KUCHING: Various quarters have agreed that development in Sarawak and Sabah must be in tandem with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
Political analyst from the Faculty of Administration and Policy Studies at Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) Sarawak, Assoc Prof Dr Saudi Narani echoed Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s sentiment that development should be based on a three-region basis – namely Sarawak region, Sabah region, and Malaya region – parties to the MA63.
“An obvious obstacle is the status of Sarawak under the current Federal Constitution as equal to the other states in the nation,” he said when contacted on Thursday (Sept 30).
He stressed that amendment to Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution was the key to claim Sarawak and Sabah’s rights under MA63.
He said Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution had to be amended based on its original form; that the States in the Federation shall be – (a) the States of Malaya, namely, Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu; and (b) the Borneo States, namely, Sabah and Sarawak.
“The original Article 1(2) was amended in 1976, and now it needs to be changed back,” he asserted.
Following the amendment in 1976, Article 1(2) reads: The States of the Federation shall be Johore, Kedah, Kelantan, Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor and Terengganu.
Saudi said that reverting to the original form of Article 1(2) was to reflect that the three regions – Malaya, Sarawak, and Sabah – are equal partners, and not with Sarawak and Sabah grouped together as among the 13 states of the federation.
“I do not blame the other counterparts especially Malaya for doing things based on what has been done because we have our representatives in the august House since day one.
“The past 58 years of Malaysia were sweet years of sleeping in the comfort zone, but now the claim for development is to be based on MA63,” he said.
At the same time, he noted that the former Pakatan Harapan (PH) federal government had tabled a Bill to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution in April 2019, but had not gone through because it did not get the two-thirds majority.
“Members of the opposition including MPs from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) had abstained voting for the Bill then,” noted Saudi.
Another political analyst Dr Lee Kuok Tiung said that a region-to-region basis would reflect the spirit of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners with Malaya while a state-to-state basis would indicate that both Borneo states are just two of the 13 states.
“Numerous times, we have heard our former prime ministers and now Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob repeatedly saying that they will uphold MA63 besides expressing their commitment to meet the demands of Sabah and Sarawak.
“The results are still less encouraging, but they are a good start,” said the senior lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).
With the recent celebration of Malaysia Day and the approaching presentation of Budget 2022, he said surely Sabah and Sarawak would like to see a budget that reflects the spirit of MA63 in the context of economic recovery after the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Of course, this includes the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) and the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030,” he said.
Lee added that both states would also hope for the granting of more devolution of powers and restoration of greater autonomy in certain matters such as education and health.