A potential political war may come to boil if federal government keeps ignoring calls to recognise the Borneo states as equal on all platforms
PETALING JAYA: Tension in Sabah and Sarawak will come to a head as long as Malaysians continue to equate the two as just another state of Malaysia, warned veteran Umno leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
Tengku Razaleigh, popularly known as Ku Li, said it was time Sabah and Sarawak recognized and treated as equal partners in Malaysia.
“There is resentment and dissatisfaction with Sabah and Sarawak being treated as and equated to just another state of Malaysia… It had been simmering since the 1980s but it never resurfaces, not as a formal articulation anyway.
“It is, nevertheless, a political war that has the potential to come to a boil,” said Tengku Razaleigh in his speech to the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society yesterday.
The Gua Musang MP pointed out that the Cobbold Commission had stressed that Malaysia’s formation should be regarded as an association of partners involving Sabah, Sarawak, Malaya and Singapore.
“If any idea were to take root that Malaysia would involve a ‘take-over’ of the Borneo territories by the Federation of Malaya and the submersion of the individualities of North Borneo and Sarawak, Malaysia would not be generally acceptable and successful,” said Tengku Razaleigh, quoting the commission’s report.
He said the current misconceptions over Sabah and Sarawak’s standing in Malaysia could be corrected by including it in the school curriculum.
“It should be pointed out, for instance, that Aug 31 is of no particular significance to Sabah and Sarawak, its grand celebration notwithstanding. It is but the date of Malaya’s independence and it should be celebrated for just that.
“On the other hand, Sept 16 – the Malaysia Day – has a greater significance and is certainly a more important date in the annals of Malaysia. It must, therefore, be allowed to take its place as a major celebration in our national calendar of events.”
20/18 point agreements not honoured
Tengku Razaleigh also urged that Sabah’s 20 point and Sarawak’s 18 point agreements – safeguards written up as preconditions to the formation of Malaysia – be reviewed, as the federal government had failed to fulfill them.
“[A Sabah academic] pointed out that Sabahans and Sarawakians agreed to be part of Malaysia on the understanding that the interests of the states were safeguarded…in the 20/18-point agreements, the London Agreements and the Inter-Governmental Reports.”
“He pointed out further that the safeguards were not honoured and taken away at the whim and fancy of the Federal Government….”
Tengku Razaleigh noted a Sabah politician recently argued that Sabah had lost most of the 20 points after decisions affecting the states were made by Kuala Lumpur instead.
The safeguards were to be reviewed ten years after Malaysia’s formation, but the committee set up by then Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein to look into the agreements did not meet that year.
This was because they were drawing up the Draft Bill of the Petroleum Development Act (PDA) at that time, and priority was given to the acceptance of the PDA by Sabah and Sarawak, according to Tengku Razaleigh.
“I would like to emphasise here that the review not taking place despite Tun Razak’s intentions reflects the good faith of the federal government in the relationship with Sabah and Sarawak…
“Perhaps the review could be considered afresh as Malaysia celebrates her golden anniversary,” he suggested.
He also urged that the government seriously think of ways to overcome the economic difficulties by East Malaysians.
“It is time that the government absorbed the continually increasing financial burden rather than allowing it to ultimately land on the shoulder of the people.
“If this is well handled, I am confident that we can begin to mitigate and work towards overcoming the negative perception towards Kuala Lumpur that seems to be playing in the collective mind of Sabahans and Sarawakians.”