UPKO was dissolved by a combination of many factors.
July 22, 2012: The first, and probably the most important was the defection of first echelon Upko leaders, like elected Assemblymen, followed by second and third echelons like divisional heads, native chiefs and ketua kampongs.
The second was the apparent partiality on the part of Federal (Umno) leaders towards the Usno party and Tun Mustapha its president.
Evidence of this partiality to Usno was the fact that although Mustapha was appointed the first Head of State, which the post should be above politics, he was nevertheless allowed to head Usno as its president.
And when Stephens asked the Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, why Usno and Mustapha are clearly given visible and strong support by Umno, the reply was very direct and to the point - that Usno was a sister political party of Umno, as both are parties for the Muslim community and also Mustapha was a close friend. We were told of this by Stephens in one of Upko's meetings and also was mentioned in his statement to the press.
The third factor was the open support by the Chinese leadership in Sabah to Mustapha and the Usno party.
When the Sabah Alliance party was formed in 1962, the deputy secretary general of the Sabah Chinese party wrote to the MCA secretary general in Kuala Lumpur pointing out that there was intense rivalries between the two prominent Bumiputra leaders - Mustapha of Usno and Stephens of Upko.
He said the Chinese leadership in Sabah had decided to give open support to Mustapha and Usno as it was more politically expedient (meaning Usno had the ears of the Umno leadership) and also "Mustapha is less educated and could be manipulated. (see also Edwin Lee's book "Towkays of Sabah") The Chinese leadership, as the third force in the Sabah Alliance party, held the balance of power in Sabah's political arrangement. The political arrangement was that all three communities, KadazandusunMurut, (Unko- later Upko), Muslim (Usno) and Chinese (SCA) must share the governance of the State on an equal basis. So, despite the fact that the Chinese community was only about 15 per cent of the population in Sabah, their representation in the Cabinet was the same as the KDM and Muslim - three, three, three. The composition of the Supreme council of the Sabah Alliance had the same equal numbers for each community.
(Note: Muslim is not a race, but I am using this term for simplicity to refer to the Bajau, Suluk who are predominantly Islam in faith and the Bisaya, the Tidong, the Kedayan etc)
There were other factors that made the leaders of Upko decide to dissolve the party in December, 1967.
These were the timber licence of Nabahu Company had only one year to go and needed to be renewed and new timber area to be granted, and also the licence to print and publish the "North Borneo News and Sabah Times" was due to be renewed.
The licensing authority for the newspaper was the Chief Minister at that time.
A relation of the late Datuk Payar Juman wrote in the Sunday Forum of the Daily Express and said that Payar was only exercising his democratic right to join any political party he wished.
His interpretation of the term democracy to me is a bit cockeyed but the Editor had given a succinct explanation and interpretation of the term democracy.
There is no need for me to say more on this.
What "Relative of Juman" must understand is that political parties have certain political stance, aims and objectives. Each member, especially the leaders must subscribe to these objectives and indeed, some political parties ask their candidates for public office to swear allegiance to the party he belongs.
In the early 1960s, particularly soon after the State joined in the formation of Malaysia and the Sabah Alliance Party was formed, there arose an intense rivalries for "political supremacy" between the two prominent Bumiputra leaders - Mustapha of Usno and Stephens of Upko.
Both wanted to be the "governor" - the leader in the governance of the State.
Tun Mustapha was committed towards this objective and so he had his supporters all geared to support him in this "fight". So did Stephens.
His colleagues in the Upko party were also committed to help realise this (his) objective.
The intense rivalry surfaced profoundly only soon after the formation of the Sabah State government under Stephens as the Chief Minister in 1963.
The first (and last) local government election was held in 1962.
Candidates from the Sabah Alliance political parties stood for the election to represent "wards" in the urban areas as well as in the rural areas.
From the returned candidates from each party, a slate of the councillors were appointed to fill in the newly created State legislative assembly.
Each of the three component parties in the Sabah Alliance therefore had legislative council members and from these, nine were appointed Cabinet ministers - three from each political party.
From Unko were Stephens, Tan Sri Thomas Jayasuria and Datuk Richard Yap.
From Usno were Tun Said Keruak, Tan Sri Harris Salleh and Datuk Habib Abdul Rahman.
And from the SCA were Datuk Khoo Siak Chew, Datuk Pang Tet Tshung and Datuk Wong Lo Khiam.
Stephens was chosen from the newly appointed legislative councillors as the first Chief Minister and therefore the head of the State government.
He was the obvious choice as Chief Minister for after all he was the leader and spokesman for Sabah at the Inter-governmental Committee (IGC) meeting.
