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Malaysia Agreement

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Malaysia Agreement
Agreement relating to Malaysia between United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore
Agreement relating to Malaysia
Drafted15 November 1961; 62 years ago (1961-11-15)
Signed9 July 1963; 61 years ago (1963-07-09)
LocationLondon, United Kingdom
Sealed31 July 1963; 60 years ago (1963-07-31)
Effective16 September 1963; 60 years ago (1963-09-16)
  •  Malaya
  • North Borneo (Sabah)
  • Sarawak
  • Singapore
  •  United Kingdom
LanguagesEnglish and Malay
Full text
Agreement relating to Malaysia between United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore at Wikisource

The Malaysia Agreement,[a] or the Agreement relating to Malaysia between United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore (MA63) was a legal document which agreed to combine North Borneo (Sabah), Sarawak, and Singapore with the existing states of Malaya,[3] the resulting union being named Malaysia.[4][5] Signed in London, United Kingdom, the agreement has been in effect since 16 September 1963; Singapore was subsequently expelled from Malaysia not long after this agreement, becoming a sovereign state on 9 August 1965.[6]



Prior to World War II, British Malaya consisted of three groups of polities: the protectorate of the Federated Malay States, five protected Unfederated Malay States and the crown colony of the Straits Settlements.

Malayan Union


In 1946, the Malayan Union was established in British Malaya which comprised the Federated Malay States of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang; the Unfederated Malay States of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Terengganu, Johor; and the Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca. Meanwhile, Britain had direct rule over Singapore as a crown colony. It came through a series of agreements between the United Kingdom and the Malayan Union.[7] The Malayan Union was superseded by the Federation of Malaya on 1 February 1948, and achieved independence within the Commonwealth of Nations on 31 August 1957.[5]

Throughout the 20th century, decolonisation became the societal goal of the peoples under colonial regimes aspiring to achieve self-determination. The Special Committee on Decolonisation (also known as the U.N. Special Committee of the 24 on Decolonisation, reflected in the United Nations General Assembly's proclamation on 14 December 1960 of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples hereinafter, the Committee of 24, or simply, the Decolonisation Committee) was established in 1961 by the General Assembly of the United Nations with the purpose of monitoring implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and to make recommendations on its application.[8]

The committee is also a successor to the former Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories. Hoping to speed the progress of decolonisation, the General Assembly had adopted in 1960 the Resolution 1514, also known as the "Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples" or simply "Declaration on Decolonisation". It stated that all people have a right to self-determination and proclaimed that colonialism should be brought to a speedy and unconditional end.[9]

Under the Malaysia Agreement signed between the United Kingdom and Malaya, Britain would enact an act to relinquish sovereign control over Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (now Sabah). This was accomplished through the enactment of the Malaysia Act 1963, clause 1(1) of which states that on Malaysia Day, "Her Majesty's sovereignty and jurisdiction in respect of the new states shall be relinquished so as to vest in the manner agreed".[10]

Decolonisation, self-determination and referendum


The issue of self-determination with respect to the peoples of North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore formed the bedrock of yet another challenge to the formation of the Federation of Malaysia. Under the Joint Statement issued by the British and Malayan Federal Governments on 23 November 1961, clause 4 provided: Before coming to any final decision it is necessary to ascertain the views of the peoples. It has accordingly been decided to set up a Commission to carry out this task and to make recommendations ........

In the spirit of ensuring that decolonisation was carried in accordance with the wishes of the peoples of North Borneo, the British Government, working with the Malayan Government, appointed a Commission of Enquiry for North Borneo and Sarawak in January 1962 to determine if the people supported the proposal to create a Federation of Malaysia. The five-man team, which comprised two Malayans and three British representatives, was headed by Lord Cobbold.[11]



Disagreements in Singapore


In Singapore, the People's Action Party (PAP) initially sought merger with Malaysia on the basis of the strong mandate it obtained during the general elections of 1959 when it won 43 of the 51 seats. However, this mandate became questionable when dissension within the Party led to a split. In July 1961, following a debate on a vote of confidence in the government, 13 PAP Assemblymen were expelled from the PAP for abstaining. They went on to form a new political party, the Barisan Sosialis (BS), the PAP's majority in the Legislative Assembly was whittled down as they now only commanded 30 of the 51 seats. More defections occurred until the PAP had a majority of just one seat in the Assembly.

