A Gallery at Sabah Foundation in memory Of Tun Mustapha
By Muammar Kamaruddin
Sabah has yet to find a match to his leadership skills, charisma and valour.
Mustapha became a household name here when he displayed his bravery in resisting the Japanese army occupation of Sabah during the World War Two.
He further reaffirmed his popularity in the arena of politics when he went on to win in all the elections he participated, even if his presence during the campaigning period was only through his face on the posters and not by any physical attendance.
The legacy of this "Father of Sabah's Independence" has been now immortalised by the Sabah Foundation through the setting up of the Galeri Tun Mustapha at the foundation's building here.
Yang Dipertua Negeri Sabah Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah officiated the gallery today in conjunction with the 40th anniversary celebration of the foundation.
Although he did not get a formal education, Mustapha who was born on July 31, 1918, gained wide experience as he started working very young. As early as 10-years old, he served the British Resident in Kudat, became an office boy, then a clerk.
Former Chief Minister and Yang Dipertua Negeri, Tun Sakaran Dandai who later became the right man of Mustapha said that the bravery of Mustapha was proved when he fought against the Japanese from his guerrilla base at Bongao, Tawi-Tawi in Southern Philippines.
His valour and calibre as a fighter moved the British to appoint him as the Native Chief Class 1 for Kudat District in 1951.
Sakaran who came to know Mustapha when he was holding that position, described him as a highly versatile person, not only in terms of general knowledge but also religion, culture, entertainment, social graces and sports, with the thinking of someone way ahead of his time. Mustapha was also one of the engineers of Sabah's independence from British rule with the joining of hands with Malaysia on Sept 16 1963.
"At that time there was no political party in Sabah which was seeking independence, everything was arranged by Mustapha who by then had become a close friend of Malaysia's first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra and second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak," Sakaran said.
As preparation for Sabah's entry into Malaysia, several political parties were formed, with Mustapha himself heading the Parti Kebangsaan Sabah Bersatu (Usno).
When Malaysia was formed in 1963, Usno became the party to rule Sabah state while Mustapha became the state's first Yang Dipertua Negeri.
He, however, resigned from this post in 1965 and on July 22 1966, he was appointed as a member of the Federal Cabinet, becoming the Minister of Sabah Affairs and Public Defence.
In April 1967 Mustapha resigned from his post as minister to participate in the first Sabah state elections. The state seat he contested then was Bengkoka-Banggi, his birth place.
The influence of Mustapha provided a landslide win for Usno in the elections and Mustapha himself was appointed the third Chief Minister of Sabah on June 6 1967.
Before this, in 1966, he had also established the Sabah foundation with the aim of providing help and raising the living standards and education of the people, particularly the Bumiputeras.
Mustapha led Sabah for 13 years until the loss of Usno in the hands of Parti Berjaya which was led by Datuk Harris Salleh at the 1976 state elections.
Following the loss, Sakaran said Usno continued to be an opposition party until it was absorbed by Umno which spread its wings to Sabah, with the blessings of Mustapha in 1991.
Many bitter moments were encountered by Mustapha when he was the helm of the state, Sakaran said. Besides the unstable financial condition of Sabah, Malaysia also faced confrontations with Indonesia and armed threats from the Philippines as both the countries were then opposed to the formation of Malaysia.
Mustapha became elusive, distancing himself from Sabah politics after the dismantling of Usno, and remained so until he took his last breath on Jan 2, 1995.
The special gallery opened here today is in remembrance of Mustapha's services and contribution to the state and people.