He came, he spoke, he conquered.
No, I am not talking about the great Gaius Julius Caesar, that Roman general and statesman, who said “I came, I saw, I conquered”, when reporting to the Roman Senate on his swift military victory against Pharnaces II, king of Pontus at the battle of Zela in 47 BC, 2067 years ago.
I am referring here to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s recent visit to our state. The prime minister came on April 2, made an announcement at a luncheon that Sarawak is now a wilayah (region), and in the process conquered the hearts of many politicians — and the common people.
Many feel Muhyiddin’s remark augurs well for Sarawak as we have been pushing — for decades — to restore our rights under Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
It’s pointless to celebrate at this stage. Not yet. It’s still too early. The announcement should be followed up by action from Putrajaya. Don’t just talk. Yes, some people (including quite a few politicians) might have been taken in by our prime minister’s announcement and are already in a state of syok sendiri (full of oneself).
It is pointless for Putrajaya to term Sarawak as a wilayah without restoring our autonomy. I see it as a case of talk only, no action! Don’t take us for a ride. I would like to borrow Abraham Lincoln’s great quote: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
First, give us our rights to education and health, perhaps judiciary too. Also, let us have a greater share of the country’s wealth. And return us the right to one-third of the 222 parliamentary seats. Then only we’ll be happy to be referred to as a region.
Better still, if Putrajaya is sincere, allocate a deputy prime minister’s post to Sarawak — and Sabah. We can have the post of DPM1; Sabah, DPM2, and Malaya be given the DPM3. Of course Malaya can keep the premiership.
My colleague, news editor Aden Nagrace, thinks we should get the DPM1 post — nothing less.
It’s good that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg clarified that it’s just a suggestion from Muhyiddin. “If people want to say we are a region, we just accept it. He said Sarawak is a region. Whether we want to use that or not will depend on current talks on MA63.”
Abang Johari is leaving it to legal experts to determine whether Sarawak should be a wilayah or state.
Anyway, the onus is on Muhyiddin to make good his announcement by bringing the issue up to Parliament and amend Article 1 (2) of the Federal Constitution to include “pursuant to Malaysia Agreement 1963” and amendment to Article 160(2) to define ‘the Federation’ as a federation established under MA63.
Until then, let us not think of ourselves as a region, and stop being in a state of syok sendiri.
I would like to give space to some people whose views I sought yesterday. Read their views below.
Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, minister
Past history should not be rewritten to fit the present political rhetoric or our future generation will mock us, just like we mocked the past misdeeds and actions of our leaders.
In all our analyses on the formation of Malaysia, it must be based on five documents only. Not the discussions, correspondences or assumption, but the five documents: the Cobbold Commission Report, the Malaysia Agreement 1963, the Inter-Governmental (IGC) Report, the Act of Malaysia (UK) and the Act of Malaysia (Tanah Melayu), and the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. Anything outside these five documents is not part of the agreed bundle of documents for the MA63.
If the Federal government is prepared to rewrite the MA63 and all the related four documents, I welcome it whole heartedly. But the Federal Constitution has to be overhauled and amended accordingly. Based on this thought, I totally agree with our chief minister that the legal and history experts should determine the description for Sarawak.
If one has not read and understood thoroughly the five documents, the best thing to do would be to keep quiet.
Datuk Sebastian Ting, assistant minister
Muhyiddin’s announcement is most welcome. Anyway, it’s always very important to remind ourselves that Sarawak, Sabah, Singapore (she left in 1965) and the Federated States of Malaya were the four original founding partners of Malaysia.
As one of the founding partners in the formation of Malaysia, Sarawak must be treated equally as one of the remaining three original partners and definitely not to be treated like other states in Malaya, because our state has special autonomy secured in the Federal Constitution that other states do not have.
Even more important is that the proposed Federal Constitution amendment to put Sarawak as equal partner to Sabah and the peninsula must not merely be in form but of substantive nature such as allocating one-third of the seats in Parliament to Sarawak and Sabah. I believe this is the only genuine way of power sharing among the three equal partners.
Wilfred Yap, politician
The prime minister’s remark is most welcome. However, the word “region” must be clearly defined and in this context, the Federal Constitution should be amended to reflect the true intention of the parties in the formation of Malaysia through the union of three regions — Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah.
If we were to look at our court system, we have the High Court of Malaya, and High Court of Sabah and Sarawak. The amendment made would be consistent with Malaysia Agreement 1963. I hope the PM’s statement is not merely “lip service” but a genuine intention to make things right.
Dr Navin Chandra Naidu, columnist
Winning the hearts and minds of the rakyat can only happen with proof and evidence of visible development and tangible progress in all the economic sectors of Sarawak. Talk is cheap.
The crucial concern for Sarawak is that it is legally, lawfully and legitimately an equal partner with Malaya and Sabah under customary international law (jus gentium) that begat the Malaysia Agreement 1963. Article VIII nailed that provision deep and secure in the covenant.
Politicians come and go, but complying with, abiding by and adhering to the law is paramount especially when the “rule of law” is mistaken for the “rule by law”. Sarawakians have not forgotten this truism.
Karambir Singh, columnist
Our prime minister’s announcement that Sarawak is more than a state has made many people here happy. However, the reference to Sarawak as a wilayah has mixed reactions.
The term does not actually have a specific meaning constitutionally. Therefore, we need to take the statement at face value for the moment.
Edgar Ong, social media influencer
It’s superfluous and frustrating that our politicians can be so easily swayed by one visit and some sweet words and get so excited over the introduction of a new terminology for our state.
Sarawak has been and will always be a state, whether sovereign or part of a federation; anything else is nonsensical and smacks of a dumbing down of a complaint and easy to manipulate population blinded by smooth talking opportunistic politicos.
Voon Lee Shan, politician
Sarawak should first be released from the federation of Malaysia as a free and independent state. All what Sarawak had lost including territories, territorial waters, marine wealth, oil and gas and all revenues taken away from Sarawak by the federation of Malaya (renamed Malaysia) should be restored before Putrajaya can even talk on the status of Sarawak in the federation.
You can come with whatever name or whatever description for Sarawak, whether as a wilayah, a region, district or a province, but first restore our rights. This is because the change of status to whatever name will still make Malaya the owner of all territories, territorial waters, oil and gas that Malaya had taken from us.
In conclusion, Sarawakians — especially some of our representatives — should be realistic; there is still a lot to be done. In the meantime, let’s not be very full of ourselves. About time we came down to earth.