Given this situation, it would have been impossible to rely on the mandate achieved in 1959 to move forth with merger. A new mandate was necessary, especially since BS argued that the terms of merger offered were detrimental to Singaporeans – such as having reduced seats in the federal parliament compared to its population, only being able to vote in Singapore elections,[12] and the obligation that Singapore contribute 40% of its revenue to the federal government. To allay these concerns, a number of Singapore–specific provisions were included in the Agreement.[13] Singapore was ultimately expelled from Malaysia on 9 August 1965.

Brunei's refusal


Although Brunei sent a delegation to the signing of the Malaysia Agreement, they did not sign as the Sultan of Brunei wished to be recognised as the senior ruler in the entire federation and what had happened during the Brunei revolt.[14] It would continue to be a British protectorate until it became a sovereign state on 1 January 1984.

Kelantan's claims


On 11 September 1963, just four days before the new Federation of Malaysia was to come into existence, the Government of the State of Kelantan sought a declaration claiming that the Malaysia Agreement and Malaysia Act were null and void, or alternatively, that even if they were valid, they did not bind the State of Kelantan. The Kelantan Government argued that both the Malaysia Agreement and the Malaysia Act were not binding on Kelantan on the following grounds that the Malaysia Act in effect abolished Malaya and this was contrary to the 1957 Malaya Agreement that the proposed changes required the consent of each of the constituent states of the Federation of Malaya – including Kelantan – and this had not been obtained. This suit was dismissed by James Thomson, then Chief Justice, who ruled that the constitution had not been violated during the discussion and creation of the Malaysia Act.[15][16]



Over the decades after the agreement, many academics and politicians have argued that the promises made to Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah) have been eroded over time by the federal government.[17][18][19] After the historic initial defeat of the Alliance/Barisan Nasional (BN) government in the 2018 Malaysian general election, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government promised to look into Sarawak and Sabah's grievances in relation to the Malaysia Agreement which had been neglected.

After a proposed 2019 amendment to the Constitution of Malaysia to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak according to the original content of Malaysia Agreement failed to pass a two-thirds majority, the federal government compromised to review the agreement to remedy breaches of the treaty with a "Special Cabinet Committee To Review the Malaysia Agreement".[20][21] The seven agreed issues were:

The first meeting about these issues was held on 17 December 2018.[21] Despite the willingness of the federal government to review the agreement, reports surfaced that negotiations between Sabah and the federal government had not been smooth, with the latter dictating some matters of the review, causing the perception that the review was a one-sided affair with the government appearing reluctant to relinquish control of affairs.[22]

In another 2021 amendment to the Constitution of Malaysia, Article 160 (2) of the federal constitution was amended with the new definition of the term "federation" where the Malaysian federation is formed in accordance to the 1963 Malaysian agreement in addition to 1957 Malaya agreement.[23] In February 2022, the name of the head of government of Sarawak was changed from "Chief Minister" to "Premier". In 2024, it was proposed that Sabah does the same.[24]

In March 2022, 11 people from Sarawak filed writ into the High Court of Sarawak to declare the Malaysia agreement null and void because the people of Sarawak did not unconditionally exercise self-determination nor referendum was held before the formation of Malaysia. Therefore, Sarawak would not bind to the Malaysia agreement.[25] In April 2022, Government of Sarawak tried to strike to out the suit on reasons that the High Court had no jurisdiction to enforce or nullify an international treaty like MA63.[26] In May 2023, The high court in Kuching dismissed the suit because the Federal Constitution of Malaysia is the supreme law of the country and for Sarawak to leave the federation, the Federal Constitution needs to be amended.[27]



The Malaysia Agreement lists annexes of

Annex A: Malaysia Bill
               First Schedule—Insertion of new Articles in Constitution
               Second Schedule—Section added to Eighth Schedule to Constitution
               Third Schedule—Citizenship (amendment of Second Schedule to Constitution)
               Fourth Schedule—Special Legislative Lists for Borneo States and Singapore
               Fifth Schedule—Additions for Borneo States to Tenth Schedule (Grants and assigned revenues) to Constitution
               Sixth Schedule—Minor and consequential amendments of Constitutions
Annex B: The Constitution of the State of Sabah
               The Schedule—Forms of Oaths and Affirmations
Annex C: The Constitution of the State of Sarawak
               The Schedule—Forms of Oaths and Affirmations
Annex D: The Constitution of the State of Singapore
               First Schedule—Forms of Oaths and Affirmations
               Second Schedule—Oath of Allegiance and Loyalty
               Third Schedule—Oath as Member of the Legislative Assembly
Annex F: Agreement of External Defence and Mutual Assistance
Annex G: North Borneo (Compensation and Retiring benefits) Order in Council, 1963
Annex H: Form of public officers agreements in respect of Sabah and Sarawak
Annex I: Form of public officers agreements in respect of Singapore
Annex J: Agreement between the Governments of the Federation of Malaya and Singapore on common and financial arrangements
               Annex to Annex J—Singapore customs ordinance
Annex K: Arrangements with respect to broadcasting and television in Singapore

