The pedigree picture

When a marauder destroys your house and takes away your cash and jewellery, his responsibility for his actions far exceeds that of the servant who opened the door to him, whether out of fear, cupidity or because he simply didn’t know any better.

Shashi Tharoor, Indian politician, writer and a former career international diplomat

Sarawak’s pedigree is a rich kaleidoscope of entrenched and enduring primordial values proudly and resplendently expressed in the adat of the territory recognised, respected, acknowledged, accepted and validated as the law of the land locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Adat was the primary impeller for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of 2007. Malaysia is a signatory to this covenant.

The Adat Iban 1993, a Code of Conduct, for example, is filled with common sense answers, solutions, and remedies applicable internationally similar to that practised by the Maoris of Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australian and Canadian First Nations, and the 563 Native American Tribes of the United States.

Civilised and mature politics usually prohibit pedigree from being disturbed, tainted, diminished, marginalised, disenfranchised, ignored or terrorised. Notice how China stays the course with its own adat with minimal interference from and by western traditions with a dedicated focus on economic advancement (read: Belt & Road Initiative).

The Native Americans observed the marauders’ actions thus: “when the Pilgrims (Pilgrim Fathers) first landed on Plymouth Rock, they fell on their knees and prayed; thereafter they preyed on us.”

Thereafter came promises, assurances and guarantees through treaties, proclamations, declarations, covenants, laws and constitutions which did nothing but erode and destroy almost all the Natives’ rights in the name of progress and Christian civilisation. But, the pedigree was left untouched.

Today, the Black Hills of South Dakota which America wants so badly for any amount of money has been roundly rejected by the Lakota Sioux. Pedigree survives.

The pedigree of adat got subtly altered without much disagreement as the colonists came with the promise of progress, advancement, Christianity and civilisation.

The so-called discoverer of North America, Pedro Scotto (Hollywood name: Christopher Columbus) came with the promise of stealing gold and silver for his European masters and sponsors, and in the bargain unleashed slavery that quickly became the mainstay of economics and politics as practised by civilised Christian Europeans.

The United States Supreme Court in 1857 declared in Dred Scott v. Sanford that slaves were not humans but property! The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments after the American Civil War restored the pedigree. Must change come only after wanton bloodshed, bloodletting and bloodbaths?

The hybrid of European law traditions deals with fairness and justice encapsulated in the word “equity” which is supposed to be a gloss on written law and constitutions.

Equity is not a European or American paradigm, but has been practised for thousands of years among indigenous tribal communities as adat and aboriginal law (lore). Admittedly, adat set the pace, the tone, and the direction.

Did Sarawak lose its pedigree status in terms of freedom, autonomy and sovereignty following “political discovery and economic conquest” by an outside force? We need to look at the decision of James Brooke for freeing the Sultanate of Brunei from rebellion, piracy and insurgency that resulted in the reward of Sarawak territory.

To restore Sarawak’s original pedigree, should history be repeated for present day Sarawak to become free from political and economic insurgency, rebellion and piracy unleashed by the post-Malaysia Act 1963 neo-colonialism politics?

Adat has the potential and the wherewithal to free Sarawak if and when the denizens and citizens of Sarawak are ready, willing and able to enforce the clear mandate with their “special position” status (Art. 153, Federal Constitution) which in Malaya is referred to as “special rights and special privileges” that has morphed into a confusing cacophony of race, religion, region and royalty.  

Sarawak’s pedigree is loud, clear and visible in the various provisions of the State Sales Tax Ordinance, 1998, where the power of any court is rendered irrelevant, immaterial and impotent.

Sections 25 and 26 of the Act underscore the power of the Comptroller to order a taxable person (Petronas, in this case) to furnish security for payment of State sales tax knowing that a debt would be occasioned.

The final icing on the cake comes at Article 57(2) where the decision of the State Comptroller is final and not subject to review in any court. The vexatious and nagging question is why it became necessary to file a suit in the High Court against Petronas when it seems to subvert and subsume the power of the State Comptroller whose decision can be appealed by a Board of Review empanelled by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri under Article 57(3). I doubt Sarawak willingly surrendered jurisdiction.

Sarawak’s pedigree is strong, durable and enduring under the circumstances. It is tattooed in the DNA of its territorial sovereignty.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.

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