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Stop disturbing a ‘sleeping tiger’
Published on: Monday, March 25, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah leaders should stop fighting blindly for equal partnership status and come up with clear details about what they are actually fighting for.

Former Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Harris Salleh (pic) said while all talk about equal partnership have focused on Sabah and Sarawak, the Malayan leaders have been largely silent.

He described Malaya as a “sleeping tiger” that Sabah must not disturb, noting that the Federal constitution, as announced, would be amended in April and the Royal assent given in May. 

“It is just two months away. Sabah leaders should cease to fight blindly and take cognizance that the Malayan leaders have not responded or displayed their feelings. We don’t know their feelings or reactions.

“They may well ask for reciprocity in equal partnership. For example, they may also demand similar immigration power or control. More importantly, they may demand to keep their taxes or revenue and ask Sabah to pay equal share for defence,” he said in a statement.

He currently said Sabahans and Sarawakians are, in fact, in the dark about the advantages and disadvantages of being among three equal partners, instead of among 13, including the significance of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and what rights are to be returned.

He finds it strange that leaders who have been campaigning aggressively for equal partnership status have not come up with details on what they are actually fighting for.

He noted that the governments of Sabah and Sarawak including the Federal Law Minister have been mandated to come up with a “white paper” that spells out the details of the advantages and disadvantages of the changes and concessions from the Federal Government.

“Such a paper would greatly contribute to a more informed discussion on the matter rather than presenting emotional arguments in every corner of Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

Recalling history, Harris said when Malaysia was formed on Sept. 16, 1963, first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had referred to 14 states including Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore, and seemingly implied all were of equal status or partnership in the Federation. But he pointed out that there was a confusion.

“The declaration clearly stated there were 14 states in the Federation. Basing that all of them were equal, the Federal Government has administered the country accordingly, notwithstanding that the Constitution has stated there are three partners (since Singapore left in 1965) namely Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya.

“A confusion has been created by the declaration by Tunku and what is stated in the Constitution. It stated that the Federation of Malaysia comprises 14 states. Sabah and Sarawak have been treated and administered as three of the thirteen states in the Federation since the very beginning,” he said.

He recalled that after 13 years of being administered and treated as one of the 13 states, which contradicts the Constitution, the Federal Government realised a grievous anomaly and amended the Constitution to the effect that Sabah became one of the 13 states in July 1976.

The amendment, he said, was debated and passed in Parliament with the support of MPs from Sabah and Sarawak.

“Why is it that over the last 56 years, none of the MPs from Sabah ever brought up the MA63 as a point of reference in Parliamentary debates?” he asked.

He noted that the results of the 13th general election altered the balance of political power in the Federation.

He said the leaders from Sabah and Sarawak seized the opportunity that the Barisan Nasional in Malaya could not form the government without support from the two Bornean states.

These leaders, he said, campaigned aggressively by telling the people they have remained poor because the Federal Government had taken away their rights and was treating Sabah like a colony.

“The claims and demands of these leaders are just short of asking for independence,” he said, adding that the leaders claimed the Federal Government had not adhered to what was agreed under the MA63.

Harris claimed that the Federal leaders particularly then Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak were under siege and conceded to the claims and demands by Sabah and Sarawak.

“By giving in to these pressures, he (the former Prime Minister) had usurped the authority of the Malaysian Parliament.

(As a result) Sabah benefited a lot as the then Prime Minister announced billions of ringgit for development allocation,” he said.

But according to Harris, the ad hoc billions gave Sabahans plenty of delusionary excitement which, in the end, came to nothing. 

“Najib took the unconstitutional approach of buying loyalty and bestowed the leaders with delegation of powers to Sabah with more than RM10 billion development funds. The State Government was given authority to appoint contractors and also to fix prices for projects.

“The RM10 billion was for i) water supply (RM3.5 billion), ii) rural development (RM2.5 billion) and iii) laying of gas pipelines from Kimanis to Tawau (RM4.5 billion).

“It was widely reported in the press that the RM10 billion has gone missing or unaccounted for.

This is a very good example of Sabah government craving for power has failed Sabahans by being unable to account for funds and failed to carry out the projects,” he said.

“The Federal Government, having allocated the funds in the most irresponsible manner, should replace or reimburse the missing funds as Sabahans have been deprived of much needed development.”

Harris said in the 14th general election, Pakatan Harapan, in wanting to topple the BN, agreed to the claims and demands made by Sabah and Sarawak.

Prominent in the claims and demands was the equal status of Sabah and Sarawak under MA63.

When the coalition came to power, Harris noted that it established a cabinet committee with representatives from Sabah and Sarawak to look into i) the equal partnership status, ii) MA63, iii) claims that Sabah and Sarawak state rights have been taken away by the Federal Government.

“The committee approved the amendment to restore the equal status among the component parts of Malaysia.

“This is good news. But how will it affect the livelihood of the ordinary people? Another issue that came out in the second (committee) meeting is on stamp duty only,” he said.

Having their expectations built up through the rhetoric campaign by their state leaders over the last five years or so, Harris said Sabahans and Sarawakians are eagerly looking forward to receive the undefined benefits.

“The rural people, especially, expect to be economically better off when both states become regions or republics instead of states. (So) those championing for the restoration of Sabah and Sarawak rights must ensure they can deliver their rhetoric and transform the rural people from being poor to middle class,” he said.

He added that while the rights of the two states will be restored middle of this year, there will be insurmountable complications when it comes to allocation of Parliamentary seats.

“All these look good on paper. The reality is in the implementation of equal partnership. For example, how can each component state have equal number of MPs, bearing in mind that the present total is 222? Sabah only has 26 seats, Sarawak 34 and Malaya 162. 

“Will Malaya politically agree to reduce its number to one-third? If the equal partnership in the number of MPs cannot be agreed upon, then what are we talking about?” asked Harris.

He quipped that while Sabahans and Sarawakians are hoping for the Musang King durian to jatuh (drop), when it does there would only be kulit (skin) while the isi (flesh) would have already been enjoyed by the Musang (civet cat).



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