`Sarawak has a strong case if it chooses to secede from Malaysia’

Sabah Sarawak Rights-Australia New Zealand (SSRANZ) logo

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KUCHING, Oct 26: The Federal Government’s failure to fulfil its treaty obligations to develop Sarawak over the last 55 years is a fundamental breach of Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) that has effectively terminated the international treaty, said Sabah Sarawak Rights-Australia New Zealand Inc (SSRANZ) president Robert Pei.

He opined that the current dismal situation had been dramatically highlighted by the Sarawak government’s move to assert ownership and take control of its petroleum resources seized by the federation under the Petroleum Development Act 1974 and Territorial Seas Act 2012, so it can use the oil and gas income to develop the state.

“It is shocking that the new federal government has not allocated promised funds nor fulfil other MA63 pledges after GE14, forcing the state to dip into its own reserves to cover development costs.

“Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s recent statements that the state will have to rely on its own funds to develop its own people begs the question as to whether the federation is still relevant for Sarawak anymore.

“Many Sarawakians are now saying that if Sarawak can take back full control of its petroleum resources, it will be much better off as an independent state instead of being a dependent state of the federation,” said Pei in a press statement here today.

He asserted that the federal government’s appointment of MA63 committees, of which Abang Johari is one of its members, “to review the MA63” not only confirms multiple breaches of the treaty but also raises a host of thorny questions as to whether the legitimacy of MA63 and Malaysia can be legally sustained any longer.

“MA63 may have been void ‘ab initio’ or if not, then it has been terminated by fundamental breaches of the treaty. If MA63 is no longer binding, the parties should be looking at other options and not try to fix up a broken treaty,” Pei said.

He pointed out that the (stalled) inter-governmental MA63 talks are just a belated “review” of the treaty that was unilaterally abandoned by the federal government without any convincing reason in 1973, in breach of MA63 terms.

“The review calls into question how in the intervening years the former federal government had wilfully breached the treaty by a series of laws and policies to alter and or revise the prime objective of the UK Malayan “decolonization plan” for “self-determination and development” under MA63.

“Development is primary federal government’s undertakings and obligations given in exchange for the integration of Sabah and Sarawak into the Malayan Federation.

“However, MA63 has been deliberately violated by the federal government expropriation of the Borneo states’ wealth and the imposition of taxes to unjustly enrich and develop the peninsula states and not the Borneo states, reducing them to be dependent poverty-stricken and backward semi-colonies,” he said.

The Melbourne-based lawyer said MA63 (if not void ab initio or void from the beginning) is an international treaty governed by international law.

“Under international law, a treaty would be terminated by any alteration or revision after it was signed, with or without all signatory parties consenting to the amendment,” he stressed.

Pei pointed out that it was undeniable that a number of international treaty law principles and rules on the making and observation of the treaty had not been faithfully complied with by the federal government or by both sides since 1963, resulting in the MA63 treaty being voided or terminated by multiple breaches.

“The GE14 event was a political watershed as the ending of Umno-BN rule freed Sabah and Sarawak from its long control and domination to deal with a new federal government on a fresh basis.

“However, instead of clinging on to what is a long failed federation, it is timely for the Sabah and Sarawak governments to take the opportunity to most vigorously ‘review MA63’ by examining the legal ramifications of the treaty-making process and the fatal breaches and solutions,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pei said leaders from both Sarawak and Sabah should not let themselves be lulled into just “bargaining” for states’ rights, which were already set out by MA63.

He recommended that the two state governments should be asking whether MA63 was validly made in the first place or if so, whether it is still valid and binding after multiple breaches and what is the relevance or value and benefit for their states to continue as members of a federation that deprived their rights to be independent states and then their MA63 rights and the alternative solutions open to them.

“The current proposed federal committees are heavily imbalanced, with a Malayan bias in representation.

“Independent committees would enable the parties to talk on an equal level, which must be done at arm’s length and backed up by their own international law experts,” added Pei.

Besides Abang Johari, among the members of the committee to be chaired by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, consisted of Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, Economics Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Azmin Ali and Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo. — DayakDaily



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