Don’t mess with Sabah’s sea territory, deputy chief minister tells Putrajaya

Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Jeffrey Kitingan said the Territorial Sea Act 2012 was unconstitutional. — File picture by Firdaus Latif
Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Jeffrey Kitingan said the Territorial Sea Act 2012 was unconstitutional. — File picture by Firdaus Latif

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KOTA KINABALU, April 13 — Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Jeffrey Kitingan today chided the federal government for insisting it will impose the Territorial Sea Act 2012 (Act 750) on Sabah and Sarawak.

The Act, passed by Parliament in 2012, limits the two Borneo states territorial waters to just three nautical miles from shore instead of 12 nautical miles; a reduction of nine nautical miles, or 16.5km.

“In fact, the act was unconstitutional as it violated Article 1(3) of the Federal Constitution which states that the territories of each state are territories they held prior to the establishment of Malaysia,” said Kitingan, who is also the state minister of agriculture and fisheries.

He demanded the federal government limit the scope of the Act to the peninsula and not impose it on either Sabah or Sarawak.

“For the record, the Sabah state legislative assembly had never assented to the expansion of the Act.

“Changing the boundaries of Sabah needs a majority vote in the assembly. Except for the period when Labuan was given away and made a federal territory in 1985, we have never changed our boundaries.

“Changing our boundaries without our consent is just as painful as losing our territories. Trust me, the people will be furious,” said Kitingan who is also Keningau MP.

He asserted that it was illogical to apply the Act across the board when Sabah and Sarawak have certain autonomy under the Malaysian federation and have been recently recognised as its own territory or region.

“We are separate regions. London does not go to Scotland and seize their territories at their whims and fancies. The same principle holds true for this federation,” he said.

He also ticked off the federal government for surrendering oil field blocks within Sabah’s boundaries to Brunei in 2008, which he insisted was illegal.

“We want them to be recovered as well,” he said.

The issue of the Territorial Sea Act 2012 is one of the thorny issues in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 that continues to be disputed today.

Others include Sabah’s oil and gas resources, which is one its main sources of revenue, and state rights over the continental shelf.

Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Abang Johari Openg has similarly lashed out at the federal government on the Act.

In 2018, he asserted that Sarawak’s territorial waters is 12 nautical miles and not three nautical miles as specified under the Territorial Sea Act.

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