Pakatan Harapan comes to the rescue of Sabah and Sarawak

P Ramasamy


COMMENT | I might not agree with PKR President Anwar Ibrahim and the future prime minister on all matters, but I do agree that only the Pakatan Harapan leadership is capable of resolving the long-standing matter of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners with Peninsular Malaysia.

The proposed amendment to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) will be historically significant in trying to check the forces that have long denied both states their rightful constitutional place in the Federation of Malaysia.

In this respect, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammed’s announcement of the shared prosperity vision for the nation as a whole, and in particular to rectify the economic inequality of Sabah and Sarawak, could not have come at a more opportune time.

The constitutional amendment read together with the Shared Prosperity Vision would go a long way to address the historical grievances of these two Borneo states and not to mention the distant rumblings of separation.

Mahathir and Anwar, his successor, have cleared the policy path for Sabah and Sarawak to emerge as equals, shoulder to shoulder, in setting the foundation of the larger trajectory of development and prosperity.

Gone are the days when these two states were treated as mere appendages of the federation, which was the greatest cruelty and injustice imaginable to fall on the people of these two significant territories on the island of Borneo.

Sabah and Sarawak will no longer be treated any differently from the peninsular states.

Nobody could have anticipated that the timing of the constitutional restoration of the rights and privileges of Sabah and Sarawak would have coincided with the announcement by the Indonesian government the intention to move its capital from Jakarta to Kalimantan, Indonesia's territory on the island of Borneo.

This announcement itself is important in spurring future developments in these two states and the restoration of their meaningful place in the Federation of Malaysia could not have come at a better time.

While the constitutional framework for Sabah and Sarawak might be settled without any major hiccups, the next question would be the sharing of resources.

There is an old maxim when comes to negotiations and the settlement of disputes - nothing is settled until everything is settled.

While the constitutional issue might not be a problem, the real problem lies in the sharing of resources, especially money from petroleum revenue.

The question of whether these states would get a portion of the gross or net value of the petroleum revenue - say 20 percent - has not been decided.

The federal government is a bit fickle on this matter, and the sooner this is resolved, the better it is for everybody.

What is more, the government might not be in a position to make a definitive financial commitment given the financial resources that were depleted by the previous BN government.

All said and done, there is nothing to stop both the states from fully realising the ultimate objective of the rights and privileges enshrined in the Federation of Malaysia Agreement.

P RAMASAMY is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.