Saturday, July 5, 2008

What do Sabahans and Sarawakians want?

Taken as a whole, the 20 Points, if read in their entirety, give the East Malaysian states considerable political autonomy. However, the public view in East Malaysia is that there has been considerable dilution of the 20 Points for the past 45 years.

By James Chin, The Borneo Post

EAST Malaysia is very much in the news lately. With more than a quarter of MPs coming from there, it is generally acknowledged that they were the key to Barisan Nasional’s continued hold on power.

Since March 8, MPs and other politicians from Sabah have grown more vocal about the ‘neglect’ of East Malaysia since independence, making subtle references to the possibility that they could easily switch their support to Pakatan Rakyat if the federal government does not resolve their grievances.

There are several main grievances and their resolution may not be forthcoming in the short term.

The first issue is the date of independence. In the peninsula, independence is often taken to be 1957 when self-government was put in place. In East Malaysia, they see the proper date of independence as 1963 when the Federation of Malaysia was established.

Additionally, there is some unhappiness with the term Sabah and Sarawak ‘joining’ Malaysia when in fact Malaysia did not exist before 1963. For East Malaysians, Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya came together as equal partners to form the Federation of Malaysia. Using the term ‘join’ implies that East Malaysia joined an existing political entity as junior partners.

The second big issue is the federal government’s commitment to a set of state rights guarantees attached to the Malaysia Agreement, commonly referred to as the ‘20 Points’.

Among the key points were:

• Islam’s status as the national religion was not applicable to East Malaysia;

• Immigration control was vested in the state governments;

• Borneonisation of the civil service would be a high priority and English can be used as an official language;

• No changes to the ‘20 Points’ guarantees can be made without the agreement of the Sabah and Sarawak state governments. A clause was inserted giving all the parties the right to review the 20 Points after 10 years, ie, 1973.

• The natives of East Malaysia would be on par with the Malays and other indigenous groups in the peninsula, ie full Bumiputera status.

Taken as a whole, the 20 Points, if read in their entirety, give the East Malaysian states considerable political autonomy. However, the public view in East Malaysia is that there has been considerable dilution of the 20 Points for the past 45 years.

For Sabahans, the issue of immigration control is widely seen as a joke given the large number of illegal migrants in the state. Depending on who you talk to, the number of illegals in the state is between 1-1.5 million.

Combined with ‘legal’ immigrants, those who managed to get IMM13 certificates or MyKad, the number of non-Sabah born residents may actually be equal to the local born.

Official government statistics showed that one quarter of the state’s population is now made up of foreigners and that since 1963, the state’s population has increased by more than 300 per cent! This sort of increase can only happen with some sort of official collaboration at the highest level in Putrajaya.

Hence the call for a Royal Commission to get to the bottom of the infamous ‘Project IC’. The make-up of the civil service is also a sore point.

While it is true that both states have their own civil service, it is also true that since independence, more and more functions of the state civil service have been transferred to the federal service.

­There is popular perception that non-Muslim Bumiputera (NMB) civil servants from East Malaysia are being discriminated in terms of recruitment and promotion.

Then there are Bumiputera rights.

There is widespread feeling among the NMB of East Malaysia, despite being the majority numerically in both states, are treated as ‘third class’ Bumiputera when it comes to government help.

The unhappiness across the board on subjects such as jobs in the civil service, Public Services Department overseas scholarships, business licences and government procurement contracts.

They also feel that their language and culture is relegated to ‘second class’ when compared to Malay culture and Islam.

The official culture promoted is based largely on the Malay and Islamic cultures although the rhetoric is otherwise.

Moreover, many in East Malaysia are unhappy that government-supported cultural groups mismatch their traditional costumes by ‘modernising’ them with new colours and patterns. The same applies to traditional dances.

Until recently, there were cases of East Malaysian Bumiputeras denied the housing discount when they buy property in the peninsula.

In Sabah, the NMB unhappiness is compounded by the large number of foreigners holding MyKad and IMM3. Almost all these new ‘Malaysians’ are Muslims and NMB leaders suspect that there is a conspiracy to dilute the numerical superiority of NMBs.

It is no secret that the federal government was unhappy with Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) for most of the 1980s to the early 2000s.

PBS came into power largely on NMB and Chinese votes.

