Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Workshop on ‘Sabah cannot ditch peninsula’

If “no secession” was the “intention” of the founding fathers, it’s subject to international law on self-determination.

A workshop in the Sabah capital, Historical Truth Behind the Formation of Malaysia and the Way Forward, degenerated into rhetoric and polemics in meeting its apparently pre-determined objective of proving that “Sabah cannot secede from Malaysia”.

This is in line with the recent declaration by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, and echoed by his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, that “Sabah belongs to Malaysia”. The immediate response in the social media then was that “Sabah belongs to the people of Sabah”.

Prof. Emeritus D.S. Ranjit Singh of Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), senior practising lawyer S. Vanugopal and Arnold Puyok, CEO of Centre for Society Empowerment & Democratic Studies (Seeds), presented papers during the workshop.

They were unanimous that it was the intention of the founding fathers in Borneo that there would be “no secession” for their two nations from “Malaysia”. They don’t explain how this could be interpreted as “intention” since sovereignty resides with the people. If “no secession” was the “intention” of the founding fathers, it’s subject to international law on self-determination.

The workshop, organised by Seeds, failed to distinguish between Rule of Law (laws rule, not men) and Rule by Law (men rule, now laws), the first being a democracy and the latter dictatorship and authoritarianism.
It glossed over the fact that the constitutional documents providing the basis for North Borneo and Sarawak to be in equal partnership with the peninsula has an implied Basic Features Doctrine i.e. that they cannot be amended.

Vanugopal, during his presentation, referred to his book “The Constitutional Rights of Sabah and Sarawak”, which touched on, among other things, two major amendments made to the Sabah Constitution in 1973 in violation of constitutional documents.

These were to make Islam the State religion and to make Malay an official language in the State Cabinet and Assembly (First Bill).

The Second Bill (National Language (Application) Enactment, which was also passed, extended the National Language Act 1963/67 to Sabah, and this had the effect of terminating the use of English.

The 20 Points and 18 Points, constitutional documents, state that there would be no religion in North Borneo and Sarawak. Vanugopal did not refer to Batu Sumpah, a constitutional document in stone in Keningau, which echoes this declaration.

The participants in the workshop claim that 20 Points and 18 Points, both constitutional documents, are not legally binding because they are not part of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

Article 160 in the Federation Constitution which defines “Federation” as that set up by the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1948 and the Federation of Malaysia Independent Act 1957 was not mentioned during the workshop. In short, the Malaysian Federation is the Malayan Federation, despite the name change.

The participants in the workshop do not mention that it was not the intention of the founding fathers that North Borneo and Sarawak be the 12th and 13th states in the Malayan Federation, subsequently renamed the Malaysian Federation.

North Borneo, in particular, did not have the security promised in 1963.

Also missing from the workshop was the declaration by Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman that “Malaya would not colonize the two Borneo nations after the British left and the latter would be developed to be on par with the peninsula”.

Tunku, and the British, also pledged that North Borneo and Sarawak would be equal partners with the peninsula under MA63.

All the pledges by Tunku did not materialize.

The intention of the British in mooting the idea of North Borneo and Sarawak being in Federation with a Malaya merged with Singapore wasn’t mentioned by any of the participants during the workshop.

The British, in retrospect, wanted to shed their defence burden in Borneo and Singapore under MA63 by transferring it to the Malayan Government.

This could only happen, the British reckoned, by the Borneo nations facilitating the merger on demographic grounds between Chinese-majority Singapore and multiracial Malaya where there was a fine balance between the non-Malays and the Malays, the latter under an umbrella term codified by the British for Muslims in the peninsula from Sulawesi, Java and Sumatra.

There was also the British intention to bring their commercial and economic empire in Borneo, Singapore and Malaya under one administrative framework through the 1963 arrangement.

North Borneo, in particular, did not have the security promised in 1963.

Instead, the Orang Asal in particular have been disenfranchised by demographic changes, apparently engineered by the Federal Government in the territory, through the massive influx of illegal immigrants driven by the push-pull factors of poverty and war in the southern Philippines and the prospects of a better life across the Sulu Sea.

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