Thursday, 17 September 2009

Sept 16, 1963 - For the record

Need to act to correct the wrong - Jeffrey
By Mariah Doksil and Sandra Sokialof the Borneo Post (Sabah Edition)

FORMER Internal Security Act detainee, Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, has lots to share about what he believes is “an act to correct the wrong”.

In an exclusive interview, Jeffrey, who is also the former Sabah Foundation director, recalled an incident when introducing his People Development Concept in 1991, which stole Tun Mahathir Mohammed’s attention, who was the premier leader at the time.

“I was just released from ISA. I was very vocal and was strongly defending Sabah’s rights as written under the Twenty Points with the hope to teach the people to be self-reliant,” he said.

Mahathir knew Jeffrey was unhappy with the Federal Government’s administration. The rebellious politician was not afraid to make a point – especially concerning Sabah.

He pointed out the fact that the Malaysia Agreement and the 20 Points were forgotten, and that Sabah was made as one of the 14 states in Malaysia when, by right, Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya should be equal partners in the federation.

Jeffrey even stressed that there was misinterpretation of the dates.

“We gained our independence on August 31, 1963 while Malaya gained their in 1957. We did not join Malaysia but helped form Malaysia … this fact must be corrected,” he said.

He was not afraid to tell the truth. He was determined to correct history.

But what shocked Jeffrey most was a statement from Mahathir.

“He (Mahathir) told me ‘Jeffrey, don’t teach people what they don’t know’ … I told him that it is my duty to tell the people what they don’t know so that they would be able to live freely from fully depending on Kuala Lumpur,” he said. The then Prime Minister told him to do the exact opposite.

Jeffrey said: “Such a statement clearly showed the Federal Government’s assumption and attitude towards Sabah and Sabahans.

“Their feared us and stopped us from knowing the truth. They kept us in an ‘iron grip’ when instead, they should be more open-minded about the matter and allow us some room to breath.”

According to Jeffrey, apart from the premier leader, he received a similar call from the police. He still remembered how the special branch told him that “anyone caught teaching people history in Sabah would be nipped in the bud”.

Jeffrey pointed out the three keywords of the 20 Points - Merge, Equal Partnership and Equal Power of Status - which are almost forgotten.

He was also upset when people seemed to be confused that Malaysia’s Independence Day was on August 31, 1957.

“Not many know that we gained our independence on the same date but in 1963, which led to the formation of Malaysia on September 16 in the same year.

“There is nothing wrong celebrating it since it was the date Malaya achieved her independence, as much as we respect their independence, we must not forget Malaysia’s birthday too,” he added.

He said today, Sabah and Sarawak have bigger representation in the government, based on the 12th General Election results in March last year.

“This is the first time in our political history that we have the power to review our rights, to be heard by the leaders in the federal government.

“The leaders need to realise that we need change and the fact that Sabah did not join Malaysia but formed it.

“It is such a disappointment when even teachers are brainwashed on the facts pertaining to the independence and formation of the country. Teachers should open their mind and do not be afraid to learn the truth. They are exposed to other sources of information such as electronic media, newspapers, and the Internet.

“The new generation of leaders should not delay to fight and highlight the truth about the Malaysia Day, this historical date must be recognised,” he stressed.

Jeffrey, who is currently Parti Keadilan Rakyat vice president, said that the Pakatan Rakyat had moved a step forward by recognising the Malaysia Day, and the Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has invited him to deliver a speech about the formation of Malaysia today at the Auditorium Dewan Jubli Perak, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah.

As for Human and Environmental Rights activist, Nilakrisna James, although she respects the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s 1Malaysia Concept, the September 16 issue, which highlights the autonomy of the Borneo States in that partnership in 1963, must be respected.

“With the introduction of the 1Malaysia, it is also crucial to understand that we became one nation under the umbrella name ‘Malaysia’ on September 16, 1963.

“If we are serious about the amalgamation of a cultural identity that can homogenise all races, I would imagine that the concept of 1Malaysia will eventually become that identity. Unfortunately, there was not much planning in the overall vision and how far this concept can turn into a culture is very vague,” she explained.

Nilakrisna expressed that up to now, there is very little respect for the historical reasons as to why Malaysia came into being only on 16th September and there has been too much emphasis in our history books on 31st August 1957 as the National Day that the state has effectively annihilated the struggle of those important people who fought for ‘1 Malaysia’ in 1963.

“My grandfather, OKK Sedomon Bin OKK Gunsanad, played an integral part in paving the way for the protection of Sabah’s autonomous rights under the 20 points agreement.

“If our past leaders had respected this history and this struggle the erosion of those rights would have been curtailed,” Nilakrisna said.

She stressed that the ethnic differences among Malaysian, despite modern globalisation and despite 1Malaysia, will be the rock of unity as a nation.

“There will be no tension if due respect is given to those differences. The only way in which we can learn to respect those differences is by allowing the people of the Borneo states to eventually adapt themselves to the reality of a “culture” of 1Malaysia,” she said.

“In this respect, September 16, 1963 should be known as ‘1Malaysia Day’, if “independence day” is just too much to swallow for our Federal leaders,” she pointed out

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