Wednesday, 12 August 2015
Last week, we looked at the build-up to the constitutional crisis in Sarawak involving Stephen Kalong Ningkan expressed in five letters.
On June 16, 1966, the Governor of Sarawak received a letter signed by 21 members of the Council Negri to the effect that the writers no longer had any confidence in Stephen Kalong Ningkan, as their Chief Minister.
The Governor thereupon wrote on June 16 that from representations he had received, he was satisfied that the plaintiff had ceased to command the confidence of the Council Negri and invited Ningkan to resign.
In his reply of June 17, Ningkan informed the Governor that the Governor’s views as to the loss of confidence of the members of the Council Negri in him was not supported by the meeting of the Council Negri held on the June 14 and he requested the names of those who had signed the representations.
In reply to this letter, the Governor on the same date informed Ningkan as he had refused to tender the resignation of members of the Supreme Council, the Governor declared that Ningkan and other members of the Supreme Council had ceased to hold office and appointed Tawi Sli as Chief Minister forthwith. The Governor also forwarded a list of those who had signed the representations and Ningkan commenced proceedings in the Sarawak High Court against the Governor as the first defendant and Tawi Sli as the second defendant. On Sept 7, 1966, the ruling Chief Justice of Borneo, Justice Harley, delivered his decision on Ningkan’s suit: “Has the Governor in Sarawak power at all to dismiss the Chief Minister? In considering this question, we may start with section 21 of the Interpretation Ordinance, the general effect of which is that where there is power to appoint (and it is not disputed that the Governor has power to appoint a Chief Minister) there is power to dismiss. However, where the appointment is ‘subject to the approval of some other person, the power of dismissal shall only be exercisable subject to the approval of such other person’. If the appointment of a Chief Minister is subject to the approval of Council Negri, then by this section 21 dismissal also would be subject to its approval.
“In Sarawak, the Chief Minister’s dismissal is quite simply beyond the powers of the Governor unless (a) the Chief Minister has lost the confidence of the House, and (b) the Chief Minister has refused to resign and failed to advise a dissolution.
“I do not think that the Chief Minister of Sarawak was ever given a reasonable opportunity to tender his resignation or to request a dissolution. He was never even shown the letter on which the dismissal was based until court proceedings started, although it is true that at the moment of dismissal a list of signatories was sent to him with the letter from the Governor dated 17th June. That list and that letter were typed on the same date as the publication in the Gazette of the dismissal of the plaintiff, who was given no time at all to consider the weight or effect of the move against him. Plaintiff did not refuse to resign: he merely expressed doubts whether in fact he had ceased to command a majority and requested ‘that the matter be put to the constitutional test’.
“My task is simply to interpret the written word of the Constitution. On such interpretation the case presented in the statement of claim is unchallengeable. There will be judgement for the plaintiff as prayed.”
Judgment for Stephen Kalong Ningkan.
And so Stephen Kalong Ningkan had finally won the day. But victory was short-lived. The Federal Government at that time was facing fierce opposition to the concept of Malaysia. Brunei refused to join, and Singapore – the original partner to Malaysia – had seceded from the Federation. Indonesia started the Confrontation Wars. The Philippines still kept alive their claim to Sabah.
There was internal racial tension, which in 1969 culminated in the May 13 riots. The new nation of Malaysia was under immense pressure after its baptism of fire in the world of nations. The loss of Sarawak would have been the knockout blow for the new nation.
It was inevitable that the Federal Government declared a state of emergency which legally ended Ningkan’s reign as Chief Minister of Sarawak. In a strange way, Ningkan was sacrificed to ensure the survival of Malaysia.
Ningkan challenged the emergency declaration right up to the Privy Council, but on each occasion he was defeated. After that his political career descended into oblivion and outside Sarawak he is hardly known or ever mentioned, even though he was the first Chief Minister of Sarawak. You can hardly find his images, even on the Internet.
However, there has been a unique revival of his name through an unusual way. Whenever any student studies or researches the constitutional law of Malaysia, or whenever there is a leading constitutional case before the Malaysian courts, there will be reference to the leading case law authorities involving Stephen Kalong Ningkan or bearing his name.
His cases are standard text book material on Malaysian constitutional law. A most recent example was the recent constitutional crisis in Perak last year, where the Malaysian Courts had to decide whether the legal Menteri Besar is Nizar or Zambry.
