Datu Mustapha Datu Harun

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Mustapha Harun
داتو مصطفى داتو هارون
3rd Chief Minister of Sabah
In office
12 May 1967 – 1 November 1975
GovernorPengiran Ahmad Raffae
Fuad Stephens
Mohd Hamdan Abdullah
Preceded byPeter Lo Sui Yin
Succeeded byMohammad Said Keruak
1st Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Sabah
In office
16 September 1963 – 16 September 1965
Chief MinisterFuad Stephens
Peter Lo Sui Yin
Preceded byPosition Established
Sir William Goode (as Governor of North Borneo)
Succeeded byPengiran Ahmad Raffae Pengiran Omar
Personal details
Datu Badiozaman Mustapha Datu Harun[1]

(1918-07-31)31 July 1918
Kampung Limau-Limauan, Kudat, British North Borneo
Died2 January 1995(1995-01-02) (aged 76)
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Political partyUSNO (1961–1989)
UMNO (1989–1994)

Datu Mustapha bin Datu Harun, or Tun Mustapha for short (31 July 1918 – 2 January 1995[2][3]), was a Malaysian politician who served as the 3rd Chief Minister of Sabah from May 1967 to November 1975 and the 1st Yang Di-Pertua Negara from September 1963 to September 1965 and President of the United Sabah National Organisation (USNO). He was an important party in the negotiations leading to the formation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Datu Mustapha was born in Kampung Limau-limauan, Kudat. He is of mixed Suluk-Bajau origins (Bajau Bannaran/Bajau Kudat and not Bajau Ubian).[5]

World War II[edit]

During World War II, he was wanted by the Japanese forces because of the rebellions he led against them, mainly in Kudat during the Japanese occupation. But when they could not find him, they caught his younger brother and eventually killed him because his brother would not reveal where he was hiding. Albert Kwok invited Mustapha to join in the Jesselton Revolt but he advised Kwok to wait and prepare, saying the time wasn't right for insurrection. However, Kwok was forced to launch the revolt ahead of schedule because the Chinese were going to be subjected to conscription by the Japanese. Kwok was joined in the revolt along with Suluks and Bajaus under Panglima Ali. The revolt failed and the Japanese engaged in large scale massacres of indigenous civilians, including women and children especially from the Suluks community.

Political career[edit]

Mustapha founded the United Sabah National Organisation (USNO). Mustapha ruled USNO with an iron fist, together with two other ineffective partners in Sabah Alliance. It can be described that "Mustapha was USNO and USNO was Mustapha".[6]

Appointment as Yang di-Pertua Negara of Sabah[edit]

Mustapha was appointed the first Yang di-Pertua Negara (head of state) for Sabah while Donald Stephens became the first chief minister of Sabah upon the formation of Malaysia, after a formal endorsement by the Sabah state legislative assembly on instruction from the Malaysian federal government.[6]

In July 1964, USNO requested power to appoint the chief minister of Sabah after the number of seats in Sabah state legislative assembly was expanded. This request would make the position of Donald Stephens depended upon the whims of USNO. Negotiations between Stephens and Mustapha took place in Kuala Lumpur instead of Kota Kinabalu. In the end, a compromise was reached when Mustapha obtained increased USNO representations in Sabah government's cabinet while Stephens retained his chief minister post.[6]

Appointment as chief minister of Sabah[edit]

In the 1967 state election, USNO won and Mustapha became the third Chief Minister of Sabah.

When he was Chief Minister, his relationship with the Malaysian central government was not very good. Although the central government, represented by the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, was a partner of USNO, they were worried about certain stances taken by Mustapha, in particular, his intention or threat to secede Sabah from Malaysia. Mustapha also refused to sign an oil agreement with the federal government which stated that only 5% of Sabah's oil revenue will be given to the state. Mustapha demanded at least 30% for the development of Sabah where it will be drilled.[7]

Mustapha also succeeded in converting a significant number of non-Muslim indigenous people in Sabah into Islam.[8] Aside from his involvement in politics and religion (Islam), he also made contributions in the education of Sabah. He mooted the idea of forming Sabah Foundation (Yayasan Sabah) and was responsible in setting up the first university, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Sabah Campus, and also the setting up of ITM (Institut Teknologi Mara).

He was also the Deputy President of PERKIM, when the late Tunku was the President. He was also the head of United Sabah Islamic Association (USIA) and a member of RISEAP.

In 1975, USNO secretary-general Harris Salleh left the party to form BERJAYA. This party was backed up by the federal government through the oil lobby.[7][9] In the 1976 state election, BERJAYA won and Mustapha was finally ousted from power for good.

