Tengku Abdul Rahman
The Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya, Tengku Abdul Rahman, announced in Kuching 8th July in 1961 that he had sent a memorandum to Britain on his Greater Malaysia Plan which suggests the appointment of a commission to come and to examine and work out a proper constitution under Brunei, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore would federate with Malaya.

He said that he had asked for a "mixed commission" similar to that which had drawn up the Malaya's Constitution. He also said that he had proposed a name for the federation but he declined to divulge it because "the British might not agree".

The memorandum, the Tengku added had been taken to London by the Commissioner-General for the United Kingdom in South East Asia, Lord Selkirk.

The Tengku was speaking at a press conference held at the conclusion of his four-day visit to Sarawak after accompanying the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on a state visit to Brunei.

He spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Sibu and Friday in Kuching. Accompanying him were his wife, Puan Sharifah Rodziah and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, Inche Ghazali bin Shafie, and his wife.

At the press conference he made it clear that he would like to see Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei come into his Greater Malaysia Plan as States of Malaya, and had the following points to make:
  • that it would be difficult for the Borneo Territories to be independent on their own without having the necessary resources to meet the costs involved and to develop their countries.
  • that in coming in as states of Malaya, they would "enjoy absolute equality" with the other autonomous states.
  • that they would also enjoy the same privileged and benefits as the other states and that money would go towards their development.
  • that there was no need for the Borneo Territories to form a federation and achieve independence before joining in with Malaya.

People 'very receptive as whole'

Speaking of his visit to Sarawak, the Tengku said that he had found the people "very receptive on the whole" to his plan though they did not understand "all its points". He mentioned the fears expressed by some that the three Borneo Territories would, in his Plan, be "swallowed up" by Malaya.

The Tengku referred to an article appearing in a Sibu newspaper which in reporting him as saying that "people who do not agree with my plan must be Communists" had misinterpreted it. It was not exactly what he said.

The recalled that when he first announced his plan for a closer association of South east Asian States, the Communists had criticised ut "very strongly". The were now critical of his plan for a Greater Malaysia. In this context he felt that those who had disagreed with his ideas before even knowing what it was all about, were like the communists.

There were "absolute need", he declared, for close cooperation between the countries involved in his personal.  This was obvious to all those countries which had neither population strength nor the financial resources required for development to become independent on their own.

"Independence costs a lot of money - setting up embassies, legations and defence. If I am not mistaken, it roughly costs us $5,200,000,000" to carry out our five-year development plan. I do not think the Borneo Territories have that much money," he said.

Referring to a report that the leader of Party Rakyat in Brunei, Inche A.M. Azahari, had said that Brunei could have independence without having to depend on federation for it, the Tengku asked how that was possible when Brunei had not one technical officer or doctor. It would, he remarked, make "a mockery of independence".

He added: "One has to look at things broadly and from all angles because many countries who have achieved independence have not got on so well with it. But some, like ourselves, have benefited a lot".
"When I said federation with the Borneo Territories, I mean that they should be the same as the other states of Malaya. We have 11 states that form the Federation of Malaya and if the Borneo Territories decide to come in there will be 14 - all enjoying absolute equality, one with the other".

Worrying factor

The Tengku continued by saying that another factor which might worry people in Borneo, as it had worried others in the Malayan states, was whether they would be autonomous.

He explained that the Federal Constitution embodied a constitution for each of the 11 states and he went on to describe the powers held by the Federation Government and those by the States. He also described the basis on which the States received subsidies from the Federation Government to help them run their internal affairs.

The Tengku then went on to say that, what he had in mind for the Borneo Territories was not "a greater federation" but a simple one. The greater federation was with Singapore because it was politically advanced and it was in "our interests" to have Singapore as a separate state forming a greater federation with the Federation looking after its external affairs, defence and internal security.

The set-up which he had in mind for Borneo would entitle a man from Sarawak to even be the Prime Minister of the Federation. There would be states election and adult franchise and whichever political party won the election would run the state.

He also pointed out that if the party in power in a state was allied to (or actually belonged to) the party forming the Federation Government, its leaders could become Cabinet Ministers.

It was next pointed out to the Tengku that apart from Brunei-Sarawak and North Borneo were still colonies and he was asked whether it would be possible for them to federate with Malaya before they achieved independence.

In reply, the Tengku recalled that Malacca and Penang were once British Settlements. 

Asked whether there should be a federation of Borneo Territories first, he thought that there was no need for it because each territory would be an autonomous state and there would be no point of having "a federation within a federation".

The United States of America, he recalled had taken in Hawaii and Alaska as additional states and the people in them enjoyed the same benefits and privileges as the Americans themselves.

'We also have underdeveloped states'

When it was pointed out that the fear of the disparity in the political and economic development between Malaya and the Borneo Territories had raised certain doubts as to how the latter were to receive equal benefits, the Tengku pointed out that in his country there were also underdeveloped states, like Kelantan and Pahang.

They were receiving considerable assistance in development and he referred to the roads built there. There was no question of one state "getting the better of the other or the upper hand."

The Tengku was next drawn into commenting on a statement made by the Bruneian political leader, Inche Azahari, that his people "do not want history to record that they achieved independence through merger with the Federation of Malaya."

The Prime Minister replied, "In what other way can they achieve it. It means a lot more than running yourselves. You must take your place with other nations of the world. You must play your part in defending human rights. But are you able to defend yourselves? Are you able to set up diplomatic ties with other nations?"

The Tengku went on to ask what benefits would there be in the Borneo Territories forming a federation on their own even though they might achieve independence and pointed out that if this happened it would be difficult for Malaya to assist them if they were separated. By joining Malaya, they could enjoy equal rights with the other states.

