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Opt for European-style M'sian Union if unhappy: Harris
Published on: Saturday, November 18, 2017

Kota Kinabalu: Tan Sri Harris Mohamad Salleh has challenged the opposition and all those unhappy with the treatment of the Federal Government towards Sabah and Sarawak since the formation of Malaysia in 1963 to press for the formation of a Malaysian Union, much like the European Union, instead.

"This is the best solution rather than saying this is not right and that is not right.

Leaders should address and resolve such sentiments once and for all.

"After all, there is a trend towards more autonomy in many parts of the world, like Catalan in Spain and Scotland in UK. There is nothing wrong for Malaysia to concede these facts by changing from being a Federation to a Union," the former Chief Minister said, noting that only then would they appreciate being in the federation.

He noted such a move can only materialise through an amendment to the Federal Constitution.

"There is nothing sinister about the changes. Based on the EU concept, Tanah Melayu, Sabah and Sarawak will be independent countries with their own Prime Ministers.

"The details of the Malaysian Union can be sorted out with leaders from Sabah, Sarawak and Tanah Melayu."

He said Sabahans and Sarawakians must be reminded that their states have all the powers and funds to uplift their standard of living and making their life comfortable the past 50 years. He said it is also true that some of the laws and policies of the Federal Government are not conducive to move forward.

"But do not forget that these laws and policies were made with the agreement of the 13 Federal Ministers from Sabah and Sarawak and also the 60 MPs from Sabah and Sarawak. These leaders are part and parcel of the Federal Government."

Harris said in his view, Malaysia has been a just and fair federation for at least over 50 years – 13 years under the three partnership arrangement and 36 years under the 13 partnership arrangement.

Harris said not much issue was made of the glaring fundamental right taken away by the Federal Government but there is an explanation for this. He said when Malaysia was formed, the Malaysian Constitution stipulated that Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya are the four partners of the Federation, in accordance with MA63.

"When Singapore left the Federation in 1965, Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya remained as the three partners for 16 years until 1976, when the constitution was amended.

"Under this amendment, Sabah, Sarawak respectively became one of the 13 states, equal and on par with the 11 states of Tanah Melayu. This amendment was made with the support of Sabah and Sarawak Members of Parliament, apparently, for legal reasons for the smooth governing of Malaysia as a country."

Nevertheless, he said over these 50 years, the Federation either with one- third or one-thirteen partnership was doing just fine but that issues began to be raised rightly or wrongly only after the 13th General Election.

"There was no issue of hatred being levelled against the Federal Government. However, when it lost the simple majority in parliament, it had to depend on the support of 60 Members of Parliament from Sabah and Sarawak which has been termed as Federal Fixed Deposits.

"With this position, both government and opposition leaders have been taking advantage to claim that the Federal Government had not honoured the Malaysia Agreement and the 20 points for Sabah and 18 points for Sarawak," he said.

He said since then, especially over the last four years, the issue of the Malaysia Agreement continued to be raised by the Government and opposition leaders time and again.

"These leaders claim that Federal had taken away the rights of Sabah and Sarawak that were assured under MA63. These leaders, however, did not at any time mention or list the rights they claim to have been taken away."

Harris said it appears that both Sabah and Sarawak Governments and opposition leaders are maintaining the Malaysia Agreement, the 20 and 18 Points are legally binding and that State Rights had been taken away.

Since the Prime Minister and a number of Federal Ministers have conceded that these issues are negotiable, Sabah and Sarawak leaders should now come up with specific issues that are detrimental to the concept of the Federation.

"These days the story is different because Federal Government depends on the support of the 60 MPs from Sabah and Sarawak to remain in power. Without Sabah and Sarawak support, the Barisan Nasional Government would have collapsed.

"The acknowledgement is evident because every time the Prime Minister and Federal ministers visit Sabah and Sarawak, they seem to be responding very positively to everything that the State Governments ask.

Malaysia cannot go on under the present circumstances/arrangements but face the reality."

Harris said what seems to be ignored is that the Malaysian Federation was formed at the time when various political forces were at play in the region.

Under the prevailing mood at that time, the British was pressured to release her colonies for independence.

