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By Lian Cheng
It was a great disappointment to hear that state Pakatan Harapan chairman Chong Chieng Jen had called off the New Deal Agreement.
Is he saying he is stopping PH’s effort to fight for the devolution of power from the federal government to the state? Because calling off the New Deal sure sounds like it.
When the New Deal was offered, it was dependent on PH becoming the federal government, which with the overwhelming support of the rakyat, PH has achieved. According to the two-page offer letter to the Sarawak state government from PH dated April 26, 2018, the New Deal was not contingent on Sarawak having a PH-friendly government, only that the state ‘must first agree to accept the transfer’.
The letter also stated: “In the event that we, Pakatan Harapan, shall form the Federal Government in the coming 14th General Elections, the NEW DEAL shall be what the Pakatan Harapan Federal Government offers to Sarawak and the Sarawak State Government. There is no need for further negotiation.” (emphasis made in original text).
The fight for devolution of power is attached to the struggle for the realisation of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) which is the dream and desire of Sarawakians everywhere. All political parties knew this going into the 14th general election. That was why it was listed promimently in the respective manifestos of political parties on both sides.
Like the ruling state coalition, state PH promised to fight for the realisation of MA63 and the devolution of powers in taxation and public revenue, education, health, social security, civil infrastructure development, natural resources and tourism.
Let’s recap what was promised. In PH’s General Election Manifesto 2 under “New Deal for Sarawak” which was launched in Sibu with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as witness, PH proposed for the restoration of territorial integrity and the devolution of powers.
It was stated clearly that “PH shall honour MA63” where it will be committed to restore Sarawak to its original status within the context of MA63.
The manifesto also stated that PH will form a royal commission to review various legislations that affect Sarawak’s immutable rights to its natural resources including the Continental Shelf Act 1966; the Petroleum Development Act 1974; and the Territorial Sea Act 2012.
But while the content of the manifesto was still fresh in the memory of many Sarawakians, Chong made the announcement that he has called off the New Deal. Fighting for Sarawak’s rights had been one of the slogans for PH during the May 9 general election. Now after its victory at national level, it seems Chong has made a U-turn.
His reason being firstly, the time for the state government to sign the agreement had passed its deadline (which is debatable as there is at least one recording of him clearly stating that there is no time frame) and secondly, he did not want to give more power to the state BN government because state BN might become “more vengeful” (https://dayakdaily.com/new-deal-is-off-the-table-says-state-ph-chairman/).
It is quite true that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg was childish in setting May 17 and 18 as public holidays instead of May 10 and 11 as announced by PH chairman and Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
However, it is equally childish on the part of Chong for saying state PH is withdrawing the New Deal. The New Deal was what state PH promised to the people of Sarawak, not the state government.
The people of Sarawak do not care about the political quarrels state PH has with the state government. What we want to see is the rights of Sarawak returned and realised.
MA63 represents the rights of the Sarawakians. It is not a political pawn to be used by any political party at their whim and fancy nor a tool to be used for blackmailing Sarawakians into voting for them in the state election that will come in three years’ time.
Sarawakians as a whole have learnt how to speak out loud, as evident in the May 9 general election. For the first time, many realised that their votes are worth more than RM20 or RM50 or a crate of beer. We will be even more confident, alert and mature three years down the road when we go to the ballot boxes once again.
Be gentlemen, state PH, and be a good example for Sarawakians. That is what we ask of our leaders, both from PH and the state government. Both sides have said they put the interests of Sarawak first, and now is the time to walk the talk.
A promise is meant to be kept especially if it is within one’s means to do so, or else it is not a promise but an outright lie. — DayakDaily