COMMENT: One thing is clear now. It has become increasingly difficult for many in Sabah and Sarawak to comprehend the political stonewalling of the effort to review the current status of the two Borneo states with respect to the Malaysia Agreement.
There is a general consensus among them that this reluctance to debate the matter will not do the people and nation any good in the long run.
Thus far, efforts to raise the matter in parliament and the Sarawak Legislative Assembly have not been fruitful as the emergency motions to review the 50-year-old agreement have been dismissed on the ground that they were “not urgent”.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar has also warned politicians to stop politicising the matter as it was agreed upon 50 years ago and should not be brought up again. Junaidi, a Sarawakian himself, has expressed concern that any debate on the issue will create ill-will and disrupt unity among Malaysians.
This latest development highlights a discrepancy in what was agreed upon and what has transpired since 1963 in that Sabah and Sarawak have not seen equilateral treatment or progress since then.
Such differences are clear but the real reasons behind the inaction of the BN leadership and stern voices such as Wan Junaidi’s should warrant immediate attention.
Why the obvious defensiveness and sense of alarm now? The answer can be best uncovered by taking a long hard look at the track record so far and analysing the actions (not words) of the ruling government.
Despite Sabah and Sarawak’s “fixed deposit” status, BN political master Umno had long been mistreating its eastern vessel states and raking in the riches into its coffers, whether from oil revenue or taxes from the export of natural resources.
Instead of sharing the wealth equally across the nation (as it should be done for equal partners in the agreement), Umno has done a great disservice to East Malaysians by taking the lion’s share and spreading it generously in Peninsular Malaysia.
The extent of neglect transcends mere economics as the social fabric of the multi-cultural nature of the two states is being stretched and runs the danger of being torn apart to disrupt longstanding harmony in the two East Malaysian states.
More than ever, bureaucratic meddling from Putrajaya is responsible for growing discontentment among East Malaysians via daily issues such as business licensing, permits, education and inflow of West Malaysians and foreigners into the states.
What all this boils down to is the federal government’s utter ignorance of the uniqueness of Sabah and Sarawak and, via its drive to homogenise all East Malaysians into simpler ethnic terms, its pure disrespect for the racially-diverse citizens in the east.
Perhaps Umno wholeheartedly believes that it can keep itself in power for years to come by marginalising East Malaysian voters and feeding them crumbs to earn their gratitude and maintain their subservience.
Another impression that Umno gives is that it takes too lightly the fact that BN is being propped up by a simple majority in seats, but has already lost both in terms of popular votes and mainstream urban acceptance.
The fact is that the Malaysia Agreement has been cast aside and BN chooses to continue plundering the economic gains from East Malaysia at the expense of the socio-economic well-being of East Malaysians.
If all this economic imbalance and social injustice was foreseeable prior to the signing of the agreement five decades ago, would the people of Sabah and Sarawak have chosen to help form Malaysia back then?
Given the BN’s track record and even taking into account East Malaysians’ easy-going nature which includes giving characters of questionable trustworthiness a second chance, the answer is most likely not.
~ The Ant Daily