KOTA KINABALU: The talks about secession by certain non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and politicians should not be viewed as a security threat by the government, said Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Head of International Relations programme, Professor Dr Kamarulzaman Askandar.
He opined that the authorities should instead put more efforts into finding the root cause of the problem from which the ideas to secede arose.
“When trying to diagnose an illness, for instance, the key is to inspect internally rather than to simply rely on surface analysis. Hence, rather than consuming efforts on searching for and apprehending individuals promoting secession, more efforts should instead be put into understanding the core on which such demand was built.
“These people (involved in secession issue) based their demand for secession on points such as where Sabah and Sarawak stood at the time of Malaysia’s formation, division of power, distribution of development priorities, and so on.
“For me, this is not merely a security issue but rather, we need to work on finding what it is that caused for such demand to arise and why,” he opined.
Kamarulzaman was speaking on a topic entitled, “Conflicts, Peace and Nation Building”. He was one of the four speakers who presented papers related to Sabah in the context of security, during the Nation Building Seminar at the YTL Auditorium, UMS, here yesterday.
Answering a question from the floor during the question and answer session after his talk yesterday, on whether the demands made by Sabah were reasonable, Kamarulzaman replied in the affirmative.
“In the case where an inch is given and a yard is taken, then there is a need to determine whether or not the demands are reasonable.
“When there are things formally promised through an agreement, like the 20-Point agreement in Sabah’s case, for example, it could mean that demands were made because there was something lacking in the process of implementing those promises.
“And while it’s not my place to say whether or not the demands made by Sabah are reasonable, I think it’s reasonable to expect consistent supply of electricity for instance, or for roads to be in good condition, for remote villages to get the basic necessities, or for all children to get quality education,” said Kamarulzaman.
The professor believed that in finding the solutions for peace among all the races in Malaysia, balance is the answer, whereby when there is imbalance in dividing priorities and a certain race gets the bigger slice of the cake, dissatisfaction is bound to surface.
“Each ethnic group has its own identity and while we talk about finding balance and peace, questions such as ‘Why are the Malays or the Muslims more dominant? Why are other ethnics or religion not given as much ‘airtime’ as the Malays and Muslims?’ arise.
“And in the context where a certain group of people receives more benefits and more opportunities than the rest, there will come a time when the oppressed – those who are not getting what they want and need, or simply not getting what they are promised – will revolt or at least voice their cry for their rights and values to be upheld,” said Kamarulzaman.
Concluding his talk, he said while Malaysia was way past its infancy, the concept of nation in this country was still vague.
“We are still working on finding the meaning of a Malaysian nation and still looking for the proper balance. If we cannot find the answer in my lifetime, I apologise on behalf of my generation and it will be up to the future generation to keep on it.
“But never be afraid of variety because that is where our strength instead of weakness lies, so long as we find the proper balance.”