KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — Sarawak MPs today said the federal government’s plans to restore equal partner status to Sabah and Sarawak was a positive move, but said such intentions should not stop at mere declarations and should result in actual development and restored financial benefits.
Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi, the pro-tem secretary-general of the Gabungan Parti Sarawak coalition that is composed of former Barisan Nasional parties, said he welcomed Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s announcement on Malaysia Day.
“Indeed that is a good news to hear it from the prime minister himself and I hope that he will truly carry out the necessary actions to make it effective. We don’t want to hear rhetorics anymore,” the Kapit MP told Malay Mail.
“Priority is to make sure it’s not just in words, it should be in action.
“If we say we are as equal partners — region and not as 13 states of Malaysia, then look into the agreement,” he said of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 where Malaya, the now-expelled Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak agreed to form Malaysia together.
Nanta, who is also secretary-general of Sarawak’s leading party Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), noted that the Malaysia Agreement 1963 provided for the periodical review of certain clauses.
“There are clauses in the agreement that states what are the rights for Sabah and Sarawak that over the years have been eroded and should be restored,” he said.
The issue of the federal government’s approach towards Sabah and Sarawak has been a prickly matter, following an amendment to the Federal Constitution in the 1970s that downgraded the latter two from equal partners — with Malaya and Singapore to form Malaysia in 1963 — to mere states.
Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri, a PBB MP for Batang Sadong, noted that the prime minister’s announcement is not “new” as the issue of the restoration of Sabah and Sarawak’s rights have long been mentioned.
“What is important is that the YAB PM who before this was also PM of Malaysia, this time acknowledged Sabah and Sarawak’s status as territories.
“To me, the acknowledgment of status does not carry any meaning if it is not translated to status in terms of development and other standards that a territory should have,” she told Malay Mail.
Emphasising that the status of a territory should not be same as that of a mere state in Malaysia, she said Sarawakians should be sensitive to the federal government’s move to state its intention to restore Sarawak’s rights under the 1963 agreement.
“We should always play our role in monitoring and emphasising the measures that they should take as this is their own promise to ensure Sabah and Sarawak also develop like other states in Malaysia,” she said when commenting on the need to keep Putrajaya accountable.
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 the 1970s 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.