‘Even Dr M acknowledges Sarawak has the right to secede’

Robert Pei

KUCHING, Oct 3: Sabah Sarawak Rights – Australia New Zealand (SSRANZ) president Robert Pei says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s interpretation of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) is consistent with and affirms the right to freely exit a voluntarily created union as an “intrinsic right”.

“In 1963, the Chairman of the MA63 Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC), Lord Lansdowne had in response to calls for an ‘exit clause’ in the treaty and federal constitution, said this was not necessary as ‘any State voluntarily entering a federation had an intrinsic right to secede at will’.

“This is a well established principle of international law which the United Kingdom itself successfully exercised in its referendum vote on Brexit in May 2016 to exit the European Union.

“Similarly, Singapore’s exit was mutually agreed to by the two sides when Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman invited Singapore to leave the federation in August 1965,” said Pei.

He said Dr Mahathir’s acknowledgement that MA63 does not prevent the Sabah and Sarawak people from asking for independence is accurate, with certain quarters now calling for an “autonomy or independence referendum” in the two states.

“He (Dr Mahathir) had qualified by saying Sarawakians and Sabahans only wanted ‘autonomy and not independence’.

“His comment made in New York in relation to MA63 issues as reported on Aug 29, was also an admission that “autonomy” had not been implemented for five decades,” said Pei, a Sarawak-born lawyer working in Australia, in a statement today.

He said the federal government owed it to the Sarawak and Sabah people to do the right thing by agreeing to such a referendum since the federation has breached its MA63 fundamental undertaking by its total failure and/or neglect and omissions to transparently supervise and bring “security development and prosperity” to Sarawak and Sabah.

“This was the core argument used by the then Malayan and UK governments to induce the Borneo people to give up their independence for “Malaysia”. They gave up a lot for nothing in return.”

He said in his opinion, MA63 has been terminated for this reason and in addition, by federal acts in denying the two states of MA63 autonomy and guaranteed special rights which the federal government illegally took away by a series of “backdoor amendments” to MA63.

“These amendments reinforced the centralisation of federal control in contravention of the autonomy concept. If Malaysia has failed in its prime objective and MA63 is no longer valid and binding, then the most democratic way to go is to hold a referendum to decide the issue of whether to recreate a newly negotiated federation or free the states for their independence,” said Pei.

Pei claimed that over the last 55 years, the “Greater Malaysia plan” has turned out to be an unmitigated disastrous failure.

“Instead of these states being developed into advanced modern states, their petroleum resource wealth has been illegally used to develop Malayan states since 1976 (under the Petroleum Development Act 1974) reducing the Borneo states to be the most impoverished and backward states in the federation.”

“It was shocking to read that Petronas is using the states’ petroleum money to set up water projects in some African country whilst huge areas of Sarawak and Sabah are still lacking in infrastructure and the most basic amenities like accessible water and electricity supply, proper housing, schools and healthcare and a developed transport system.

“The symbolic failure of Malaysia is the federal ‘Pan Borneo Highway’ which is still unfinished 50 years after it was launched and the creation of a new landless class especially in Sarawak where native land was illegally expropriated by state agencies and cronies, backed by federal armed forces against the very people the federal government had undertaken to protect in 1963.”

He said after more than three years of state and federal ‘negotiations to restore’ lost state rights and their regional status, nothing concrete could be seen to have been achieved.

“The newly elected federal government has also stalled the implementation of its 14th General Election promises to restore those rights.

“A former UMNO cabinet minister even added insult to injury by saying these rights could be restored in exchange for their giving up the MA63 right to control immigration,” said Pei. — DayakDaily