The Sabah Sarawak Rights Australia New Zealand NGO (SSRANZ) has congratulated Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim leader of the Pakatan Harapan party, on his appointment as the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia and the appointment of his new 28-member cabinet on 2 December 2022.

The new Prime Minister has listed the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) as his number 2 priority to be finally “fully implemented”, 59 years after the international treaty was signed and the former British colonies of Sabah and Sarawak were incorporated into Malaysia.

His promise has raised the people’s expectations for improvements to their life and a fair and just secular society to a very high level. His promise was also calculated to diffuse the rising Sabah and Sarawak nationalism which sees Malaysia as an unequal exploitative colonial relationship with Malaya.

SSRANZ President, Robert Pei opined that it might be best that the new government first ensure that MA63 was a validly made and legally binding international treaty before they proceed any further. The validity of the treaty is currently challenged in the Borneo High Court. The Writ by 11 litigants, questions the legitimacy of Malaysia in the wake of the International Court of Justice’s decision in the 2019 Chagos Islands case that colonies are not sovereign states with capacity to make binding international treaties.

On the other hand, if MA63 was valid, then the Prime Minister effectively reaffirmed the previous federal governments’ acknowledgement that there have been multiple fundamental breaches of the MA63 treaty and undertakings for 59 years, which would terminate the treaty under international law and no longer binding on Sabah and Sarawak.

The federation has only brought dire consequences for Sabahans and Sarawakians who were led to believe that exchanging independence for the promised “progress and prosperity” in Malaysia was the better proposition.

It is recalled that the first Malayan PM Tunku Abdul Rahman declared that the main objective of replacing British colonial rule with the Malayan takeover of Sabah and Sarawak under the Malaysia plan, was to develop the 2 backward Borneo states. At the time Malaya was near bankruptcy and the Malayan Government was incapable of delivering what it promised without a $100 million loan from Singapore and British aid. The Singapore loan was never finalised as Singapore left the federation in 1965.

However, despite having the advantage of oil and gas resources, there has been little improvement in the majority of the Borneo people's lives. Federation has been shown to be a false reason as Sabah and Sarawak have been deliberately kept poverty-stricken and underdeveloped while their petroleum resources have been illegally expropriated to develop Malaya under the PDA74. They could have become advanced high-income countries and developed far better as independent states like Brunei and Singapore.

The SSRANZ President said that the Prime Minister is well-aware that there would be no Malaysia without the 1963 international treaty and Sabah and Sarawak involvement. If this matter is not resolved, Anwar’s long-held wish for the “closer integration” of Sabah and Sarawak as part of Malaya will only be seen as a neo-colonial dream. Failure to implement MA63 will only stoke the already burning nationalist flames for independence.

He said Anwar must prove his sincerity, by making it a priority to repeal all unconstitutional laws which illegally took away Sarawak’s MA63 rights. Foremost are the Continental Self Act 1966 and Territorial Seas Act 2012, Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA74) and ACT 354 passed in 1976, which practically removed all the entrenched MA63 rights of both Sabah and Sarawak.
He said the new government has the 2/3 majority required to repeal ACT354. Repealing this and the other laws will go some way to restore Sabah and Sarawak ownership and control of their oil and gas. It will allow them to use the vast revenue to finance development which is still being diverted to develop Malaya.

It is hard to imagine how Sabah or Sarawak will ever recover the funds lost with Petronas’ expropriation of trillions of dollars from petroleum revenue since 1976. Further, it would be futile to expect the staunchly pro-Malaya GPS government (or weak Sabah government) to seek compensation and damages as it has chosen to oppose the MA63 Writ in the High Court instead of defending Sarawak’s interests and gave up Sarawak’s oil rights to Petronas in 2019.

The new Prime Minister must also implement one of the agreed MA63 priority tasks which was the immediate implementation of Borneonisation. It was intended as part of “decolonisation for self-rule” (to replace national independence) that the Borneo people were to be handed the reins of government administration.

However, this became a federal-state crisis in 1965 when the federal government began to take direct control of local affairs and supplant the British colonial officials with Malayan officials. “Centralisation” or "Malayanisation" was one issue that led to Singapore's exit and the illegal deposing and replacing the Ningkan government with the GPS alter ego PBB alliance.

SSRANZ has made up a shortlist of must do things which were problems created by the former federal governments in pursuit of tightening political control of the Borneo states:

1. Borneonize the Sabah and Sarawak civil services and ensure that this is done on merit and not follow GPS’ discriminatory selection on basis of race and religion. In due course repatriate all Malayan staff unnecessarily occupying jobs meant for Sabahans and Sarawakians.
2. Repeal ACT 354 to restore articles 46 and 161E on seat allocation, Article 161D on religious freedom,
3. Malayan parties must leave Sabah and Sarawak as they breach MA63 by poaching their allocated parliamentary seats and this has the effect of disempowering them in terms of numbers in parliament.
4. Repeal PDA74 as it affects Sabah and Sarawak and open all the books of Petronas
5. Borneonize the education service and replace Malayan teachers with local teachers and repatriate all religious teachers as this breaches the MA63 terms that there is no state religion and immigration control on safeguarding local jobs.
6. Local land held by the federal government should be returned to Sabah and Sarawak.
7. The issue of citizenship for thousands of Sabahans and Sarawakians must be solved.
8. The Sabah illegals issue must be solved either by repatriation of the illegals to their original homeland or to Malaya as this was a problem created by the federal government.
9. Restore the local defence and police forces
10. Restore local elections
11. Dismantle the racial discriminatory system institutionalised under the New Economic Policy from 1970.
12. The federal jurisdiction must be restricted only to national defence, foreign affairs and internal security as agreed in 1963.

In conclusion, the SSRANZ president said the federal government must comply with MA63 (if valid) in good faith as the multiple violations of fundamental terms would have rendered the international treaty no longer binding since 1965. If the federal government cannot comply with its MA63 promises, then it must consider that 2 Borneo states are free to exit the federation.

Robert Pei
SSRANZ President,
8 Dec 2022

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