Reclaiming rights: ‘Sarawakians have woken from slumber’

Shankar expressing his views during the forum.

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By Lian Cheng and Peter Sibon

KUCHING, April 29: Senior lawyer Shankar Ram said if Sarawakians might have been asleep before, they are now very much wide awake.

And if the forefathers of Sarawakians might have made mistakes in the past, they should not sit back anymore but correct the mistakes for the sake of the future generations, he added.

“In 1963 we fell asleep; in 1976 we fell asleep again; in 2019 we are wide awake.

“If our forefathers had made mistakes, we cannot just sit back, we have got to correct them and move forward not only for us, but for our children,” Shankar said during a forum titled, “Should Sarawakians support the Amendment to Federal Constitution 1(2) Bill as tabled in Parliament on April 9, 2019 in the light of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63)?” at Kuching Civic Centre organised by DayakDaily yesterday.

As such, he urged all parties to stop the blame game and move on to regain the rights of Sarawak.

On a related issue, he also expressed his view that the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) signed to pave the way to the formation of the Federation of Malaysia is still valid, even if Singapore pulled out of Malaysia.

“It cannot be invalid because Sarawak was independent after the Second World War for six months. So we were a sovereign country ceded to the British Empire. We joined (to form Malaysia). We were not colonised by them technically.

“We have our sovereignty and it was passed to the British when the federation was formed. We were a ‘Negara’. That is why we cannot be treated like a colonial country with no power to sign an agreement. That was why we were asked to sign because we were a ‘Negara’ ceded to the British Empire,” said Shankar.

Citing the example of buying a house by four parties, he said once the deal was made, even if one or two parties were to pull out, the deal was done as the house is bonded.

The forum in progress.

Meanwhile, he also cited the agreement that led to the formation of Malaysia.

“It must be noted that without such recommendations in the IGC (Inter-Governmental Committee report), Cobbold Commission (report) and the Malaysia Agreement, there may not be a Malaysia. These recommendations were not intended to and did not take away any of the Sarawak Bar’s exclusive right.

“In fact, the rights were entrenched as a safeguard and were further extended so as to cover the right of audience before the new Federal Court. The creation of a new Federal Court was recommended in the Cobbold Commission Report and was embodied in para. 26(1) and (4) of the IGC report.

“A crucial aspect that can be observed in the above Federal Court case is that (Attorney-General of Malaysia) Mr Tommy Thomas and his team never challenged the validity of MA63 and even JCA Gopal Sri Ram did not rule against MA63,” said Shankar when presenting his view during the forum.

He said Sarawak, since the time of the late Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem, now helmed by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg and together with Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian have been openly voicing the need to review with the Federal Government, Sarawak’s rights under MA63 that has been steadily eroded over the years to the detriment of all Sarawakians.

Shankar said that if the Malaysian Judiciary in the cases of the Government of the State of Kelantan v the Government of the Federation of Malaya and Tuanku Abdul Rahman (1963) 29 MLJ 356 and Datuk Hj Mohammad Tufail Mahmud v Dato Ting Check Sii (2009) 4 CLJ 449 can endorse MA63, why should the Pakatan Harapan government be slow “unless they have something else in mind?”

“It is unfair that the Malaysia Federal Constitution recognised ‘The Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957’ but refused to accept and adopt the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

“It is important that all Sarawakians must come together and with a strong Sarawak, we can have a stronger Malaysia,” said Shankar.

Apart from Shankar, the other three forum speakers were Muara Tuang assemblyman Datuk Idris Buang, Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei, and former Padungan assemblyman Dominique Ng.

Senior lawyer Arthur Lee was the moderator. — DayakDaily