IT HAS been 55 years since we became a nation and Malaysians have many blessings to be thankful for.
Sadly however, it is clear that there are still many Malaysians – young and old – who are still ignorant about historical facts of how Sarawak and Sabah formed Malaysia.
Many, especially in peninsula Malaysia, still think that Sarawak and Sabah just played supporting roles. That is factually wrong and does not reflect the truth.
In actual fact, Sarawak, Sabah, Malaya and Singapore came together to form a country called Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963. Before that day, Malaysia did not exist.
It is disheartening that so many people are still ignorant and do not know these facts even after 55 years of being one nation.
I think the root cause can be traced to the primary and secondary school history curriculum.
History textbooks do not contain accurate information about how our country became a reality. There are still too many chapters missing.
During my history lessons at St Joseph Secondary School, Kuching, we learned very little about how Malaysia was formed.
I was taught more about world history like the China dynasties, the Roman Empire, the Industrial Revolution, the spread of western philosophies and the like – but little about how Sarawak, Sabah (British North Borneo), Singapore and Malaya decided to become one country in a strategic alliance for economic and security reasons.
I learned most of this later during the course of my work.
I think it is high time the Government corrects these misconceptions and fill in the missing links so that the new generation of Malaysians will know the truth and acquire the correct information.
The three crucial historical documents and treaties that led Sarawak, Sabah, Malaya and Singapore to form Malaysia must be studied thoroughly, especially for the benefit of the younger generation.
This ignorance about the true historical facts plagues not only peninsula folk but also youths in Sarawak and Sabah.
Many of them are unaware about the status of Sarawak and Sabah as equal partners in Malaysia.
The documents are the Cobbold Commission Report 1962, the Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee 1962 and the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
These three documents were crucial in the signing of the treaty in London on July 9, 1963, that saw leaders of Sarawak, Sabah, Malaya and Singapore agreeing to form Malaysia.
The documents tell us about the key figures who negotiated the formation of Malaysia. (Singapore left about two years later)
These documents also show the challenges faced by them in trying to create an independent country and about the terms and conditions they reached that spelled out the rights of the four partners.
There is another important event in 1976 that led to the Dewan Rakyat passing an amendment in the Federal Constitution that “downgraded” Sarawak and Sabah from a regional partner to just a state.
That too needs to be deliberated on.
Sarawakians have in recent years became very vocal in fighting for the state’s rights.
We must have more forums to allow the public to discuss issues concerning the autonomy of Sarawak within Malaysia.
The push for Sarawak and Sabah to regain their positions as equal partners must start from school.