United Nations Malaysia Mission Report, “Final Conclusions of the Secretary-General,” 14 September 1963

Annex 3

United Nations Malaysia Mission Report, “Final Conclusions of the Secretary-General,” 14 September 1963


Final Conclusions of the Secretary-General

In response to the request made by the Governments of the Federation of Malaya, the Republic of Indonesia, and the Republic of the Philippines, on 5 August 1963, I agreed to ascertain, prior to the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia, the wishes of the people of Sabah (North Borneo) and Sarawak. As foreseen in my communication of 8 August 1963, a Mission was established, comprising two teams, one for Sarawak and the other for Sabah (North Borneo), working under the supervision of my personal representative. The mission has now completed the inquiry assigned to it, and has reported to me.

I wish, first of all, to express my gratitude to the three Governments for the confidence they placed in me by requesting that I should undertake the task of ascertaining the wishes of the population of Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah) prior to the establishment of Malaysia. I also wish to express my appreciation to the Government of the United Kingdom and to the authorities of the two territories for having given their agreement to the inquiry and their full co-operation to the Mission.

It was always understood that the ascertainment would be completed within a limited period of time, and my communication of 8 August noted that every effort would be made to complete the task as quickly as possible. I later informed the Governments concerned that I would endeavour to report my conclusions to them by 14 September. During the course of the inquiry, the date of 16 September 1963 was announced by the Government of the Federation of Malaya with the concurrence of the British Government, the Singapore Government and the Governments of Sabah and Sarawak, for the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia. This has led to misunderstanding, confusion, and even resentment among other parties to the Manila agreement, which could have been avoided if the date could have been fixed after my conclusions had been reached and made known.

There was no reference to a referendum or plebiscite in the request which was addressed to me. I was asked to ascertain the wishes of the people “within the context of General Assembly resolution 1541 (XV), Principle IX of the Annex, by a fresh approach” which in my opinion was necessary “to ensure complete compliance with the principle of self-determination within the requirements embodied in Principle IX,” taking into consideration certain questions relating to the recent elections. The Mission accordingly arranged for consultations with the population through the elected representatives of the people, leaders of political parties and other groups and organizations, and with all persons who were willing to express their views, and every effort was made to ascertain the wishes of the special groups (political detainees and absentees) mentioned in the Manila Joint Statement. The Mission gathered and studied all available documents, reports and other material on the governmental institutions, political organization, electoral processes in the two territories, and other matters relevant to its terms of reference.

The Governments of the Federation of Malaya, the Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of the Philippines deemed it desirable to send observers to witness the carrying out of the task, and the Government of the United Kingdom decided that it also wished the same facility. Although I did not consider the arrangements for observers to be part of the Secretary-General’s responsibility, I endeavoured to help the Governments concerned to reach agreement, and I am pleased that an understanding was finally arrived at so that observers of all the Governments concerned could be present during at least part of the inquiry. It is a matter for regret that this understanding could not have been reached earlier, so that all observers could have been present in the territories for the entire period of the inquiries and that questions of detail pertaining to the status of the observers unnecessarily delayed even further their arrival. A more congenial atmosphere would have been achieved if the necessary facilities had been granted more promptly by the Administering Authority. The Mission, however, made its records, including tape recordings of all its hearings, available for the use of the observer teams to enable them to inform themselves as fully as possible of what had occurred before their arrival.

The basic assessment which I was asked to make has broader implications than the specific questions enumerated in the request addressed to me by the three Governments. As mentioned previously, I was asked to “ascertain, prior to the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia, the wishes of the people of Sabah (North Borneo) and Sarawak within the context of General Assembly resolution 1541 (XV), Principle IX of the Annex, by a fresh approach, which in the opinion of the Secretary-General is necessary to ensure complete compliance with the principle of self-determination within the requirements embodied in Principle IX.”

Concerning the integration of a non-self-governing territory with an already independent state, Principle IX provides:

“Integration should have come about in the following circumstances:
(a) The integrating territory should have attained an advanced stage of self-government with free political institutions, so that its peoples would have the capacity to make a responsible choice through informed and democratic processes;

(b) The integration should be the result of the freely expressed -wishes of the territory’s peoples acting with full knowledge of the change in their status, their wishes having been expressed through informed and democratic processes, impartially conducted and based on universal adult suffrage. The United Nations could, when it deems it necessary, supervise these processes.”

I have given consideration to the circumstances in which the proposals for the Federation of Malaysia have been developed and discussed, and the possibility that people progressing through the stages of self-government may be less able to consider in an entirely free context the implications of such changes in their status, than a society which has already experienced full self-government and the determination of its own affairs. I have also been aware that the peoples of the territories are still striving for a more adequate level of educational development.

