Monday, April 19, 2010

Remembering Stephen Kalong Ningkan: Sarawak’s First Chief Minister

Sarawak's first Chief Minister was an Iban, Stephen Kalong Ningkan.

Iban made up the largest ethnic group in Sarawak. Yet, until today, Stephen Kalong Ningkan is the only Chief Minister (CM) from this ethnic group. This is something that Malays in West Malaysia should think ......majority does not always hold the decisive power should we continue to be disunited.

I bet the same thing goes to Hulu Selangor and Sibu polls.

Stephen Kalong Ningkan: Borneo’s forgotten hero?

by Marcel Jude Joseph April 12, 2010, Monday-The Borneo Post

When we talk about the formation of Malaysia, a number of names are frequently mentioned — Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Donald Stephens and even Lee Kuan Yew, a Singaporean.

No one outside Sarawak, however, would likely mention the name of Stephen Kalong Ningkan, even though he was the state’s first Chief Minister, in office from 1963 to 1966. Recently, I came across an article which stated, “I’d like to highlight that Stephen Kalong Ningkan was a firm believer that Sarawakians were entitled to have full citizenship rights and to participate in Malaysia’s national development on par with the Malays on the Malaya Peninsula.

“You see, we the younger generations today, could not fully appreciate the true meaning of Sarawak and how our ancestors fought for their independence before because we weren’t there. I believe, if we were to experience it personally, then I think we’d know what Sarawak means. Even I am still in the dark over the whole thing.

“But take note here, that our early leaders fought for our rights and they struggled every day so that we now could have a much better future and to leave our mark in this world.”

Although Ningkan’s name is hardly mentioned outside Sarawak, law students and lawyers will never fail to come across his name, which is part of leading decided cases of Constitutional Law not only in Malaysia but throughout the Commonwealth.

The fainting incident

In Kuching on September 16, 1963, Khir Johari read the Proclamation of Malaysia in the Kuching Central Padang followed by the hoisting of the federal flag and the playing of ‘Negaraku’.

Ningkan then read the Proclamation of the Independence of Sarawak.

“Whereas one of the nine Cardinal Principles of the rule of the English Rajahs was that the goal of self-government shall always be kept in mind and that the people of Sarawak shall be entrusted in due course with the Governance of themselves;

“And whereas this principle accords with the policy which Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland have always pursued in the Governance of those territories of the Commonwealth for those affairs Her Majesty’s Government have been responsible.

“And whereas in pursuance of this principle Her Majesty’s Government by an agreement entered into on the 9th day of July, 1963, with the Government of the Federation of Malaya, the Government of the State of Singapore and the Governments of the Colonies of Sarawak and North Borneo it was agreed that the States of Singapore and the Colonies of Sarawak and North Borneo shall be federated with the Federation of Malaya, and that the said Federation shall be known as Malaysia;

“And whereas Constitutions for Malaysia and for the States of Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore have been promulgated: “And whereas by a Proclamation made under Section 2 of the Malaysia Act the 16th day of September, 1963 has been proclaimed as Malaysia Day:

“Now therefore I, Stephen Kalong Ningkan, the Chief Minister of Sarawak, hereby proclaim that Sarawak has this day attained independence as the State of Malaysia.”

After the Proclamation was read, the then Datu Abang Openg was sworn in as the Governor of Sarawak by the Chief Justice Sir Campbell Wylie.

It was a grand occasion and the Chief Justice, dignified by his wig in his scarlet and black robes was in the company of Ningkan and the Commissioner of Police PE Turnbull — who was in full ceremonial uniform — and was also in the company of the Commander of the British Forces in West Sarawak Brigadier FC Barton, in full khaki dress.

The swearing-in was then followed by a second state salute and the Inspection of the Parade.

The ceremony turned into a panic situation when towards the end of the parade, the Governor suddenly fainted and had to be seated.

Two doctors in audience, Drs Chong Chung Hian and Daniel Kok, were there to help the Governor and it was later on decided that he be sent to the Sarawak General Hospital for a precautionary check-up, which revealed nothing serious.

Was this incident purely a coincidence or perhaps it was prophetic of things to come for within no less than three years, Ningkan would no longer be Chief Minster and Sarawak would be under a state of emergency. How did it go all so wrong?

The proclamation of emergency in Sarawak

On Sept 14, 1966, a state of emergency was proclaimed in Sarawak and it read as follows:-

“WHEREAS WE are satisfied that a grave Emergency exists whereby the security of a part of the Federation, to wit the State of Sarawak, is threatened:

“AND WHEREAS article 150 of the Constitution provides that in the said circumstances WE may issue a Proclamation of Emergency:

“Now, therefore, we Tuanku Ismail Nasiruddin Shah ibni Al-Marhum Al-Sultan Zainal Abidin, by the Grace of God of the States and territories of Malaysia Yang di-Pertuan Agong in exercise of the powers aforesaid do hereby proclaim that a State of Emergency exists, and that this Proclamation shall extend throughout the territories of the State of Sarawak.”

Events leading to the emergency

Ningkan was appointed Chief Minister on July 22, 1963, and continued to hold that office after Malaysia Day when Sarawak became one of the States of the Federation of Malaysia.

The Constitution of Sarawak, which in its present form came into force just before Malaysia Day, provides by Article 13 that the State Legislature shall consist of the Governor and one House to be known as the Council Negri. The executive authority of the State is vested in the Governor by Article 5.

By Article 6 a Supreme Council, or Cabinet, is set up to advise the Governor.

It consists of the Chief Minister with five other members, all appointed by the Governor from the membership of the Council Negri, and three ex officio members.

Article 7 deals with the tenure of office of members of the Supreme Council. If the Chief Minister ceases to command the confidence of a majority of the Council Negri, he is to tender the resignation of the appointed members of the Supreme Council, unless at his request the Governor dissolves the Council Negri.

An appointed member may resign at any time and his appointment, if he is not the Chief Minister, may be revoked by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister.

Members, other than the Chief Minister and the ex officio members, are to hold office at the Governor’s pleasure. The Constitution of 1963 makes no specific provision for the dismissal of the Chief Minister by the Governor.

To be continued. For more news surf my website at

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