On the morning of 16th September 1963 at a ceremony in the Town Padang, Jesselton, the Proclamation of Malaysia was read, and the new head of state and the new chief minister took their oaths of office.

On that day Sabah merged with the Federation of Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia, the structure of its government was laid out in the Constitution of the State of Sabah 1963, which was the Third Schedule to the Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore (State Constitutions) Order in Council 1963.

The terms of Sabah’s entry were spelt out in the Malaysia Agreement signed in London on the 9th of July 1963 between Great Britain, the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak.


The cabinet replaced the executive council made up of a Chief Minister and not more than eight or fewer than four other members of the legislative assembly and three ex-officio members – the state secretary, the state attorney general, and the state financial secretary. The duty of the cabinet was to advise the Yang di Pertua Negara on policy.

In the structure of the State Governments of Sabah, the Head of State or YDPN is the Governor whose title is Tuan Yang Terutama (TYT). The TYT is appointed by the Yang di–Pertuan Agong. The TYT appoints the Chief Minister as head of the State’s executive branch.

The post of the Chief Minister is normally filled by the leader of the party that has the most representatives in the State Legislative Assembly or Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) who, in the opinion of the head of state, had the greatest following in the assembly.

The DUN passes all State laws that do not come under the jurisdiction of Parliament and oversees the policies and spending of the State Government. The elected representatives in the DUN are called State Assemblymen.

It was laid down, however, that until June 1964 the Legislative Council should remain in office unless it was dissolved earlier by the Yang Di Pertua Negara. As it came about the council did remain until June 1964 with the same members as Malaysia Day, with one exception: a speaker was appointed to replace the former president, who had been the colonial governor.

Legislative Council become Legislative Assembly in June 1964. Changes were made in Sabah’s constitution in July 1964.

Sabah Cabinet consisted of the Chief Minister, the deputy chief minister, the minister of communications and works, the minister of finance, the minister of local government, the minister of agriculture and fisheries, the minister of social welfare, the minister of health and the minister of natural resources. The ex- officio members were dropped from the cabinet.

The legislative assembly, the law-making body, would consist of a speaker, who would preside over its business, and thirty-two elected members and not more than 6 nominated members. The assembly would decide on the state laws which would be passed when agreed upon by the head of state.

The State Government or ‘Executive’ is made up of the Chief Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers who are appointed by the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister may also appoint Assistant Ministers. Each Minister and his or her Assistant are responsible for their own Ministry.


The responsibilities of the new government for ruling Sabah in all matters except those which it had given over to the Federal Government.

The subject of government, and which government would have control of them, were laid down in three (3) lists: –


The first was the federal list, which included such matters as external affairs, defence, internal security, civil and criminal law, trade and industry, shipping and navigation, posts and telecommunications, broadcasting, education (with certain powers given to the state), labour and co-operative etc.

1. External affairs, including –

(a) Treaties, agreements and conventions with other countries and all matters which bring the Federation into relations with any other country;

(b) Implementation of treaties, agreements and conventions with other countries;

(c) Diplomatic, consular and trade representation;

(d) International organizations; participation in international bodies and implementation of decisions taken thereat;

(e) Extradition, fugitive offenders, admission into, and emigration and expulsion from, the Federation;

(f) Passports, visas, permits of entry or other certificates; quarantine;

(g) Foreign and extra-territorial jurisdiction; and

(h) Pilgrimages to places outside Malaysia.

2. Defense of the Federation or any part thereof, including –

(a) Naval, military and air forces and other armed forces;

(b) Any armed forces attached to or operating with any of the armed forces of the Federation; visiting forces;

(c) Defense works; military and protected areas; naval, military and air force bases; barracks, aerodromes and other works;

(d) Manoeuvres;

(e) War and peace; alien enemies and enemy aliens; enemy property; trading with an enemy; war damage; war risk insurance;

(f) Arms, fire-arms, ammunition and explosives;

(g) National service; and

(h) Civil defence.

3. Internal security, including –

(a) Police; criminal investigation; registration of criminals; public order;

(b) Prisons, reformatories; remand homes; place of detention; probation of offenders; juvenile offenders;

(c) Preventive detention; restriction of residence;

(d) Intelligence services; and

(e) National registration.

4. Civil and criminal law and procedure and the administration of justice, including –

(a) Constitution and organization of all courts other than Syariah Courts;

(b) Jurisdiction and powers of all such courts.