Having reflected fully on these considerations, and taking into account the framework within which the Mission’s task was performed, I have come to the conclusion that the majority of the peoples of Sabah (North Borneo) and of Sarawak, have given serious and thoughtful consideration to their future, and to the implications for them of participation in a Federation of Malaysia. I believe that the majority of them have concluded that they wish to bring their dependent status to an end and to realize their independence through freely chosen association with other peoples in their region with whom they feel ties of ethnic association with other peoples in their region with whom they feel ties of ethnic association, heritage, language, religion, culture, economic relationship, and ideals and objectives. Not all of these considerations are present in equal weight in all minds, but it is my conclusion that the majority of the peoples of the two territories, having taken them into account, wish to engage, with the peoples of the Federation of Malaya and Singapore, in an enlarged Federation of Malaysia through which they can strive together to realize the fulfilment of their destiny.

With regard to the more specific questions referred to me, my conclusions after the examination and verification reported by the Mission, are:

(a) Malaysia has been the subject of wide-spread and intensive public debate, and was a major issue in the recent elections in the two territories;

(b) Electoral registers were properly compiled;

(c) The elections took place in an atmosphere free enough to enable the candidates and political parties to put their case before the electorate, and the people were able to express themselves freely by casting their votes in a polling system which provided the basic safeguards for secret balloting, and measures for the prevention and correction of abuses;

(d) The votes were properly polled and counted;

(e) Persons otherwise eligible to vote but who were unable to do so because of detention for political activities, or imprisonment for political offenses numbered somewhat less than 100 in Sarawak, and even less in Sabah (North Borneo) at the time of the elections. Testimony given by this group, especially in Sarawak, indicated that they would have opposed the Federation of Malaysia if they had participated in the election. The actual votes of this group would not have been sufficient to have had a material effect on the result. The Mission has given much attention to the possible effect which the absence of these persons, some of whom were officials of the anti-Malaysia party, might have had on the campaign. The Mission considered the similar question concerning some 164 persons whose activity was restricted to some extent, but who retained the right to vote. Noting that the anti-Malaysia party scored convincing electoral victories in many of the areas to which those persons belonged, I accept the Mission’s conclusion that a substantial limitation of the campaigning potential of the group opposed to the Federation of Malaysia has not occurred, so as seriously and significantly to have affected the result of the election.

(f) The Mission made special efforts to obtain reliable information regarding persons who were absent from the territories at the time of the election, particularly as a result of possible political or other intimidation. The evidence available indicated that the number of such persons, otherwise qualified to vote, did not exceed a few hundred, and that their number could not have affected the results of the election. I note that the principal officials of the party in Sarawak opposed to the Federation of Malaysia, agree with this assessment, and I accept it.

Bearing in mind the fundamental agreement of the three participating Governments in the Manila meetings, and the statement by the Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of the Philippine that they would welcome the formation of Malaysia provided that the support of the people of the territories was ascertained by me and that, in my opinion, complete compliance with the principal of self-determination within the requirements of General Assembly resolution 1541 (XV), Principal IX of the Annex, was ensured, my conclusion, based on the findings of the Mission, is that on both of these counts there is no doubt about the wishes of a sizeable majority of the peoples of these territories to join in the Federation of Malaysia.

In reaching my conclusions, I have taken account of the concern expressed with regard to the political factors resulting from the constitutional status of the territories and about influence from outside the area on the promotion of the proposed Federation. Giving these considerations their due weight, in relation to the responsibilities and obligations established in Article 73 in General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV) in respect of the territories, I am satisfied that the conclusions set forth above take cognizance of the requirements set forth in the request addressed to me on 5 August 1963 by the Foreign Ministers of the Republic of Indonesia, the Federation of Malaya and the Republic of the Philippines.

Before concluding, I would like to pay a tribute to my Personal Representative, Mr. I. Michelmore, my Deputy Representative, Mr. G. Jacenek, and to all the members of the United Nations Malaysia Mission who accomplished a sensitive and difficult task in a relatively short period, but at the same time in a thorough and wholly adequate manner. In a sense, it was a pie that the work of the Mission had to be accomplished within certain deadlines. But I do feel that while more time might have enabled the Mission to obtain more copious documentation and other evidence, it would not have affected the conclusions to any significant extent.

From the beginning of this year I have been observing the rising tension in South East Asia on account of the differences of opinion among the countries most directly interested in the Malaysia issue. It was in the hope that some form of United Nations involvement might help to reduce tension that I agreed to respond positively to the request made by the three Manila powers. I would hope that the exercise in which my colleagues and I have been involved in this regard will have this effect, and that the coming into being of Malaysia will not prove to be a continuing source of friction and tension in the area.

The emergence of dependent territories by a process of self-determination to the status of self-government, either as independent sovereign States or as autonomous components of larger units, has always been one of the purposes of the Charter and the objectives of the United Nations. Whatever the origins of the proposal of Malaysia may have been, it seems to me in the light actual events, including the present exercise, that we have witnessed in Sarawak and North Borneo the same process leading to self-government. I fervently hope that the people of these territories will achieve progress and prosperity, and find their fulfilment as component States of Malaysia.

Source: The Philippine Claim to a Portion of North Borneo