Monday): Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee should be posthumously conferred a “Tun” as one of
the architects of Malaysia, not only as the first Penang Chief Minister but also
as a member of Cobbold Commission 1962 which paved the way for the establishment
of Malaysia with the entry of Sabah and Sarawak into the new federation.
Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon and the Penang State Government should make immediate representation
to the Prime Minister and the Yang di Pertuan Agong for the special
posthumous conferment of the
nation’s highest award to Wong in
conjunction with the state funeral
on Wednesday in full recognition of
his contributions and services to the attainment of Independence of
Malaya and the establishment of Malaysia.
Wong was one of the five members of the Cobbold Commission formed jointly by the British and Malayan governments in 1962 to ascertain the views of the people of Sabah and Sarawak as well as to make recommendations on the proposal to establish Malaysia, comprising Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak.
The Cobbold Commission
was headed by Lord Cobbold, a former Governor of the Bank of England, and
comprised Dato Wong Pow Nee, the
Chief Minister of Penang, Mohd. Ghazali Shafie, Permanent Secretary to the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sir Anthony Abell, the former Governor of Sarawak
and Sir David Watherston, the former Chief Secretary of Malaya.
Between the 19th of
February and 17th April 1962, the members made visits throughout Sabah and
Sarawak reviewing opinions of individuals and religious, social and political
organizations, and in August 1962, the Cobbold Commission announced its
assessment of the degree of support for the Malaysia Plan, viz:
As against the
recommendations of the two British members, Sir Anthony Abell and Sir David
Watherston, recommending a transitional period of from three to seven years for
the formation of Malaysia, Wong and
Ghazalie Shafie strongly proposed that the transitional period should not be no
longer than 12 months to prevent “dangerous disruptive influences”. In the
event, Malaysia was formally brought into being on September 16, 1963.
The chairman and the
British members of the Cobbold Commission recommended complete religious freedom
and not to make Islam the national
religion for Sabah and Sarawak, but Wong and Ghazalie Shafie recommended that
the Malaysian Constitution be based on the 1957 Merdeka Constitution declaring that
the position of Islam being the religion of the Federation “in no way
jeopardizes freedom of religion in the Federation which in effect would be
secular”. In other words,
Malaysia is to be a secular state.
The death of
Wong will be sorely missed in this critical period of Malaysian
nationhood as it marks the passing of another political giant in the ranks of
Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn who share a common core of
fundamental beliefs about the basic
principles of Malayan and Malaysian nationhood and nation-building
– that Malaysia is a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and
progressive nation with Islam as the official religion but Malaysia is not an
Islamic state, whether PAS Islamic State or UMNO Islamic State.