For a variety of reasons, the leaders of Britain, a Malay and Singapore leaders wanted to include Sabah and Sarawak leaders for the formation.

Malaya was led by Tengku Abdul Rahman, the Prime Minister, and his deputy Tun Abdul Razak; Lee Kuan Yew represented Singapore; the British by its Foreign Secretary; and Sabah and Sarawak by key Executive Council Members (i.e. members of the State Cabinet).

He said these leaders were of high integrity, honest and straight-forward who knew what was good and what was not in the interest of the people. He singled out Razak and Kuan Yew, in particular, saying they would not have allowed any provisions in the Constitution that would prejudice the positions of Sabah and Sarawak.

"Both Razak and Kuan Yew were of the highest integrity and no-nonsense personalities.

If anything had been wrong or if the Federal Government had ignored any provision of the Malaysian Constitution, they would have strongly opposed them when they were still alive.

"All in all, with these two leaders and our own, the division of powers between Sabah, Sarawak [and Singapore when it was still in Malaysia] and the Federal Government have been fair and just."

He said Kuan Yew was very meticulous in taking notes of everything that transpired during the discussions and meetings and writing down on all agreements that had been agreed and cited a famous episode at the famous Ritz Hotel of London involving an agreement written on an envelope between Tengku and Kuan Yew.

He said during the discussion with Tengku, it was agreed that Singapore will provide funds for the development of Sabah and Sarawak with the proviso, stipulated by Kuan Yew, that a percentage of the labour force for the development work must come from Singapore.

"The Tengku agreed to this. It was said that Kuan Yew then looked for a piece of paper to write this agreement between Tengku and himself, but none was to be found at the Tengku's suite.

"Kuan Yew managed to locate a hotel envelope and wrote the agreement on it and to which the Tengku signed.

It was widely publicised that when questions were raised later about Singaporeans going to Sabah or Sarawak to work, Kuan Yew produced this 'envelope agreement' ".

He said this may appear trivial but was a significant illustration that the agreement of Sabah and Sarawak being part of Malaysia was properly and conscientiously discussed and agreed to by all parties, including Britain.

"The most important point to bear in mind is that our own leaders have consented and signed the various documents for the formation of Malaysia.

Hence, he said the public should be reminded that Malaysia was formed after years of serious negotiations and discussion between the representatives of Federation of Malaya; Singapore; Sabah; Sarawak; and the British Government.

He said the process was long and very challenging and that without the earnestness of Kuan Yew and determination of Razak of Malaya, Malaysia might not have been formed.

Stressing that Malaysia's formation is due to these two leaders, in particular, he said what many were not aware was that America at that point of time favoured North Borneo and Sarawak to be part of Indonesia.

This is a fact (told to him by the then US Ambassador to Malaysia).

"Remember also the American blocked British advances to reclaim Egypt, when General Nassier of Egypt declared Independence for Egypt."

"Kuan Yew and Razak being men of principles and integrity, they would not have allowed any back-hand arrangements that were detrimental to the participation of Sabah, and Sarawak.

"If it can be proven that State rights have been taken away (merely) by changing the status of Sabah and Sarawak from one of 3 to one of 13 then it is the time to ask for these rights to be returned."

On the MA63, the 20 Points for Sabah and 18 Points for Sarawak, Harris reiterated that they are no longer legally binding because the substances have been incorporated in both the Federal and States Constitutions.

"The powers between Federal and State were clearly spelled out in these Constitutions.

In any Federation, the Federal Constitution is supreme. However, in practical terms Parliament is superior because it can amend the Constitution as it wishes with the support of 2/3 majority in Parliament.

As of September 2015 there has been 57 Amendments to the Federal Constitution," he noted.

As for some among the opposition, including a number of government leaders, who still maintain that the MA63; 20 Points and 18 Points are still legally binding, he said, these leaders must be fully aware through their participation in passing laws and policies over the years that absolutely no laws or policies either by Federal or Sabah and Sarawak required reference to the Malaysia Agreement, the 20 Points and the 18 Points.

