Forum participants air their concerns on Sarawak’s rights

Lau (left) with the two forum speakers — former Repok assemblyman Datuk David Teng (centre), who is a lawyer by training, and state legal counsel Dato Sri JC Fong.

By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Dec 8: The `Sarawak Rights under MA63 (Malaysia Agreement 1963) Forum’ has urged the state government to conduct a survey or a referendum to reflect the people’s voices.

Sarawak Patriot Association (SPA) president Datuk John Lau said that was one of the conclusions reached in the forum, which was organised by SPA and held at the Sarawak Islamic Information Centre last night.

The forum also proposed to amend Article 161 E(2) of the Constitution to grant `rights to hold a referendum’ to the people of Sarawak on any intended amendment that could affect Sarawak’s special position and special safeguards.

ABANG JOHARI

He said the reservation of Sarawak’s rights must be done to benefit Sarawak citizens directly.

“Currently in Sarawak, there are 371 schools without electricity, 426 schools without water, and 190 schools with less than 50 students. The forum urged the Sarawak government to conduct a survey or conduct a referendum to reflect the people’s voices,” said Lau.

He said before 1974, primary education came under the local council in Sarawak.

“But after 1974, primary education became a federal matter. Has our primary education improved?

“Without finance, Sarawak is not in a position to build capacity; thus, just by amending the Federal Constitution’s Article 1 (2), we are really concerned if Sarawak gains equal partnership.

“Clamouring for ‘equal status’ itself would not give us the financial resources and the autonomy to plan and determine our own development strategies to sustain our progress towards a successful and progressive state that is able to contribute to the economic growth and unity and advancement of Malaysia,” opined Lau.

Other conclusions reached during the forum included the participants’ request to the state government to promote constitutional literacy to educate Sarawakians on Sarawak’s rights under the agreement.

Lau said the majority of Sarawakians lacked constitutional literacy or understanding of the Federal Constitution, MA63, Inter-government committee report and the Cobbold Commission report.

He said the MA63 allowed a review on grants from federal to Sarawak. However, since 1969, there had been no review under Article 112D, and participants at the forum called upon the state government to re-initiate the review as soon as possible to get back what was left out in the past years.

“It is encouraged that people in Sarawak call upon the Sarawak government to consult the people of Sarawak on what was left out. For example, to find out whether or not the federal government has delivered their promises on rural development in Sarawak, looking after education, and whether university education meets Sarawak’s development needs.

“Those points were raised and reported in the Cobbold Commission report,” said Lau at the forum.

The forum also urged the state government to set a road-map to inform Sarawakians about the steps the government was taking to negotiate and to regain what the state lost over the years so that the people would have more trust in the government.

“As Malaysians of Sarawak origins, we trust the federal government will seriously consider Sarawak’s quest for ‘equality’ with Malaya and for greater financial, executive and legislative autonomy so that our beloved nation will remain strong, united, harmonious and prosperous and be an example of how the federal system of government regulated by a Federal Constitution can work successfully,” he said.

Lau added that the forum also hoped that the federal government would include Sept 16 as Malaysia Day in the Federal Constitution and that the federal government would delegate more federal functions to the Sarawak government in line with the original spirit of Malaysia. — DayakDaily