In Malaya, he recalled, every state had  not at first welcomed the idea of a Federation of Malaya when it was proposed. The Rulers thought that their powers would be usurped but he did not think they enjoyed as many privileges as they did today. Furthermore, the Chinese were afraid the Malays "would get the upper hand" but today they were enjoying prosperity and here he instanced the contractors. It would be the same within Sarawak, he said and added: "What we do for the Malays and Dayaks, we will also do for the Chinese."

The Tengku, in reply to another remark that there was a fear of the smaller countries being "swallowed up by Malaya", offered to sponsor a visit of Sarawak journalist to Malaya "so that they could present the true facts to the people here" on their return.

He admitted that there was bound to be a lot of misunderstanding about the issues involved and that an assessment of the benefits to be derived from federating with Malaya could best be answered by such a visit. 

The Tengku next said that on the whole the people in Borneo, including "those in the know" in Brunei, were "very receptive" to his Plan. Referring to Brunei he felt that 'man-in-the-street' thought that Malaya made surplus of $230 million last year and gave the assurance that money would go towards the development of Sarawak and North Borneo.

He then declared: "We have done more for all our states in three to four years than the British have done in a hundred years. I have said this to the British themselves."

National Education System

Asked if federation would involve the Borneo Territories in Malaya's national system of education the Tengku said: "Yes, if you enjoy the priviledges, then there is the duty and responsibility, otherwise you will be broken up - you will never be united."

In Malaya, he continued, the Chinese were allowed to study their language "as much as they like" ("they can study one million characters" he said with laughter). But he pointed out it would be unfair to students if they left school without the School Leaving Certificate which was a necessary qualification for a job. That was why the Government had started out with national system of education and was providing free primary education for all for six years. He also referred to the vast sums of money now being spent on education.

The Tengku also agreed that the use of English as a medium of instruction in Sarawak schools was a unifying force. In the Federation, he said, English was being taught alongside Malay.

There were today 10,000 Malayan students abroad. It was necessary to know English to aspire for higher studies and that was why English was being taught alongside Malay.

The Tengku and his party arrived at Sibu by air on Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly  afterwards he made a tour of the town calling at the offices of the Sibu Urban and Sibu Rural district councils.

A reception was held by the Sibu Urban District Council in his honour and a speech of welcome was delivered by the chairman, Mr.Ting Chew Huat.

In his address Mr.Ting said: "Sibu is commonly acknowledged by visitors as progressive town. This statement is justified by the number of new buildings which have been erected since the war. The peoples, however, have always been friendly for we prepared to accept anybody without distinction of colour or creed.

"It is fitting here for me to say a few words about the Council. The Sibu Urban District Council was established in 1952 and it was not until 1958 when the people of this town were allowed to elect their own representatives to sit in the Council.

"The Council is autonomous except for certain matters, such as finance, which is still controlled by the Central Government. The relationship between the council and the central government has been good and for most of its important functions the Council is run under the guidance of the advisers from the Central Government."

Turning to the Greater Malaysia Plan, Mr.Ting endorsed what had been said on the subject by Yang di-Pertuan Agong in Brunei recently that the five territories should always closely be bound in a currency union and it was inevitable that they should work together for the common good.

Long-standing desire to visit Sibu

Replying the Prime Minister spoke of his long-standing desire to visit Sibu and said he had come to meet as many people as possible. 

He was glad that the first reception in Sarawak to his Greater Malaysia Plan had been good, adding: "The Plan has not been finalised yet, and I hope that when the complete plan is published you will continue to show equal enthusiasm."

In the evening the Tengku attended a reception given by the Malay community at the Abang Ali School. In his address he said he was grateful to meet people of various races there.

The Tengku was also presented with a Matu hat and Kenyah Parang while, Puan Sharifah Rodziah, received a Native handbag. 

On his return, he gave a press conference during which he invited Sarawak to send 12 journalists on a visit to Malaya. The Sibu visit ended with a reception at the Residency.

The following morning the Prime Minister left by speedboat for Durin, near Sibu, to visit the longhouse of Penghulu Jarrau.

The Tengku and his party left Sibu early on Thursday in the Royal Malayan Navy vessel, the Mutiara.

As it passed Binatang a crowd waved from the jetty. The Tengku then decided to call in and invited the people aboard. Later he spent 90 minutes visiting the town and talking to the people.

The Mutiara berthed at Kuching on Friday morning and at the wharf to greet the Prime Minister and his wife were the Governor of Sarawak and Lady Waddell.

He then inspected a Guard of Honour mounted by the Sarawak Constabulary, was introduced to members of the Supreme Council, religious leaders and the judges, and rowed across to the Astana.

The Tengku and his party were next taken on a tour of the capital by the Deputy President of the Kuching Municipal Council, Tuan Haji Satem. The tour ended at Batu Lintang Training College where the Director of Education, Mr.M.G. Dickson, conducted him on a tour of the buildings.

Later the Tengku returned to the Astana for a reception after which he attended prayers at the Mosque.

Before leaving for Singapore he held a press conference in the Information Office and paid a brief visit to Radio Sarawak, where he was interviewed. During his interview, he said: "One of the things I noticed when I arrived in Sarawak was the cordiality and the warmth of welcome of the people. This afternoon, of course, I had the opportunity to go to the Mosque and pray with the people there, and the way they greeted me and the way they got hold of my hand and wished me welcome touched me right to the bottom of my heart. Thank you very much for the welcome I have received since I have been here."

8th July 1961

***10 days later, Donald Stephens respond to Tengku's Greater Malaysia Plan. Please click this Donald Stephens Respond To Tengku Abdul Rahman's Greater Malaysia Plan in order to to understand the true story***

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