Fighting to regain our rights does not mean we want to exit Malaysia, Sarawak tells Putrajaya

Secondary school students attending ceremonies marking Sarawak Day at the Kuching waterfront wave the Sarawak flag. - dayakdaily.com

KUCHING: Sarawak told Putrajaya today that its quest for a full restoration of its rights in the Malaysia Agreement does not mean it is agitating for separation from the federation.

Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, in his Sarawak Day address at the Kuching waterfront today, said Sarawak would not exit from Malaysia but “being in Malaysia does not mean that we cannot negotiate with the federal government to get back our rights and what belongs to us”.

“We only want what belongs to us,” he said in ceremonies marking the day the state was granted self rule by Britain 54 years ago today at the square next to the historical Square Tower.

Abang Johari repeated his predecessor’s – Tan Sri Adenan Satem’s – often said assurance :“We were Malaysia yesterday, we are Malaysia now, we are Malaysia tomorrow and we are Malaysia forever,” .

The chief minister however said over the years since the federation was formed, it was inevitable that there would be friction and disagreement between the federal government and the state government.

One of them, he said, was that the state was not too happy about the centralisation of power in Kuala Lumpur.

But Abang Johari said “there’s no problem that we cannot overcome”.

He said this was made easier as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi are “always open to discussion with Sarawak in our efforts to bring back our powers according to the Federal Constitution, the Malaysia Agreement, the Malaysia Act, the Inter-Governmental Committee Reports and Recommendations and the Cobbold Commission Reports that have been eroded over the years”.

Explaining his recent decision to dispatch a team of legal experts to London to search for and study any references related to the state’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), the chief minister said it was to “first do our homework” to strengthen the state’s position in the negotiation with Putrajaya.

“To make sure we are not firing blanks,” said Abang Johari.

Federal-State Relations and Project Monitoring Assistant Minister, Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali, heads the team that included the state’s special legal advisor Datuk J C Fong and Deputy Speaker of the state legislative assembly Datuk Gerawat Gala, who is also a lawyer by training.

Abang Johari said while in London, the team would study the “large volume of documents in the British archives and other sources which were only recently declassified” to determine “what really was the underlying spirit of Malaysia Agreement”.

He denied Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub’s claim that the fact finding trip was to get foreigners to intervene in Malaysia’s domestic affairs.

Salahuddin had earlier this month said he disagreed with the mission and viewed Sarawak’s action “could invite foreign interference”.

“Malaysia has been a success story. We have developed by leaps and bounds over the years where our per capita income and GDP multiplied many times. But still it is not a perfect union,” Abang Johari said. – dayakdaily.com