KOTA KINABALU, Aug 12 ― Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is well aware of the demands in Sabah for increased autonomy for the state and will soon address these concerns, a senior Umno leader here said in urging for an end to calls for secession.
State Umno deputy chairman Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak said the prime minister knows that these demands ― an increase in oil royalty payments and better compliance of the 20-point memorandum on the 1963 Malaysia agreement ― are issues closest to the hearts of Sabah natives.
“The prime minister knows that these are issues to Sabahans and that is a matter that can be achieved through negotiations rather than through armed conflict like secession from Malaysia.
“I am confident that all these issues will be addressed in due time,” he told Malay Mail Online in an email interview.
The newly-appointed communications and multimedia minister also insisted that the majority of Sabahans still believe in the ruling government and would not likely warm to idea of the state’s secession from Malaysia.
He pointed out that many are already wary of the numerous incidences of security breaches along the state’s porous east coast.
“Despite harping on these issues in the previous general elections, the opposition parties still failed to win the hearts and minds of the people as was evident in the 13the general election results,” he said.
In Kuching on Monday, Najib reportedly pledged to empower Sabah and Sarawak, saying he had instructed Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa to touch base with the state secretaries of both Borneo states and look into their demands for more autonomy.
Talk of secession become rife last year after a social media group called “Sabah Sarawak Keluar Malaysia” began gaining traction, especially among the rural youth of east Malaysia.
The group has taken up issues emotive to Sabahans such as the alleged grabbing of native customary land, the influx of illegal immigrants, the lack of infrastructure and development in the state, distortion of historical facts regarding Malaysia’s formation and oil royalty rights.
The movement, which claims to be under a UK-based non governmental organisation “Sabah Sarawak Union”, has been campaigning for a review of the 1963 Malaysia agreement.
It has also played up sentiments against the federal government and promoted an online petition urging for a review of the Malaysian Agreement.
Sabah police have issued a warrant of arrest for its founder, UK-based Doris Jones, but UK does not recognise sedition as a crime.
However, four volunteers of the movement are awaiting trial this September for allegedly promoting secession, which is deemed a crime under the Sedition Act.