OCTOBER 12 — The Agora Society is shocked at the announcement by Liew Vui Keong, Law Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, that the committee set up to review the 1963 Malaysia Agreement will be headed by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
We are of the view that, for over 20 years as prime minister, Dr Mahathir undermined the democratic and electoral processes in Sabah, and connived at the plunder of Sarawak’s wealth and natural resources by corrupt politicians, all at the expense of the Sarawak people.
It would therefore not be too far-fetched to say that Dr Mahathir is the root cause of the various problems and the inequality gap between East and West Malaysia today.
Given Dr Mahathir’s lack of moral credentials to assume such an important role, the pledge by the PKR, DAP and Amanah leaderships to promote democracy, integrity and clean politics will ring hollow should the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government give its approval.
It is worth reminding that in 1994, the Mahathir administration engineered the crossovers of the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) state lawmakers, resulting in the collapse of the PBS government.
Furthermore, the same federal government was accused of manipulating the National Registration Department throughout the 1990s by registering 40,000 to 100,000 undocumented migrants in Sabah to ensure Barisan Nasional’s victory in subsequent general elections.
Statistics by many psephologists indicate that, with skewed demographics, the numbers of voters in Sabah grew anomalously in that period of time.
Despite the overwhelming evidence against him,Dr Mahathir continued to deny any political considerations on his part, and maintained that "Malaysian citizenships were only granted to immigrants who fulfilled the conditions."
More staggeringly, Dr Mahathir at a press conference on 31 January 2013 singled out Anwar Ibrahim for having been involved in what came to be known infamously as Project IC or Project M by issuing citizenship and identity cards to unqualified immigrants in Sabah in the 1990s without orders from the prime minister at the time.
Although the findings of the 2013 Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on Illegal Immigrants in Sabah stopped short of naming Dr Mahathir as the mastermind, it ought to be pointed out that the RCI’s parameters were rather limited, with no power to identify the culprit.
This aside, throughout his tenure as prime minister, Dr Mahathir turned a blind eye when Tun Taib Mahmud, the former Sarawak Chief Minister, issued large volumes of timber licences to crony companies for them to carry out logging activities, as a consequence of which tens of thousands of the indigenous people were displaced from their lands and massive deforestation ensued; some even lost their lives in defending against encroachments. Taib himself had also built a business empire through his family members and relatives. According to the Bruno Manser Fund, a Swiss-based NGO, the total wealth of Taib Mahmud and his family is as high as US$21 billion (RM87.2 billion).
To our dismay, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief commissioner Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull said in July this year that he was unable to take action against Taib although 15 case files had been opened against him. It would thus appear that the former Sarawak chief minister still has friends in high places despite the change of government earlier this year.
Last but not least, Dr Mahathir announced in July this year that while Sabah and Sarawak are entitled to 20% oil royalties, the calculation would however be based on profits instead of gross sales. This is contrary to Promise 3 of the PH Manifesto which states categorically and unequivocally that “the Pakatan Harapan Government will increase the royalty payment to Sabah and Sarawak, and other oil producing states, to 20 per cent or of its value equivalent, so that the respective states can take over and fund more of their own development activities”. The backtracking on the oil royalty promise has not gone down well with the people of the two oil-rich East Malaysian states.
Taken all together, it is crystal clear that Dr Mahathir has never been sincere in honouring the true spirit of MA63, which was forged among Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form the Federation of Malaysia based on an equal partnership. Considering the historical controversies that Mahathir was embroiled in during his premiership in the 1990s, he is ill-suited to be part of the MA63 Committee, let alone preside over it.
It is akin to appointing Najib Abdul Razak as the chairperson of a committee to look into all of the financial irregularities (such as 1MDB) on his watch.
In view of the above, we urge seriously that the government remove immediately Mahathir as the head of the MA63 Committee, and replace him with a candidate who cares genuinely about the welfare of Sabah and Sarawak; someone in whom East Malaysians can trust.
In any case, if the government is serious about putting Sabah and Sarawak on an equal footing with Peninsular Malaysia, an East Malaysian should be given the priority when it comes to leading the MA63 Committee.
* Agora Society Malaysia is a loose network of individuals who believe in the principles of democracy and good governance.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.