“Referendum necessary to test assumption that Sarawak, Sabah want to be in Malaysia”

Lau (standing) sharing his perspectives on holding a Sarawak Independence Referendum.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Dec 11: Holding a referendum on Sarawak independence or autonomy is necessary to give closure to the issue as to why and how Malaysia came about and then, to move forward.

Highlighting this, senior lawyer Robert Lau Hui Yew opined that the question of whether Sarawak and Sabah wanted to be in Malaysia had never been properly asked or put to the people.

“In 1962-63, we jumped in making an assumption that the peoples of Sarawak and Sabah wanted to be in Malaysia.

“In that rush job, two children were suddenly pushed in and Malaysia came about and no one clearly knows what actually happened. This is an unfinished work (in Malaysia).


“Now, that over 50 years (old) assumption is being challenged. How to challenge this is by way of a referendum,” he told reporters after the public talk titled ‘Sarawak Independence Referendum: Is There A Way Forward?’ held last night (Dec 10) for which he was one of the speakers.

Lau, who is also Sibu Rural District Council deputy chairman, pointed out that the whole narrative of the said referendum has not been told and the present situation offers a good opportunity to talk, learn and explore this topic.

“Even though referendum is not a topic (of discussion) in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and was mentioned only once in the Cobbold Commission 1962, but the United Nations (UN) Charter remains that every man has the right to free choice,” he explained.

As such, he said the answer to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement that Sarawak and Sabah did not want independence but autonomy during the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York last month, can be found by asking the people.

“Has Sarawak and Sabah been given that opportunity of free choice such as in the case of the autonomous region of Bougainville (which is part) of Papua New Guinea, in which some 200,000 people had been given that choice (to decide)? We are asking for the same thing,” he emphasised.

“If the peoples of Sarawak and Sabah were never asked ‘do you want to be part of Malaysia’, you have to ask that question.”

Lau speaking to reporters after the talk.

However, looking at the history of referendums and resolutions around the world, Lau also reminded those present that it cannot be assumed a referendum will result or indicate that Sarawak or Sabah wants to exit Malaysia.

“Who knows (about the outcome of the referendum)? Scotland, United Kingdom and Quebec, Canada are among the western democracies given that opportunity (to call for a referendum) to ask (the people) and they all chose to remain because they felt that way was better,” he said.

“(So if) Sarawak and Sabah is being treated well and all terms and conditions in the MA63 are being fulfilled, why leave Malaysia? We can make Malaysia even better. Sarawak and Sabah can drive (sic) Malaysia into an even greater nation than it is now. There is a possibility.”

Lau pointed out that a very simple question was put forward during the MA63 journey — ‘what is Malaysia?’.

“Our Constitution defines Malaysia in Article 161 as the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957. Why? Is Malaysia really Malaya? So we have to go back to the basic principle,” he said.

Looking at the case of Sarawak and Sabah, which has been seen as adopted children, through the analogy of a growing child, he added: “Like a child born into a family surname Malaysia and then suddenly to realise from the birth certificate that the surname is actually Malaya.

“And like me, I am born a Lau and suddenly discovered it was Tiong in the birth certificate. Then for sure you will start asking tonnes of questions.

“People will always seek to know the truth and to be free. We are asking for that. We have grown up now and are no longer young,” he concluded.

Organised by Sarawak Peoples’ Congress in conjunction with United Nations (UN) Human Rights Day 2019, other speakers at the talk include Sarawak Association for People’s Aspirations (SAPA) president and lawyer Dominique Ng as well as Sarawak Reform Party (Star) president Lina Soo.

The talk was moderated by lawyer and Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) Kota Sentosa branch chairman Wilfred Yap. — DayakDaily