Fine line be­tween ‘joined’ and ‘formed’

Some Malaysians still clue­less over dis­tinc­tions in Malaysia Agree­ment 1963

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Malaysia Day - Philip Golin­gai

“I AM a Malaysian! Why do I need to go through Im­mi­gra­tion to get a so­cial visit pass to enter Sabah?” asked an in­dig­nant Ipoh-born friend, adding, “I don’t need such a doc­u­ment when I enter Se­lan­gor from Perak.”

He was plan­ning to fly from KL In­ter­na­tional Air­port to Kota Kinabalu In­ter­na­tional Air­port to visit my home state for the first time.

“Well, you must un­der­stand that Sabah and Sarawak, through the Malaysia Agree­ment 1963, have con­trol of who en­ters their states,” I said.

“What Malaysia Agree­ment?” he queried.

Some Malaysians, es­pe­cially those who have not vis­ited the Bor­neo-side of the coun­try, are clue­less about Sabah’s 20-point agree­ment and Sarawak’s 18-point agree­ment which the two au­tonomous ter­ri­to­ries ne­go­ti­ated prior to the for­ma­tion of Malaysia.

Point 6 in Sabah’s 20 points states: “Con­trol over im­mi­gra­tion into any part of Malaysia from out­side should rest with the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment but en­try into North Bor­neo (as Sabah was known) should also re­quire the ap­proval of the State Gov­ern­ment.”

Point 13 states: “There should be a proper Min­is­te­rial sys­tem in North Bor­neo.”

That’s why there are min­is­ters in the Sabah Cab­i­net and not ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil­lors like Se­lan­gor and other penin­su­lar states. For ex­am­ple, in my state, it is Sabah Tourism, Cul­ture and En­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter whereas in my adopted state, it is Se­lan­gor Tourism, En­vi­ron­ment, Green Tech­nol­ogy and Con­sumer Af­fairs exco.

For the ben­e­fit of some Malaysians in the penin­sula who are un­clear about the for­ma­tion of Malaysia, here’s a quick his­tory les­son on the for­ma­tion of the Fed­er­a­tion of Malaysia.

Fifty-four years ago to­day, four ter­ri­to­ries -- Malaya, Sarawak, Sin­ga­pore and North Bor­neo -formed Malaysia.

Take note of the word “formed” be­cause Sabah and Sarawak never “joined” Malaysia as they couldn’t have joined some­thing that did not ex­ist.

On Aug 9, 1965, Sin­ga­pore was ei­ther ex­pelled or left Malaysia.

In 1976, the Fed­eral Con­sti­tu­tion was amended and the “num­ber­ing” of the states was changed. In­stead of Malaya states, Sabah and Sarawak, it stated the names of the 13 states.

To nar­row the South China Sea di­vide that sep­a­rates Penin­su­lar Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak, we also need ge­og­ra­phy les­son. The best ge­og­ra­phy les­son is to cross the South China Sea and ex­plore our di­verse coun­try.

This might help to cor­rect cer­tain ge­o­graph­i­cal mis­con­cep­tion of Sabah and Sarawak. For ex­am­ple, Saba­hans and Sarawakians get an­noyed when they no­ticed that the map of penin­su­lar Malaysia is some­times pre­sented as big­ger than that of Sarawak and Sabah.

In fact, Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia. It is slightly smaller than penin­su­lar Malaysia. Sabah is the sec­ond largest state and Pa­hang is third.

Sarawak has Sun­gai Ra­jang (760km), the long­est river in Malaysia, Sabah has Sun­gai Kin­abatan­gan (560km), the sec­ond long­est, and penin­su­lar Malaysia has Sun­gai Pa­hang (435km), the third long­est.

Many in penin­su­lar Malaysia do not re­alise that Sabah and Sarawak are “big coun­tries.”

I’ve trav­elled by road from Kota Kinabalu to Kuching twice. It is roughly — de­pend­ing on driv­ing speed and road con­di­tion — a 19-hour drive or 1,044.8km. Com­pared that to Kan­gar to Jo­hor Baru which is about a nine-hour drive or 826km.

For the Kota Kinabalu to Kuching road trip, you need to stamp your pass­port 10 times — exit Sin­du­min in Sabah to enter Lawas in Sarawak, exit Lawas to enter Tem­burong in Brunei, exit Tem­burong to enter Limbang in Sarawak, exit Limbang to enter Ban­dar Seri Be­gawan, exit Kuala Be­lait in Brunei to enter Miri.

Cer­tain parts of the road — un­sealed and slip­pery — are dan­ger­ous.

The trip will give you an un­der­stand­ing of why the PanBor­neo High­way is es­sen­tial in in­te­grat­ing Sabah and Sarawak. Both states are too far apart that some­times I do feel that some Sarawakians are too parochial.

In 1990, Tourism Malaysia had the un­for­get­table song, To know Malaysia is to love Malaysia. Malaysians from both sides of the South China Sea di­vide should cuti-cuti Malaysia (hol­i­day in Malaysia) to ap­pre­ci­ate each other’s di­ver­sity.

This may also re­duce the num­ber of times I hear this ques­tion oc­ca­sion­ally asked by ig­no­rant penin­su­lar Malaysians in Kuala Lumpur, “You are from Sabah, when did you ar­rive in Malaysia?”

Some­times I feel like an­swer­ing, “We, Saba­hans, formed Malaysia bah!”

In­stead, I smile and say, “I trav­elled by train from Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur and ar­rived last month.”

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