The Borneo Post (Sabah)
Batu Sumpah sacred, not mere symbol
THE recent description of the Oath Stone or better known as Batu Sumpah in Keningau as merely a symbol commemorating the formation of Malaysia and devoid of meaning and importance by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Hajah Nancy Shukri is an insult to the people of Sabah.
It is tantamount to disgracing the natives and treating with contempt the Batu Sumpah as a mere symbol in the formation of Malaysia.
Datuk Nancy’s offensive statement goes to show the utter contempt of certain government leaders for the basis of the formation of Malaysia.
Most Sabahans believe the Batu Sumpah is a “sacred document” in that oath is more important than any document in writing. It is part of Sabah history that deserves highest respect.
Datuk Nancy should be mindful that the Federation of Malaysia would not have existed if not for the people of Sabah and Sarawak agreeing to its formation.
If it is not respected, it will also mean that the basis of the formation of Malaysia is not respected.
Who is Datuk Nancy to say that it is not significant? May be she needs a short history lesson?
Let it be known that The Batu Sumpah is a monument erected to commemorate the terms in which the former British Crown Colony of North Borneo joined the former colony of Sarawak and the other states of the Federation of Malaya to form Malaysia.
Historically the proposal to form the Federation of Malaysia comprising the recently independent nation of the Federation of Malaya, the British protectorate of Brunei, and the British Crown Colonies of North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore had met with some initial opposition from influential community leaders within the respective territories.
However, with a lot of persuasions, The North Borneo Legislative Council finally agreed to accede to the Malaysia Agreement on 12 September 1962 after presenting the 20-point agreement proposed by Tun Fuad Stephens during the negotiations to form Malaysia.
Despite this development, many leaders were apprehensive and had reservations on the new idea of Malaysia especially among the native chiefs of Sabah known as the Orang Kaya-Kaya regarding the rights of the state within the new federation.
After series of discussion and consultation, a proposal was made by the State Legislative Opposition Leader and traditional native chief, G. S. Sundang of the United Pasok-Momogun Kadazan Organisation to erect an oath stone summarizing the guarantees given by the Malaysian government to Sabah while reiterating the loyalty of the people to Malaysia.
The then District Officer of Keningau, Tan Sri Datuk Richard Lind (later to become the State Secretary of Sabah), was charged to oversee the erection of the Oath Stone and suitable boulder was taken from the Pegalan River near Kampung Dangulad, a small village in Keningau and carved by Garukon Gurun, former Sergent Major of the legendary North Borneo Constabulary.
A plaque was commissioned and made by the Thornycroft Shipyard in Singapore to be affixed to the stone.
The wording on the plaque of the Batu Sumpah was written using the old Malay spelling system, submitting the government’s guarantees respecting the three conditions set by the natives in exchange for their pledge of loyalty to the government.
The three conditions are: freedom of religion in Sabah, the Sabah government to have authority on land issues, and that the native customs and traditions be respected and upheld by the government.
The Keningau Oath Stone was unveiled and officiated on 31 August 1964 at the compound of the old Keningau District Office.
A Maningolig ritual with an animal sacrifice was performed by a Bombolian or traditional priest held in accordance with the traditional beliefs of the Murut people to bind the guarantees.
The event was witnessed by the Federal Minister of Labour, V. Manickavasagam, state officials and community leaders including the Chief Minister, Tun Fuad Stephens of the United National Kadazan Organisation, G. S. Sundang, Ajamain bin Duraman the Chief of Police in Keningau, and other traditional native chiefs.
The Oath Stone was erected as a reminder of the guarantee of the Federal Government to honor the 20-point agreement made with Sabah before the formation of Malaysia.
Recently the people of Sabah were furious that unknown parties had tampered with the Oath Stone (Batu Sumpah) in Keningau and removed certain words referring to the government of Malaysia. Sabah leaders are calling for the restoration of the three important words — Kerajaan Malaysia Jamin — on the historical Batu Sumpah in Keningau.
Sabahans insist that these words ref lect the “guarantees” from the federal government to the conditions set and, in return, of the interior natives’ loyalty pledges towards the government.
To many Sabahans , the Batu Sumpah is a heritage that needs to be protected, and that no one can change history.
If the wording are taken off, then it must be put back lest some people may complain that by removing the key words, the Government of Malaysia can now say that they do not guarantee religious freedom; forest and natural resources belong to Sabah and the safeguarding of native customs, culture and traditions.
Datuk Nancy should know that based on the native custom, the local inhabitants believe that if the Minister and the Federal Government and its leaders failed to respect the importance and tradition of the “sumpah” or sworn oath, they could incur the full wrath of the “sumpah” in due course.
Being a cabinet minister at the national level, Datuk Nancy should have known that as late as January this year, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Tan Sri Joseph Kurup has proposed that the government declared the ‘Batu Sumpah’ in Keningau as a national heritage and insisted that the proposal was an important step due to the historical value of the monument to the natives of Sabah.
Tan Sri Joseph Kurup, Minsiter in charge of National Unity in the country, also reminded us that the Batu Sumpah in the form a giant footprint in front of Keningau district office erected in the 60’s is a symbol of the loyalty of the native communities to the Federal Government. Hence, the Federal Government must reciprocate.
As a lawyer Datuk Nancy should have known that Batu Sumpah is akin to the British’s Magna Carta, which is the most important document in British history; a peace treaty to which King John was forced to append his seal by a group of rebellious barons in 1215, it has gone on to become a symbol of liberty and individual freedoms through the ages and around the world.
Although only three of the 63 original clauses in this “great charter” remain in force in Britain today, its declaration that everyone has the right to justice according to the rule of law has ensured continuing relevance.
Similarly in the case of Batu Sumpah, “The important words ‘Kerajaan Malaysia Jamin’ (Government of Malaysia Guarantees) which have been removed must be put back” and must prevail.