Mustapha was chosen to become the first Sabah Head of State, also an obvious choice because of his seniority.
For the first few months things went well for the newly formed government of Stephens.
However, by April 1964, the first Sabah Alliance crises erupted. Stephens wanted to have a new timber policy which he called the 4Ks - all geared towards making timber as the peoples' resources instead of individual persons. His idea of the 4Ks actually is the precursor of the Sabah Foundation which was later formed by the Mustapha government in 1968.
The leaders went to see the Prime Minister and at this meeting it was decided that Stephens remained the Chief Minister but Harris was appointed the Deputy Chief Minister.
Then again in June 1964, another Alliance crises erupted.
This was the result of the Chief Minister appointing the first local man to become the head of the civil service, the State Secretary, to replace the last White officer who held that post, Stephen Holley.
He was Datuk John Dusing. The Alliance leaders again went to see the Prime Minister.
This time Stephens lost his post as Chief Minister in December 1964, and an SCA leader, Tan Sri Peter Lo took over. Tun Stephens was appointed to the largely ceremonial post as Federal Minister of Sabah Affairs.
There was quiet on the political front for a while, until May 1965 when Singapore left, (some say ousted) from the Malaysian Federation.
Stephens also resigned as Sabah Affairs Minister (some say he was forced to resign for speaking to support Lee Kwan Yew). He went back to Kota Kinabalu and called his Sabah Alliance partners to join him to call for a review of the terms of entry for Sabah and Sarawak to join Malaysia.
His Alliance partners of Usno, SCA and also the Sabah Indian Congress did not support him, Instead they impeached him and accused him of being a traitor to the nation. He was made to resign as president of his own party, Upko. If he did not then Upko would be expelled from the Alliance.
At this contest, the SCA leaders openly supported the call for his impeachment.
Again at the meeting to discuss the allocation and division of seats for each of the component party in the Sabah Alliance, Chinese leadership also openly sided with Usno. Usno leaders, supported by SCA leaders were willing to allocate Upko with only 8 seats in the 32-seat State Assembly.
Upko asked for 12. It was decided to have a "friendly" contest amongst the Sabah Alliance component parties. It was then suggested that to minimise the number of contested seats, some should not be contested.
Upko received 1 seat, Tambunan as the only one uncontested!
So, this suggestion also failed. And again no thanks to the Chinese leadership at the time.
It was the combination of these factors that finally made the Upko leaders to decide to dissolve the party.
Payar was not the only reason, the only cause for the dissolution. He was one of the determining factors, the one who precipitated the dissolution. But in my book, he has the distinction of being the first, "turn coat", the first political traitor and the first "frog".
He caused us so much anxiety and distress when he decided to cross over to help the cause of the other side - to be the "governors".
The dissolution of Upko was debated at length. Tun Stephens "inner circle" were the first to be told of the intention to dissolve. I might add that I did not agree even at this very first meeting.
And again, at the Upko supreme council meeting, I objected. My friend Tan Sri Sufian Koroh (Stephen) also did not agree to the dissolution but he did not vote one way or the other.
There were others who cried openly with real tears. Tuan Haji Othman Yusof a very close friend of Stephens cried so did Bagong of Tuaran and many more.
I had the file containing the minutes, so meticulously recorded and written by Datuk Seri Fred Jinu (Tan), of that important meeting but Datuk James Ligunjang borrowed the file from me to get a copy and it was never returned!
The majority decision of the Upko supreme council was for the dissolution.
The majority voice was the ones who expressed great anger at the other Alliance component parties (the SCA) for their seeming blind decision against the KDM communities. They said they were getting richer at the KDM's expense. For after the 1967 election in April 1967, none of the KDM Assemblymen were appointed to the Cabinet.
Finally, "Relative of Payar" also said that Stephens was awarded a post as High Commissioner to Australia and later as Head of State.
But he was given these not because he became a "frog".
He was given the post because he was indeed one of Sabah's Founding Fathers. If not for him, there would be no Malaysia today.
As for me, I was appointed as DCM in 1975. But not for the reason that Relative of Payar" assumed.
Stephens did not need me in his new political party- Berjaya. Instead we needed him to be with us in Usno.
We had vowed to be loyal to the Usno party earlier and Stephens was amongst those who made the loyalty pledge. Our pledge was to fight for the interest of Sabah and people.
And this was the reason Usno and Mustapha did not sign the Petronas oil Agreement, giving Sabah only 5 per cent of revenue derived from the price of crude. He also wanted for Sabah to have a seat in the running of Petronas.
By: Tan Sri Panglima Herman Luping