A nation reborn as Malaysia
POWER sharing dominated national politics in the early post-Independence years. Obvious issues like economic imbalances among the different races were not fully recognised. Neither were they adequately and speedily addressed.
In 1963, Tunku Abdul Rahman convinced Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak to join Malaya in a federal union to be known as Malaysia.
Malaysia held its first general election in 1964. Sabah only held its state elections in 1967 and parliamentary elections in 1969. Sarawak waited till 1969 to hold both its elections together.
Economic and political disputes soon developed between the mostly Chinese state leaders of Singapore and the mainly Malay federal government leaders of Malaysia.
Singapore’s People’s Action Party decided to contest in the peninsula. Its C.V. Devan Nair stood in the then largest parliamentary constituency of Bangsar and won. Although Singapore separated from the federation in 1965, he remained to serve his constituents the full term.
The polls saw MCA playing a vital role in placating the Chinese on Malay special rights and fear of a merger with Indonesia, resulting in the party being viewed as the voice of the community.
This period also saw the creation of two political parties: the Democratic Action Party on March 18, 1966, and Gerakan on March 24, 1968.
It was in the 1964 general election that a certain Dr Mahathir Mohamad was elected as Member of Parliament for Kota Setar in Kedah. He had been an Umno member since the party’s inception.
There was also growing tension with the Philippines and Indonesia which laid claim to Sabah and Sawarak respectively, This resulted in armed skirmishes with Indonesia during Konfrontasi (Confrontation).
There used to be local elections for members of municipal councils but they were suspended after the confrontation in 1964. The suspension was later made permanent under the Local Government Act 1976. The Sabah Alliance (USNO 28, SCA 4) won the 1971 state elections unopposed in all 32 constituencies and formed the state government.
Old days: A woman getting her identity checked before casting her vote in a school hall in Sejingkat for the Santubong seat in the first general polls in Sarawak. - Sarawak Information Department