KOTA KINABALU: Changing Sabah and Sarawak’s status from ‘negeri’ to ‘wilayah’ must be made official and there must also be an explanation of what becoming a ‘wilayah’ entails, said former chief minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said.
“If you are serious to change it from ‘negeri’ to ‘wilayah’, you have to make sure the Federal Constitution is amended. There is yet to be any official statement from the government on the matter (and) personally I support the idea however it is my opinion that the change of status must be followed up with the amendment to the Federal Constitution to explain what do you mean by ‘wilayah’.
“And the explanation should also include what are the autonomy power we should have. As far as I am concerned whatever has been taken by the federal government which is supposed to be ours must be returned,” said the Usukan assemblyman.
Salleh said this at the rebranding of Kojasa Holding Sdn Bhd launch yesterday when asked to comment about Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s recent announcement on Sabah and Sarawak being a territory instead of state.
Salled said that by changing Sabah and Sarawak’s status to wilayah means that we are equal partners when we formed Malaysia.
“This is in line with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63). So I fully support it but we have to explain what does it mean. The Constitution must be amended to make it clear when we make it ‘wilayah’ Sabah and ‘wilayah’ Sarawak…we put in writing in the constitution. That is the principle.
“We don’t have to worry whether you are from the ruling party or opposition, we are together on this matter. We must look at it from a non-partisan view because when you talk about MA63 and Sabah’s rights, we must have the non-partisan approach.
“We should not politicise it. In the end we should agree and (when) parliament reconvenes, then (we) better do some amendments of the Federal Constitution to ensure that Sabah, Sarawak are equal partners in the formation of Malaysia,” he said.
Commenting on opinions that Sabah status was downgraded from ‘state’ to ‘territory’, Salleh stressed that this is why the federal government must make it clear what ‘wilayah’ means.
He pointed out that the rakyat is now confused adding, “some say we are part of federal territory just like Labuan, this is not right. We are equal partners.
“We have to explain what it means. We are not one of the states in Malaysia because when we formed Malaysia, the signatories are Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya. We did not sign any agreement with Perlis or Perak or Selangor… we signed the agreement with Malaya. We are partners in the formation of this nation.
“So if ‘wilayah’ Sabah and ‘wilayah’ Sarawak reflects that kind of understanding then we should amend the Constitution, that is the best thing and we need a two third majority in Parliament. It is not just the question of changing the name from state to territory. We need to amend the constitution and we need to convene parliament and we need the support from the ruling parties and the opposition parties.
“I believe the opposition and government party will support because everybody is fighting for Sabah, for MA63. MPs in Sabah and Sarawak have no reason not to support if you really believe that you are fighting for Sabah and you believe that we are equal partners,” he said.
He added that when he was the Chief Minister a committee consisting of representatives from all parties was formed to look into MA63.
Don’t politicise the issue because fighting for your right is a process, he said and for now, Salleh advised the rakyat to wait for an official statement from the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister’s Department on the matter.