Question of Malaysia

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On 12 August, the Secretary-General announced the assignment of eight members of the Secretariat, headed by Laurence V. Michelmore as his representative, to serve on the United Nations Malaysia Mission. The Mission left New York on 13 August 1963 and arrived in Kuching, Sarawak, at noon on 16 August. The Mission was divided into two teams, each comprising four officers, one to remain in Sarawak and the other to work in Sabah (North Borneo). Both teams remained until 5 September. Observers from the Federation of Malaya and the United Kingdom were present throughout all of the hearings conducted by the Mission. Observers from the Republic of Indonesia and from the Philippines arrived only on 1 September and attended hearings in the two territories on 2, 3 and 4 September.

On 14 September, the final conclusions of the Secretary-General with regard to Malaysia were made public. These conclusions were based upon a report submitted to the Secretary-General by the Mission. This report stated that it had been understood that by the "fresh approach" mentioned in the terms of reference established in the request to the Secretary-General, a referendum, or plebiscite, was not contemplated. The Mission had considered that it would be meaningful to make a "fresh approach" by arranging consultations with the population through elected representatives, leaders and the representatives of political parties as well as non-political groups, and with any other persons showing interest in setting forth their views. During the Mission's visits to various parts of the two territories, it had been possible to consult with almost all of the "grass roots" elected representatives. Consultations were also held with national and local representatives of each of the major political groups and with national and local representatives of ethnic, religious, social and other groups, as well as organizations of businessmen, employers and workers in various communities and social groups.

As far as the specific questions which the Secretary-General was asked to take into consideration were concerned, the members of the Mission concluded, after evaluating the evidence available to them, that: (a) in the recent elections Malaysia was a major issue throughout both territories and the vast majority of the electorate understood the significance of this; (b) electoral registers were properly compiled; (c) the elections were freely and impartially conducted with active and vigorous campaigning by groups advocating divergent courses of action; and (d) the votes were properly polled and counted; the number of instances where irregularities were alleged seemed within the normal expectancy of well-ordered elections.

The Mission came to the conclusion that the number of persons of voting age detained for political offences or absent from the territories when voting took place was not sufficient to have affected the result.

The Mission also gave careful thought to the reference in the request to the Secretary-General that "he ascertain prior to the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia the wishes of the people of Sabah (North Borneo) and Sarawak within the context of General Assembly resolution 1541 (XV), Principle IX of the Annex." After considering the constitutional, electoral and legislative arrangements in Sarawak and Sabah (North Borneo), the Mission came to the conclusion that the territories had "attained an advanced stage of self-government with free political institutions so that its people would have the capacity to make a responsible choice through informed democratic processes." Self-government had been further advanced in both territories by the declaration of the respective Governors that, as from 31 August 1963, they would accept unreservedly and automatically the advice of the respective Chief Ministers on all matters within the competence of the State and for which portfolios had been allocated to Ministers. The Mission was further of the opinion that the participation of the two territories in the proposed Federation, having been approved by their legislative bodies, as well as by a large majority of the people through free and impartially conducted elections in which the question of Malaysia was a major issue and fully appreciated as such by the electorate, could be regarded as the "result of the freely expressed wishes of the territory's peoples acting with full knowledge of the change in their status, their wishes having been expressed through informed and democratic processes, impartially conducted and based on universal adult suffrage."


In submitting his own conclusions, the Secretary-General said he had given consideration to the circumstances in which the proposals for the Federation of Malaysia had been developed and discussed, and the possibility that people progressing through the stages of self-government might be less able to consider in an entirely free context the implications of such changes in their status than a society which had already experienced full self-government and determination of its own affairs. He had also been aware, he said, that the peoples of the territories concerned were still striving for a more adequate level of educational development. Taking into account the framework within which the Mission's task had been performed, he had come to the conclusion that the majority of the peoples of Sabah (North Borneo) and of Sarawak had given serious and thoughtful consideration to their future and to the implications for them of participation in a Federation of Malaysia. He believed that the majority of them had concluded that they wished to bring their dependent status to an end and to realize their independence through freely chosen association with other peoples in their region with whom they felt ties of ethnic association, heritage, language, religion, culture, economic relationship, and ideals and objectives. Not all of those considerations were present in equal weight in all minds, but it was his conclusion that the majority of the peoples of the two territories wished to engage, with the peoples of the Federation of Malaya and Singapore, in an enlarged Federation of Malaysia through which they could strive together to realize the fulfilment of their destiny.

The Secretary-General referred to the fundamental agreement of the three participating Governments and the statement by the Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of the Philippines that they would welcome the formation of the Federation of Malaysia provided that the support of the people of the territories was ascertained by him, and that, in his opinion, complete compliance with the principle of self-determination within the requirements of General Assembly resolution 1541(XV), Principle IX of the Annex, had been ensured. He had reached the conclusion, based on the findings of the Mission that on both of those counts there was no doubt about the wishes of a sizeable majority of the people of those territories to join in the Federation of Malaysia.


The Federation of Malaysia was proclaimed on 16 September 1963. On 17 September, at the opening meeting of the General Assembly's eighteenth session, the representative of Indonesia took exception to the fact that the seat of the Federation of Malaya in the Assembly Hall was being occupied by the representative of the Federation of Malaysia. Indonesia had withheld recognition of the Federation of Malaysia for very serious reasons and reserved the right to clarify its position on the question of Malaysia at a later stage

Recognition of Malaysia was also withheld by the Republic of the Philippines. During the general debate at the eighteenth session, both Indonesia and the Philippines expressed their reservations about the findings of the United Nations Malaysia Mission. The representatives of the United Kingdom and of the Federation of Malaysia replied to the Indonesian and Philippine charges and upheld the findings of the United Nations Malaysian Mission. On 12 December, during the meeting of the Credentials Committee, the USSR supported the Indonesian position with regard to the seating of the representatives of Malaysia in the General Assembly. A proposal by the Chairman of the Credentials Committee that the Committee find the credentials of all representatives in order was nonetheless approved.


United Nations Malaysia Mission. Report to Secretary-General and related annexes. Final conclusions of Secretary-General.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY—18TH SESSION Plenary Meetings 1206, 1233, 1234, 1237.

A/5574. Letter of 15 October 1963 from Chairman of Philippines delegation to President of General Assembly.

A/5676/Rev.1. Report of Credentials Committee.


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