Wednesday, July 17

Be clear and objective about Sarawak’s struggle — Teng


KUCHING: All four documents – the Cobbold Commission, Inter-Government Committee (IGC) Report, Malaysia Agreement and Federal Constitution – are critical and must not be read in isolation for any interpretation of Sarawak’s special position and rights.

This is the advice given by former senior politician Datuk David Teng Lung Chi.

“These are the four stages that we need to be fully aware of when we come to the negotiation table.

“Be it through the court, through the legal process, through the executive negotiation between the committees or through political negotiation, you must have these four documents as back up,” he stressed in his talk on Special Position and Special Safeguards for Sarawak under MA63 organised by the Sarawak Patriots Association here Friday night.

The former assistant Minister and Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) treasurer added that there is no point for Sarawak to have its views and Malaya making it stand because the views are irrelevant.

What matters, he said, is the black and white (documents).

Pulling no punches, Teng opined it is also important to know those rights that the Sarawak government had agreed to part way.

He said the Sarawak government has to approach these issues very objectively.

“Sometimes it is the federal government’s fault and sometimes it is also our fault. So let us be very honest and objective about it.

“I don’t want to pass judgment. There may be good reason or bad, I don’t know. I’m just giving the facts of what we have given away under certain circumstance, whether it’s justified or not,” he said.

Teng noted that 10 years after 1963 the Sarawak government was given the right to continue or decide otherwise concerning the use of English as its medium of education.

The local councils, he related, had been responsible for primary schools in the old days but they gave away that right due to heavy financial responsibilities.

He said the Sarawak government then agreed to adopt the national education policy and now if you wish to take it back, you have to talk and negotiate.

Teng also noted that the IGC, which is part of the MA63, provides that several years after independence the members of the federation must agree that the allocation or distribution of the number of parliamentary seats for Sarawak, Sabah and Malaya be decided by the Election Commission and by Parliament.

He highlighted this part as most damaging for Sarawak.

“Since 2013, Sarawak and Sabah combined made up only 25 percent or 56 seats out of 222 parliamentary seats while Malaya has 75 percent.

“You know what does that mean. Two-third majority means 67 percent. So if you go for geographical allegiance West Malaysia alone can pass any law, can amend the constitution.

“This is where we are now. When it comes to political decision, legislative decision, who calls the shot?” he asked.

The veteran politician also tried to explain that what caused Sarawak to lag far behind in terms of development was the failure to review the special grant for Sarawak and Sabah.

He said after 1970, no review was carried out.

“Why? Whose fault? Is it the federal fault? Is it partly our fault? We have been in action for the past 50 years and obviously the Sarawak government must buck up in certain things.

“You do your part, we Sarawakians are all behind you. Look at ourselves. In certain things, where you have made the mistake, rectify it.

“If they have taken any of our rights away, fight it back. If they give back, don’t lose it again,” he said.