Thursday, 4 December 2014

Sabah, Sarawak insulted again and again

East Malaysians resent it when politicians in the peninsula play to the gallery on issues concerning their destiny.


Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, speaking to the media after the Umno general assembly on Saturday, echoed a position long held by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim: “Everything and anything can be discussed between Putrajaya and Sabah and Sarawak, but the question of their leaving Malaysia does not arise and is non-negotiable.”

That’s like a ruler talking down to his subjects, not something to be expected from a democratically elected leader who respects the people in Borneo as citizens.

Both Najib and his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, on an earlier occasion not so long ago in Sabah, had argued that “Sabah belongs to Malaysia” and outraged Borneo nationalists. That reminded them of the defunct Sulu Sultanate claiming that Sabah belongs to it, whatever that means.

Article 160 of the Federal Constitution clearly defines Federation as the Malayan Federation, no matter what name it goes by now. It was not the intention of the founding fathers of Sabah and Sarawak to join the Malayan Federation as the 12th and 13th states.

If there’s one thing that irks Sabahans and Sarawakians to no end, it’s the idea that Malay politicians across the divide in the peninsula must play to the gallery there on issues that concern their destiny. Najib’s Sedition Act pledges on Sabah and Sarawak, echoed by Home Minister Zahid Hamidi, won loud applause at the Umno General Assembly when the delegates should have in fact remained silent on the issue.

In the court of Borneo public opinion, the consensus is that Sabah and Sarawak must forge their own destiny and that Putrajaya’s propensity to continue to dictate to them after 51 years is unacceptable.

It’s not enough to say “non-negotiable and cannot leave Malaysia” and wave the Sedition Act. The people of Sabah and Sarawak resent the condescension, the presumption of lordship over them.

The Sedition Act itself without prejudice allows for legitimate criticism of the government’s mistakes. It does not prevent criticism of the ruling party or their leaders as politicians and party leaders.

It would be wrong in law for Putrajaya to use the intention of the British in introducing the Sedition Act in dealing with issues in Sabah and Sarawak.

Too little too late

In hindsight, it was Tunku Abdul Rahman who pledged in 1962/63 that “Malaya would not colonize Borneo after the British leave, and Borneo will be developed to be on par with Malaya”.

But Sabah and Sarawak continue to be the poorest states in the Federation. So, Najib offering to discuss the “oil royalty issue, power or any other matter we can agree to” may be a case of too little too late.

It was Najib himself and Petronas who had earlier dismissed the idea of revising the oil royalty upwards to a respectable 20 per cent from the current measly five per cent. Pakatan Rakyat, at the same time, has pledged 20 per cent oil royalty, not greater federal allocations as what the Barisan Nasional did. Unlike Putrajaya, Pakatan did not make the supreme insult of offering more allocations under corporate social responsibility.

Unlike BN, Pakatan has a finger on the pulse of Borneo. While Putrajaya is living in a state of denial, Pakatan has pledged to respect the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63). That means it thinks there’s still hope for a Federation of North Borneo, Sarawak and Malaysia under MA63, i.e. away from the 12th and 13th states status.

Najib, by offering dialogue on dead end issues and at the same time waving the Sedition Act on an issue of contention, has in fact closed the door to dialogue.

Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, a Sarawakian, offered the “secessionists” unconditional dialogue not so long ago but may have been shot down since then by his political masters.

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