A former Sabah chief minister has said openly that the Kadazans will never achieve power again because of official policy to raise the number of Muslims in Sabah.

Fifth, overall there is also a widespread perception that East Malaysia contributes more to the federal coffers than what is given back in development grants.

There are still thousands of rural people in both states with no access to clean water and electricity.

Official statistics showed Sabah as persistently having one of the highest poverty rates in the country.

Yet Sabah and especially Sarawak contributed billions to the federal coffers through oil and gas revenue.

Many think that the 5 per cent royalty is an insult, and even the 20 per cent offered by the opposition is inadequate.

Many want at least 50 per cent.

That may sound like a lot, but given the under-development since independence, it does not sound so unreasonable if you are from Sabah or Sarawak.

Sixth, perhaps the greatest problem is the loss of political autonomy.

When Umno and other BN parties moved into Sabah in 1990, it signalled the end of Sabah political autonomy.

From 1994, all Sabah chief ministers were selected based on the strength of their ‘cables’ with Kuala Lumpur.

In Sarawak, since the direct federal intervention to remove the chief minister in 1967, all chief ministers are known to have served at the federal level.

One of the greatest fears among Sarawakian politicians is the entry of Umno into the state.

There is every reason to believe that this will happen sooner rather than later.

Sarawakians have seen how BN parties have created political upheavals among the Sabah population, and they are not impressed.

Recent gestures by the prime minister, such as appointing a Sabahan as Dewan Rakyat Speaker, more development funds and appointing East Malaysians to senior positions in the bureaucracy are unlikely to end the unhappiness, which has simmered for three decades.

It cannot be undone in a matter of months.

In summary, what East Malaysians want is respect for political autonomy as promised in the 20 Points, a respect for the different history, understanding of the plural settings, and a helping hand to bring development on par with peninsula states.

It’s as simple as that. While the political realities dictate that political autonomy will have to go if we want closer relations, simply exporting the peninsula’s ethnic politics model to East Malaysia will spell only trouble.

James Chin is Foundation head, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University, Malaysian Campus

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

What do you know of Malaysian politics young man? Have you ever read the findings of the Malayasian consultative committee findings on the formation of the federation of Malaysia? Have you ever read the findings of the Cobbold Commission which was formed to assess the views of te natives of Sarawak on the formation of Malaysia? It is always easy to accuse the leaders for selling Sarawak. But what would be the future of the natives had these leader not agree to the formation of Malaysia. Did you know that the colony ruled Sarawak from 1839 since Brooke came? Have you ever interview your great-great grand parent if they ever live and ask them how life was? Did you know that they would not even wear cloth, but cawat?

You are merely apeing what James Chin. Now I want to ask you were James Chin involved in the negotiation for the formation of Malaysia. All you know he was not even borned when Malaysia was formed. You may regard James Chin as a hero, but to me he is just a mudane political scientist with a great ego and with no moral values. He hops from one university and another leaving plenty of shits for people to clear whenever he left. This is because he is too egostic. He was not in good term with the administration of he University in Essex when he was a lecturer there. He bad mouth the other lecturers at the university. The same also happens when he was at the Department of Political Sciences, University of Papua New Guinea. Next he moved to Unimas and Swineburne in Sarawak. I don't know what happened there but he was a Professor and Head of Business School, but he left for Monash Sunway University. Now you can deduce what knid of person he is because he hops from one university to another. Now yoy conclude what type of professor he is. I hold no grudge against him and I wish him well in all his endeavour.

Back to your accusation about Tun Jugah, well, I feel it is very ubbecoming of a young man to have branded our hero as such. Had it not been for his foresightedness the Dayak would remain in the backwaters of Sarawak. Now you look back and see for yourself the achievement of the Dayaks. The first Chief Minister was a Dayak, the Second was also a Dayak. What would happen if we never form the Fedaration of Malaysia? Have you ever think of it? We might be fighting among ourselves. You and I would remain as headhunters, gathers and shifting cultivators. Don't you think so? The first state Secretary was a Dayak in the person of Tan Sri Gerunsin Lembat. But the problem with these guys were that the lack the administrative skills. Ningkan was not well liked because of his arrogance. Probably just like you, another guy with plenty of ego. Or just an empty tin.

