Name: Magdalena Lampas
Book: Deals, Datus And Dayaks: Sarawak And Brunei In the Making of Malaysia
Author: Michael Leigh
Publisher: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre
Publication Year: 2018
Book Language: English

This book tells the story of Malaysia’s formation and its early struggle for survival. A treasure trove of recently de-classified records from the UK National Archives and the US Consulate in Kuching, demonstrate how the British, Singapore and Malayan governments seized upon the Brunei revolt, and Indonesian attacks across the Sarawak border, to justify their extensive use of coercive measures against the strongest opponents of the federation proposal, and to reinforce strong messaging that forming Malaysia was the best available future for Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore too.

Despite all of those efforts, new archival evidence shows how the political situation in Sarawak almost caused Malaysia to be aborted at the last minute. The book then goes on to document how strong international and internal pressures throughout 1964 and 1965 meant that the very survival of Malaysia was in doubt.

This book offers new insights into politics in Sarawak in the context of Malaysia’s formation. I recommend people to read through this book especially for those who wanted to know about the political conflict during the formation of Malaysia. The first chapter deals with the concept of Malaysia and focuses on the drivers for its formation, capitalising upon the May 1961 speech given by Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Prof Leigh then discusses in some detail how the opposition in Sarawak was weakened. The Ibans and Dayaks, who were the majority groups in Sarawak, were consulted throughout the process. Community leaders were brought to Malaya, to showcase the progress that had taken place. Promises of similar programmes and extra privileges to improve people’s livelihood were made. State autonomy was promoted. At the same time, they were warned of the rising threat of communism.

The Malayan and British Governments then appointed the Cobbold Commission to assess the feelings of people in the Borneo states. The author also mentions the impact of the 1962 revolt in Brunei on the formation of Malaysia.

– Magdalena Lampas, Transcriber

“After the Sarawak Alliance refused to accept any role for the Prime Minister and National Alliance leadership in selecting Sarawak’s first Chief Minister, Tunku made clear that there was absolutely no way he would agree to their choice of Temenggong Jugah as Sarawak’s governor. Tunku had veto power over who would fill the position. The Malaysia Agreement, signed in London, stipulated that the first Sarawak Governor would be nominated jointly by the Malayan Agong and British Queen. In the correspondence that ricocheted between Kuching, London, and Kuala Lumpur, Tunku was quite disparaging towards Temenggong Jugah, suggesting instead that he be appointed to head some newly created ‘Council of Chiefs’. The British shot back that Dayak support was vital to the formation and success of Malaysia. It was Dayaks who populated the border regions subject to Indonesian attacks. With the imminent arrival of the UN Secretary-General’s mission to access whether the local population had voted in favour of federation, Dayaks could not be seen to withdraw their support for Malaysia, as the Temenggong had suggested in an angry outburst, after hearing of his rejection. Should Temenggong Jugah’s lack of any formal education be the issue, the British Governor suggested the names of three other Ibans: Edward Jerah, John Nicol and Edward Brandah.” – page 65

This book is available at the Perdana Library. If you are interested in reading or borrowing the book, please visit our Library here at Putrajaya, or contact us 03-88858961 (Library Counter).