September 2, 2012: Two BN leaders, namely Datuk Yahya Hussein and Datuk Donald Mojuntin thought they had a good point when they said that we shouldn’t be too fussy about the date of our National Day, that celebrating it on August 31 shouldn’t be made an issue because it is not that important. Yahya had said that a good example is Alaska and Hawaii who joined the United States but never made a fuss about their national day or independence day.
But several facts about history beg repeating to get a clear perspective of Yahya’s argument. First, Sabah was not annexed into the Malaysian Federation like Hawaii was. Sabah, after becoming an independent nation for two weeks, teamed up with Singapore, Sarawak and Malaya to form a federation called Malaysia – as equal partners – on September 16, 1963. When Sabah formed Malaysia with the other partners, there was no Malaysia yet, unlike the case with Alaska which was acquired by the USA in 1867, 91n years after the independence of the 13 United States of America from Great Britain in 1776. Hawaii was annexed into the USA in 1898, 122 years after 1774.
For the education of Yahya and Mojuntin, Alaska did not even ‘join’ the United States. It was bought by the USA from the Russian Empire for USD7.2 million Russia, fearing a war with Britain that would allow the British to seize Alaska, wanted to proceed with the sale. Being a commodity which was the object of sales and purchase, Alaska cannot in any sense claim to have a proper national day, or least of all, an independence day of its own, because in reality it didn’t get any sort of independence when it joined the US. In the case of Hawaii, the state was forcibly robbed from the hands of the powerless Hawaiian monarchy.
Original cheque used to buy over Hawaii
Teri Sforza werites that in Hawaii’s case “It's a story of money, power and betrayal. Hawaii was a proud and independent nation when Capt. James Cook [came] in 1778. Hawaiians had run their own affairs for some 2,000 years. The kingdom signed trade and peace treaties with the United States, England and other foreign nations, each recognizing Hawaii's independence. Flocks of American missionaries began arriving from Boston in 1820 and were welcomed warmly; many decided to stay on the islands rather than return to the frigid Northeast. Their new roots in paradise went deep: The missionaries became powerful sugar planters and politicians, often serving as advisers to the king. The monarchy was weakened. The planters' powers were strengthened. The United States was the biggest market for Hawaii's sugar. The transplanted planters longed for Hawaii to become part of the United States so they wouldn't have to worry about tariffs. The U.S. minister to Hawaii, John L. Stevens, was anxious to annex the islands as well. Sensing this, Queen Liliuokalani was on the verge of imposing a new Constitution shifting power back to the monarchy - but she never got the chance. On Jan. 16, 1893, U.S. Marines landed in Honolulu armed with Howitzer cannons and carbines. A group of 18 men - mostly American sugar farmers - staged a coup, proclaiming themselves the ‘provisional government’ of Hawaii. Stevens gave immediate recognition to them as Hawaii's true government.
Imprisoned in Iolani Palace, Queen Liliuokalani issued a statement: "I yield to the superior force of the United States of America, whose minister, his excellency John L. Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu. ... Now, to avoid any collision of armed forces and perhaps the loss of life, I do, under this protest, and impelled by said force, yield my authority until such time as the government of the United States shall undo the action of its representative and reinstate me".
The monarchy’s power was never reinstated until today. So, Datuk Yahya, note that Hawaii did not gain independence by ‘joining’ America because it was annexed (forced to join) and thus LOST its independence. So how on earth can anyone compare Sabah’s history of together forming Malaysia and Alaska being bought and Hawaii being forced to join a nation?
I hope with this knowledge, the BN leaders can stop trying to fool Sabahans by using Alaska and Hawaii to justify the neglect of Sabah’s demand for the recognition of September 16 as our common Malaysia Day.
Daniel John Jambun is Sabah Star Deputy Chairman