Saturday, May 25

Looking forward to the debate

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File photo shows Sarawakians during a march on July 22.

FOR the past week, local media, print and electronic – and never forget the cyber variety – have been full of debates about a debate: whether the Chief Minister of Sarawak should accept the challenge by the Speaker of Parliament for a debate on Malaysia Agreement 1963 or whether Lina Soo, president of a political party, has the necessary academic qualifications to debate with the Speaker.

Lina Soo has accepted that challenge because the Speaker said he would debate with anybody, though his advisers consider Lina as not having the same standing (tidak setaraf) as Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia.

What has sparked the debate is the belief by many people in Sarawak and Sabah that certain conditions and safeguards of the merger between the Federation of Malaya and three British territories (Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak) have over the years been eroded since the departure of Singapore in 1965.

I’m not participating actively in the current debate, not until there is one between Lina Soo and Pandikar Amin in Kuching on Dec 23. I hope they will not ‘baco’ (pull out at the last minute).

I would be happy if the debaters could touch on issues such as the abolition of local government elections, discriminatory implementation of Borneanisation of the civil service, erosion of Sarawak’s rights beyond three nautical miles of its shoreline, and with it the loss of oil and gas rights to a company dominated by non-Sarawakians. These are among the most important issues of the day.

If these could be debated properly resulting in the restoration of these rights to Sarawak, many would be happy with Pandikar and Lina for their respective roles in clarifying many doubts surrounding MA63 or its relevance to contemporary situations in Malaysia.

When Pandikar threw the challenge to Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg for a debate on the MA63, I don’t think the latter had expected anything so unusual coming as it did from a fellow BN leader.

Certain young BN leaders in Sarawak and Sabah wasted no time in ostracising the Honourable Speaker of the Malaysian Parliament in language not exactly parliamentary. Sad.

Now that the Chief Minister is not keen to discuss Sarawak rights in public and prefers to talk within four walls with the Prime Minister, there is no way of knowing what Sarawak has to say to the Federal Government unless there will be press statements on what matters have been agreed on and which have not. There are many ways to skin the proverbial cat, I suppose. Remember Frank Sinatra’s song ‘My Way’?

However, in this episode, there seems more than that meets the eye. We shall see what follows the spat.

As for Lina Soo, even if she wins the debate, I think her party is not likely to form the state government on its own steam any time soon. As such they will not be in a position to bark up the right tree. They should, however, keep on barking up some tree, nonetheless.

It is good for all political parties in Malaysia to discuss not only the Malaysia Agreement 1963 but also the other related documents such as the Inter- Governmental Report (IGC), the Memorandum of the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee (MSCC), the Government White Papers (North Borneo and Sarawak respectively), and the Cobbold Commission Report, not forgetting the Federal Constitution and the State Constitution. Plus, the other documents recently discovered and brought back by our legal team that had gone to London to collect them. Let’s see if there is anything new to add to those documents already in our possession in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.

I have a few documents related to the formation of Malaysia given to me by the late Datuk Tra Zehnder, Datuk Amar James Wong, Datuk Amar Ling Beng Siew, Apai Tun Jugah, Dr James Ongkili, and Tan Sri Ong Kee Hui. I keep papers from various seminars (Randau Integrasi Nasional in 1985 and 1987) conducted by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Isis – not to be confused with the Islamic State).

I would be glad to show them to anyone, who is serious enough to find out the beginnings of Malaysia at the coming debate. I may learn a lot more about the creation of Malaysia.

Please, Pandikar and Lina, make the debate happen. I can’t wait. Can’t wait.

Sarawakians’ rights

The state’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and Sabah’s 20 Points have been debated in Sarawak and Sabah for the past decade, first among the opposition politicians and the NGOs; later, perhaps, due to the popularity of the issues, the debate was joined by the ruling politicians in these two states.

In Sarawak, the opposition boys are lapping it up, obviously happy that their cause – fighting for the rights of Sarawak in Malaysia – has been taken up by the politicians in power. They think that they are on the same page – having a common cause, for a change.

While everybody is talking about the state’s rights, nobody talks about Sarawakians’ rights – for example, the loss of native land rights. Or are these not important enough to warrant consideration by these politicians or be classified by them as rights of the state too? I’m sad that nobody talks about native rights any more.

Sad also is the obvious trend of people with positions and walking in the corridors of power, looking down on others as unworthy or below their dignity to debate with. I say, please tolerate the common people. They may have something worthwhile to say; or at least, listen to their perceived nonsense. You can’t underrate the intelligence of the men on the street nowadays. If they have been to the university, they may have read the same books that you read. As stakeholders, they have the right of audience in all issues that matter to the present and future of this county. It’s time for some people on high portals to dismount from their high horses and talk to the ordinary mortals.

Devolution of power

Devolution of power from the federal government to the state government is power or authority that belongs to the federal government in the first place but is delegated to the state government for specific domestic purposes within that state.

What Sarawak rights have we lost over the past 54 years? The great debate will disclose more of the truth or of the falsity of this belief or that perception, dispel illusions and even expose ignorance about MA63 and related documents about the formation of Malaysia.

We may learn something else other than attempts by religious bigots to curb rights to religion. I have read about the chopping off of our shoreline and limiting it to three nautical miles only and with it the loss of Sarawak’s rights over oil and gas outside it. I have read about the reluctance of government to restore the local government elections. I’m disappointed that not many people seem to be really interested in the last issue-local government elections. You bet, I will raise it again and again.

To be fair to the federal government, the abolition of electoral rights in local government elections was largely of our own making, aided and abetted by the federal leaders from Sarawak at the material time. How did we suffer a substantial loss of rights over our oil and gas found embedded within our own territorial waters?

And why are these rights so important that they must be returned to us now?   The debaters will substantiate their arguments, pro or against the motion.

How’s the motion to be worded?

At the time when Sarawakians are wakening to the fact that they possess various rights under the Malaysian Sun, we should allow a lot of people to talk and even disagree without being disagreeable.

If the present generation of Malaysians blame the founders of Malaysia for the latter’s mistakes or omissions made while discussing the Malaysia Plan for two years and eight months since 1962, the current leaders (those born in late 1950s or early 1960s) ought to realise that they were simply born at the wrong time.

However, they would make better negotiators fighting for better terms and safeguards for Sarawak and Sabah if another Malaysia Plan were to be proposed now. Sorry, you have missed the first and the last bus.

Although Malaysia is now a fait accompli, they can still suggest ways and means by which to improve government delivery system, not by dismantling the first bricks upon which Malaysia was built half a century ago but by strengthening the whole structure of Bangunan Malaysia able to withstand the fiercest storm or political earthquake.

Now it’s for us all, young and old, to make Malaysia work by making the best out of what we have, warts and all.

During the debate there may pop up good and practicable ideas by which to improve conditions in the country. Who knows?

Find out. See you there.

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