See also



  1. ^ Malay: Perjanjian Malaysia; Chinese: 马来西亚协定; Tamil: மலேசிய ஒப்பந்தம்


  1. ^ United Nations General Assembly Resolution 97 (1).
  2. ^ Versions in English, French, and Malay.
    Registered Nr. I-10760.
  3. ^ "Malaysia Act 1963".
  4. ^ See: The UK Statute Law Database: the Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom Malaysia Act 1963
  5. ^ a b See: The UK Statute Law Database: the Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom Federation of Malaya Independence Act 1957 (c. 60)
  6. ^ See: the Independence of Singapore Agreement 1965 and the Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom Singapore Act 1966.
  7. ^ See: Cabinet Memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. 21 February 1956 Federation of Malaya Agreement
  8. ^ See: the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation – Official Website
  9. ^ See: History of U.N. Decolonisation Committee – Official U.N. Website
  10. ^ See: Section 1(1), Malaysia Act 1963, Chapter 35 (UK).
  11. ^ Cobbold was Governor of the Bank of England from 1949 to 1961. The other members were Wong Pow Nee, Chief Minister of Penang, Mohammed Ghazali Shafie, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anthony Abell, former Governor or Sarawak, and David Watherston, former Chief Secretary of Malaya.
  12. ^ Tan, Kevin Y.L. (1999). The Singapore Legal System. Vol. 2. Singapore University Press. p. 46. ISBN 9789971692124.
  13. ^ HistorySG. "Signing of the Malaysia Agreement – Singapore History". eresources.nlb.gov.sg. National Library Board. Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  14. ^ Mathews, Philip (February 2014). Chronicle of Malaysia: Fifty Years of Headline News, 1963–2013. Editions Didier Millet. p. 29. ISBN 978-967-10617-4-9.
  15. ^ Admission of New States: The Government of the State of Kelantan v. The Government of Malaya and Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj [1] Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  16. ^ Kathirasen, A. (9 September 2020). "When Kelantan (and PMIP) sued to stop formation of Malaysia". FMT. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  17. ^ Chin, James (1 January 2019). The 1963 Malaysia Agreement (MA63): Sabah and Sarawak and the Politics of Historical Grievances. University of Tasmania. ISBN 978-967-2165-58-3. Retrieved 2 May 2024.
  18. ^ Lu, Jamie (8 November 2022). "MA63 To Restore, Safeguard Eroded Rights | New Sarawak Tribune". Retrieved 2 May 2024.
  19. ^ Pei, Goh Pei (15 December 2021). "'Passing of MA63 Bill shows importance in restoring Sarawak and Sabah's status in federation' | New Straits Times". NST Online. Retrieved 2 May 2024.
  20. ^ "MA63: Seven issues resolved, 14 need further discussion, says PM's Office". Bernama. The Malay Mail. 19 August 2019. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Seven MA63 issues resolved". Bernama. Daily Express. 20 August 2019. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  22. ^ Julia Chan (2 September 2019). "In Sabah, doubts linger as Putrajaya's MA63 review accused of being one-sided affair". The Malay Mail. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  23. ^ Zahid, Syed Jamal (14 December 2021). "Dewan Rakyat finally passes key constitutional amendments to recognise MA63". The Malay Mail. Archived from the original on 15 April 2022. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  24. ^ "Rename Sabah CM 'premier' like Sarawak, says rep". FMT. 29 April 2024. Retrieved 2 May 2024.
  25. ^ "Group of 11 Sarawakians file writ to declare MA63 null, void". The Malay Mail. 15 March 2022. Archived from the original on 15 March 2022. Retrieved 7 May 2023.
  26. ^ Ling, Sharon (15 March 2022). "High Court postpones decision on striking out suit to nullify MA63". The Malay Mail. Archived from the original on 5 May 2023. Retrieved 7 May 2023.
  27. ^ Desiree, David (25 May 2023). "Kuching High Court strikes out suit to nullify MA63". The Borneo Post. Archived from the original on 26 May 2023. Retrieved 21 October 2023.

Further reading