Friday, 20 March 2015

Borneo rights talk not ‘threat’ to Federation

It could mean that demands are being made because there was something lacking in the process of implementing promises.

KOTA KINABALU: The view from academia in Borneo is that any discussion on the rights issue should not be viewed by the Federal Government as a security threat to the Federation. These discussions have been hogging the limelight in the media, social media and public forums especially since 2013, the 50th year since the word Malaysia was officially used to include the Sabah and Sarawak parts of Borneo as well.

Any discussion on these rights, said Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Professor Dr. Kamarulzaman Askandar, is within the context of the circumstances surrounding 1963 when Sabah, along with Sarawak and Singapore found itself in a Federation with the peninsula. “It should not be viewed by the Federal Government as a security threat,” reiterated Kamarulzaman who heads the International relations Programme at UMS. “It’s not a security issue but rather we need to work on finding what it is that caused for such demands (within the context of the rights issues) to arise and why.”

He was elaborating on his academic paper presented on the topic, “Conflicts, Peace and Nation Building” at the Nation Building Seminar at the YTL Auditorium, UMS, on Wednesday.

“When trying to diagnose an illness, for instance, the key was to inspect internally rather than to simply rely on surface analysis,” said Kamarulzaman.”

Hence, he added, rather than consuming efforts on searching for and apprehending individuals promoting secession, more efforts should instead be put into understanding the core areas on which such demands were built. “The people involved in the secession issue based their movement on points such as where Sabah and Sarawak stood at the time of Malaysia’s formation, division of power, distribution of development priorities, and so on,” he pointed out.

The concept of nation in this country, he conceded, was still vague. “But never be afraid of variety because that is where our strength instead of weakness lies, so long as we find the proper balance.”

Earlier, in answering questions from the floor during the question and answer session after his talk, on whether the demands made by Sabah were reasonable, Kamarulzaman said: “There’s a need to determine whether or not the demands are reasonable.”

“When there are things formally promised through an agreement, like the 20-Point Agreement in Sabah’s case, for example, it could mean that demands are being made because there was something lacking in the process of implementing promises,” said the don. “I think it’s reasonable to expect consistent supply of electricity for instance, or for roads to be in good condition, for remote villages to get the basic necessities, or for all children to get quality education.”

Finding the right balance is the answer, said Kamarulzaman, in finding solutions for peace among all communities in Malaysia. “If there’s imbalance in priorities and a certain group gets a bigger slice of the cake, dissatisfaction is bound to surface.”

And in the context where a certain group of people receive more benefits and more opportunities than the rest, he cautioned, there will come a time when the oppressed – those who are not getting what they want and need, or simply not getting what they were promised – will revolt or at least voice their cry for their rights and values to be upheld.



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