OATH STONE HONOURS GUARANTEES
ON Sept 12, 1962, the North Borneo Legislative Council agreed to accede to the Malaysia Agreement after presenting a 20point agreement written by chief minister Tun Muhammad Fuad Stephens. But, considerable apprehension and reservation remained among the native chiefs.
They decided that some of the guarantees promised by the Malayan government should be carved in stone, while pledging their loyalty to the new nation.
With the formation of Malaysia, North Borneo was renamed Sabah in 1963. In 1967, Jesselton was renamed Kota Kinabalu.
It was usual for disputes among the Orang Asal in the interior to be settled by construction of oath stones.
It was their adat, or customary practice or tradition. Moreover, what was written on paper could easily be changed.
The Keningau district officer was tasked with overseeing the erection of the oath stone. A huge river stone, weighing more than two tonnes, was found near a village in Keningau.
A Singaporean shipyard was commissioned to make a metal plaque to be affixed to the stone.
The inscribed words were in the old Malay spelling. Translated, it read:
Memorial Oath Stone according to the Constitution:
FREEDOM of religion in Sabah; THE government of Sabah holds authority over land in Sabah;
NATIVE customs and traditions will be respected and upheld by the government; and,
IN return, the people of Sabah’s interior pledge loyalty to the government of Malaysia.
The three main points in the 20-point agreement attached to the 1963 Malaysia Agreement were engraved on the plaque, including the words “The government of Malaysia guarantees”.
The Keningau Oath Stone was unveiled by Fuad on Aug 31, 1964, at the compound of the old Keningau District Office, which was then relocated to its present site.
For 46 years, it stood, forlorn,
FRIDAY, MAY 5, 2017 until the official national-level celebration to commemorate Malaysia Day was held in Sabah in 2010. The historical stone finally received its due recognition.
That year, former deputy natural resources development and environment minister Tan Sri Joseph Kurup suggested that the stone be relocated to a more suitable place in view of its historical value.
Last February, Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the stone would be gazetted as a heritage object under Section 49 of the National Heritage Act 2005.
It will be a focal point for Sabah politics and a tourist attraction, as many Malaysians revere the oath stone as sacred.
The contributions of our nation’s founding fathers should never be forgotten, and the guarantees made should continue to be honoured.
C.Y. MING Kuala Lumpur
Visitors looking at a replica of the Keningau Oath Stone at the Sabah Museum in Kota Kinabalu.