Sunday, June 28, 2009


The 20-point agreement, or the 20-point memorandum, is an agreement made between the state of Sabah (then North Borneo) with what would be the federal government of Malaysia prior to the formation of Malaysia in September 16, 1963.[1] A similar agreement was made between the state of Sarawak and the federal government but with certain differences in their 18-point agreement.


The agreement was written for the main purpose of safeguarding the interests, rights, and the autonomy of the people of Sabah upon the formation of the federation of Malaysia. It was originally envisaged that Sabah be one of the four entities in the federation, the others being Malaya, Singapore, and Sarawak. However as times passed, Sabah and Sarawak has ended up being merely one of the 13 states in the federation.

The position today

There has been numerous calls for the agreement to be reviewed to take into account social, economic, and political changes over time.[2]

The memorandum submitted by the five political parties to the Inter-Government Committee was of crucial importance. The various points (later known as the 20 points safeguards) represented the areas the various leaders considered most crucial to Sabah and its people. For this reason, the full text of the 20 point memorandum is given below:

  1. Religion

While there was no objection to Islam being the national religion of Malaysia there should be no State religion in North Borneo, and the provisions relating to Islam in the present Constitution of Malaya should not apply to North Borneo.

  1. Language

(a) Malay should be the national language of the Federation.

(b) English should continue to be used for a period of 10 years after Malaysia Day.

(c) English should be an official language of North Borneo for all purposes, State or Federal, without limitation of time.

  1. Constitution

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 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.

  1. Head of the Federation

The Head of State in North Borneo should not be eligible for election as Head of the Federation.

  1. Name of Federation

Malaysia” but not “Melayu Raya”.

  1. Immigration

Control over immigration into any part of Malaysia from outside should rest with the Central Government but entry into North Borneo should also require the approval of the State Government. The Federal Government should not be able to veto the entry of persons into North Borneo for State Government purposes except on strictly security grounds. North Borneo should have unfettered control over the movements of persons other than those in Federal Government employ from other parts of Malaysia into North Borneo.

  1. Right of Secession

There should be no right to secede from the Federation.

  1. Borneanisation

Borneanisation of the public service should proceed as quickly as possible.

  1. British Officers

Every effort should be made to encourage British officers to remain in the public service until their places can be taken by suitably qualified people from North Borneo.

  1. Citizenship

The recommendations in paragraph 148(k) of the Report of the Cobbold Commissions should govern the citizenship rights in the Federation of North Borneo subject to the following amendments:

(a) sub-paragraph (i) should not contain the proviso as to five years residence;

(b) in order to tie up with our law, sub-paragraph (ii) (a) should read “7 out of 10 years” instead of “ 8 out of the 12 years”;

(c) sub-paragraph (iii) should not contain any restriction tied to the citizenship of parents – a person born in North Borneo after Malaysia must be federal citizen.

  1. Tariffs and Finance

North Borneo should retain control of its own finance, development and tariffs, and should have the right to work up its own taxation and to raise loans on its own credit.

  1. Special Position of Indigenous Races

In principle, the indigenous races of North Borneo should enjoy special rights analogous to those enjoyed by Malays in Malaya, but the present Malays’ formula in this regard is not necessarily applicable in North Borneo.

  1. State Government

(a) The Prime Minister should be elected by unofficial members of Legislative Council.

(b) There should be a proper Ministerial system in North Borneo.

  1. Transitional Period

This should be seven years and during such period legislative power must be left with the State of North Borneo by the Constitution and not be merely delegated to the State Government by the Federal Government.

  1. Education

The existing educational system of North Borneo should be maintained and for this reasons it should be under state control.

  1. Constitution Safeguards

No amendment modifications or withdrawal of any special safeguards granted to North Borneo should be made by the Central Government without the positive concurrence of the Government of the State of North Borneo.

The power of amending the Constitution of the State of North Borneo should belong exclusively to the people in the state. (Note: The United Party, the Democratic Party and the Pasok Momogon Party considered that three-fourth majority would be required in order to effect any amendment to the Federal and the State Constitution whereas the UNKO and the USNO considered a two-thirds majority would be sufficient.)

  1. Representation in Federal Parliament

This should take account not only of the population of North Borneo but also of its size and potentialities and in any case should not be less than that of Singapore.

  1. Name of Head of State

Yang di-Pertua Negeri

  1. Name of State


  1. Land, Forest, Local Government, etc.

This provision in the Constitution of the Federation in respect of the powers of the National Land Council should not apply in North Borneo. Likewise, the national Council for Local Government should not apply in North Borneo.


  1. "No need to review 20-Point", Daily Express News. December 22, 2004.
  2. "Sabah, S'wak urged to review agreements", Daily Express News. December 21, 2004


1. G. Kittingan, Jeffrey and J. Ongkili, Maximus. 1989. Sabah 25 YEARS LATER (1963- 1988) IDS Sabah.


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