A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a moulder of consensus.
– Martin Luther King, civil rights activist
“Because we are strong, if we pull out, the government will collapse. The heart of the federal government is in our hands – in GPS’ hands.
“The heart is with us; either you follow or don’t follow… in the end they followed. They amended the Federal Constitution.
“Now, our rights that are enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) are part of the Federal Constitution,” said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg recently.
That was the how the federal government ended up tabling a constitutional amendment to Article 1(2) and Article 160(2) of the Federal Constitution, whereby MA63 is now recognised.
That amendment was pushed by Gabungan Parti Sarawak – the state-based coalition which ended up being kingmaker in the Malaysia political crises of 2020 and 2021.
With the amendment coming into effect earlier this year, it has enabled other rights that are provided for under MA63 to be returned – such as the representation of Sarawak and Sabah in the Inland Revenue Board.
The MA63 Special Council also had little choice but to endorse Sarawak and Sabah’s demands for the return of one-third parliamentary seats to the Borneo States.
This would prevent any laws that are detrimental to the state from being passed in the Federal Parliament as well as requiring the support of the Borneo states in any laws that are passed by the nation’s lawmakers.
Abang Johari has rightly pointed out that Sarawak’s success in spearheading the return of MA63 rights was due to its representation in Cabinet whereby the country’s de facto law minister was a GPS MP.
“Before this, (during Pakatan Harapan’s time), they put a Sabahan to be in charge of the law ministry – they tried to amend Article 1(2), we abstained (from voting).
“This time, they put Sarawakian Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar – we wanted both Article 1(2) and Article 160(2) to be amended. We succeeded. Why? Because GPS is strong to make such demands.”
Even before GPS was part of the federal government and when it had to endure a harrowing fight to assert its rights to the State Sales Tax (SST) in the court, it had changed the course of the MA63 fight.
Then the Warisan-led Sabah state government which was an ally with Pakatan Harapan (PH) only played a wait-and-see game while Sarawak was fighting in court.
Sarawak succeeded in asserting its rights to SST. Now, it receives a handsome three-something billion annually from its tax on petroleum products which is said to be more than they could ever earn from 20 percent royalty payment.
Sabah, under Warisan, quietly imposed SST on its petroleum products too after seeing Sarawak win in court – riding on the coattails of Sarawak.
Now, Sarawak and Sabah are benefitting from SST – an approach to circumvent the non-fulfilment of the 20 percent royalty promise by Pakatan Harapan, pioneered by Abang Johari.
In the Premier, Sarawakians have taken the next step in reclaiming MA63 rights that were started by the late fifth chief minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem.
GPS – a coalition of four local government parties – is the right platform for it. These parties, which are based in Sarawak, remained vocal on Sarawak rights and made concerted efforts to reclaim the rights.
The Malayan-based opposition parties in Pakatan Harapan (PH) fell short in this aspect, perhaps owing to the fact that they are on a tight leash by their political masters in Malaya.
At the same time, while we have seen the advent of Sarawak based opposition parties, they offer nothing aside from rhetoric and propagate a sentiment that is divisive; breaching both racial and religious sensitivities.
Both of them as far as Sarawak is concerned, have little to offer aside from the token representation from the opposition, which definitely affects development in areas that they represent.
The narrative that the opposition must be voted to provide “check and balance” is flawed in the sense that it does not bring any meaningful benefit for the people.
I mean, these people have no clear long-term objectives to drive development as well as social cohesion in the state to warrant the people’s support.
It is a cheap ploy to fish for votes when they have nothing to offer and is belittling the good conscience of the people.
The role of check and balance ultimately is the role of the people who can observe and evaluate the government for themselves.
That is their role now, not the opposition, because development, unity and social cohesion is the priority.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.