Sarawak, during its short history of Merdeka, has withstood trying times like political instability in the 60s and armed communists insurgencies and the Indonesian Confrontation in the 70s, which posed real challenges to the government, the immediate post – Independence successive State governments in particular and the Rakyat as a whole.
The State had to fight the internal communist insurgencies, which were quiet at first hitting haphazardly here and there, but increasingly violent over the years. By 1965, the communists, realizing that they could no longer control a political party as an open front, went underground to pursue armed insurrections.
Therefore, Sarawak was not only being confronted by the big neighbor but had to face the internal problems of communist subversion, which compounded the political instability as political leaders learned to adjust to each other.
Obviously, the job had been cut out for the people, political leaders in particular, to work together in the full drive to develop strong love for education and safeguard the unity of the people and stability of the state and country.
Essentially, the people must be imbibed with a strong sense of love and loyalty to the State and country and upgrade their capacity and capability in developing the economy of the State and the new country Malaysia to move forward.
Generally, the people comprising diverse ethnic and religious groups must value their unity and harmony as non-negotiable matter or something that can be made into political controversies.
Hence, the overriding issue for the people is to build a peaceful and progressive community for the newly independent State and the new nation Malaysia. The task entails taking a regular look at themselves to ensure that they are on the right track. It can be likened to a situation if they stand in a valley they should go up to the top of a hill or mountain to determine their position.
The Governor of Sarawak, Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, in his speech during a seminar on the Formation of Malaysia, said Sarawak, right from the very beginning, insisted that it must have the development plans as part of the National development plan.
In this connection, the State sought assurance of sufficient support from the Federal government to ensure that it could develop to become an equal partner in the new federation of Malaysia.
Besides, the people of Sarawak had to think of how to protect themselves from many disadvantages that they could foresee as a partner in the bigger Federation; they wanted safeguards for their rights and peculiarities. There were a lot of debates in Sarawak on what the people would get as a partner of the bigger Federation.
Obviously, right from the beginning, the concept of forming a bigger federation, comprising Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah was mooted with the idea of having special conditions for the new territories namely Sarawak and Sabah.
Understandably, the people of Sarawak, a territory, which is almost the size of Peninsula Malaysia with small population, did not want to be swarmed by herds of people, who were likely to be unemployed coming over from Malaya or Singapore.
Tun Abdul Taib said the formation of Malaysia to the people in Malaya was welcomed as a simple nationalism based on common interests. But the idea was not obvious to the common people in Sarawak, who did not know the intrigues of the world surrounding them. There was a suggestion to have a federation of Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei but it could never take off.
Somehow, the British Colonial power had to decide what to do with Sarawak and Sabah as each of them could not go on its own. Both territories each had small population, to become a nation on its own, build its own defense and tackle all security problems that they could face ahead of them. They had to develop the infrastructure like roads, ports, airports and the economy in order to become viable nations.
Tun Abdul Taib said the solution became more urgent with the victory of the Socialists, which were viewed as representing the leftist movement, in Singapore in 1959. Then Singapore, with the strong presence of the socialists under the umbrella of the Socialists Front, was dubbed as Cuba of the East.
Essentially, the solution must represent a move to find better consolidation and security for all small countries to enable them, as ex – colonies after Independence, to have their own places under the sun.
The Prime Minister of Malaya, YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al –haj, when speaking during a luncheon organized by Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Singapore in 1961, talked about a proposal to form a bigger federation to include Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei and Singapore.
Understandably, the Tunku’s concept of a bigger federation caught the imagination of the people in Sarawak that plunged them into discussions about their future in the new Federation. Consequently, the Cobbold commission was appointed to see what the people of Sarawak and Sabah really wanted.
Tun Abdul Taib said the net result was that the people of Sarawak and Sabah wanted to be parts of a bigger federation with conditions that their interests would be looked after and their peculiarities would be taken into consideration.
Consequently, discussions to form a bigger federation took place in London between representatives of the Colonial power and those from Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah. Admittedly, it was a strange concept as it had to preserve the federation of Malaya intact and Singapore, with its internal problems, would not upset other parts of the bigger federation.
Sarawak was a party to the formation of Malaysia by virtue of Malaysia Agreement signed in Lancaster House in London by Harold MacMillan for England, Tunku Abdul Rahman for Malaya, Lee Kwan Yew for Singapore, Donald Stephen/Mustapha Harun for North Borneo and Abang Haji Openg Abang Haji Sapiee ( the late father of the current Chief Minister of Sarawak), Ling Beng Siew, Jugah anak Barieng and Datu Bandar Abang Haji Mustapha for Sarawak; therefore, Sarawak was a party to the formation of Malaysia.
At the same time, there was political turmoil in South East Asia with Indonesia witnessing the rise of a communist party to become the biggest party in Indonesia; it was the biggest communist party outside China. The Chairman, D.N. Aidit was influential in Indonesia.
President Sukarno had to play the balancing act, one time siding with the Nationalists and on another time siding with the communist forces. The internal struggle gave the unsettling atmosphere to the neighbors. He considered the proposal to form Malaysia a Colonial plot and opposed it.
Tun Abdul Taib said there were series of discussions, mainly engineered by the Philippines to make it possible for Malaya being represented by Tunku Abdul Rahman and Sukarno to find out a way to get the new concept of Malaysia to come into being.
