Stephen Kalong Ningkan

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Tan Sri Datuk Amar
Stephen Kalong Ningkan
P.S.M., D.A., P.N.B.S., P.G.D.K.
Stephen Kalong Ningkan.jpg
1st Chief Minister of Sarawak
In office
22 July 1963 – 23 September 1966
Governor Sir Alexander Waddell
Abang Haji Openg
Deputy James Wong Kim Min (1963–1966)
Succeeded by Tawi Sli
1st President of Sarawak National Party
In office
Preceded by Post created
Succeeded by Dunstan Endawie Enchana
Personal details
Born (1920-08-20)20 August 1920
Betong, Simanggang, (present-day Betong Division), Kingdom of Sarawak
Died 31 March 1997(1997-03-31) (aged 76)
Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Nationality Malaysian
Political party Sarawak National Party (SNAP)
Spouse(s) Puan Sri Datin Amar Elizabeth Sendie (deceased 1984)
Puan Sri Datin Amar Rosalind Ningkan (widow)
Children Paul Murphy Ningkan
Marina Siew Ling Ningkan
Flora Ningkan
Diana Inoi Ningkan
Winston Beng Wai Ningkan
Margaret Ningkan
Gerald Bala Ningkan
Occupation Politician

Tan Sri Datuk Amar Stephen Kalong Ningkan (1920–1997) was the first Chief Minister of Sarawak (1963–1966). As the executive of a newly independent state which helped to form Malaysia, Ningkan faced many challenges from within the state and from Sarawak's neighbour, Indonesia.

Personal life and education[edit]

Ningkan was born on 20 August 1920 in Betong, Sarawak which was then administered under the Second Division of Simanggang. He was a student of St Augustine's school.[1]

Kalong Ningkan was of mixed Iban and Chinese parentage and his Chinese name was Mok Teck Boon. Ningkan's grandfather, Mok Ban Seng was born in Foshan, Guangdong, China in 1870. At 6 years old, he took Ningkan to China for several years so that Ningkan could learn the culture and the way of life there. However, his grandfather died on 20 October 1963 at the grand old age of 93, a few months after Ningkan took office as chief minister.[2]

Ningkan's mother, Kuni anak Karong, died of stomach complications on 14 June 1969 at the old age of 71.[2]

Hobbies and interests[edit]

Ningkan learnt the Japanese language during the Japanese Occupation in Sarawak. The Japanese song, Kuni No Hana (Flower of the Nation) was one of his favourites. He was also spotted for singing Terang Bulan in various government and family functions. Ningkan was a fan of P. Ramlee and Sgt Hassan was one of his favourite movies.[2]

Early career[edit]

After he completed his education, he worked as a Rubber Fund clerk from 1938 to 1939. He resigned his job to join the Sarawak Constabulary from 1940 to 1946. He was the Police Constable in the year 1942. In 1944, he joined Service Reconnaissance Department, an underground movement based in Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu). He became a teacher in his former school in Betong from 1947 to 1950.[2]

He then worked at a Shell Company hospital in Kuala Belait, Brunei for several years. He also took up law via correspondence from Regent Institute and Metropolitan College at St Albans, London respectively. At the hospital, he was the chairman of the Shell Dayak Club.[2]

He became the Founder and President of the Sarawak Dayak Association from 1958 to 1960.[1]

Political career[edit]

He returned to Betong and established the Sarawak National Party (SNAP) on 10 April 1961. Although he initially did not accept Tunku Abdul Rahman's proposal on the formation of Malaysia, he eventually became a strong supporter of the federation.[1][3] Ningkan never completed his law degree because he had to focus on his political activities and his post as the first chief minister of Sarawak. He also insisted that his party should be multiracial, given his background of having a Chinese grandfather and friends of various races.[2] In the 1962 election, SNAP won many seats, earning him the trust to become the first Sarawak Chief Minister. In October 1962, Ningkan played an important role in forming Sarawak chapter of Alliance Party and served as its Secretary-General.[1]

Appointment as Chief Minister[edit]

Stephen Kalong Ningkan was appointed as the first chief minister of Sarawak on 22 July 1963 by the then Governor, Sir Alexander Waddell. Ningkan had a strong anticommunist stand during his tenure as chief minister. He also opposed the National Language and Education policy.[1]

1966 Sarawak constitutional crisis[edit]

Stephen Kalong Ningkan tried to initiate a land reform law that allowed the natives to acquire full title of Native Customary Land. However, with the alleged backing of the federal government, the Sarawak state assemblymen started to pass a motion of no confidence against him. The then prime minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman pushed for Ningkan's resignation.[4]

On 16 June 1966, Ningkan was ousted when the state Governor showed him a letter of no confidence issued by 21 out of 42 legislators and asked Ningkan to resign as Chief Minister. Ningkan refused, saying the letters were not tantamount to a vote of no confidence in the Council Negri (now Sarawak State Legislative Assembly). He was sacked by the governor but eventually reinstated by the Borneo High Court on 7 September 1966, which saw the necessity of a formal vote of no confidence.In his judgement, Justice Harley ruled that the Governor can only dismiss the Chief Minister when both these conditions are satisfied:[5]

(a) The Chief Minister has lost the confidence of the House, and
(b) The Chief Minister has refused to resign and failed to advise a dissolution.

Ningkan tried to initiate a dissolution of Council Negri upon his reinstatement of chief minister to seek a fresh mandate from the voters; but the Malaysian government decided to impose a state of emergency in Sarawak, citing chaos in the state.[4] The Malaysian government also amended the Sarawak Constitution to give the power to the Sarawak governor to commence the Council Negri meeting. A vote of non-confidence was passed on 23 September 1966, and this has resulted in the removal of Ningkan from the chief minister office for the second time.[6]


Ningkan died peacefully aged 76 on 31 March 1997 in Normah Specialist Medical Centre, Kuching. His funeral was held at St Thomas Cathedral and was buried at Anglican Cemetery at Jalan Batu Kitang. The lyrics of Terang Bulan was engraved at the back of his tombstone.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Revisiting 48 years of leadership". The Borneo Post. 16 September 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Diana, Ningkan (3 April 2010). "Remembering Dad (Tan Sri Stephen Kalong Ningkan)". The Borneo Post. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  3. ^ "Sarawak Backs Malaysia". The Sydney Morning Herald. 21 March 1963. Retrieved 26 September 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Background: Constitutional Crises" (PDF). The Edge (Malaysia). 3 February 2009. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  5. ^ "The saga of Stephen Kalong Ningkan – the conclusion". The Borneo Post. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2011. 
  6. ^ Milne, R.S. and Ratnam K.J. (2014). In Malaysia: New States in a New Nation. Routledge. p. 226. ISBN 0-7146-2988-X. Google Book Search. Retrieved on 22 September 2014.
Preceded by
None (Post created)
Chief Minister of Sarawak
Succeeded by
Tawi Sli