KUCHING, Sept 16 ― Malaysia Day must be given more emphasis than any other national event, as it is the day the Federation of Malaysia was founded, says former federal minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Leo Moggie.
The Federation, he reminded, was formed as the result of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) whereby Sarawak, Sabah (North Borneo) and Singapore laid down their terms and conditions upon merging with the sovereign State of Malaya.
“Malaysia was formed as a result of a formal Agreement. The Malaysia Agreement 1963, and the substance of that Agreement, was incorporated as part of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, where Sarawak and Sabah are vested with substantial power of autonomy on various matters which are not enjoyed by the other 11 states,” he told The Borneo Post.
He said for 60 years, Malaysia has seen tremendous transformation, growing into one of the largest trading countries in the world and developing rapidly like never before since 1963.
“But not everything has worked out well. Many people in the peninsula still do not understand the significance of September 16 despite 60 years of the formation of Malaysia,” he pointed out.
Moggie cited peninsula-centric national education policies as having created a gap in cultural ties between the different communities in Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia.
“How tiring is it to have to remind Malayans that Malaysia came into being on the 16th of September 1963 – not the 31st of August 1957. Our education system has a lot to answer for, for not teaching our correct history.
“Malaysia is not Malaya,” he stressed.
He also noted inequitable sharing of resources and underdevelopment as among the reasons behind the growing discontent among Sarawakians.
Moreover, he said Sarawak’s existing rights and privileges enshrined in MA63 have either been eroded or yet to be honoured despite special provisions outlined in the Agreement.
This, he added, includes Sarawak’s rights over its petroleum, natural gas and timber, and the issue of revenue for development.
“In this context, the constitutional position with regards to legal and constitutional ownership of the Continental Shelf cannot be allowed to fester.
“In 1969, the state government under Tawi Sli planned to take the federal government to court on its attempt to extend the Continental Shelf Act 1966 to Sarawak. Jemuri Serjan, acting state attorney-general, had provided a strongly-worded legal argument.
“Unfortunately, the incoming government, after an initial intention to continue the legal approach, later opted for political settlement... later (leading to) the Petroleum Development 1974 where Sarawak was paid royalty of five per cent,” he said.
Moggie further elaborated that the enactment of the Petroleum Development 1974 was approved without Sarawak’s consent.
“Based on The Queen’s Order in the Council (Negri) in June 1954, the boundary of Sarawak included the Continental Shelf... and the Federal Constitution recognises that the territory that was part of The Territory of the State just before Malaysia Day, belongs to that state.
“It was only signed by the then chief minister but was never discussed nor voted at the Council Negri as would be required under the Federal Constitution.
“If necessary perhaps, in view of the new findings of oil and gas off Baram, Sarawak may want to revive the idea of legality in court.”
In conjunction with Malaysia Day, Moggie urged the federal government to swiftly honour the MA63.
He said the Agreement which was signed by Britain, the Federation of Malaya, Sarawak, Sabah (North Borneo) and Singapore would always be the main foundation of the formation of Malaysia which has been recognised by the United Nations.
“To go forward, Malaysia needs to honour the MA63 agreed at its formation.
“The national education system should also present a narrative of our true story; balanced development must always be given priority; and racial and religious narrowness has to be resisted,” he said.
Adding on, Moggie also proposed Sarawak and Sabah initiate a constitutional amendment to increase the respective share of their seats to one-third of the total number of seats in Parliament.
This, he stressed, is important in order to ensure that there can be no amendment to the Federal Constitution without the consent of Sarawak and Sabah.
At the same time, Moggie lauded the Sarawak government’s efforts to safeguard and reclaim the region’s rights in ensuring that the MA63 is respected and implemented as was originally agreed.
According to him, Sarawak has the right to voice out its demand for the reinstatement of its special rights as spelled out in the MA63.
He also believed that whatever move that may cause unease is part and parcel of nationhood; rather what is more important is for all involved to sit together, discuss and find common ground.
“Sarawak is right on firmly insisting on having these rights honoured. The feeling that these rights have been eroded over the years – both within the state government and the general population – is palpable.
“The sooner this issue is resolved the better, as this would benefit and integrate the regions of Sabah and Sarawak and the peninsula. Such inclusion is important for the survival of the nation,” he concluded. ― Borneo Post