Still agitating for fairness

If the state power has been violated, then the federal agreement can be considered void by itself and Johor is no longer part of the federation. Don’t force the people of Johor to leave Malaysia. Perhaps Johor can be more developed if it stands on its own.

– Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, Johor Sultan

The Malaysia Agreement 1963 is a legal document that spells out the terms for the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

The representatives of Great Britain, the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak gathered in London on July 9 1963 and signed it.

However, on August 9 1965, the Parliament of Malaysia voted 126-0 in favour of a constitutional amendment that ejected Singapore from the federation via the Constitution of Malaysia (Singapore Amendment) Bill, 1965.

Many view this expulsion as a blessing in disguise for Singapore. Singaporeans have never looked back, as it has brought them significant benefits, considering the economic growth and prosperity they now enjoy.

Since then, Malaysia has staggered forward. The Federation of Malaysia will mark Malaysia Day on September 16 at 59 years old.

Unfortunately, Malayans will mainly promote Merdeka, which falls on August 31 and is therefore 65 years old, based on their independence and formation of the Federation of Malaya in 1957.

It was only grudgingly that September 16 was declared a public holiday for Malaysia. The continual emphasis on Merdeka and 1957 could indicate the federal authorities’ lack of commitment to Sarawak and Sabah.

Most would agree that Malaya only views the resources of Sabah and Sarawak as vital to them, not its people’s needs, aspirations and desires.

Sarawak, via Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, has steadily and progressively negotiated for more compliance with MA63 by Putrajaya.

He has also made gains over control of our oil and gas resources. While this is still a work in progress, we are receiving more financial returns for investment in Sarawak’s future.

At the GPS government’s insistence, constitutional amendments have also been made to include recognition of MA63 in the Federal Constitution.

Some want and expect faster and overnight changes; however, we must be mindful that we do not lose what we have already gained.

I am unsure whether those instigating overnight changes are simplistic in their thinking, naïve or mischievous!

Progress is being made via negotiations in a stable environment, not unnecessary confrontations and unrest. The last thing we need is a destabilised Sarawak that will cause untold misery to its people.

Be it 59 or 65 years, some states and regions are still discontented with their partnership in the federation after all these years. The discontent in Sabah and Sarawak has been very obvious for a long time.

The latest open sign of discontent has been the strongly voiced statement by Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar at the opening of the Johor Legislative Assembly on June 16.

He said Johoreans may agitate for the state’s secession from the Federation of Malaysia if Putrajaya continues to overlook its promises towards the state and treat it unfairly.

He added: “Perhaps Johor can be more developed if we stand on our own … I feel that Johor is being treated like a stepchild, even though we are among the top contributors to the national economy.”

The Sultan also opined that his state has the right to secede if any of the terms under the Federation of Malaya Agreement signed in 1948 and 1957 are breached.

These are similar sentiments that many have expressed in Sabah and Sarawak. Now, a few days ago, Penang has also expressed similar views.

In my view, these are the sign of things to come. The federal government has become chaotic and leaping from one political crisis to another. I would think all the states and regions are feeling abandoned.

Perhaps, currently, some states and regions might prefer being expelled from the federation rather than lobby for autonomy or succession.

Whatever the outcome from the latest round of comments and statements from proponents of either autonomy or independence, at least the issues are kept alive.

These types of ongoing statements, opinions and discourses will keep the issue of our rights alive.

Even once gained, rights and autonomy can easily snatch away the Malayans’ parliamentary majority. Therefore, Sarawakians do keep up the demand for autonomy and our rights.

Let’s keep the torch burning!

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.

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