Formation of Sabah chapter of UMNO[edit]

Since his ouster in 1976, Tun Mustapha had been trying to initiate a merger of his party USNO with peninsular-based United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) in a bid to return to the corridors of power in Sabah. However, the UMNO supreme council was hesitant on a merger because their party did not accept non-Malay/non-Muslim members. Besides, the UMNO president at that time, Tun Hussein Onn was uneasy with Tun Mustapha's close relationship with UMNO's anti-Hussein faction.[citation needed] Mustapha remained active in politics, leading USNO and contesting in four subsequent state elections (1981, 1985, 1986, and 1990). Although they never won again, they still managed to win several seats in the state assembly. They also remained a partner of BN at the federal government level (as opposed to the state level).[10] After the 1990 state election, he teamed up with Harris Salleh again, after BERJAYA themselves were ousted by Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS). This resulted in a merger of USNO and BERJAYA to create the Sabah chapter of UMNO. Mustapha became its first chief of UMNO Sabah.[citation needed]


Arrests of Roman Catholic priests, Islamisation and Malayisation of Sabah[edit]

Mustapha is remembered by the Catholics of Sabah for imposing to the letter the immigration laws by denying foreign priests who have not obtained permanent residency on the extension of their visas. All the priests who object to their expulsion for doing religious works among the Catholics were arrested by using his powers as the Chairman of the State Security Operation Committee and CM of Sabah State Government.[11]

Under his orders, on 2 December 1972, the police made a raid at the missions at Tambunan, Papar, Bundu Tuhan and Kuala Penyu. The raids at Tambunan and Papar were successful, timed early in the morning with the church bell ropes cut to prevent it from being used to warn the people. The priests were at Kapayan long before the parishioners were aware of it. The raid at Kuala Penyu was initially a fiasco with a reception committee of 600 Catholics. To avoid clashes, by 11 am reinforcements were flown in to arrest one priest. On 15 December more priests were arrested at Keningau, Tenom and Limbahau.[12] The rest of the priests who only had temporary residence permits, on hearing this has no choice but to say goodbye to their parishioners and went home or were given new assignments to nearby countries. As reported in local news such as Daily Express (p. 2, 11 November 2009), the Malaysian home ministry informed in parliament that a biography of Mustapha's political opponent who died in the Double Six Crash plane crash, Peter Mojuntin, is banned. The reason was that the book "allegedly" recorded that Peter exposed Mustapha's attempt to stop Catholicism in Sabah by deporting and arresting foreign missionary priests who were serving their local parishes in the state.[13]

Peter's house was also surrounded by the police after all the priests were arrested because only he dared to voice his opposition to the prosecution of the priests. He was not arrested because of his strong political support from the Kadazan people of Penampang.[14]

While the 20-point agreement had provided that "there should be no any state religion in North Borneo", Mustapha party of USNO including himself is very active in propagating Islam and amend a bill to make Islam as the official religion of the state.[15] He actively sponsored the creation of United Sabah Islamic Association (USIA) on 14 August 1969 which modelled from similar agencies that already existing in West Malaysia. He actively campaigned to persuade non-Muslims to convert to Islam due to what he perceive that the unity can only be achieved through a common religion and language, where he also enforced the official use of Malay (Bahasa Malaysia) as the language of Sabah by limiting the importance of English language and banning broadcasts of other vernacular languages.[16] By February 1974, around 75,000 non-Muslim Sabahans had been converted to Islam which rapidly increase to 95,000 in 1975.[17]

Aiding the Moro rebels in the southern Philippines[edit]

During Mustapha term as a Chief Minister of Sabah, he had a vision to make Islam as the majority religion in the state. In order to achieve his aims, he was actively harbouring Muslim refugees from the Philippines especially those of similar ethnic background to himself.[18] Mustapha was also believed to have aiding the Moro in their struggle for independence by providing arms and training facilities in Malaysia.[19] His action were tolerated by the Malaysian government because he was consistent in delivering Muslim votes as well as for his continuous backing of the Malaysian government. He was later successful in making Islam the main religion of Sabah.[18] However, as Malaysian government wanted to maintain good relations between Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with the Philippine central government, the Malaysian government could not raise the plight of Muslim minority in the Philippines.[18] Due to this, Mustapha planned to secede the state of Sabah from Malaysia but his intention failed after he was removed from his position in 1975. The Philippine central government then retracted the Sabah claim in 1977 as a reward for Malaysian government action to stop supporting the southern Philippines Muslim rebels.[18]

Death and legacy[edit]

Mustapha tomb in Putatan

He died on 2 January 1995 at the Sabah Medical Centre in Likas, Kota Kinabalu, at the age of 76. He was then later buried at the Muslim cemetery in Kampung Ulu/Ulu Seberang, Putatan, Penampang (prior to that, his mortal remains were laid in state at his residence in the Tanjung Aru suburb of Kota Kinabalu city after it arrived home from the Sabah Medical Centre hospital in Likas, which is now today rebranded as a public government hospital known as the Sabah Women's and Children Hospital) which was formerly used as a fortress by the late Paduka Mat Salleh and the State Government has named the cemetery "Taman Memorial Tun Datu Haji Mustapha." His memorial is not in Tambunan. The Mat Salleh memorial in Tambunan is meant for his distant uncle, Paduka Mat Salleh.