Al Tugauw said...

I know a lot more of Malaysian politics than you can imagine, and I am not that young.

The findings of the Malaysian consultative committee on the formation of the federation of Malaysia and that of the Cobbold Commission which was formed to assess the views of the natives of Sarawak on the formation of Malaysia only took into account the views of a few Sarawakians.

There was no referendum as such. The leaders of the various communities sold their people to the Malayans who captivated them with sweet promises.

The future of the natives had these leaders not agreed to the formation of Malaysia is arguable and pretty moot now.

What we DO know is that Sarawak would have been in control of its own wealth had it taken the route of independence. All its oil and gas resources would have been for Sarawak alone and would not have been used to fund Malayan extravagance and greed.

Sarawakians can see for themselves the difference between being ruled by the Brooke colonisers and by the Malaysan colonisers.

If you know my history, my great-great grand parents fought the Brookes so don't tell me about wearing cawat.

As for apeing James Chin, you must be an ape for the Malayans. I am not so much concerned about who James Chin was or is, but his views are certainly relevant to the future of Sarawak.

It is a fact that the Dayak and all other native races today still remain in the backwaters of Sarawak. This is in spite of the first and second Chief Ministers being Dayaks and the third and fourth being Melanaus.

You must know that Taib Mahmud conspired to overthrow the first Dayak Chief Minister through unconstitutional means and when that didn't work the Malayans finished off the job for him by having a state of emergency declared when none really existed. Or did you conveniently forget that?

As for the second Dayak Chief Minister, he was merely a tool for Taib Mahmud. Have you ever thought of that?

You say we might be fighting among ourselves if we had not joined in the formation of Malaysia. How would you know? You also said that I and you would remain as headhunters, gathers and shifting cultivators. Do you have such low self esteem? Do you look down on your own people? Don't you believe in the virtues of good education?

I may admit to arrogance, but I only want to see what is best for Sarawak and its people, not just for a few. If you find that to be egotistical, then what are you?

Who's the empty tin?

Anonymous said...

It seems anon is really an empty tin. Instead of discussing the issues raised, he attacks the writer. he tries to hide his hatred of the writer by saying he wishes him well, but only after he attacks his credibility. It is obvious the author is from UNIMAS, a fourth rate university. maybe that is why the writer left.....

Anonymous said...

What does James Chin and you know of the twenty point agreement. It is not an agreement but the demands made by Sabah and it had never been ractified by the Malaysian government eventhough part of it had been incorporated in the Malaysian constitution. Was Sarawak a party to the agreement? Poor James, he did not know what he writes.

The Twenty Points Agreement

1.Religion
While there was no objection to Islam being the national religion of Malaysia there should be no State religion in North Borneo, and the provisions relating to Islam in the present Constitution of Malaya should not apply to North Borneo.

2.Language
•Malay should be the national language of the Federation.
•English should continue to be used for a period of 10 years after Malaysia Day.
•English should be an official language of North Borneo for all purposes, State or Federal, without limitation of time.

3. Constitution
Whilst accepting that the present Constitution of the Federation of Malaya should form the basis of the Constitution of Malaysia, the Constitution of Malaysia should be a completely new document drafted and agreed in the light of a free association of states and should not be a series of amendments to a Constitution drafted and agreed by different states in totally different
circumstances. A new Constitution for North Borneo (Sabah) was of course essential.

4. Head of Federation
The Head of State in North Borneo should not be eligible for election as Head of the Federation.

5. Name of Federation.
“Malaysia” but not “Melayu Raya”.

6. Immigration
Control over immigration into any part of Malaysia from outside should rest with the Central Government but entry into North Borneo should also require the approval of the State Government. The Federal Government should not be able to veto the entry of persons into North Borneo for State Government purposes except on strictly security grounds. North Borneo should have unfettered control over the movements of persons other than those in Federal Government employ from other parts of Malaysia into North Borneo.

7. Right of Secession
There should be no right to secede from the Federation.

8. Borneanisation
Borneanisation of the public service should proceed as quickly as possible.

9. British Officers
Every effort should be made to encourage British Officers to remain in the public service until their places can be taken by suitably qualified people from North Borneo.

