Report of the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak, 1962

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Report of the Commission of Enquiry, North Borneo and Sarawak, 1962
by the Commission of Enquiry in North Borneo and Sarawak
Regarding the formation of Malaysia,

Report of the

Commission of Enquiry,

North Borneo and Sarawak,


Knebworth House
Knebworth, Herts.
21st June, 1962.

The Right Hon. Harold Macmillan, M.P.,
Admiralty House,
London, S.W.1.


I beg to refer to your letter of the 3rd February, 1962, confirming, with the concurrence of the Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya, my appointment as Chairman of a Commission of Enquiry to visit Sarawak and North Borneo and setting out the Terms of Reference.

I have the honour to submit herewith a Report signed by myself and the four members of the Commission, together with a signed copy for transmission to Ihe Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya.

I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant,

Chapter Paragraphs
INTRODUCTION ......       1-9   15
1. ENQUIRY IN SARAWAK ......    10-94   18
2. ENQUIRY IN NORTH BORNEO ......   95-140   40
3. ASSESSMENT OF EVIDENCE ......  141-144   55
A—Recommendations on certain general matters ......  145-148   56
B—Recommendations by Sir Anthony Abell and Sir David Watherston ......  149-170   63
C—Recommendations by Dato Wong Pow Nee and Enche Mohammed Ghazali bin Shafie ......  171-234   74
D—Summary of Recommendations in Sections B and C, and Comments, by the Chairman ......  235-241   90
5. OTHER MATTERS ......  242-244   93
6. THANKS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ......  245-248   94
A. Itinerary ......   95
B. Census Abstract ......   97
C. Cardinal Principles of the rule of the English Rajah ......  101
D. Legal Meaning of the Term "Native" ......  102
E. North Borneo and Sarawak Governments Papers on Malaysia ......  104
F. "Memorandum on Malaysia" Submitted by the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee ......  112
Map of the Borneo Territories


The Right Hon. Lord Cobbold Chairman
Sir Anthony Abell, K.C.M.G. Nominated by the Government
of the United Kingdom
Sir David Watherston, K.B.E., C.M.G.
Dato Wong Pow Nee, P.M.N. Nominated by the Government
of the Federation of Malaya
Enche Mohammed Ghazali bin Shafie


"Having regard to the expressed agreement of the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Federation of Malaya that the inclusion of North Borneo and Sarawak (together with other territories) in the proposed Federation of Malaysia is a desirable aim in the interests of the peoples of the territories concerned—

(a) to ascertain the views of the peoples of North Borneo and Sarawak on this question; and

(b) in me light of their assessment or these views, to make recommendations."


1. The idea of a political association between Malaya, Singapore and the three Borneo territories of North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei has been discussed many years.

2. On the 27th May, 1961, the Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman, in a speech at a Press luncheon in Singapore, spoke favourably about the practical possibility of such an association. Tunku Abdul Rahman's constructive proposals were welcomed by the British Government, and it was announced on the 13th October that he had accepted an invitation to come to London in November 1961 for discussions with the object of reaching an understanding on the broad issues and to prepare the way for consultation with the Borneo territories without which no commitment could be entered into.

3. In the meantime, on the 23rd August, 1961, broad agreement had been reached in principle between the Prime Ministers of the Federation of Malaya and Singapore for a merger of the two territories. A Memorandum setting out Heads of Agreement for the proposed merger was published as a Singapore White Paper[2] on the 15th November, 1961.

4. The London discussions were held from the 20th—22nd November, 1961, and a Joint Statement by the British and Malayan Governments was issued on the 23rd November, 1961.[3] An extract from the text of the Joint Statement is reproduced below:

