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RM1m Oath Stone relocation soon
Published on: Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Keningau: The Federal Government has allocated RM1.025 million to relocate the Oath Stone to its new site near the Keningau Heritage Museum.Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohammed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the relocation would enable more people and tourists to come and appreciate the history behind the Oath Stone aside from it being a new landmark in the district.

He said the relocation exercise would be carried out not long from now but only after a special ceremony is carried out by a Bobohizan (priestess) in accordance with the custom of the indigenous communities in the interior when it was first unveiled in 1964, a year after Malaysia's formation.

"We must respect the local customs of the people and therefore we can't relocate it until the ceremony is done," he said after officiating the NBOS 1M Voluntourism Plant A Tree Programme and launching the Visit Keningau Year 2018, here, Tuesday.

Also present were State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun, Keningau and Pensiangan Members of Parliament Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan and Tan Sri Joseph Kurup.

He also said that the State Government through the State Museum will gazette the Oath Stone as a Cultural Heritage under the State Cultural Heritage Enactment (Preservation 1997) after the relocation is carried out.

At the national level, he said his Ministry will apply to the State Government to gazette the Oath Stone as a Heritage Object under Section 49 of the National Heritage Act 2005 (Act 654).

The Oath Stone was officially unveiled on 31 August 1964 in a ritual consecration witnessed by then Chief Minister Tun Fuad Stephens, the Agong, Malayan and ethnic leaders as a symbol to commemorate the formation of Malaysia.

When contacted, former State Secretary Tan Sri Richard Lind who was instrumental in having the Oath Stone erected thanked Nazri for understanding the sensitivities of the non-Muslim natives of the interior who were against the Malaysia proposal but came round to it so long as their demands were met and cast in stone.

"These were that the State's citizens will permanently enjoy freedom of religion under a secular Malaysia with Islam as the official religion, that State resources particularly land will forever remain under State jurisdiction and native customs and traditions would be preserved," he said.

Lind, now 95, who served under second CM Tun Mustapha's Usno administration, was Keningau District Officer when the natives led by late OKK Sedomon approached him to convey this request to then appointed first CM Donald Stephens for these three core issues in the 20-Points safeguards to be made permanent as they didn't trust anything written on paper.

"They (Dusun and Murut leaders) accompanied Sedomon to meet me because they felt that I was the best person to talk to the government about this.

"They said this (oath stone) is very important to the native people. Besides, they trusted me because my family had a long history in the interior.

"I said I will do what I can and will not let them down."

Lind said Stephens immediately agreed to the request because he was aware that acceptance to the formation of Malaysia remained a sticking point among the interior natives although a year had passed. He decided to first inform London since the Malaysia Agreement had already been signed and the proclamation read out in the town padang on 16th September 1963. As it turned out, Whitehall also agreed."

Lind said a Singapore firm (Thornycraft Shipyard) was then commissioned to prepare the plaque with the words "Kerajaan Malaysia Jamin" (Malaysian Government Guarantees) which had to be etched right above the demands in the original plaque. The stone was specially selected and hauled from the middle of the Pegalan River which had fierce rapids.

It (stone) had to be unique because of its importance as perhaps the only such 'magna carta' in the world where issues relating to the formation of a new nation were finally resolved after the demands of the opposers were cast in stone.

However, in the mid-1980s, the plaque containing the Malaysian Government guarantees was mysteriously replaced with another omitting these key words – as if deliberately – and the stone was also moved to another site.

During his visit last year, Nazri expressed surprise as to how the original plaque could have been substituted with another with the Malaysian government guarantees missing. "For me what was engraved on the plate is a declaration of the human rights (of the interior natives),' Nazri had said, adding that with the key words restored there should no longer be any reasons to doubt what happened.

On this score, Lind agreed, saying reinstating the key words on the plaque would bring closure to the episode.

"Fifty years later another Federal Minister has ensured that what was promised to the interior natives at the outset will be permanently honoured.

"Thanks to Nazri, all the hard work that went into its erection has not been in vain," Lind said.

Meanwhile, Keningau District Officer Yusop Osman called on all the business community, transport operators, tourism industry players and stall operators to play their part in making the Visit Keningau Year 2018 a great event.

He said the district has interesting tourism products to offer to visitors. - Uhim Wong and James Sarda


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