KOTA KINABALU: The charged debate over the re-interpretation of Malaysia’s history to reflect the peninsula’s dominance over the Sabahand Sarawak continues to ruffle the sensitivities of many who believe the two states are being given short shrift and robbed of their dignity.
Democracy Sabah or Desah, a Sabah-based NGO, said today that “people deserve to be told the truth” of how the facts have been distorted to dilute the role of the two former British colonies in the formation of Malaysia.
Influential former Sabah state secretary Simon Sipaun, who heads the NGO, said even federal statutes and the Federal Constitution seemed to reflect this though it was well-known that what is stated is not historical truth.
“Desah is perplexed that under Article 160 of the Federal Constitution, ‘Merdeka Day’ refers to Aug 31, 1957 and the Federation of Malaysia means the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1957,” said Sipaun days ahead of 49th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.
“Desah’s understanding of historical facts is that Malaya gained independence from Britain on Aug 31, 1957, six years before the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.
“North Borneo [as Sabah was then known] gained independence from the British on Aug 31, 1963 and Sarawak on July 22, 1963.
“Historical facts indicate that Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak gained independence on three separate and different dates respectively. How can it be possible for all of them to be celebrating their 55th year of independence on Aug 31, 2012?
“It will be more truthful to say that Malaysia is celebrating Malaya’s 55th year of independence on Aug 31, 2012,” Sipaun said.
The former state secretary, who also served as a commissioner on Malaysia Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) for several years after he retired, said such distortion of history was only causing alienation.
“In the process of creating and promoting genuine national unity and integration, the government should give prominence and priority to the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.
“Sadly it took the government 46 years just to acknowledge and accept it as Malaysia Day,” he said, adding that it was “better late than never”.
Sipaun was speaking after Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department VK Liew, seeking to defuse the controversy that has raged in Sabah for years, was quoted as saying that the Malaysian government recognised Sept 16 as Malaysia Day and had made it a national public holiday.
However, Lieu also drew comparison between the US and Malaysia when he pointed out that the US declared independence on July 4, 1776 and the other states joined on different dates, yet the US celebrates Independence Day on July 4 every year.
Sipaun said drawing such parallels was foolish because the minister was “not comparing apples with apples”.
“On July 4, 1776 it was the US and on July 4, 2012, some 236 years later, it is still the US. The US never became another country.
“In the case of Malaysia, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah never joined Malaya. Together they formed a new country altogether called Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.
“Desah strongly believes that genuine national unity cannot be achieved through the distortion of historical facts by people in power. It will only produce the opposite effect.
“Let the truth prevail,” he said.
Desah has gradually evolved from a civil society group formed recently to promote transparency in the state’s murky political world riddled with factionalism which, by and large, is believed to have eroded democracy and reduced voters’ rights.
It has also gone on a high-profile campaign to ensure straight fights between Barisan Nasional and the opposition in the impending 13th general election.