Yet few people know or appreciate this statesman of Sarawak and Malaysia who fought a lonely battle in the face of overwhelming odds and had a never-say-die spirit even when the odds were heavily stacked against him.
History is fraught with stories of men who never give up no matter how great the odds against them. I hope that my maiden articles the last three weeks will revive your memory of him and make him a less forgotten hero of Borneo and Malaysia. Have a productive week.
The Sarawak Government is talking about the Malaysia Agreement 1963 where the Federal Government has been in non-compliance.
KUCHING: Senior Minister James Masing thinks that Putrajaya may have misread what Sarawak means by Full Autonomy. “We are not talking about the Sarawak Government taking over Federal Government Departments in Sarawak or having these departments handed over to the control of locals.”
“When we say Full Autonomy, we are referring to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) where the Federal Government has been in non-compliance.’
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak passing off the handover of Federal Government Departments in Sarawak as Full Autonomy, he added, would not help address the situation, the frustration among the people. “Putrajaya must address the issue of non-compliance on MA63.”
“The Sarawak4Sarawakians movement is the messenger of the message of frustration. Don’t try to kill it. Listen to them.”
Any further procrastination on addressing the non-compliance issue on MA63, he warned, would simply strengthen and give credibility to those certain groups pushing for secession. “So, procrastination and playing ignorance in addressing the frustration of the people will not work. They people are now well-educated. They read.”
“MA63 was the basis for Sabah and Sarawak to be in Federation with Malaysia. This basis must be honoured for the Federation to survive.”
Saying the call for secession was “stupid talk,” Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced today that Sabah and Sarawak will be given more autonomy.
Najib said he had instructed chief secretary to the Government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa to thrash out the autonomy details with the state secretaries of the two Borneo states, which will include streamlining of the administration.
“There is too much duplication (in work and decision making processes in state and federal governments).
“I will give the empowerment to Sabah and Sarawak,” he said at the launch of the National month and fly the national flag programme today at Padang Merdeka in Kuching.
He labelled the call for secession “stupid talk”, echoing a sentiment Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem said in his address earlier.
The prime minister said the decision of Sarawak's forefathers to become an independent state within Malaysia was apt as it had given Sarawak a lot of benefits like security and economic prosperity
The Sarawak chief minister had raised the question of giving Sarawak more autonomy on decisions to administer the state last June when the prime minister made a trip to Kuching. – August 10, 2015.
KOTA KINABALU, Aug 12 ― Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is well aware of the demands in Sabah for increased autonomy for the state and will soon address these concerns, a senior Umno leader here said in urging for an end to calls for secession.
State Umno deputy chairman Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak said the prime minister knows that these demands ― an increase in oil royalty payments and better compliance of the 20-point memorandum on the 1963 Malaysia agreement ― are issues closest to the hearts of Sabah natives.
“The prime minister knows that these are issues to Sabahans and that is a matter that can be achieved through negotiations rather than through armed conflict like secession from Malaysia.
“I am confident that all these issues will be addressed in due time,” he told Malay Mail Online in an email interview.
The newly-appointed communications and multimedia minister also insisted that the majority of Sabahans still believe in the ruling government and would not likely warm to idea of the state’s secession from Malaysia.
He pointed out that many are already wary of the numerous incidences of security breaches along the state’s porous east coast.
“Despite harping on these issues in the previous general elections, the opposition parties still failed to win the hearts and minds of the people as was evident in the 13the general election results,” he said.
In Kuching on Monday, Najib reportedly pledged to empower Sabah and Sarawak, saying he had instructed Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa to touch base with the state secretaries of both Borneo states and look into their demands for more autonomy.
Talk of secession become rife last year after a social media group called “Sabah Sarawak Keluar Malaysia” began gaining traction, especially among the rural youth of east Malaysia.
The group has taken up issues emotive to Sabahans such as the alleged grabbing of native customary land, the influx of illegal immigrants, the lack of infrastructure and development in the state, distortion of historical facts regarding Malaysia’s formation and oil royalty rights.
The movement, which claims to be under a UK-based non governmental organisation “Sabah Sarawak Union”, has been campaigning for a review of the 1963 Malaysia agreement.
It has also played up sentiments against the federal government and promoted an online petition urging for a review of the Malaysian Agreement.
Sabah police have issued a warrant of arrest for its founder, UK-based Doris Jones, but UK does not recognise sedition as a crime.
However, four volunteers of the movement are awaiting trial this September for allegedly promoting secession, which is deemed a crime under the Sedition Act.