PH to keep its word on MA63

Anwar assures the federal government’s commitment to restoring the state’s rights under MA63 and gave candid views on reforms, Umno and Dr M

 

KUCHING: The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government is committed to restoring the autonomous powers of Sarawak and Sabah in line with Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

PH advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim gave this assurance in an exclusive interview with Oriental Daily on Tuesday in which he also fielded questions posed by The Borneo Post on the way forward vis-à-vis the devolution process.

“We are committed to enhancing such powers for the states — which is devolution from an over-centralised federal government. But as I said, the details have to be worked out,” he stressed.

In Buku Harapan (PH Election Manifesto), PH has declared it will adhere to the true spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963, based on mutually agreed special clauses.

The immediate task is to set up a Cabinet Committee, consisting of representatives from the Peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak, who have expertise in relevant matters to review and monitor the fair implementation of MA63 within the first 100 days of PH administration and to submit detailed reports to the government within six months of the Committee’s formation for immediate execution.

However, Anwar, in assuring that promises will be fulfilled, cautioned the empowerment should not empower corruption.

“My friends in Sarawak and Sabah know we want their states to be empowered but not to empower corruption. As you decentralise power from the federal to the province, in the process, you decentralise corruption.

“So that’s our concern. There is no problem of giving powers — we make sure the financial disciplines are observed because the reforms start from KL, Putrajaya. So the reforms must continue to other areas,” he said.

The Cabinet Committee’s main tasks, as listed in Buku Harapan, include:

  • Review and propose measures to rectify the status of Malaysia Agreement 1963 based on current legislations.
  • Efforts to enhance the understanding of the people on the 1963 Malaysia Agreement through the national education system.
  • Implementation of the concept of federalism for the three territories within Malaysia.
  • The rights of Sabah and Sarawak to revenues from their natural resources such as oil and gas.
  • The administrative rights — the share of funds that rightfully belong to Sabah and Sarawak.

Rumours quashed

Anwar quashed rumours Sarawak is joining the PH government, saying instead the PH government should work with the state government.

“Nobody says they are joining. They have been elected and we have to accept for now that they have the mandate, so we work with them.

“However, they (Sarawak government) also have to work with the federal government and understand as well that they have a federal government with new policies.“

A transcript of the interview on selected pertinent issues is published in the Q and A below. The answers have been edited briefly for grammar and clarity.

Anwars talks on Umno, 1MDB and Dr M

Q: As an ex-BN and Umno leader, how and what is their future outlook? Or should I ask if there is still future for them?

DSAI: I don’t know about BN as it’s much weaker now but Umno can sustain itself and emerge as an opposition for now — but that’s it. You know Umno leaders are weak. They have been living so long in the comfort zone that they cannot imagine they can be in opposition. But I know we will not treat them as they have treated us. Of course, we make sure we will be just and firm with our reasons and act accordingly.

Q: What is your comment on 1MDB?

DSAI: I raised 1MDB in parliament in 2010. I questioned the government why do you keep eight billion ringgit in Cayman Islands. However, they went around — and on and on and on. The bloated debts and the siphoning of funds – they have to answer to these.

Q: Are there evidence to frame charges for 1MDB scandal?

DSAI: That’s up to the independent court, not my court, to decide and adjudicate. But I believe from the facts we have seen and the extravagances and the lifestyles, he (Najib) has to answer and that’s why I have advised him to get good counsel.

Q: There are talks the police raid and legal action against Najib during Bulan Puasa is disrespectful. What do you think?

DSAI: It’s a strange understanding. If someone kills someone else and you say ‘don’t touch him or her, it’s Bulan Puasa’. It’s absurd. It has nothing to do with Islam. Yes, during Puasa, you’re supposed to be good, kind, compassionate but you still have to act — the government has to run.

Q: Did Keadilan make any prior deal with Umno to set up the government?

DSAI: They kept asking if Zahid (Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, former DPM now acting Umno president) has come to see me. Of course, he came to see me four months ago when I had surgery, so did Najib and Nazri. But it was a hospital setting with doctors around, so we didn’t discuss politics.

Then they said he (Zahid) came to see me recently but he didn’t. There is no basis to that. Why do we have to enter into an agreement with them when we have the majority? Anwar is not PM.

Q: Is Zahid close to you?

DSAI: So was Najib, so was Mahathir in those days and so many others. Name any Umno leader from before, they were all close to me. I was nice to them, so they were nice to me.

My relationship with Zahid is now cordial. When he called me during election night, I picked up the phone nicely. When Najib called, I answered nicely. I think you have to be civil and hopefully, part of the reforms is you can be government, you can be opposition but you will not be unjust to anybody.