(c) Remuneration and other privileges of the judges and officers presiding over such courts;

(d) Persons entitled to practice before such courts;

(e) Subject to paragraph (ii), the following –

(i) Contract, partnership, agency and other special contracts; master and servant; inns and inn-keepers; actionable wrongs, property and its transfer and hypothecation, except land, bona bacantia; equity and trusts, marriage, divorce and legitimacy; married women’s property and status; interpretation of federal law; negotiable instruments; statutory declarations; arbitration; mercantile law; registration of businesses and business names; the age of majority; infants and minors; adoption; succession, testate and intestate; probate and letters of administration; bankruptcy and insolvency; oaths and affirmations; limitation; reciprocal enforcement of judgments and orders; the law of evidence; (ii) the matters mentioned in paragraph (i) do not include Islamic personal law relating to marriage, divorce, guardianship, maintenance, adoption, legitimacy, family law, gifts or succession, testate and intestate;

(f) Official secrets, corrupt practices;

(g) Use of exhibition of coats of arms, armorial bearing, flags, emblems, uniforms, orders and decorations other than those of a State;

(h) Creation of offences in respect of any of the matters included in the Federal List or dealt with by federal law;

(i) Indemnity in respect of any of the matters in the Federal List or dealt with by federal law;

(j) Admiralty Jurisdiction;

(k) Ascertainment of Islamic law and other personal laws for purposes of federal law; and

(l) Betting and lotteries.

5. Federal citizenship and naturalization; aliens.

6. The machinery of government, subject to the State List, but including –

(a) Elections to both Houses of Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies of the States and all matters connected therewith;

(b) The Armed Forces Council and the Commissions to which Part I applies;

(c) Federal services including the establishment of services common to the Federation and the States; services common to two or more States;

(d) Pensions and compensation for loss of office; gratuities and conditions of service;

(e) Government and administration of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan including Islamic law therein to the same extent as provided in item I in the State List and respect of the Federal Territory of Labuan, native law and custom to the same extent as provided in item 13 of the Supplement to State List for States of Sabah and Sarawak;

(f) Federal Government contracts;

(g) Federal public authorities; and

(h) Purchase, acquisition and holding of, and dealing with, property for federal purposes.

7. Finance, including –

(a) Currency, legal tender and coinage;

(b) National savings and savings banks;

(c) Borrowing on the security by the States, public authorities and private enterprise;

(d) Loans to or borrowing by the States, public authorities and private enterprise;

(e) Public debt of the Federation;

(f) Financial and accounting procedure, including the procedure for the collection, custody and payment of the public money of the Federation and the States, and the purchase, custody and disposal of public property other than the land of the Federation and the States;

(g) Audit and account of the Federation and the States and other public authorities;

(h) Taxes, rates in the federal capital;

(i) Fees in respect of any of the matters in the Federal List or dealt with by federal law;

(j) Banking, money-lending; pawnbrokers; control of credit;

(k) Bills of exchange, cheques, promissory notes and other similar instruments;

(l) Foreign exchange; and

(m) Capital issues, stock and commodity exchanges.

8. Trade, commerce and industry, including –

(a) Production, supply and distribution of goods, price control and food control, adulteration of foodstuffs and other goods;

(b) Imports into, and exports from, the Federation;

(c) Incorporation, regulation and winding up of corporations other than municipal corporations (but including the municipal corporation of the federal capital); regulation of foreign corporations; bounties on production in or export from the Federation;

(d) Insurance, including compulsory insurance;

(e) Patents, designs; inventions; trademarks and mercantile marks; copyrights;

(f) Establishments of standards of weights and measures;

(g) Establishments of standards of quality of goods manufactured in or exported from the Federation;

(h) Auctions and auctioneers;

(i) Industries, regulation of industrial undertakings;

(j) Subject to item 2 (c) in the State List; Development of mineral resources, mines, mining, minerals and mineral ores, oils and oilfields; purchase, sale, import and export of minerals and mineral ores; petroleum products; regulation of labour and safety in mines and oilfields;

(k) Factories, boilers and machinery, dangerous trades; and

(l) Dangerous and inflammable substances.

9. Shipping, navigation and fisheries, including –

(a) Shipping and navigation on the high seas and in tidal and inland waters;

(b) Ports and harbours; foreshores;

(c) Lighthouses and other provisions for the safety of navigation;

(d) Maritime and estuarine fishing and fisheries, excluding turtles;

(e) Light dues; and

(f) Wrecks and salvage.

10. Communications and transport, including –

(a) Roads, bridges, ferries and other means of communication if declared to be federal by or under federal law;

(b) Railways, excluding Penang Hill Railway;

(c) Airways, aircraft and air navigation; civil aerodromes; provisions for the safety of aircraft;

(d) Regulation of traffic by land, water and air other than on rivers outside harbour areas wholly within one State;

(e) Carriage of passengers and goods by land, water and air;

(f) Mechanically propelled vehicles;

(g) Posts and telecommunications; and

(h) Wireless, broadcasting and television.

