Yong: A Review of State-Federal Relations is timely
Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) President, Datuk Yong Teck Lee says that the debate whether Sabah is one of three equal partners or one of thirteen states in Malaysia shows that a review of the State and Federal relationship is relevant and timely.
"SAPP will push for a review in line with SAPP's 8-Points struggle for autonomy and the return of Labuan .
"The review may propose that the High Court in Borneo be uplifted in authority and status. The granting of federal citizenship in Sabah must require State consent. Schedule 9 (Legislative Lists) of the Federal Constitution can be amended to give more jurisdiction to Sabah and Sarawak .
"Examples, foreign labour, labour laws, shipping, road transport, trade and industry and energy can be transferred to the State List. Schedule 10 Part V (Additional Sources of Revenues Assigned to Borneo States) can be expanded to include oil and gas, customs duties and revenues originating from Sabah and Sarawak .
"This review can include Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan's idea of a two-tier federation. A two-tier system will allow the Conference of Rulers to continue as it is but that the Chief Ministers and Menteri Besar Conference can be reviewed to enhance the participation of Sabah and Sarawak .
"Is Sabah one of three equal partners in Malaysia consisting of Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya?
"Malaysia was formed pursuant to the Malaysia Agreement of 9 July 1963 signed in London . The signatories were led by the then Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom , Malaya, Singapore and the leaders of North Borneo (now Sabah) and Sarawak. ( Singapore left Malaysia on 9 August 1965.)
"The agreement was signed not with the other 11 existing states in the Federation of Malaya but with Malaya as an entity. (Indeed, Kelantan had objected to the inclusion of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore in Malaysia and had disputed the Malayan federal government's power to admit new states. But Kelantan lost its legal challenge on 14 September 1963).
"Irrespective of the wordings of the Malaysia Agreement and the Malaysia Proclamation 1963, Sabahans' understanding and consciousness is that Sabah had formed Malaysia with three other partners - Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore .
"Hence, many Sabahans consider Sabah as 'one of three' and not 'one of thirteen' partners in Malaysia . This the collective memory of the Sabah people does not go away. People still talk about it. From 1963 to 1971, Sabah and Sarawak were known as East Malaysia .
"Malaya became known as West Malaysia .
"But after the break up of West and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1971, the term West and East Malaysia was replaced with "Peninsula Malaysia" and 'Sabah and Sarawak' for obvious reasons.
"But the federal government will not concede that Sabah is an equal partner to Malaya because our national leaders cannot imagine Sabah as an equal to Malaya (now Peninsula Malaysia ).
"Although Malaysia Day on September 16 is a historical fact, it still took the BN federal government 47 years to declare September 16 as a national holiday.
"However, we will still be celebrating Hari Kebangsaan Malaysia 53 Years (from 1957) instead of Malaysia National Day 47 Years (from 1963).
"Thus, when Prof. Dr. Ranjit Singh, an academic, said that Malaysia is not an equal partnership of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak , his view reflects that of the national mainstream.
"To them, we are the late comers to Malaysia . We need their help because we are more backward. In the 1970s, our new friends in KL asked whether we live on tree tops and if we have television.
"To say they are equal to Sabah would be too much for them to bear.
"They say we need their civil servants because we have no qualified Sabahans. We win hardly any national sports tournaments. Economically, we are weak. Politically, we are "the wild East".
"Our tourism icon is the orang utan, our main national news are pirates. None of the national newspapers saw the need to report the Sabah debate on the loss of oil blocks L and M or the piping of natural gas to Bintulu and the controversy over the coal power plant. Sabah's losses are of little concern to them.
"After the March 2008 political tsunami in Peninsula Malaysia , our friends over there commented that "Sabah and Sarawak are behind time" and slow in following the national trend.
"We cannot blame them for thinking so because that is their perspective of Sabah and Sarawak . But, we could remind them that when Sabah took the lead to change the BN federal government in 1990, all the Peninsula states, except Kelantan, re-elected BN.
"Some leaders in KL have a mindset that Malaysia is the father and Sabah is the child.
"At times, this mindset is reflected in the civil service, private companies and associations. Their KL head offices make all the important decisions and treat their offices in Sabah like any other branch in the Peninsula .
"This 'superior mindset' partly is due to our Sabahans' docile approach. For instance, some local politicians are so lacking in self-confidence that they ask their federal leaders to come regularly to Sabah to help them. UMNO Sabah receives "Bapa Angkat" in all the constituencies.
"When some UMNO MPs were speculated to defect in 2008, their party HQ sent spies after them. MCA claims that their four federal ministers can do wonders for Sabah 's Chinese.
"The internal bickering within Sabah UMNO and BN has also entrenched the 'divide and rule' tactic of KL. These BN leaders have not learned from history. As a result, the people in Sabah lose out.