Using ‘wilayah’ acknowledges Sarawak’s status

Michael Tiang

KUCHING: The decision by the federal government to officially refer to Sarawak as a region instead of the state is taken to mean recognition and restoration of its original status as one of Malaysia’s founding partners.

“In 1963, Sarawak did not join the federation of Malaya to form Malaysia but Sarawak was forming Malaysia together with North Borneo, Malaya and Singapore as a region, which should not in any way be equated with the states in the Peninsula,” said a political secretary to the Chief Minister, Michael Tiang, who welcomed the gesture of the federal Cabinet.

He said while there are politicians who attempt to confuse the public by comparing Sarawak with the three federal territories — Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan — Sarawak is not a special administrative zone.

“The three federal territories were all created and gazetted as special zones for administrative and offshore port purposes directly governed by the federal government.

“Sarawak is a region (not one of the 13 states) which is entitled to special rights and autonomy in governance, immigration, oil and gas, land and many other aspects,” he said.

Tiang who is Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) Youth chief also echoed Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah’s view that merely referring to Sarawak as a region is insufficient.

“More importantly, the Federal Constitution must be amended to incorporate Sabah and Sarawak as regions and not states.

“The constitutional amendments must also expressly define the special status and rights of Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

He said these have to do with important matters such as national wealth sharing and the number of parliamentary representatives to differentiate Sarawak from Malayan states.

Last week, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin during his visit to Kuching called Sarawak a “region” to differentiate it apart from other states in Malaysia.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg on Wednesday welcomed Muhyiddin’s view, reiterating that Sarawak was a partner that formed Malaysia and not just a state.