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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 25, No. 3. 1962.

Borneo Speaks on the Federation

Borneo Speaks on the Federation

The British and Malayan Governments have agreed to a creation of a "Federation of Malaysia," embracing the eleven States of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Brunei, they have not gone beyond this.

A Commission was set up to view the feelings of the people of Borneo in this matter. It is good if we place ourselves in a position of better understanding toward North Borneo: For their future depends on the outcome of the Commission and their ability to understand the needs of the country.

The aim of the British Government is to grant independence to all Colonial Territories as soon as they are ready. Up until now Borneo has thought of itself standing alone or in association with Sarawak. But two political facts must be faced. These are:—

(1)The threat that Communisim is presenting to South East Asia. If any one territory in the Malaysia region should succumb to Communist domination it would only be a matter of time before the others would be placed in serious jeopardy of a similar fate. United, these territories would be in an immeasurably stronger position to contain and repel Communism.
(2)The tide of opinion in the world today is running strongly against Colonialism. Independence is likely to come sooner than has hitherto been anticipated. But the world into which an independent North Borneo would be plunged is a turbulent and predatory one, and there could only be a precarious future for North Borneo on its own, or even in association with Sarawak.

The British Government, feels that merger is the only way of fulfilling its responsibilities towards Borneo, in guiding it towards self-government. Merger with other States will secure them all against dangers from any quarter. The Government is of the opinion that the future welfare and happiness of Borneo, lies in their forming part of a larger unit.

Economically as well as politically, small countries are rapidly becoming out of place in the strenuous conditions of the modern world. Where nations are concerned, combination creates a unit of Government more powerful, efficient, and more capable of making life better for its members.

By itself or even in association with Sarawak, North Borneo would find it very expensive to exist as an independent territory, and its voice in the councils of the world would be small.

The people of Malaya and Borneo have cultural, economic, and historical ties which make them fit naturally together as a group. Malaysia offers for them, the prospect of sharing in the destiny of what the British Government believes will be a great, prosperous, and stable independent state within the Commonwealth.

The present Federation of Malaya comprises eleven States; each of which has its own constitution and Government. Each State has its own governor or head of State, and its own public service.

The problem, is to devise terms acceptable to both the Malayan Government and North Borneo with Sarawak, for the entry of these two territories into a new Federation of Malaysia.

From Malaya into Malaysia, is a vast step but it has to be taken. Singapore is also thinking of entry and if terms are acceptable to all parties, one vast Nation of Commonwealths will replace small and remote countries not able to stand alone.

It is necessary for the people of North Borneo to consider what powers they are prepared to concede in order to bring Malaysia into being. It is understandable that there should be apprehension, for Malaysia would mean that the people of North Borneo would have far less control over their own affairs than they exercise already, and that North Borneo would be relegated to the position of a relatively powerless province of a strong central government situated a thousand miles away. It is natural that the first instinct of the people of North Borneo should be to require a greater measure of local self-government than is afforded to states of the present Federation of Malaya. To press this too far, might not be in the best interests of North Borneo. It is fundamental to the concept of Malaysia that the federal government should be endowed with substantial powers; without them it will have no real or enduring strength and will fail in its purpose.

The most difficult task of the commision, will be to make recommendations which would reconcile needs and wishes with what Malaya is prepared to concede.

When the Federation of Malaya was formed arrangements were made to permit states to join gradually and smoothly. Similar arrangements extended over a longer period will be necessary with North Borneo and Sarawak. The intention would be to cause as little dislocation in the daily life of the people as possible and drastic changes are not contemplated.

The main issue before the people of North Borneo is simply this. They must assess the future and weigh the prospects Malaysia offers, of security from external aggression and internal subversion. They must consider how far they are prepared to give powers to the Central Government and yet safe guard the needs of its own people.

There are some, no doubt, who prefer no change in the existing order of things; to them the answer is: "The winds of change" are blowing. No good can come from refusing to face up to this fact. Events in the outside world are moving fast and unpredictably; there is danger that the entry into the Federation once missed, will not recur.

It will be the task of the commission to work out the plan for Malaysia. There is no reason 'o suppose this cannot be successfully accomplished and thereupon be a a guide to the independence these people in their hearts are hoping for.

Where is North Borneo?

North Borneo is a little known colony of Britain occupying the northern part of the large island of Borneo; from Singapore it is one thousand miles by sea.

It was completely devastated during the last war, and with the help of Britain, has been quietly re building itself.

The history of North Borneo before the coming of European traders and administrators is fragmentary and largely dateless. It is to be found in folk stories, the history of the Brunei Sultanate, accounts written by explorers and in a few historic remains. Documented history records that in the latter half of the nineteenth century the territory was in a turbulent state; the main river valleys were ruled largely by coastal overlords who dominated the countryside by plundering inland villages; head hunting in the interior was rife, whilst the coastal areas were subjected to attacks by sea-marauders whose activities paralysed such trade as existed. This was the state of the various enclaves of territory which now make up North Borneo when British rule commenced. Then in 1882, with the establishment of the British North Borneo Company, the whole territory was brought together by a series of agreements and for the first time administered under one government.