MA63 steering committee on Sabah, Sarawak rights holds first meeting today

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today chaired the first meeting of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 steering committee on the rights of Sabah and Sarawak to autonomy in matters ranging from finance to land. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today chaired the first meeting of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 steering committee on the rights of Sabah and Sarawak to autonomy in matters ranging from finance to land. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 — The prime minister today chaired the first meeting of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) steering committee on the rights of Sabah and Sarawak to autonomy in matters ranging from finance to land, the law minister said today.

Datuk Liew Vui Keong, who is the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in-charge of law, also announced that new members were today appointed to the steering committee.

“In line with the principle of the Sabah government and Sarawak government as equal partners to Peninsular (Malaysia), the Special Cabinet Committee today also approved the motion for the appointment of additional members from Sabah and Sarawak to also be members of the Special Cabinet Committee at the steering (committee) level,” he said in a statement.

“This committee will meet once every two months and is given six months from the date of this meeting to present the Final Report,” Liew said.

Liew, who is himself from Sabah and Parti Warisan Sabah’s permanent chairman, listed the new additions as Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau, Sarawak Speaker Datuk Gerawat Gala, Sarawak’s assistant minister of law, state-federal relations and project monitoring Sharifah Hasidah Sayedd Aman, Sabah’s former state attorney-general Datuk Stephen Foo Kiat Shin and Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Chong Chieng Jen who is also a Sarawakian.

Liew said the first meeting by the steering committee to review the Malaysia Agreement 1963’s implementation today was attended by Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal and Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Abang Johari Openg.

Liew listed the other existing members of the steering committee who were appointed by the Federal Cabinet and were in attendance today were himself, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Transport Minister Anthony Loke, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo, Works Minister Baru Bian, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking.

Liew said the other steering committee members also present were Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, Sabah State Attorney Datuk Zaleha Rose Pandin, Sarawak State Attorney Datuk Talat Mahmood Abdul Rashid, Sabah and Sarawak Chief Judge Datuk Seri David Wong, and emeritus professor in law Datuk Shad Saleem Faruqi.

Liew said he had tabled motions at the meeting, with Sabah and Sarawak’s chief ministers also briefing the steering committee.

“Issues that were presented include proposals to restore autonomy rights to Sabah and Sarawak’s governments in matters such as finance; oil exploration, mining and gas; legislation; land and revenue from land; Federal and State works; maritime and estuarine fishing and fisheries; labour; and state public service,” he said.

Liew said the steering committee also discussed the matter of restoring the Federal Constitution’s Article 1(2) to its original wording — where Sabah and Sarawak were equal partners in the formation of Malaysia instead of being mere states.

The Federal Constitution’s Article 1(2)’s original wording stated that the federation of Malaysia comprised the states of Malaya (Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor and Terengganu), the Borneo states (Sabah and Sarawak), and Singapore (before the nation was expelled).

But it was amended in 1976 to now read that the states of the federation of Malaysia are Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Pahang, Penang, Perak, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor and Terengganu.

The special Cabinet committee was formed in line with Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto to review and propose measures to restore Sabah and Sarawak’s administrative rights, the right to the share of funds that belong to them as well as rights to revenue from their natural resources such as oil and gas.

Sabahans and Sarawakians had previously lamented the gradual erosion of rights and privileges of the two territories in Borneo, which were initially treated as equal partners under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 along with Malaya and the now-expelled Singapore in the formation of Malaysia.

The constitutional amendment in the 1970s had downgraded Sabah’s and Sarawak’s status from equal partners to mere states in Malaysia.