CYBERJAYA, April 14 — Malaysians in the peninsula need to have a better understanding of the Malaysia Agreement 1963, an Umno minister said today amid increasingly vocal discontent over the perceived disenfranchisement of Sabah and Sarawak.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said Malaysians cannot take the 1963 Agreement lightly, especially since the country continued to survive based on the decision by the two states to stick with Malaysia.
“Even our sense of history is sometimes wrong. We say Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaysia in 1963 but no, Sabah and Sarawak formed Malaysia together with the Malay peninsula in 1963,” he said in his keynote address at a dialogue with students of Multimedia University here.
Over the past several months, the authorities have been actively cracking down on the nascent Sabah Sarawak Keluar Malaysia (SSKM) secessionist movement that has been operating largely on social media site Facebook.
The group has been harping on several grievances faced by Sabahans, most notably land grabs, the influx of illegal immigrants, comparative lack of infrastructure and development, distortion of historical facts regarding Malaysia’s formation as well as oil royalty rights.
Khairy today stressed that this is not the first time Malaysia has faced attempts to split the federation, having dealt with agent provocateurs during the time of Singapore’s exit in 1965 claiming that Malaya was only interested in making a slave out of Sarawak.
He said that the situation is far from what is being claimed, citing the RM30 billion allocation for development in both Sabah and Sarawak, including the long-delayed Pan Borneo Highway and RM600 million set aside to maintain the East Sabah Security Zone (Esszone).
He acknowledged, however, that there is still much that needs to be done to raise the quality of life in Sabah and Sarawak to be on par with the peninsula, including raising the per-capita income and also setting up basic infrastructure such as electricity, potable water and sealed roads in both states.
“This strain (on east-west relations) is a challenge that we cannot take lightly. If this relationship is brittle then our ties as a nation are brittle.
“If these ties break then we lose the ties that have been forged over 50 years to build a country called Malaysia,” he said.
Last week, Parliament passed controversial amendments to the colonial era Sedition Act, which will among others criminalise calls for secession of any state from Malaysia.
Critics of the move claim that it was done in response to the perceived rise in popularity of the SSKM movement, which has so far pulled in over 33,000 “Likes” on their Facebook page and made its alleged founder Doris Jones — a Sabahan based in the United Kingdom — a celebrity of sorts.
Nine individuals aged between 24 and 50 years were charged in February for allegedly supporting SSKM by handing out allegedly seditious pamphlets and mounting a signature campaign pushing for Sabah rights.
State police commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman had also said earlier a warrant of arrest for Jones has been issued under the Sedition Act the same month.