Q: Are you in touch with Zahid?

DSAI: Yes on the night of elections but after that, there has been no contact with him.

Q: In GE14, one of the issues was our diplomatic relations with China. How should we manage them?

DSAI: I don’t think it’s an issue of diplomatic relations. Rather, it’s an issue where we, as a nation, a sovereign nation, has a right to decide on the types of investments, the types of deals and the costs of projects we want to have – that’s all. Nobody is against investments from China, India, Australia or the Arab world.

But here, questions were raised on the conditions imposed and whether there were deals other than normal projects.

I don’t think we share the view that the good relations with China should be affected. I don’t think so.

Q: What about the deals (with China)? Will they be reviewed?

DSAI: We are reviewing because when you understand that the deals are not done properly, they will be to the disadvantage of the locals. We need to relook some of those aspects.

Q: One of the major reasons people voted PH in GE14 is the hope for institutional reforms. For you, what’s the most difficult part in reforming the institutions?

DSAI: The system — independence of the judiciary, media freedom, enforcement agencies, fair, free and just elections. These are things that appear to be crumbling and the immediate task, therefore, is to make sure they are put in order with an impressive palace of justice but we must be committed. There must be independent judges who adjudicate based on fact and law.

So that’s the major task but to me, other than all these institutions, the most important of all is, of course, economic policy. Pro-growth, pro-market but at the same time, we cannot ignore the plights of the poor and the genuine concerns of the population at large over the increasing commodity prices which are affecting their quality of life. We need to do something to lighten their burden and alleviate their hardships.

Q: Many Chinese are worried about the development of Islamisation movement in Malaysia. What are your thoughts?

DSAI: Islamisation is a controversial term because Muslims will say what’s wrong with getting Muslims to be better Muslims. The problem now is that it has been hijacked by the extremists and those with a narrow understanding of Islam. So you have all these issues of new laws to be promoted and propagated in parliament without any educated discussions. This has been exacerbated due to Umno’s willingness to collaborate with these people.

There are bound to be differences of opinion but when it comes to a crunch, do we have the mandate? Yes, we have and, of course, we will be just. And we will also stop racism and corruption.

 

Q: PH Presidential Council consists of six top leaders — two from PPBM, two from PKR, and one each from DAP and Amanah. Some say there is no equality or is unfair. If PPBM tie up with PKR, they will dominate the Council. Your comments?

DSAI: These are conjectures. There’s no basis. As we have seen, we are working together. Of course, there are unhappy people because even the major appointments are non-Keadilan but the show must go on. We can voice out views to Tun (Mahathir) but we must be completely loyal.

Q: However, should there be any confrontation, you have four votes against two.

DSAI: So far, it has not happened. The spirit is consensus — my view is consensus.

Q: In the finance ministry, there are five advisors and you are not on the list. In fact you are equally qualified, if not most qualified to be one of them. Why do you choose not to be in the panel?

DSAI: It’s ok. If Mahathir wants to run the show, let him run the show. I told him I don’t want to be appointed to any portfolio in the Cabinet or agencies and I think that’s why he appointed other people. Even then, I caution. I say be careful, we have to do the work. We don’t want Umno 2.0. We don’t want corruption, we don’t want cryonics.

We want the PH government to be strong, so we have to be patient and let Mahathir execute the reforms.

I still read and keep abreast of what’s going on and we can balance issues with the Pakatan Council. That route is better in my view.

Q: How do you see Tun Mahathir 20 years after his retirement?

DSAI: He’s still Mahathir but of course he has mellowed quite a lot. Now, he understands more how the government runs and how it can be abused. The new Mahathir is more willing to listen and discuss as a team.

The first time I met him was in the court. He came to see me and of course in my heart I asked why did he need to do this to me. But it is OK. What’s important is we move on. People don’t care who is Mahathir or Anwar. People are waiting (for reform).

Q: Do you mind making a comparison between Rafizi (Ramli) and Azmin (Ali)?

DSAI: Rafizi is a smart young man who initiated INVOKE as an example how he can mobilise the young people. As a young man, he has every right to express his views. Sometimes, he gets a bit critical but I’m ok. I get a bit angry at times but you must allow them room to blossom, not to kill them off like what the previous government did.

As for Azmin, he became MB of Selangor and now Minister of Economic Development. So, I don’t see any problem except they have to make sure they get the right message across.

Q: Given the choice, who would you pick to lead the PKR?

DSAI: I want both Rafizi and Azmin to be at what they are doing now, working together to support the reform agenda — (with a pause) under Anwar Ibrahim.

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