10. Citizenship
The recommendation in paragraph 148(k) of the Report of the Cobbold Commission should govern the citizenship rights in the Federation of North Borneo subject to the following amendments:
a) sub-paragraph (i) should not contain the proviso as to five years residence
b) in order to tie up with our law, sub-paragraph (ii)(a) should read “7 out of 10 years” instead of “8 out of 10 years”
c) sub-paragraph (iii) should not contain any restriction tied to the citizenship of parents – a person born in North Borneo after Malaysia must be federal citizen.

11. Tariffs and Finance
North Borneo should retain control of its own finance, development and tariff, and should have the right to work up its own taxation and to raise loans on its own credit.

12. Special position of indigenous races
In principle, the indigenous races of North Borneo should enjoy special rights analogous to those enjoyed by Malays in Malaya, but the present Malays’ formula in this regard is not necessarily applicable in North Borneo.

13. State Government
a) the Prime Minister should be elected by unofficial members of Legislative Council
b) There should be a proper Ministerial system in North Borneo.

14. Transitional period
This should be seven years and during such period legislative power must be left with the State of North Borneo by the Constitution and not be merely delegated to the State Government by the Federal Government.

15. Education
The existing educational system of North Borneo should be maintained and for this reason it should be under state control

16. Constitutional Safeguards
No amendment modification or withdrawal of any special safeguard granted to North Borneo should be made by the Central Government without the positive concurrence of the Government of the State of North Borneo. The power of amending the Constitution of the State of North Borneo should belong exclusively to the people in the state. (Note: The United Party, The Democratic Party and the Pasok Momogun Party considered that a three-fourth majority would be required in order to effect any amendment to the Federal and State Constitutions whereas the UNKO and USNO considered a two-thirds majority would be sufficient).

17. Representation in Federal Parliament
This should take account not only of the population of North Borneo but also of its seize and potentialities and in any case should not be less than that of Singapore.

18. Name of Head of State
Yang di-Pertua Negara.

19. Name of State
Sabah.

20. Land, Forests, Local Government, etc.
The provisions in the Constitution of the Federation in respect of the powers of the National Land Council should not apply in North Borneo. Likewise, the National Council for Local Government should not apply in North Borneo. The source....

Jasper Chong said...

who cares if the first CM of sarawak is dayak or malay or chinese? having someone of your own race at the helm is useless when he is not capable of performaning his duties as CM or worst if he is corrupt.

Do you know how rich our current CM is compare to the average dayak you see on the street? "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". A head a state/country should not be allow to serve more then 2 terms, how long have Taib been up there already?

As for the comments on the article writer, hopping from one job to the next is very normal, people do it all the time. Its call career advancement. And also i dont see how that is relevent to this article that he wrote.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I agreed that anon is really a sh**head. attacking the writer simply means you cannot argue the points he raised. your letter shows your jealousy over someone who is better than you. so what if the writer moves around- you are talking about a guy who manages to get a job in Monash- one of the top 50 unis in the world- can you get a job there or are you stuck in 5th rate UNIMAS? no wonder Sarawakians never cannot get ahead with such sh**head running around

Anonymous said...

Lets leave the personal things out of the argument. For your information, Sarawak also had 20 points which is only slightly different from Sabah's 20 points. James Chin is correct in his summary of the 20 points. His article reflect the thinking of ordinary sabahans and sarawakians

free Sarawak said...

blah blah blah to Anonymous Anonymous July 6, 2008 6:32 PM

just another mahathirian attacked whosoever disagree with their malaya supremacy



Blogger Al Tugauw said...

There was no referendum as such

i agree and with this we can declare the malaysia formation is invalid

free Sarawak said...

blah blah blah to Anonymous Anonymous July 6, 2008 6:32 PM

just another mahathirian attacked whosoever disagree with their malaya supremacy



Blogger Al Tugauw said...

There was no referendum as such

i agree and with this we can declare the malaysia formation is invalid

Jasper Chong said...

By the way, does anyone knows where I can find the sarawak's 18 points agreement? I tried google but nothing turns up :(

Denny said...

Hello Al Tugauw and reader,

I am happy to see all this energy. We will need to conserve these and transform this into concrete actions. The question is where, how and when?

As T.E. Lawrence said:

All men dream : but not equally, Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity :

Respectfully yours,

Denny