Happy 55th Malaysia Day! — Wilfred Madius Tangau

SEPTEMBER 15 — As we come together to celebrate this day, let me remind all fellow Malaysians that it was on this day back in 1963, our forefathers representing the Sabah and Sarawak, Malayan Federation and Singapore, where they signed the Malaysian Agreement 1963 to form Malaysia.

I am proud to see Sabah play host to this auspicious celebration today. Beyond the happy occasion, we should take this day to remind ourselves of how far we have come as a nation. We should also take this day as a reminder, that the peace and prosperity of a nation with such diversity cannot be taken for granted and we cannot cease to make us better, together.

This is the day to also remind all Malaysians of the importance of the autonomous rights and privileges enshrined in the MA63 that our forefathers have agreed and signed. This is the backbone and the basis of our nationhood. All Malaysians must protect and uphold the sanctity of Federal Constitution and MA63.

In the course of development and competing priorities, the implementation of MA63 was not exactly being fulfilled as what it laid out to be. This is most regrettable. However, the 9th May 2018 General Election have shown that the people have spoken; and the new Sabah and Federal governments who have now gotten the full mandate of the people to serve, to protect and uphold the MA63, and the Federal Constitution; and to ensure peace and prosperity, in order to also strengthen the resilience of our society and the people.

Malaysia has a total land size of 329,750 Sq KM. Sabah occupies 73,904 sq KM which contributes to approximately 23per cent of the total land mass of Malaysia. Together with Sarawak, which has a total land mass of 124, 451 sq KM which contributes to 37.5per cent; Sabah and Sarawak contribute to over 60per cent of the total Malaysia land mass. Just Tuaran, my own constituency, is bigger than Perlis! I have 3 ADUN and a District Officer under the Tuaran Parliament Constituency, yet Perlis has 3 Member of Parliament, 15 ADUN and a Mentri Besar. Why, after all these years we still refer the Federation of Malaysia as ‘Malaysia termasuklah Sabah & Sarawak’?

Today, many Sabahans and Sarawakians feel that they have been shortchanged. This is not only a perception nor political rhetoric for political survival but are fundamental rights that have to be upheld, protected and defended. We cannot blame any Sabahans and Sarawakians that feel our rights have been eroded over the years, benefits denied and autonomy diminishing. The inequality among Malaysians if compared geographically is real, and the nation will not progress if we don’t work closely together to do something right. When your siblings are poor and deprived, you won’t have peace in the family and your poor siblings will not be able to add value to the family.

We must revisit how we distributed wealth and how we should be recognising contribution from mainland Malaysia. We must re-engineer wealth distribution policies to reduce inequalities in many ways. And when everyone is empowered and the society is more equal, we will see everyone being able to flourish at their best.

We need to have a clear vision of national unity and the direction for integration has to be clear. Our country will only prosper when both Mainland Malaysians and Semenanjung Malaysians have frequent engagements like siblings and taking care of each other like a real family. Malaysia will only progress throughly as One Nation when we reach an equilibrium in prosperity and centre-periphery relations.

A good federal-state relations is vital for Malaysia to survive. As a country, we have come a long way, and we had been a stable, peaceful and progressive nation. Everyone should feel that they belong to the country. We should preserve what we have done well, and we should improve on our shortcomings. Let us take this day to reflect, and to renew the spirit of MA63 and take this as an act to solidify the nation.

In our quest to have more autonomy at the State level, we first need to take cognisance of the fact that MA63 is not just about Sabah, but about Malaysia. I believe that by giving more autonomy to Sabah, our people will be empowered. We are a mature society. We can manage our own political, social and economic affairs more effectively and efficiently without sacrificing our Malaysian identity and the integrity of the federation. Afterall, a federation is a system of government that recognises and safeguards the regional uniqueness of a territory and the cultural value of our people.

We should also aim to improve the State’s position in the federation and at the same time to safeguard the sanctity of the Federal Constitution. I hope that the Government is willing to build the country based on what Malaysia truly aspired to be. Sabah’s rights are enshrined and embedded in the Malaysian Constitution and Sabah Constitution. So we must be united while Malaysia must be strong, and Sabah must be strong.

Let us reflect on the word ‘equilibrium’. To ensure equilibrium in centre-periphery relations and prosperity, there has to be effective implementation of the federal constitution vis-à-vis the safeguards for the autonomous rights and benefits of Sabah and Sarawak.

I believe that it is now time for the Federal Government to decentralise power as a way to truly empower the people of Mainland Malaysia and to allow the states to develop independently according to their needs. We not only long for autonomy which is merely about the transfer of power from one level to the other, but more importantly we want autonomy with accountability, and the autonomy to empower the people.

I trust that we are in this journey of Federation-hood together. We could do this together for the betterment of Sabah and Sarawak, for the betterment of Malaysia. Eventually, the people will be the ultimate winner, so, let’s do this together for a more progressive and equitable Federation of Malaysia.

Happy Malaysia Day!

* Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau is Sabah deputy chief minister and the state minister of trade and industry. He is also the president of Upko.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.