Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Stephen Kalong Ningkam and his British expatriates

I came across a book accidentally in October 2014, entitled "The Struggle For Malaysian Independence", written by a retired police officer, Dato' J.J. Raj (Jr.). This book was also a personal accounts of a high-ranking PDRM officer serving the force during the early days of Independence and the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

The book was published by MPH in 2007. One of the very interesting chapter to me is Chapter 16, which is about his posting as senior police officer in Sarawak from 1966 to 1972.

That was also one of the most turbulent times in the history of Malaysia and Sarawak, when the first Sarawak Chief Minister Stephen Kalong Ningkam was removed from his position as Chief Minister in 1966, followed by a series of legal suits, igniting one of the very first constitutional crisis in the history of Malaysia.

The cause of this crisis was the deeply entrenched distrust between Stephen Kalong Ningkam and Tunku Abdul Rahman as well as civil servants from Peninsular posted in Sarawak (the author included). 

According to the author, the very first agenda after the formation of Malaysia by the then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman was to localise the civil services of Sarawak and Sabah including and especially the state police services.

Tunku saw this as an important task as though Stephen was the first local Sarawakian Chief Minister, his entire civil service and administration, ie the state secretary, the state treasurer etc were in the hands of British officers, when these positions should progressively replaced by local Sarawakians. However, according to the author, Stephen Kalong Ningkam refused to do away with the services of British expatriates, three years even after the formation of Malaysia Federation.

Considering the fact that the book was published in 2007, long before the emergence of the Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S) movement, I would hold that the views of the author, which was the first hand account of a person who had gone through those early days of the formation of Malaysia, are views that are not distorted to balance or counter the views of S4S.

Of course, this is the personal and subjective view of the author. The questions we as readers should ask are:

1. Why did Stephen Kalong Ningkam keep a large number of British officers in his administration even three years after the formation of the Federation of Malaysia and show no sign of replacing them progressively with local Sarawakians, if what the author said is true?
2. If there was such deep distrusts and misunderstandings between him and Tunku, what were the causes? Did he ever explain his views publicly in any publications or reports? If yes, where are those books or publications? Is it not a good idea for S4S to get them republished and circulated? Can the current BN state government under Adenan Satem be part of the effort as they are expected to have access to the state archive?
3. Stephen Kalong Ningkam was first removed by a majority of Members of the Sarawak State Legislative Council ("Council Negeri") and he was replaced by Penghulu Tawi Sli. What motivated these Council Members and Tawi Sli who were also fellow Sarawakians to revolt?

I do not have the answers.

If S4S and Adenan are not interested in it, perhaps those in UNIMAS should pick up the jobs and answer the questions.

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