You Might Like
Stephen Kalong Ningkan
Stephen Kalong Ningkan

Tan Sri Datuk Amar Stephen Kalong Ningkan (1920–1997) was the first Chief Minister of Sarawak (1963–1966). As the executive of a newly independent state which helped to form Malaysia, Ningkan faced many challenges from within the state and from Sarawak's neighbour, Indonesia.

Personal life and education

Ningkan was born on 20 August 1920 in Betong, Sarawak which was then administered under the Second Division of Simanggang. He was a student of St Augustine's school.[1]

Kalong Ningkan was of mixed Iban and Chinese parentage and his Chinese name was Mok Teck Boon. Ningkan's grandfather, Mok Ban Seng was born in Foshan, Guangdong, China in 1870. At 6 years old, he took Ningkan to China for several years so that Ningkan could learn the culture and the way of life there. However, his grandfather died on 20 October 1963 at the grand old age of 93, a few months after Ningkan took office as chief minister.[2]

Ningkan's mother, Kuni anak Karong, died of stomach complications on 14 June 1969 at the old age of 71.[2]

Hobbies and interests

Ningkan learnt the Japanese language during the Japanese Occupation in Sarawak. The Japanese song, Kuni No Hana (Flower of the Nation) was one of his favourites. He was also spotted for singing Terang Bulan in various government and family functions. Ningkan was a fan of P. Ramlee and Sgt Hassan was one of his favourite movies.[2]

Early career

After he completed his education, he worked as a Rubber Fund clerk from 1938 to 1939. He resigned his job to join the Sarawak Constabulary from 1940 to 1946. He was the Police Constable in the year 1942. In 1944, he joined Service Reconnaissance Department, an underground movement based in Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu). He became a teacher in his former school in Betong from 1947 to 1950.[2]

He then worked at a Shell Company hospital in Kuala Belait, Brunei for several years. He also took up law via correspondence from Regent Institute and Metropolitan College at St Albans, London respectively. At the hospital, he was the chairman of the Shell Dayak Club.[2]

He became the Founder and President of the Sarawak Dayak Association from 1958 to 1960.[1]

Political career

He returned to Betong and established the Sarawak National Party (SNAP) on 10 April 1961. Although he initially did not accept Tunku Abdul Rahman's proposal on the formation of Malaysia, he eventually became a strong supporter of the federation.[1][3] Ningkan never completed his law degree because he had to focus on his political activities and his post as the first chief minister of Sarawak. He also insisted that his party should be multiracial, given his background of having a Chinese grandfather and friends of various races.[2] In the 1963 local district council election, SNAP under the Sarawak Alliance managed to get the majority of local council seats i.e. after the support of one independent winner from Binatang by the name of Jimbat Anak Intan from Meradong Scheme B tipped the balance of the number of seats won by the Sarawak Alliance and the opposition pact of SUPP and PANAS. This crucial support plus other independents enabled the Alliance to appoint a majority of divisional, state assembly and parliamentary members. This earned Ningkan the trust to become the first Sarawak Chief Minister. In October 1962, Ningkan played an important role in forming Sarawak chapter of Alliance Party and served as its Secretary-General.[1]

Appointment as Chief Minister

Stephen Kalong Ningkan was appointed as the first chief minister of Sarawak on 22 July 1963 by the then Governor, Sir Alexander Waddell. Ningkan had a strong anticommunist stand during his tenure as chief minister. He also opposed the National Language and Education policy.[1]

1966 Sarawak constitutional crisis

Stephen Kalong Ningkan tried to initiate a land reform law that allowed the natives to acquire full title of Native Customary Land. However, with the alleged backing of the federal government, the Sarawak state assemblymen started to pass a motion of no confidence against him. The then prime minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman pushed for Ningkan's resignation.[4]

On 16 June 1966, Ningkan was ousted when the state Governor showed him a letter of no confidence issued by 21 out of 42 legislators and asked Ningkan to resign as Chief Minister. Ningkan refused, saying the letters were not tantamount to a vote of no confidence in the Council Negri (now Sarawak State Legislative Assembly). He was sacked by the governor but eventually reinstated by the Borneo High Court on 7 September 1966, which saw the necessity of a formal vote of no confidence. In his judgement, Justice Harley ruled that the Governor can only dismiss the Chief Minister when both these conditions are satisfied:[5]

(a) The Chief Minister has lost the confidence of the House, and (b) The Chief Minister has refused to resign and failed to advise a dissolution.

Ningkan tried to initiate a dissolution of Council Negri upon his reinstatement of chief minister to seek a fresh mandate from the voters; but the Malaysian government decided to impose a state of emergency in Sarawak, citing chaos in the state.[4] The Malaysian government also amended the Sarawak Constitution to give the power to the Sarawak governor to commence the Council Negri meeting. A vote of non-confidence was passed on 23 September 1966, and this has resulted in the removal of Ningkan from the chief minister office for the second time.[6]


Ningkan died peacefully aged 76 on 31 March 1997 in Normah Specialist Medical Centre, Kuching. His funeral was held at St Thomas Cathedral and was buried at Anglican Cemetery at Jalan Batu Kitang. The lyrics of Terang Bulan was engraved at the back of his tombstone.[2]


  • Malaysia : [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x|Malaysian Commemorative Medal ribbon.gif|h14|w50]] Malaysian Commemorative Medal (Gold) (PPM) (1965) [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x|Order of Loyalty to the Crown of Malaysia - PSM.svg|h14|w50]] Commander of the Order of Loyalty to the Crown of Malaysia (PSM) - Tan Sri (1995)[7]
  • Sarawak : [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x|MY-SAR Order of the Star of the Hornbill (Bintang Kenyalang) - 3. Commander (PGBK).svg|h14|w50]] Commander of the Order of the Star of Hornbill Sarawak (PGBK) - Datuk [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x|MY-SAR Order of the Star of Sarawak - 2 ribbon PNBS -JBS-PBS-ABS-BBS.svg|h14|w50]] Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of Sarawak (PNBS) - Dato' Sri [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x|MY-SAR Order of the Star of the Hornbill (Bintang Kenyalang) - 2. Knight Commander (DA).svg|h14|w50]] Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of Hornbill Sarawak (DA) - Datuk Amar (1988)
You Might Like