11. Federal works and power, including –

(a) Public works for federal purposes;

(b) Water supplies, rivers and canals, except those wholly within one State or regulated by an agreement between all the States concerned; production, distributions by the supply of water power; and

(c) Electricity, gas and gas works; and other works for the production and distribution of power and energy.

12. Surveys, inquiries and research, including –

(a) Census; registration of births and deaths; registration of marriages; registration of adoptions other than adoptions under Islamic law or Malay custom;

(b) Survey of the Federation; social, economic and scientific surveys; meteorological organizations;

(c) Scientific and technical research; and

(d) Commissions of inquiry.

13. Education, including –

(a) Elementary, secondary, and university education; vocational and technical education, training of teachers; registration and control of teachers; managers and schools; promotion of special studies and research; scientific and literary societies;

(b) Libraries; museums; ancient and historical monuments and records; archaeological sites and remains.

14. Medicine and health including sanitation in the federal capital, and including –

(a) Hospitals, clinic and dispensaries, medical profession; maternity and child welfare; lepers and leper institutions;

(b) Lunacy and mental deficiency, including places for reception and treatment;

(c) Poisons and dangerous drugs; and

(d) Intoxicating drugs and liquors, manufacture and sale of drugs.

15. Labour and social security, including –

(a) Trade unions; industrial and labour disputes, the welfare of labour including the housing of labourers by employers; employers’ liability and workmen compensation;

(b) Unemployment insurance; health insurance; widows, orphans and old-age pensions; maternity benefits; provident and benevolent funds; superannuation; and

(c) Charities and charitable institutions; charitable trusts and trustees excluding Wakafs; Hindu endowments.

16. Welfare of the aborigines.

17. Professional occupations other than those specifically enumerated.

18. Holidays other than State holidays; standard of time.

19. Unincorporated societies.

20. Control of agricultural pests protection against such pests; prevention of plant diseases.

21. Newspaper, publications, publishers, printing and printing presses.

22. Censorship.

23. Subject to item 5(f) of the State List, theatres; cinemas; cinematograph films; places of public amusement.

24. Federal housing and improvement trusts.

25. Co-operative societies.

26. Subject to item 9A of the Concurrent List, prevention and extinguishment of fire, including fire services and fire brigades.

27. All matters relating to the Federal Territory, including the matters enumerated in items 2,3,4 and 5 of the State List and the Cast of the Federal Territory of Labuan, the matter enumerated in items 15,16 and 17 of the Supplement to State List for the States of Sabah and Sarawak.


The second was the state list, including Islamic law, forests and agriculture, local government, waterworks, land and traditional law and customs.

1. Except concerning the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, Islamic law and personal and family law of persons professing the religion of Islam, including the Islamic law relating to succession, testate and intestate, betrothal, marriage, divorce, dower, maintenance, adoption, legitimacy guardianship, gifts, partitions and non-charitable trusts; Wakafs and the definition and regulation of charitable and religious endowments, institutions, trusts, charities and charitable institutions operating wholly within the State; Malay customs. Zakat, Fitrah and Baitulmal or similar Islamic religious revenue, mosques or any Islamic public places of worship, creation and punishment of offences by persons professing the religion of Islam against precepts of that religion, except regarding matters included in the Federal List; the constitution, organisation and procedure of Syariah courts, which shall have jurisdiction only over person professing the religion of Islam and in respect only of any of the matters included in this paragraph, but shall not have jurisdiction in respect of offences except in so far as conferred by federal law*, the control of propagating doctrines and beliefs among persons professing the religion of Islam; the determination of matters of Islamic law and doctrine Malay custom.

2. Except concerning the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, land including

(a) Land tenure, the relation of landlord and tenant; registration of titles and deeds relating to land; colonization, land improvement and soil conservation; rent restriction;

(b) Malay reservations or, in the States of Sabah and Sarawak, native reservations;

(c) Permits and licences for prospecting for mines; mining leases and certificates;

(d) Compulsory acquisition of land;

(e) Transfer of land, mortgages, leases and charges in respect of the land; easements; and

(f) Escheat; treasure trove excluding antiquities.

3. Except concerning the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, agriculture and forestry, including –

(a) Agriculture and agricultural loans, and

(b) Forests.

4. Local government outside the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, including

(a) Local administration; municipal corporation; local town and rural board and other local authorities; local government services, local rates, local government elections;

(b) Obnoxious trades and public nuisances in local authority areas;

(c) Housing and provision for housing accommodation, improvement trusts.

