A clash of history and politics in Sarawak’s English language move

The state’s founding fathers had a list of demands before they agreed to join the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, and they wanted these recorded in writing.

The special clauses were written into Sarawak’s 18-point Agreement and were also inserted into the Federal Constitution to protect the state’s interests in language, land, civil service, local government and immigrations, among others.

One of Sarawak’s founding fathers, Datuk Amar James Wong, who later wrote a book on Sarawak’s path to forming Malaysia, “The Birth of Malaysia”, said there was “agreement among many (racial) groups that English should be retained either indefinitely or at least for another 15 years as the official language, not only in Sarawak, but in the new federation as well”.

Language is the second point in the 18-point agreement, specifically on the status of English. Malay is recognised as the language of the federation, and English “should continue to be used for a period of 10 years after Malaysia Day”.

Read more: The Malaysian Insider

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