KOTA KINABALU: Emeritus Professor Shad Saleem Faruqi, a constitutional law expert who is with the UiTM Faculty of Law, has stressed during a closed door discussion in the Sabah capital that Full Autonomy and Federation was the basis on which the two Borneo nations came together with Malaya and Singapore in 1963. “They came in on the explicit condition that their autonomy would be safeguarded in full and that Malaysia would be a Federation,” said Shad Faruqi during his talk, “Constitutional issues in Federal-State Relations” at the Malaysia Federalism and the Way Forward closed door discussion.
The discussion was arranged by Sabah Empowerment and Economic Development (Seed), a think tank, over the weekend.
“The peninsula would be better off if they recognize this,” said Shad Faruqi. “At the same time, Sabah and Sarawak should accept the Federal Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land.”
“The situation warrants the need for discussion given the fact that 57 MPs in the Malaysian Parliament are from Sabah and Sarawak. This could make or break future governments. How far the Malayanisation and Islamisation of Sabah and Sarawak would be tolerated remains to be seen.”
When Sabah and Sarawak entered into Federation with Malaya/Singapore, it was clear that they were culturally and historically distinct, said the Professor. “They were not Malay and Muslim.”
“Besides, they have enormous economic potential and despite this they are the poorest states in the Federation.”
He attributed the poverty of the two Borneo states to bias on the part of the Federal Government in Putrajaya and the fact that Malaysia was not a true Federation. “One result of this has been the loss of the two-thirds majority that the ruling coalition used to have in Parliament highlighting the plight of Sabah and Sarawak.”
For every ringgit the Federal Government collects in revenue, said Shah Faruqi, the state gets 10 sen. “This is very disappointing and needs to be addressed. This is not how a Federation should work.”
He conceded that it would be for the people to decide whether a unitary system, as at present, was better than a Federal system. “It’s a fact that it’s the unitary system which led to the loss of the two-thirds majority in Parliament.”
All this should be read within the context of the on-going talks on “more powers” for the Sabah and Sarawak Governments, he added. “The Federal, Sabah and Sarawak Governments should sit down and discuss and negotiate if they are serious about restoring the Full Autonomy status the two Borneo nations were promised in 1963 and the Federation.”
The Professor said that devolution, more powers and empowerment, the terms used by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, were inaccurate. “It’s not about devolution. Many of the powers of Sabah and Sarawak are already in the Constitution. It’s not empowerment. It’s about giving back what was pledged in 1963.”
The Malaysia Agreement 1963 is an International Agreement, pointed out Shad Faruqi, and cannot be treated as an internal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between states.
The 20 Points (Sabah) and 18 Points (Sarawak), he stressed, was not law at all but gentleman’s agreements which the Federal Government should honour. “There should be discussions between the people of Sabah and Sarawak with leaders in the peninsula to iron out these Agreements to investigate how many points have been incorporated in the Federal Constitution or otherwise.”
‘Many of the 20 Points and 18 Points have not been incorporated into law and hence they may have no legal status.”
There’s no legal duty (to incorporate the points into law), he argued, but it’s a moral issue. “Politically, it’s important in terms of honouring a gentleman’s agreement for us to listen to their concerns and also for the survival of the Federation.”
~ Free Malaysia Today