The following article was originally published in the New Straits Times on 23 Aug 2014, ref.
The 1948 Federation of Malaya Agreement
A precursor and a template for the Merdeka Constitution
By Dr Malik Munip
1. Independence and Tunku Abdul Rahman are inseparable — so much so that each time a Malaysian hears the word “merdeka’, an image of our first Premier reading the Proclamation of Independence will invariably come to mind.
Indeed for many Malaysians, the Independence Movement started with the birth of the Alliance coalition he led — which was initiated by an Umno-MCA pact in the Kuala Lumpur Municipal Elections in 1952, extended in 1955 when the MIC joined and cemented in the same year when they won a landslide victory in the first peninsula-wide elections for the Federal Legislative Council.
2. Invigorated by such a mandate, the Tunku demanded that the date for Merdeka be brought forward. And as everyone knows within two years the Tunku got what he wanted. The Tunku after all is not immortalised as Bapa Kemerdekaan for nothing.
3. But what is less well known was the nature of the constitutional landscape in which the Alliance negotiated Merdeka: its ethos was geared towards decolonization. Highlighting this fact is not to stress the importance of historical context, but more to point out that the ‘logic of decolonization’ was ingrained in the 1948 Federation of Malaya Agreement (FMA). Indeed its preamble read:
“And whereas it is the desire of His Majesty and Their Highnesses that progress should be made towards eventual self-government and…….as soon as circumstances….permit, legislation should be introduced for the election of members to the several legislatures to be established pursuant to this Agreement.”
4. What this means is that though winning those elections was purely the achievement of the Alliance, yet the very fact that elections existed in the first place was not. As can be read in the Preamble, elections and other trappings of self-government was very much expected (if not demanded) by the then highest law of the land: the FMA.
5. Unfortunately, the importance of the 1948 FMA in preparing the ground for Merdeka is often overlooked. Continue reading “The 1948 Federation of Malaya agreement”