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Crown Colony of North Borneo
Anthem:  God Save the King (1946–1952)
God Save the Queen (1952–1963)
Location of North Borneo
Status British colony
Capital Jesselton
Common languages English, Bajau, Murut, Chinese, Kadazan Dusun, Sabah Malay
• 1946–1952
George VI
• 1952–1963
Elizabeth II
• 1946–1949
Edward Twining
• 1959–1963
William Goode
Historical era New Imperialism
•  North Borneo ceded to the Crown Colony
15 July 1946 [1]
• Seven Turtle Islands (including Cagayan de Sulu and Mangsee Islands) ceded to the Philippine government
16 October 1947
31 August 1963 [2] [3]
16 September 1963
Currency North Borneo dollar,
Malaya−British Borneo dollar
Preceded by
Succeeded by
British Military Administration (Borneo)
North Borneo
Crown Colony of Labuan
Today part of Malaysia

The Crown Colony of North Borneo was a Crown colony on the island of Borneo established in 1946 shortly after the dissolution of the British Military Administration. [4] The Crown Colony of Labuan joined the new Crown Colony during its formation. It was succeeded as the state of Sabah through the formation of the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963.

Cession of remaining islands

On 16 October 1947, seven of the British-controlled islands in north-eastern Borneo named Turtle Islands, together with the Mangsee Islands, were ceded to the Philippine government under a past treaty signed between the United Kingdom and the United States. [5] [6] The islands now form a part of the Southwestern Tagalog Region (MIMAROPA) and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).


Despite its merger into the Malaysian federation in 1963, several international disputes remain over the who has right to the territories falling in the former Crown Colony of North Borneo. The Philippines remain in dispute with Malaysia over territorial rights to the region.

On 12 September 1962, during President Diosdado Macapagal's administration, a distant cousin of the Sulu Sultan, the Philippine government claimed the territory of North Borneo, and full sovereignty, title and dominion over it were "ceded" by the heirs of the sultan of Sulu, Muhammad Esmail E. Kiram I, to the Philippines. The Philippines broke off diplomatic relations with Malaysia after the federation was formed with Sabah in 1963, but partially resumed relations unofficially through the Manila Accord. [7]

More recently, Malaysia has remained locked in an international $15 billion battle with purported heirs of the last Sultan of Sulu. [8] [9] The self-proclaimed heirs have been engaged in a legal battle with Malaysia regarding payments related to a colonial-era, 1878 agreement between then Sultan of Sulu and British commercial syndicate of Alfred Dent and Gustav Baron de Overbeck, which transpired into the British North Borneo Company. Per the agreement, the Sultan gave right of lands in North Borneo to the British against an annual fee. The claimants maintain that the land was only leased, while Malaysian counter arguments claim that the land was in fact ceded and so were the rights once the region joined the Malaysian federation.

Malaysia had continued to make payments per the 1878 agreement till the 2013 Lahad Datu Standoff. The Sulu claimants filed an arbitration appeal in the Madrid High Court in Spain, which appointed Dr Gonzalo Stampa the sole commercial arbitrator on the matter. [10]

Malaysia filed a suit with the Civil and Criminal Chamber of the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid, which annulled the appointment of Stampa. However, Stampa moved the case to High Court of Paris. On February 28 2022, Stampa ruled in favor of the alleged descendants of sultan and ordered Malaysia to pay US$14.92 billion in settlement to the litigants. [11] The award was eventually struck down by the International Court of Justice in June 2023. [12]


North Borneo children being filmed by an Australian government representative a year after the war in 1946

The Governor of the Crown Colony of North Borneo ( Malay: Tuan Yang Terutama Gabenor Koloni Mahkota British Borneo Utara) was the position created by the British Government upon the cession of North Borneo from the North Borneo Chartered Company. The appointment was made by King George VI, and later Queen Elizabeth II until the self-government of North Borneo on 31 August 1963 and the forming of the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963. [13] After the formation of Malaysia, the title was changed to 'Tuan Yang Terutama Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sabah', which also means 'His Excellency The Governor of Sabah', or 'His Excellency The Head of State of Sabah' and the appointment was later made by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or King of Malaysia.

