PM’s assurance on Sarawak-Sabah interests welcomed

Datuk Dr John Lau Pang Heng

KUCHING: Sarawak Patriots Association (SPA) welcomes Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s assurance that the federal government, through the Special Council on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), has promised to pay close attention to the interests of Sabah and Sarawak.

“We hope it will be a reality that our rights and privileges will be restored,” SPA chairman Datuk Dr Lau Pang Heng said when contacted on Friday (Sept 17).

“For MA63 rights and privileges to be redeemed by Sabah and Sarawak, it is important to restore equal partnership between Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak,” he said.

He expressed the wish of SPA members for more financial allocation to be provided once partnership status has been restored.

“Our infrastructure such as roads, transportation, and water and electricity supply need urgent attention,” he said.

He highlighted the need for financial allocations for the urgent repair of dilapidated schools in Sarawak and also called for improved internet connectivity as this was unstable in many locations in the state.

In addition, he mentioned the need for improved flight connectivity between Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu, and Miri with commercial destinations internationally.

“For us to be more competitive in the international market place, our students need to be proficient in English, Chinese, and Bahasa Malaysia,” he said.

As such, he hoped that the education system would be able to accommodate this need, adding that education should also cultivate character-building so as to apply theories into practice.

Lau pointed out that Sarawak and Sabah had been downgraded from partners in Malaysia to just states in the Federation of Malaysia in 1976.

“Since then, our rights and privileges were eroded – for instance, the sea territory from the coastline has been reduced to three nautical miles from 12 nautical miles,” he said.

He noted that in 1974, the Parliament enacted the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA74), authorising Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) to mine oil and gas in Sarawak. He described this action as ‘very worrisome’ as Sarawak only received five percent of oil royalties from Petronas.

In addition to the restoration of equal partnership between Malaya and the two Bornean states in order for the latter’s MA63 rights to be fulfilled, he emphasised that PDA74 should not be applicable to Sabah and Sarawak as both state assemblies had not approved it.

“For MA63 to be redeemed, we need all the rights and privileges stated in the said agreement to be restored,” said Lau.

During the 2021 Malaysia Day celebration in Sabah on Thursday (Sept 16), the prime minister gave the assurance that the government will continue refining unresolved matters through negotiations within the MA63 Special Council.