Commission needed to address Sabah, Sarawak’s demands

KUCHING: A Royal Commission may be necessary to fully address the demands made by Sabah and Sarawak to the federal government.

Constitutional law expert Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said while the Malaysia Agreement (MA63) committee which was set up by Putrajaya in 2018 and 2020 made some progress, a thorough study needed to be done.

“Fifty-eight years down the road, not all is well with the former Borneo states’ relationships with the centre. In many areas Sabah and Sarawak’s autonomy has suffered retreat due to constitutional, political, social and religious developments.

“The leaders of the federal government must recognise that Sabah and Sarawak’s restiveness is real and must be addressed.

“A thorough study of constitutional, legal, financial and political instruments needs to be undertaken,” he said during a webinar held by The Sarawak Initiatives (TSI) yesterday (July 24).

Shad was of the view that balancing the concerns of equity and efficiency in intergovernmental financial relations was paramount.

“Petrol royalty issues have triggered separatist movements in many federations. An amicable settlement is necessary to ensure that investors are not scared off.

“There is a need to strengthen institutional mechanisms for regular, non- partisan dialogues between the federal government and Sabah and Sarawak.

“This is so that the inevitable tensions that are inherent in a federal setup can be resolved with the least friction,” he said.

Shad said the spirit of accommodation, moderation and compassion that animated the leaders during MA63 must be recaptured.

“The federal government and West Malaysians must re-dedicate themselves to the pacts of the past. We need greater constitutional literacy to appreciate the scheme of things in 1963.

“Sabah and Sarawak on their part must recognise that growth and evolution are natural and necessary in any federal setup. Federalism is a journey and not just a set of institutions and procedures,” he said.