Governor of British Crown Colony of North Borneo
StyleHis Excellency
Appointer King George VI
Queen Elizabeth II
Inaugural holder Edward Francis Twining
Final holder William Goode
Abolished16 September 1963 (Formed the Federation of Malaysia) [13]
Name From To
Edward Francis Twining 1946 1948
Herbert Ralph Hone 1949 1954
Roland Evelyn Turnbull 1954 1959
William Allmond Codrington Goode 1960 1963

Executive and Legislative councils were established in October 1950, replacing the provisional Advisory Council which had existed since July 1946. The Executive Council, which advised the governor on matters of policy, consisted of three ex-officio members (the Chief Secretary, Financial Secretary, and Attorney-General), two appointed official members, and four appointed unofficial members. The Legislative Council consisted of the Governor as president, the three ex-officio members, nine appointed official members, and ten appointed unofficial members. The governor customarily appointed unofficial members from lists of names put forward by a representative bodies. Overall, the development of democratic institutions was much slower in North Borneo than it was in neighbouring Sarawak. [14]

For local administration, the colony was divided into four residencies overseen by a resident, which were sub-divided into districts overseen by district officers. The district officer for the island of Labuan reported directly to the Chief Secretary. The districts were sub-divided into sub-districts overseen by assistant district officers. Most district officers were expatriates, while the majority of assistant district officers were locally recruited. [14]

Within each district, village headmen were responsible for minor administrative tasks. Headmen reported to chiefs, who in turn reported to the district officer. The chiefs presided over native courts which dealt with breaches of native custom and Islamic law. District officers could also act in a magisterial capacity and had jurisdiction over civil actions, breaches of the laws of the Colony, and offences against the Penal Code. [14]

In 1951, the Rural Development Ordinance provided for the establishment of local authorities in rural areas. The first such authority was set up in Kota Belud district on 1 January 1952 under the direction of the district and assistant district officers. Members of the local authority were entirely appointed, representing both the native population and the Chinese population of Kota Belud. This pattern was repeated throughout the territory as other rural authorities were established. [14]

An ordinance regarding urban government came into force on 1 July 1954. It allowed the creation of township authorities, town boards, and municipal councils. Jesselton and Sandakan became town board areas, and in 1955 Tawau and Labuan joined them. Members of local councils were entirely appointed by the governor, though unofficial members were required to be in the majority. [14]


  1. ^ Anthony Kirk-Greene (12 June 1999). On Crown Service: A History of HM Colonial and Overseas Civil Services, 1837-1997. I.B.Tauris. pp. 183–. ISBN  978-1-86064-260-9.
  2. ^ "The National Archives DO 169/254 (Constitutional issues in respect of North Borneo and Sarawak on joining the federation)". The National Archives. 1961–1963. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  3. ^ Philip Mathews (28 February 2014). Chronicle of Malaysia: Fifty Years of Headline News, 1963-2013. Editions Didier Millet. pp. 15–. ISBN  978-967-10617-4-9.
  4. ^ "British North Borneo Becomes Crown Colony". Trove. 18 July 1946. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  5. ^ Charles P. Williamson (30 July 1929). "Treaty over Turtle Islands". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 May 2016.
  6. ^ Peter C. Richards (6 December 1947). "New Flag Over Pacific Paradise". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  7. ^ Samad, Paridah Abd.; Bakar, Darusalam Abu (1992). "Malaysia-Philippines Relations: The Issue of Sabah". Asian Survey. 32 (6): 554–567. doi: 10.2307/2645160. ISSN  0004-4687. JSTOR  2645160.
  8. ^ Cruz, Arlyn dela (16 February 2013). "Heirs of Sultan of Sulu pursue Sabah claim on their own". Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  9. ^ "Heirs to the Sultanate of Sulu v. Malaysia, Final Award, 28 Feb 2022". 2 May 2022. Archived from the original on 2 May 2022. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  10. ^ "The Sulu Arbitration Scam: The Biggest Attempted Fraud Case Against Malaysia Ever Perpetrated – Analysis". 9 August 2022.
  11. ^ Lim, Ida (31 July 2022). "10 things about: How the alleged Sulu heirs got a US$14.9b order against Malaysia". Malay Mail. Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  12. ^ "Arbitrator Who Issued $14.9B Award Against Malaysia Indicted - Law360". Retrieved 23 February 2024.
  13. ^ a b Frans Welman (9 March 2017). Borneo Trilogy Volume 1: Sabah. Booksmango. pp. 159–. ISBN  978-616-245-078-5.
  14. ^ a b c d e Government of North Borneo. Annual Report North Borneo, 1958 (London: H.M.S.O.), 174-179.

Further reading

External links