During the 8th Convocation Ceremony of UMS (Universiti Malaysia Sabah) held on 2–3 September 2006, he was conferred a Doctor of Philosophy in (Social Development).[citation needed]

The state government renamed the Sabah Foundation Building to Tun Mustapha Tower, as a token of appreciation for his contributions to the state.

Tun Mustapha Marine Park, a marine park in Kudat, Sabah was named after him.

A MARA institution boarding school, MRSM Tun Mustapha is named after him in Tawau, Sabah.


Statue of Tun Mustapha in front of his residence in Kudat.

Honours of Malaysia[edit]

Foreign Honours[edit]


  1. ^ "Tun Datu Haji Mustapha bin Datu Harun" (in Malayalam).
  2. ^ Biodata Tun Datu Haji Mustafa bin Datu Harun
  3. ^ Tun Datu Haji Mustafa bin Datu Harun Archived 14 March 2019 at the Wayback Machine. arkib.gov.my
  4. ^ "Celebrating Malaysia Day". The Star. 24 September 2007. Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  5. ^ Reid, Anthony (1997). "Endangered identity: Kadazan or Dusun in Sabah". Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. 28.
  6. ^ a b c Tilman, Robert O. (1 June 1976). "Mustapha's Sabah, 1968-1975: The Tun Steps Down". Asian Survey. 16 (6): 495–509. doi:10.2307/2643515. ISSN 0004-4687. JSTOR 2643515.
  7. ^ a b "The Borneo Post Online". Archived from the original on 28 February 2008.
  8. ^ Åsgård, Björn."A Study of the Kadazan Dusun, Sabah, Malaysia" Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Ethnic Awareness and Development, p. 28. Retrieved 8 March 2007.
  9. ^ Rafaelle, Paul (1986). Harris Salleh of Sabah. Hong Kong: Condor Publishing. ISBN 962-7212-01-6.
  10. ^ "malaysiana1: About Datuk Seri Harris Salleh & Datuk Seri Musa Aman".
  11. ^ Maria Perpetua Kana (24 March 2004). "Christian Mission in Malaysia: Past Emphasis, Present Engagement and Future Possibilities" (PDF). School of Theology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Australian Catholic University. p. 120 (125/140). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 June 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  12. ^ the book Khabar Gembira or "good news" - A history of the catholic church in East Malaysia and Brunei 1880 to 1976 by Fr John Rooney MHM Phd - 1981 Burns and Oates Ltd Wellwood North Farm rd, Turnbridge Wells Kent
  13. ^ Daily Express News page 2, 11 November 2009
  14. ^ Bernard, Sta Maria (May 1978). Peter J Mojuntin - The Golden Son of Kadazan (PDF). Ujong Pasir, Melaka: Chan Litho Press Sdn Bhd. pp. 7–23. Retrieved 21 May 2015. Released online on 7 March 2013 courtesy of Chaos Computer Club Berlin.
  15. ^ Faisal H. Hazis (2015). "Patronage, Power and Prowess: Barisan Nasional's Equilibrium Dominance in East Malaysia" (PDF). Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Universiti Sains Malaysia. pp. 15/24. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 June 2016. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  16. ^ Lent, John A. (1974). "Malaysia's guided media". Index on Censorship. 3 (4): 66. doi:10.1080/03064227408532375. S2CID 143840995.
  17. ^ Mohammad Agus Yusoff (1999). "The Politics of centre-state conflict: the Sabah experience under the ruling Sabah Alliance (1963–1976)" (PDF). Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. p. 14/25. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 November 2017. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  18. ^ a b c d Shanti Nair (11 January 2013). Islam in Malaysian Foreign Policy. Routledge. pp. 67–. ISBN 978-1-134-96099-6.
  19. ^ Andrew Tian Huat Tan (1 January 2004). Security Perspectives of the Malay Archipelago: Security Linkages in the Second Front in the War on Terrorism. Edward Elgar. ISBN 978-1-84376-997-2.
  20. ^ "Senarai Penuh Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang dan Pingat Persekutuan Tahun 1964" (PDF).
  21. ^ "50 dapat bintang hari jadi di-Sabah". 5 November 1966. p. 1.
  22. ^ "Ketua Menteri Sabah di-kurniakan dengan Bintang S.I.M.P." Berita Harian. 25 November 1969. p. 10.
  23. ^ "SPMJ kepada Tun Mustapha" (in Malay). Berita Harian. 4 December 1970.
  24. ^ "SPMS 1976". awards.selangor.gov.my. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  25. ^ "75 terima kurina Raja Perlis". Berita Harian (in Malay). 28 March 1971.
  26. ^ "SPCM 1971". pingat.perak.gov.my. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
New creation Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Sabah
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief Minister of Sabah
Succeeded by