North Borneo Self-government Day

North Borneo Self-government Day is a self-government day celebrated on 31 August every year by the state of Sabah in Malaysia.[1][2][3] Since 2012, the holiday has been received widely by the Sabah state government and the citizens of Sabah, as the Hari Merdeka was not the right celebration day for the state.[4][5][6][7]

Sabah Day
The celebration in 2013.
Official nameHari Sabah
Observed bySabah
SignificanceMarks the establishment of the de facto self-government in North Borneo
Date31 August
Next time31 August 2023 (2023-08-31)
The first flag of Sabah after achieving a self-government on 31 August 1963.

While North Borneo Self-government Day is often referred to as 'Sabah Independence Day', this is strictly speaking incorrect, since British legislation on North Borneo's self-government did not provide for its independence prior to it joining to form the federation of Malaysia.[8] In 2018, the Borneo Heritage Foundation (BHF) has called the state government to gazette the day as "Sabah Day" and declare it as a state holiday.[9]

Sabah Day will be celebrated for the first time since 1963 by 2022 and beyond, after the state government approved the proposal to gazette 31 August as "Sabah Day" in 2021.[10] This will replace the current Hari Merdeka that has been celebrated widely in Sabah for a long time.


After the end of the World War II, the territory was administered by the British Military Administration which later transferred to the Crown Colony government in 1946 as the British North Borneo Chartered Company facing a difficulties due to the high cost to reconstructing North Borneo.[1][11] The task to reconstructing the territory was later taken by the Crown colony government with the first Crown Colony Governor appointed was Edward Twining on 5 May 1949.[1] Ralph Hone succeeded him to continue the reconstruction of the territory and later Roland Turnbull until the last Crown Colony governor of William Goode.[1] After all the reconstruction projects been completed, the Crown Colony government later decided to grant a self-government to the territory on 31 August 1963, which is 16 days before the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963.[1][2][11]

Relationship with Hari Merdeka

North Borneo Self-government Day, 31 August, also happens to be Hari Merdeka (Independence Day), a national day of Malaysia commemorating the independence of the Federation of Malaya from British colonial rule in 1957. The Borneo Heritage Foundation and Sabah DAP have stated that they will be celebrating 'Sabah Independence Day' instead of Hari Merdeka on that day.[12]

Starting from 2015, as was stated by the Minister of Communication and Multimedia Ahmad Shabery Cheek, the Independence Day celebration is likely to be held without mentioning the number of years to prevent the people in Sabah and Sarawak from being isolated if the number of independence anniversaries was stated.[13] However, the Minister of Land Development of Sarawak Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing reminded that since 16 September had been declared as Malaysia Day, it should be the rallying point for the nation's unity. He added "Everyone now knows that 31 August is Malaya's and Sabah's Independence Day… it's not our (Sarawak) independence day. They can celebrate it both in Malaya and in Sabah as they have the same Independence Day date, and we can join them there if they invite us. We must right the wrong". Masing was commenting on Shabery Cheek’s recent proposal that Malaysia should continue to commemorate 31 August as its Independence Day, without mentioning the anniversary year.[14]

See also


  1. "Sabah Early History". Sabah State Government. New Sabah Times. 6 December 2007. Archived from the original on 30 May 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  2. "Sabah's People and History". Sabah's Heritage: A Brief Introduction to Sabah's History, Sabah Museum, Kota Kinabalu. Official Portal Of The Sabah State Government (Mobile). 1992. Archived from the original on 30 May 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  3. Bob Teoh (6 August 2012). "Tanah airku - My homeland - 美丽的国家". Sin Chew Daily. Archived from the original on 30 May 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  4. "Sabah must celebrate Independence Day on Aug 31: Jeffrey". Daily Express. 27 August 2013. Archived from the original on 30 May 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  5. "Sabah must assert and celebrate Independence on 31 August". The Borneo Insider. 27 August 2013. Archived from the original on 31 May 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2014.
  6. Michael Kaung (27 August 2012). "Merdeka 'no relevance' to Sabah, Sarawak". Free Malaysia Today. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  7. "Sabah, Sarawak: 50 Years in Malaysia plagued by bad politics — Joe Fernadez". The Malay Mail. 7 October 2013. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  8. A J Stockwell, ed. (2004). British Documents on the End of Empire, Series B Volume 8: Malaysia. The Stationery Office. p. lxxx. ISBN 9780112905813.
  9. "Gazette August 31 as 'Sabah Day' – foundation". The Borneo Post. 1 August 2018. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  10. "Hari Sabah boleh menjadi realiti tahun depan". (in Malay). 3 July 2021. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  11. Frans Welman (9 March 2017). Borneo Trilogy Volume 1: Sabah. Booksmango. pp. 159–. ISBN 978-616-245-078-5.
  12. "Sabah DAP to celebrate 51st Sabah Independence Day". Daily Express. 30 August 2014. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  13. "No more mentioning number of years". Daily Express. 9 September 2014. Archived from the original on 9 September 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  14. Peter Sibon and Karen Bong (11 September 2014). "Emphasis should be on Sept 16 not Aug 31". The Borneo Post. Archived from the original on 15 September 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
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