"(Hence) there is also no logic for these leaders to claim that the Rights of Sabah and Sarawak have been taken away by the Federal Government and that Sabah and Sarawak are now the colonies of Tanah Melayu."

As for the claims of rights having been taken away, he said, the Federal Government had not taken any rights away from Sabah, but that it was Sabah which have given up and asked the Federal Government to take over some responsibilities.

He cited the handing over of the Fire & Rescue Department to Federal because it is a department that costs money to run without income-generation.

"Sabah and Sarawak has the authority and control over lands and forests since Malaysia Day.

These two subjects bring economic benefits to the State.

"Both were also given special powers over a period of 10 years, but Lands and Forests and Minerals remained under Sabah and Sarawak. This division of powers are clearly spelled out both in the Federal and State Constitutions.

"Likewise, Sabah and Sarawak control the economic development of the rural people.

Basically the rural people depends on the land and forests for their livelihood and wealth."

Harris noted that the Sarawak Government had sent two lawyers to London to search for papers related to the commitments of the Federal Government to the Borneo States and the formation of Malaysia.

"Without providing details, the Sarawak government mentioned having come across important papers that were crucial to merit high-level discussions with the Federal Government. Towards this end, the Sarawak Government has tabled a motion on the Malaysia Agreement and related documents in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly.

"The motion which called for the formation of a committee at the State and Federal level to look into the Malaysia Agreement and related documents. If these papers are considered legally-binding, it would be a major milestone for Sarawak.

"In similar vein, Sabah leaders have formed a high-powered committee to look into Sabah Rights supposedly taken away by Federal and including Sabah's entitlement to 40pc of any revenue collected by Federal.

"This committee announced last month that it had sent a lawyer to London where two QCs (Queen's Counsel) who reportedly said that it is mandatory for the Malaysia Agreement to be reviewed every 10 years.

"Unfortunately, the provisions expending 10-yearly reviews did not appear to be cited.

The spokesman for the nine-month old Committee in Sabah, Ansari Abdullah, had also not mentioned progress in claiming Sabah's 40pc entitlement on revenue derived from the State and collected by the Federal Government.

"Does this mean all the billions of ringgit due to "Land Below the Wind" had gone "with the wind?" he asked.

Harris said since these matters were widely publicised and championed by a number of government and opposition leaders, Sabahans are hoping for the more than RM50 billion payback plus restoration of Sabah rights by Federal.

Harris said it is unfair for the opposition and critics of MA63 to promote and give the impression that peninsula or Tanah Melayu are benefitting from the resources of Sabah and Sarawak, that Sabah Rights have been taken away and that Sabah and Sarawak are now the Colonies of Malaya.

He said despite all these being far from true, it was sad that, unfortunately, nearly 80pc of Sabahans and Sarawakians believe that peninsula is surviving on Sabah and Sarawak resources.

He said Sabahans and Sarawakians must remember that Malaya is almost fully developed.

Most of the industries are in peninsula and that based on the population of 32 million, peninsula 25m whereas Sabah and Sarawak only seven million.

"On top of this, number of people paying taxes and consume dutiable goods are a hundred times more than Sabah and Sarawak. Those promoting hatred against the Federal Government should seriously look at this fact.

"Becoming independent (under a Malaysian Union) will be complicated by the fact that oil will no longer be an industry that can provide the financial lifeline. Furthermore, oil in Sabah are in deep sea and expensive to extract.

"These leaders must come clean to tell the people of Sabah and Sarawak the truth about all these and the uncertainties that come with complete independence.

"At the same time in order to solve the damaging hatred posed by the leaders including a number of government leaders to the people of Sabah and Sarawak, the Federal leaders must come out and either (i) recognise that the Malaysia Agreement, the 20 Points for Sabah and 18 Points for Sarawak are legally binding on the day-to-day administration of Malaysia or the State of Sabah and Sarawak.

"If this cannot for some reason it is best to start negotiation to change the concept of the Federation to a Union."

Bearing all this in mind, he said it was bounden on Federal leaders, including the Prime Minister, to clarify all these mattes and questions clearly.

"The present uncertain situation should not be allowed to go on as it will damage the unity of the whole country in the long term. Ultimately, it may destroy our nation."

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