5. Except concerning the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, other services of a local character, that is to say –

(a) (Repealed).

(b) Boarding houses and lodging houses;

(c) Burial and cremation grounds;

(d) Pounds and cattle trespass;

(e) Markets and fairs; and

(f) Licensing of theatres, cinemas and places of public amusement.

6. State works and water, that is to say –

(a) Public work for State purposes;

(b) Roads, bridges and ferries other than those in the Federal List, regulation of weight and speed of vehicles on such roads; and

(c) Subject to the Federal List, water (including water supplies, rivers and canals); control of silt; riparian rights.

7. Machinery of the State Government, subject to the Federal List, but including –

(a) Civil List and State pensions;

(b) Exclusive State services;

(c) Borrowing on the security of the State Consolidated Fund;

(d) Loans for State purposes;

(e) Public debt of the State; and

(f) Fees in respect of any of the matters included in the State List or dealt with by State law.

8. State holidays.

9. Creation of offences in respect of any of the matters included in the State List or dealt with by State law, proof of State law and thing done thereunder, and proof of any matter for purposes of State law.

10. Inquiries for State purposes, including commissions of inquiry and collection of statistics concerning any of the matters included in the State List of dealt with by State law.

11. Indemnity in respect of any of the matters in the State List or dealt with by State law.

12. Turtles and riverine fishing.


13. Native law and custom, including the personal law relating to marriage, divorce, guardianship, maintenance, adoption, legitimacy, family law, gifts or succession testate or intestate; registration of adoptions under native law or custom; the determination of matters of native law or custom; the constitution, organization and procedure of native courts (including the right of audience in such courts), and the jurisdiction and powers of such courts, which shall extend only to the matters included in this paragraph and shall not include jurisdiction in respect of offences except in so far as conferred by federal law.

14. Incorporation of authorities and other bodies set up by State law, if incorporated directly by State law, and regulation and winding up of corporations so created.

15. Ports and harbours, other than those declared to be federal by or under federal law; regulation of traffic by water in ports and harbours or on rivers wholly within the State, except traffic in federal ports or harbours; foreshores.

16. Cadastral land surveys.

17. Libraries, museums, ancient and historical monuments and records and archaeological sites and remains, other than those declared to be federal by or under federal law.

18. In Sabah, the Sabah Railway


The third list was one where State and Federal Governments were to share the powers.

This was the concurrent list including social welfare, scholarship, national parks, animal husbandry and drainage and irrigation.

1. Social welfare; social services subject to Lists I and II; protection of women, children and your persons.

2. Scholarships.

3. Protection of wild animals and wild birds; National Parks.

4. Animal husbandry, prevention of cruelty to animals; veterinary services; animal quarantine.

5. Town and country planning, except in the federal capital.

6. Vagrancy and itinerant hawkers.

7. Public health, sanitation (excluding sanitation in the federal capital) and the prevention of diseases.

8. Drainage and irrigation.

9. Rehabilitation of mining land and land which has suffered soil erosion.

9A. Fire safety measures and fire precautions in the construction and maintenance of the buildings.


10. Personal law relating to marriage, divorce, guardianship, maintenance, adoption, legitimacy, family law, gifts or succession testate and intestate.

11. Adulteration of foodstuffs and other goods.

12. Shipping under fifteen registered tons, including the carriage of passengers and goods by such shipping, maritime and estuarine fishing and fisheries.

13. The production, distribution and supply of water power and electricity generated by water power.

14. Agricultural and forestry research, control of agricultural pests, protection against such pests, and prevention of plant diseases.

15. Charities and charitable trusts and institutions in the State (that is to say, operating wholly within, or created and operating in the State) and their trustees, including the incorporation thereof and the regulation and winding-up of incorporated charities and charitable institutions in the State.

16. Theatres; cinemas; cinematograph films; places of public amusements.

17. Elections to the State Assembly were held during the period of indirect elections.

18. In Sabah until the end of the year 1970 (but not in Sarawak), medicine and health, including the matters specified in items 14 (a) to (d) of the Federal List.


(Disclaimer: This article is designed to improve our North Borneo History’s knowledge and is strictly for educational purposes. We assume no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this article. The information in this article is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Further reading materials on the topic may be required.)

References: –

1. Constitution of the State of Sabah


3. F.G. Whelan-A History of Sabah

4. KG Tregonning – Under the Charted Company Rule

5. KG Tregonning – A History of Modern Sabah 1881-1963

6. MH Baker – Sabah the First Ten Years as a Colony

7. IDS-Sabah 25 Years Later

8. A Collection of Treaties and Other Documents affecting the states of Malaysia 1761-1963


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