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KUCHING, July 22 ― Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Openg gave an assurance today that the hornbill state is not looking to exit Malaysia.
However, he asserted that remaining a member of the federation does not mean “we cannot negotiate with the federal government to get back our rights and what belongs to us”.
He said Sarawak only wants to reclaim its rights from Putrajaya.
“It is simple as that,” he said in his Sarawak Day address at the waterfront here.
He conceded that there has been friction between the state and federal government, but played it off as a regular occurrence in a federation.
He said Sarawak was not happy about the centralisation of power in Kuala Lumpur, but the state has been able to resolve problems that arise through discussions and by adopting a give-and-take policy.
“We have overcome many of our teething problems. They will continue to arise but there is nothing we cannot solve as fellow citizens,” he said.
He added that he is now continuing the work of his predecessor, the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem, by raising Sarawak’s concerns to the federal government.
He said in negotiation with Putrajaya, Sarawak must first do its homework to make sure that it is not firing blanks.
“This is why we sent our team of lawyers to London to study large volume of documents in the British archives and other sources which were only recently declassified in order to be able to determine what really the underlying spirit of Malaysia Agreement was.”
Abang Johari that when Sarawak agreed to form Malaysia on September 16, 1963 after signing the Malaysia Agreement on July 9 the same year in London, it had certain expectations about its rights.
“We became party to a bigger federation of Malaysia in the hope and expectation that we will be a free and independent people, safe-guarded from hostile neighbours and internal subversion,” he said, adding that his father the late Tun Abang Openg Abang Sapiee was one of the four leaders from Sarawak who signed the agreement.
The others were Tun Temenggong Jugah anak Barieng, Datuk Bandar Abang Mustapha and Ling Beng Siew.
Abang Johari said being party to the Malaysia Agreement means Sarawak is safeguarded by the recommendations of the Cobbold Commission and United Nations Fact-Finding team.
Among those attended the Sarawak Day celebration today were Governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud and his wife, Toh Puan Raghad Kurdi Taib; Abang Johari’s three deputies Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas; Tan Sri James Masing; Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan; and chairman of the organising committee Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is also the local government and housing minister.