President Sukarno insisted that he would withdraw his opposition to the formation of Malaysia if he could be convinced that the peoples of Sarawak and Sabah supported it. Their decision to support the formation of Malaysia must be confirmed in the next general elections to be held in Sarawak and Sabah.
Tun Abdul Taib, who had clear narrative of events relating to the formation of Malaysia, recalled the birth of Malaysia was surrounded by lots of opposition and suspicions by the surrounding neighbors. The conflicts of geo political factors went on for quite some time until Indonesia could tackle its serious internal crisis after the communists led coup d’etat in 1966.
He observed it was a trying time for the people, comprising more than 30 ethnic and religious groups, to act with a sense of dedication in the common efforts to achieve the State development objectives within the stipulated framework. They must stay united and should not be distracted by political bickering and arguments over petty issues, which did not benefit anybody.
Sacrifices of older generation
Hence, it is incumbent upon the people, the new generation in particular, to know and value the sacrifices being made by the older generation in fighting for Independence as a partner in the formation of Malaysia, which officially came into being on September 16, 1966.
Sarawak was granted internal self-government and had the first Chief Minister leading a six member State cabinet on July 22 1963. The Chief Minister was Stephen Kalong Ningkan and members of his Cabinet were James Wong Kim Min, Abdul Taib Mahmud (now Tun Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, the Governor of Sarawak), Awang Hipni Pengiran Annu, Teo Kui Seng and Dunstan Endawie anak Enchana.
The people, comprising diverse ethnic groups with colorful customs and traditions became sovereign people according to the promises made by the third Rajah of Sarawak in September 1941 that the Brookes’ family had been holding Sarawak in trust for the people.
Tun Abdul Taib believes Sarawak has become a successful part of Malaysia due to the determination of the people to defend it against forces both from inside and outside. The people, in spite of their diversity, could demonstrate they had the gut and willpower to defend the State and country.
Evidently, the people showed their determination to fight against the communists, though they had certain support among the people, who must be won over by implementing development programs that could benefit them.
More importantly, the people, in a multi- racial and multi-religious society, have been pragmatic and ready to absorb good values from various religions in the search for a good social policy.
They also accept the fact that, in spite of the different racial origins, religious beliefs, socio-economic status and backgrounds, they must find ways to improve their livelihood to befit their status as people of independent nation.
In this regards, efforts to develop a society like in any civilizations must be based on the willingness to recognize the truth. Therefore, the people must ensure that the development of the local culture must be consistent with the new reality, clear vision and wider perspective.
Tun Abdul Taib was of the view that any nation, in the process of building a new civilization must fight based on the truth. For example, Confucius preached followers to make adjustments in order to achieve equilibrium in the society; they must learn to conquer their lowest desire.
He said in any civilization, the people, who want progress, must be ready to work very hard; once they achieve some progress they even work harder to build on their success. They want to move ahead with greater determination and perseverance to improve on their success.
Tun Abdul Taib said the process of assimilation is almost like flow of water from rivers into the sea. This is the stage where the people of Sarawak are today. The fresh water from rivers mixes with salty water in the sea. Changes in the movement of the water happen with tides bringing sea water into rivers, while the receding water bring fresh water into the sea.
In Sarawak, the people equate their movement of building unity and solidarity among them to a follow of water from streams and rivers in different colors, into the sea. The water may be yellow, red or green but the colors gradually change as the water flows downward and by the time they reach the sea, they become blue only.
The flow of the water becomes stronger and bigger that it can even float load of things into the sea. It typifies an example of the need to have more energy and resources in movement towards a Malaysian identity.
Though the water may have different colors, as they pass through curves, deep hollows and headlands, the colors start to change; eventually they become one color only. A society will not be able to change and experience changes in orderly manner unless it can apprehend the truth and differentiate between the positive and negative values.
In this connection, conscientious efforts must be made to pioneer an education system, which can help the people to see the truth in the common efforts to uplift the level of progress and prosperity.
Tun Abdul Taib believed the momentum of change has actually helped the people to develop positive attitude of wanting to change and recognizing that changes bring to them new opportunities. For this reason, they are mobile as mobility is something that is good, though it may also bring problems to the society at large.
The State has not only been experiencing social but also physical mobility, a phenomenon, which has already seen 20% of the rural people moving to urban areas. Admittedly, they may experience problems of getting good jobs, while children may get less guidance from parents as they are kept too busy trying to make ends meet.
Regrettably, if they mix with bad people they may get bad influences from them. Basically, children must not be left on their own, to such an extent that they do not listen to words of advices from the elders.
The State is at the gateway to the new reality, which can be considered as a new phenomenon in its favor. The people, who embrace the new reality must have positive attitude; they embrace change with the knowledge that change is good for them. To the people, who accept change, they know that change brings them new opportunities.
Vision 2020 is the nation’s idea of looking into the future with perfect eyes sight. The people must open their eyes with the maximum power of clarity in order to have a full perspective of what constitutes the truth. In other words, the people must try to recognize all facets of what constitute the truth.
Sarawak could be considered as among the first country in the world to organize politics after Independence rather than as the preparation for Independence. SUPP, as the first political party, was formed in 1959. The party was followed by Negara in 1960 and Berjasa in 1961. SNAP was formed in 1960 and Pesaka, later.