September 16th, 2008 by Hafiz Noor Shams
Several myths about the formation of Malaysia require addressing.
First revolves around the notion that Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joined Malaya in 1963 to form Malaysia. This is simply untrue because all member states of Malaysia federated to form a new federation called Malaysia. Nobody joined Malaya in 1963.
The second myth concerns how Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joined Malaysia. This is at best inaccurate and at worst downright false. The rationale against this myth is the absence of Malaysia as a state in prior to 1963. Instead Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore helped establish Malaysia.
Those who believed in either the first or the second myth tend to cite the United States of America as an example of how changes in the number of membership do not affect a state as an entity. The comparison however is flawed because the history of the US does not run parallel to that of Malaysia.
It differs in a way that 37 states other than the original 13 states of the United States joined a pre-existing union. The United States was formed as an entity in 1776 and 37 other states joined that union after 1776.
In the case of Malaysia, nobody joined any pre-existing entity simply because there is no pre-existing entity to join into. There was no Malaysia as a state to join into prior to September 16 1963. What existed were the Federation of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore.
The example of the US is only applicable for Malaysia if there are changes in membership after 1963. Just how addition of new member states into the union does not affect the United States’ status as a state after the formation of the state, any change of membership of the federation — save total dissolution of Malaysia — after 1963 will not affect the status of Malaysia as a state. It is for this very reason that Malaysia still exists after Singapore was expelled in 1965. If Brunei is to join Malaysia in 2009, Malaysia will still be the state it was in 1963.
Third myth is about Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya coming together to form Malaysia. This too is false though compared to the other three myths, this does come closer to the truth since the contrary is certainly arguable given how the Malaysia Agreement was signed and executed. Nevertheless, all 14 member states of 1963 Malaysia, each as a separate entity, federated to form a 14-state federation and this is made clear in the Malaysia Act 1963. It was not a 4-state federation. The member states of Malaya did not participate in Malaysia as a unitary Malaya but rather, they joined the new federation on individual basis. In forming Malaysia, the Federation of Malaya was immediately dissolved to allow the 11 states of Malaya along with three other states to federate; the Federation of Malaya ceased to exist upon the establishment of Malaysia.
The final myth confuses Malaya with Malaysia. The difference between Malaya and Malaysia goes beyond superficial change in name. The 20-point agreement between signed at the time between Sabah and the would-be federal government of Malaysia specifically mentioned that the Constitution of Malaysia is not the Constitution of the Federation of Malaya. Therefore, the two Constitutions are two different documents and each document governs different state.
 — (1) For the purpose of enabling North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore (in this Act referred to as “the new States”) to federate with the existing States of the Federation of Malaya (in this Act referred to as “the Federation”), the Federation thereafter being called Malaysia, on the day on which the new States are federated as aforesaid (in this Act referred to as “the appointed day”) Her Majesty’s sovereignty and jurisdiction in respect of the new States shall be relinquished so as to vest in the manner agreed between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Federation and the new States. [Malaysia Act 1963. Office of Public Sector Information. Accessed September 16 2008]
 — Whilst accepting that the present Constitution of the Federation of Malaya should form the basis of the Constitution of Malaysia, the Constitution of Malaysia should be a completely new document drafted and agreed in the light of a free association of states and should not be a series of amendments to a Constitution drafted and agreed by different states in totally different circumstances. A new Constitution for North Borneo (Sabah) was of course essential. [20-point agreement. Wikipedia. Accessed September 16 2008]