and the picture it produced was that of a “new, vigorous and young nation in the making.”

Meanwhile, Sarawak delegation leader Yeo Cheng Hoe thanked the prime minister of Malayan federation Tunku Abdul Rahman for his desire to help Sarawak.

Singapore then president Lee Kuan Yew stated that with Malaysia there were no reasons why the standard of living of the people of the five territories should not reach that of more developed countries as we lack neither human or natural resources.

As for Tunku Abdul Rahman, he mainly talked about how Malaysia would raise the living standards of Borneo.

Here are 10 takeaway points from Tunku Abdul Rahman’s address during that meeting convincing Sabah and Sarawak to form the Federation of Malaysia:

1.“I am confident that the rate of development in the Borneo territories would be considerably increased after the merger, sufficient not only to offset or compensate for their loss of the Commonwealth Development and Welfare Funds, but to increase the tempo of their economic activities.”

2.“(About the plan to form a Federation of Borneo States) I reasoned to myself that if the people of Borneo themselves could wish to come together for their own good and well-being of their country in the form of a Federation, why then should we not join together?”

3.“The only difference would be that whereas in a Federation of Borneo States, as among themselves, the Borneo territories would continue for a long time to be colonies of Britain, in the Federation, with us they would lose the subject status immediately and would gain in stature, and which become independent territories enjoying equal rights and dignity with all other eleven states which now comprise the Federation of Malaya.”

4.“Please do not think that by embracing the territories of Borneo, Malaya is looking for territorial aggrandizement. We are linked by a common cultural heritage and historical background and financial and economic interests.”

(Left) A photo of Malaysian flag and (right) Tunku Abdul Rahman.

5.“You might say that the British have promised you independence. The question is when will that come about? Should your independence depend on normal development, I do not think you will achieve it in the near future. And when your independence finally arrives, you will be exposed to a precarious existence as tiny and powerless preys to the hungry and rapacious powers of the world.”

6.“As for the poor people of the rural areas who had been neglected before (in Malaya), they are getting a better life and a better deal than they had ever had before. The same cannot be said for the people of Borneo.”

7.“There is no single railway track in the whole of mainland of Sarawak, not one road connecting one territory with another. So very little has been done to improve the lot of people living in Borneo today.”

8.“To suggest that by joining us in Malaysia the Borneo territories would not be our equals, and to suggest that by joining us they would lose their right to practice their own religion and culture to pursue their own customs and the right to study the languages of their forefathers is not true, and is a falsehood which had intentionally been spread by forces which hope to take control of these territories for themselves.”

9.“The Borneo territories too have their won aborigines who live in the most primitive way in the very deepest part of the country. But even the Ibans, Kayan, Kadazans and Melanaus – to mention a few of your indigenous peoples-suffer today such neglect as we Malays used to suffer. It sadden my heart every time I think of the fact and welfare of the sons of the soil of Sarawak and Sabah.”

10.“Therefore, it is only logical that if the Borneo territories want to secure strength through unity, they should unite with the (Malaya) Federation and Singapore which alone can give us all strength viability and unity.”

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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