Saturday, September 23

916 and haze over autonomy of East Malaysian states


THE city of Kuching is engulfed in a thick haze.

Looking out from my office glass window which is about 50 square feet (yes, it is huge), it has always being 70 per cent green grass and leaves, 25 per cent blue sky and five per cent or less concrete or steel.

For the past week, the grass and leaves were turning brown and dull, the sky a thick murky overcast that the light could not penetrate and there appeared to be a fine veil hanging at the window.

The haze has been there for a while or rather we have been in a haze for quite sometime.

The costs of goods and services are soaring and escalating while our Ringgit is literally tumbling and plummeting.

Economists no longer count whether our currency is now performing worse in the number of months or years but are counting the days we are from the worst 44 years ago.

The people are in a haze because GST has shrunk their money and made their lives miserable, yet the privileged have benefitted from mysterious generous “donations.”

There is more haze because nobody seems bothered with the 916 Malaysia Day celebration. Most of the folks I asked do not know where is the celebration centre of this year’s Malaysia Day do.

But everybody is concerned about the proposed “red shirt” rally that will be held in the heart of the nation’s capital.

It is even more hazy when the biggest national political party is backing the rally and the organisers do not even bother to communicate with the police on the details of the rally, boasted to be the biggest gathering that will eclipse the Bersih 4.0.

The haze further thickens with Al Jazeera released a 26-minutes documentary on its current affairs 101 East show which the media network publicized it as an “investigation into the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu.”

The investigative journalist of Al Jazeera showed the text message appearing on the mobile phone of Sirul Azhar, the man convicted of murdering the Mongolian interpreter but incomprehensibly escaped to Australia, purportedly asking for a total of AUS$17 million (RM52 million) from the Prime Minister to “say nothing” about the case and pledged that “I won’t bring down the PM” just before he was re-arrested.

The intermediary, one Abdul Salam, whom the commentator said had regularly visited Sirul at the Villawood detention centre in Sydney and is believed to be involved in funding his legal team in Australia, had replied Sirul that the ransom was “being discussed”.

Al Jazeera’s Australian journalist Mary Ann Jolley was turned back when she arrived at KLIA, deported, in a haze, of course.

My good friend, Edmund, thought he had enough of the haze and announced his better opportunities in the hazy crisis lay in his home kitchen, rolling out some “Kuih Dadar.”

But he soon ran out of the coconut fillings and with all his friends not giving him rest, soon ran out of ENO too. The Facebook is to be blamed. Edmund was soon out of his kitchen and busy offering his usual good insight and solutions to help his friends get out of the haze.

Indeed, there may be an opportunity in this hazy crisis, as Edmund has suggested.

At mid-week, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Masidi Manjun announced this year’s Malaysia Day celebration will be held in Kota Kinabalu on September 16.

The state ministersaid the highlight will be the signing of a document to commemorate the birth of the country and the signatories of the document shall comprise of Prime Minister Datuk Seri NajibTun Razak, Sabah’s Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Aman and Sarawak’s Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

“This is a document that will be kept as a Malaysian document for the future generation – it will be handed over to the National Archive Department for their safekeeping,” he said.

What is that “document” which is of such significance to be signed and “handed over to the National Archive Department for their safekeeping”?

The haze is certainly not helping.

To many Sarawakians and Sabahans, the country’s birth was in a haze. In less than two months, the Cobbold Commission travelled to 20 centres in Sarawak and 15 centres in Sabah, completed their 50 sessions to gather the opinions of Sarawakians and Sabahans. It was, of course, quite a feat, considering the vastness of these two nation states and the poor transportation in 1962.

The Cobbold Commission Report was considered in a series of meetings in London by the British and Malayan ministers, and it was unanimously agreed that a Federation of Malaysia is in the best interests of Sarawak and North Borneo.

A few months later, the British and the Malayan governments decided to establish an Inter-Governmental Committee, with representation of the Sarawakian and North Borneo governments to work out the constitutional arrangements and safeguards for the special interests of North Borneo and Sarawak in the federation of Malaysia.

In about three months, the Inter-Governmental Committee completed their pre-determined tasks in December 1962 and the IGC completed its report on February 27, 1963. The Malaysia Agreement was concluded and signed on July 9, 1963.

My parents were born in Kuching and were around during the supposed visits of the Cobbold Commission and IGC but they could not recall how they were involved in the enquiries. The consultation must have been slight and trifling.

The dreadful legacy of the colonial master appears to have been maintained despite our “independence” 52 years later. The masses are kept in the dark as to what their governments have agreed and decided for them.

So, what is the document that is to be signed to commemorate the birth of our country? Wouldn’t it better serve the citizenry by consulting them on the content of the document?

The Sarawak and Sabah state governments and the rakyat in both states have been vocal in asking for greater autonomy of the states. The prime minister had agreed and said the federal government is agreeable to devolve powers to the two East Malaysian states.

For it to be meaningful, I am hoping the document to be signed is an agreement to set up a Commission on Devolution in Sarawak and Sabah.

For it to be pragmatic, I am hoping the document to be signed will enumerate the terms of reference for the Commission on Devolution in Sarawak and Sabah.

For the future generations of Sarawak and Sabah, I certainly pray the document to be signed will set down the timeline for the completion of the report of the Commission on Devolution in Sarawak and Sabah and that we have a date of Sarawak and Sabah’s full autonomy to look forward to.