Political wits, experience key to navigate MA63 discussion, says Abang Johari

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By Peter Sibon and Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Jan 13: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg is relying on his experience and political instinct to deal with Putrajaya to continue the negotiation for Sarawak rights as contained in Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

He was confident that Sarawak could regain its rights because he had worked together with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad before from 1981-2003.

Abang Johari said he was fortunate to have started in politics when he was relatively young.

“When I was Assistant Minister, I was together with (former Chief Minister and current Governor Tun Abdul) Taib (Mahmud). After that of course, the PM then was Tun Mahathir. He was our PM for 22 years and I was there as a member of the State cabinet.

“Then of course we had (former Chief Minister the late Pehin Sri) Adenan (Satem) and myself, and having been in the service for the past 40 years, starting when I was full minister in 1987, I started with Ministry of Industrial Development, that was the first step for us to diversify our economy.

“Because before that our economy was basically only agriculture. Then we go towards industrialisation, and I was given that task, that was where I engaged with the investors: We started the Samajaya Industrial Estate, Sejingkat (Demak Laut Industrial Estate), and of course we also started the industrial estate in Tanjung Manis, all these areas in 1987 onwards,” he said.

Later on as Tourism Minister under Taib, Abang Johari said Sarawak and the federal government were then under Barisan Nasional (BN).

“Then with that background as well as Tourism Minister under Taib, I have that experience (in dealing with the federal government), and the only difference now is that the federal government and us are not on the same page.”

The Chief Minister also asserted that it was crucial for Sarawak to continue to be part of the federation but with greater decentralisation and autonomy.

“So, because of that background in my experience, we can work within the concept of the federation, perhaps we can be on our own in terms of governing. I’m not talking about independence. In terms of governing, within the context of federation,” said Abang Johari, citing other countries like China, Italy and Germany that gave greater autonomy to their respective provinces. —DayakDaily