“In a series of meetings in London this week British and Malayan Ministers examined the proposal to create a 'Federation of Malaysia' which would embrace the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei.
2. In the light of a full study of the problem which has been going on for some months, the British and Malayan Governments are convinced that this is a desirable aim.
3. The Ministers took note with satisfaction of the Heads of Agreement recently negotiated between the Goverments of Malaya and Singapore for the merging of the State of Singapore with the Federation.
4. Before coming to any final decision it is necessary to ascertain the views of the peoples of North Borneo and Sarawak. It has accordingly been decided to set up a Commission to carry out this task and to make recommendations. The Commission will be composed of a Chairman and four members, two nominated by the British Government and two by the Malayan Government. In the light of the Commission's report the two Governments will decide what further steps should be taken. (The terms of reference of the Commission are attached at Annex A.[4]
5. At the same time the views of the Sultan of Brunei are being sought.
6. In regard to defence matters it was decided that, in the event of the formation of the proposed Federation of Malaysia, the existing Defence Agreement between Britain and Malaya should be extended to embrace the other territories concerned. It was, however, agreed that the Goverment of the Federation of Malaysia will afford to the Government of the United Kingdom the right to continue to maintain bases at Singapore for the purpose of assisting in the defence of Malaysia, and for Commonwealth defence and for the preservation of peace in South—East Asia (The text of the arrangements agreed is attached at Annex B.[5]


The appointment of the Chairman and members of the Commission was announced by the British and Malayan Governments on the 16th January, 1962. Great Public interest had been amused by Tunku Abdul Rahman's statement in May, and the Governments of North Borneo and Sarawak issued papers [6] explaining the purpose of the Commission and setting out the idea of Maiaysia in simple terms in order to assist people to understand the issues on which their views would be sought. There had been much discussion on the subject in the local Press which continued throughout our visit. The setting up of the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee following a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Regional Conference in Singapore in July 1961 also resulted in useful unofficial exchanges of views between representatives from Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak (including unofficials members of the Legislative Council and Council Negri), together with observers from Brunei. A copy of the committee's “ Memorandum on Malaysia "[7]. dated 3rd February, 1962, was submitted for consideration by the Commission.

5. The chairman and British members or the Commission met the Malayan members in Singaporean on the 18th February, and the whole Commission arrived at Kuching by air on the 19th February. We held our first full meeting same afternoon, and began hearings in Kuching on the following day. Prior to our arrivaI, the Governments of North Borneo and Sarawak had made preparatory arrangements for our travel and accommodation in the two territories. Our Secretary had also visited Kuching and Jesselton during the preceding week.

6. All persons who wished to submit written memoranda to the Commission were invited to do so, In response to this invitation we received some 2,100 letters and mernoranrla (nearly 600 in North Bonteo and over 1,600 in Sarawak) from town boards, district council, associations of many kinds, political parties, chambers of commerce, trade unions. religious leaders, members of executive and legislative councils, native chiefs and community leaders, and large numbers of individual members of the public. From these memoranda we obtained much valuable material and assistance. 7. An open invitation to appear before the Commission was extended to all persons who wished to give oral evidence. We are glad to be able to record that full advantage was taken of this invitation and that as a result we were able to meet and talk with large numbers representative individuals and bodies, many of whom had submitted written memoranda which we were able to discuss with them. The willingness of the public to come forward and stale their views quietly and responsibly was almost everywhere impressive and gratifying. Our itinerary (Appendix A) had been so planned that representatives from every District in each Territory had an opportunity to meet the Commission at selected District centres. We thus held 50 hearings at 35 different centres (10 centres in Sarawak and 15 in North Borneo).

8. Over 4,000 persons appeared before us in some 590 groups which varied in size from 1 to over 50. Most groups appointed one or more of their number to act as spokesman, and we took pains to ensure as far as possible that anyone else who wished to state a different view, or to contribute additional points, was given full opportunity to do so. All our hearings were conducted in private. Assurances were given that evidence and memoranda submitted to us would be treated as confidential to the Commission; where views are attributed in this Report to particular organisations or bodies, they had already been made known in the Press by the organisations or bodies themselves.

9. During our tour we paid an informal courtesy call on His Highness the Sultan of Brunei, who graciously received us with his principal Ministers.

  1. As set out in Annex A of Cmnd.1563.
  2. Published in Singapore as Cmnd. 33 of 1961.
  3. Published in the United Kingdom as a White Paper (Cmnd. 1563).
  4. See page vi.
  5. Not reproduced.
  6. "North Borneo and Malaysia" Jesselton. February 1962; "Malaysia and Sarawak" Kuching. January 1962 (Reprodused in Appendix E.)
  7. Reproduced in Appendix F.

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