Monday, September 17, 2018

Mahathir Mohamad’s Commitment to Sarawak & Sabah









Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (right) and Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal (left) in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah yesterday. The Malaysian Insight pic, September 16, 2018

Mahathir Mohamad is in Sabah since yesterday. 

Yesterday, in his first address to Sabahans since becoming prime minister (again), Mahathir announced Putrajaya’s commitment to returning the two East Malaysian states to their rightful status as equal partners in the federation. 

This means that the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), which set out the terms and conditions in which the Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore agreed to merge the Federation of Malaya to form Malaysia – can be expected to be fully restored. 

[Note: Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew (left) divorced Malaysia to become an independent and sovereign state on August 09, 1965]. 

All this while, the rights of Sabah and Sarawak have been brazenly violated – and regretfully, with the acquiescence of the local leaders. 

In fact, the Federal Constitution was even amended in 1976 to downgrade these two territories to the 12th and 13th states in Malaysia. 

Many of us lacked understanding of what MA63 really means. 

MA63 is an international agreement, registered in the United Nations on September 21, 1970, bearing the registration number 10760. 

Being an international agreement, this means the Malaysian Parliament has no authority to amend the terms of MA63. 

Even more importantly, Sabah and Sarawak have the authority to enforce MA63 on their own (Article 8 of MA63). 

If you can recall that in November 2016, then-Chief Minister Adenan Satem had proposed a motion to reclaim Sarawak's rights under MA63 in the state assembly, but this was withheld at the last moment. If the motion had gone ahead, it could be seen as the Sarawak state government exercising its right under Article 8 of MA63. 

Instead Sarawak opted on a diplomatic approach with the federal government in resolving the issue of unfulfilled rights under MA63. 

And yet until today, the status quo more or less remains. 

That explains why many Sabahans and Sarawakians think the 1963 decision to form Malaysia is bittersweet as they feel that they have been shortchanged. 

Indeed, Temenggong Jugah Barieng’s (right) reminder before the formation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963 – “Anang baka tebu, manis ba pun tang tabar ba ujung” (Iban for 'Do not be like the sugar cane, sweet at the beginning but tasteless at the end') rings true. 

[Temenggong Jugah played a fundamental role in bringing Sarawak into the Federation of Malaysia on July 22, 1963].

And in the run-up to GE14, Pakatan Harapan incorporated MA63 in their ten pledges in 100 days of government. They had promised to set up a task force to study how to return autonomy to Sabah and Sarawak, as set out in the Malaysia Agreement 1963. 

Mahathir acknowledged that we have wronged Sabah and Sarawak and it is heart-warming that on Malaysia Day itself, he reiterated the promise that the PH government under New Malaysia will remedy this injustice – as part of their review of MA63. 

It’s time we are respectful and fair to both Sabah and Sarawak.

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