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missingyearsinSabahs
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CaseyLee
|April4,2011
ThereisapocketofthepastwhichismissingfromSabah'shistoryandlittleattemptis
beingmadetofindthispieceofthepuzzle.

KOTAKINABALU:Sabahismissingachunkof
itshistoryand,accordingtolocalhistorians,thereisalackofresearchandstudiesbeing
conductedtorectifythis.
LocalhistoryexpertsareoftheviewthatthereisstillagreyareaoverhowSabahwas
developedbeforeitenteredintotheFederationofMalaysia.
Theyarestillsearchingforpiecesofthepuzzleofwhathadtranspiredbetweenthetime
whenSabahwasadministeredbytheBritishgovernmentaftertheJapanesesurrendered
attheendofWorldWarIIandtheformationofMalaysiain1963.
AccordingtoprofessorDrDannyWongofUniversitiMalaya(UM),whatisknownof
theperiodissketchyatbest.
HewasamongthosewholamentedthelackofstudiesonSabahshistoryduringthe
periodbetween1946and1963.
InhiskeynoteaddressonSabahshistoryduringthe50thanniversaryoftheSabah
Societyhere,hesaidwhatwasavailableisthepioneeringworkbythelateJames
Ongkili.
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ButhisresearchonSabahshistory,however,focusedmainlyonthepoliticalawakening
ofthestateinthe1960s.
Anotherexpert,associateprofessorDrBilcherBala,fromUniversitiMalaysiaSabah
(UMS),sharedWongsviews.
Hebelievesthattheeventswhichhappenedduringthattimearethekeytounderstanding
howSabahandSarawakweregroomedbytheBritishtoformMalaysia.
HeexplainedthatSabahwasaBritishprotectorateadministeredbytheBritishNorth
BorneoCompanybeforetheoutbreakofthewar.
Direstraits
WhenSabah,leftinshamblesbyAlliedbombingsduringWorldWarII,washandedover
totheBritishadministrationafterthewarended,theBritishpoliticalmastersweretasked
torebuildthebasicinfrastructures,amenities,educationalsystemandmedicalfacilities
forthewelfareofSabahanswhohadsurvivedtheJapaneseoccupation.
SabahwasbombedbytheBritishandtheUSbeforetheytookoverthestateunder
OperationBurningBorneo.
Soafterthewar,theBritishcamebacktorebuild,includingtheschools,andsendthe
childrenbacktoschools,Balasaid.
ThepurposeoftherebuildingeffortswastoprepareSabahforindependence.
ThiswaspartofanagreementthattheBritishhadsignedwiththeUStoletgooftheir
coloniesandgivethemthefreedomofselfgovernance.
However,theBritishseconomywasatthattimeindirestraitsandrebuildingSabah
wouldhavebeencostly.
TheBritishwerebankruptafterthewar.SotheyembarkedonaprojecttomakeSabah
andSarawakindependent,aspartofanagreementwiththeUS,toletgooftheircolonies
afterWorldWarII,onconditionthatthestateswouldbepreparedbeforetheyweregiven
independence,hesaid.
Duringtheperiod,theBritishimplementedthreedevelopmentpoliciestodevelopSabah
tobecomeastatecapableofselfgovernance.ItstartedwiththeFirstNorthBorneo
DevelopmentPlan(19481955)followedbytheSecondNorthBorneoDevelopmentPlan
(19551960)andtheThirdNorthBorneoDevelopmentPlan(19591964).
Allthiswasmadepossiblewithvoluntaryaidfrominternationalorganisationsthatwere
formedunderthepurviewoftheUnitedNationsandothernations,Bilchersaid.
In1947,theBritishgovernmentwasearning6.8millionpoundinSabahbutithadto
spend11.5millionpoundtorebuildthestate.
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TheBritishhadtotakeloansfrominternationalbodies,includingthosefromtheUSand
Brunei,justtorebuildSabah,Balasaid.
ColomboPlan
EducationinSabahwasalsoanimportantaspectoftherebuildingeffortstodevelop
leaderswithpoliticalvisioninpreparationforthegrantingindependencetothestate.
TeachersandtechnicalskilltrainersweresentfromAustralia,England,NewZealand,
SingaporeandIndiatohelptrainthelocalpopulation.
Nativevoluntaryschools,orschoolsthatwerebuiltbyvillagersontheirownlands,were
staffedbyforeignteachersbroughtinasvolunteers.ThiswasencouragedbytheBritish
administrators.
In1961,therewere30nativevoluntaryschoolsandbythetimeSabahwasindependent,
therewere520nativeschoolsthatwereconvertedintogovernmentschools,Balasaid.
In1950,whentheBritishandCommonwealthnationsintroducedtheColomboPlan,
Sabahansweresenttostudyoverseasunderscholarshipsfortechnicalskilltrainingand
highereducation.
ManySabahansweresentundertheColomboPlan.Manywhobecamepoliticalleaders
duringindependenceandtheformationofMalaysiaweretrainedundertheColombo
Plan,hesaid.
By1961,talksontheFederationofMalaysiawereproposedinthenewlyindependent
stateofMalayaandthiswaswhatSabahandSarawakhadbeengroomedfor.
ThefederationofMalaysiawasamergingprogrammeundertheinfluenceoftheBritish,
asastrategicmethodtofightagainstcommunismbecauseSabahandSarawakwouldbe
toofragileiftheywerealone,especiallywithIndonesiahavinganinterestinbothstates.
Soinaway,theBritishletSabahandSarawakjoinwiththePeninsulatoformMalaysia
asamatterofcooperationtoworktogetherindevelopment,withthehopethatMalaya
wouldhelpSabahtodevelopitself.
SotheperiodisverysignificantbecauseitwasatimewhentheBritishbasicallybrought
upthepeopleofSabahandSarawakaftergoingthroughtheJapaneseoccupation,Bala
said.
Greatefforts
AccordingtoBala,theBritishhadstruggledandexpendedgreateffortsdespitenot
havingenoughfundstorebuildanddevelopSabah.
IftheBritishdidntcare,Ithinkwewouldntbewherewearetoday,hesaid.
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Bala,whocompiledthisinformationwhilewritinghisdoctoralthesis,saidthiswasonly
abriefhistoryofthattimeandthereisstillthe17missingyears.
Otherthanacertainlackofinterestbyresearchers,historicaldocumentscorrespondingto
thetimesarehardtocomebyasmostareinoverseasarchivesandlibraries.
WehavefewdocumentsduringtheperiodbecauseitwasduringtheBritishcolonial
administrationandmostofthemareinthearchivesinLondonorintheLibraryofthe
CongressintheUS.
WehaveveryfewhistoriansinSabahdoingstudiesonSabahandSarawakandthere
werenotmanypeoplekeepingrecordsofthetwostatesuntilafter1963.
Ifanyonewantstodoastudyaboutthisperiod,theywouldhavetoenrolinthe
UniversityofLondontodotheresearchortheywouldhavetogainaccesstothearchives
inLondonortheLibraryoftheCongress,hesaid.

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