Sarawak needs ‘heavyweight’ legal eagles to reclaim its rights — ex-rep

Voon Lee Shan

KUCHING, Dec 19: Former Batu Lintang assemblyman Voon Lee Shan opined that Sarawak must engage legal “heavyweights” to sit in the Special Cabinet Committee (SCC), whose main purpose is to review the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and restore the status of Sarawak and Sabah as equal partners in Malaysia.

The SCC met for the first time on Dec 17 in Putrajaya.

Voon’s rationale is that both legal representatives from Sarawak — state Legal Counsel Datuk JC Fong and state Attorney-General Datuk Talat Abdul Mahmood Abdul Rashid — both have their hands too full to conduct the necessary research on historical documents and events leading to the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

He noted that Sarawak’s representation comprised several assemblypersons, including those from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Fong and Talat Abdul Mahmood.

However, on the federal government’s side, there were Attorney-General Tommy Thomas and Law Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqui, both constitutional law experts of international standing.

“Both of them shall have all the resources and experts to assist them from the federal government in doing research and helping them to come with legal arguments for and on behalf of the federal government.

“What Attorney-General Tommy Thomas and Law Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqui say will carry much weight and influence over the SCC or any other committee that they will be sitting on.

“With respect, Datuk JC Fong, although his expertise is very handy but being also the Sarawak State Legal Counsel, may find it too stressful to take his time to do research, read and think about the complexities of all matters surrounding the Cobbold Commission, MA63 and other related papers or documents before coming to the negotiation table. We all know Datuk JC Fong is always very occupied with the legal work he has to do for the state government.

“Likewise for Datuk Talat Mahmood Abd Rashid, as state Attorney-General, he could be bogged down with many important files concerning suits faced or taken by the state,” said Voon in a press statement yesterday.

In order to relieve the burden of Fong and Talat Abdul Mahmood, Voon, who is also a lawyer, said the state government should employ “heavyweights” in the legal circles, especially Queen Counsels (QCs) of reputable standings, to be on the Sarawak negotiations team.

“The legal and political issues in connection with Sabah and Sarawak’s rights are complex, and the present Sarawak State Cabinet and DAP and PKR honourable members (YBs) who are on the Sarawak negotiations team shall be held responsible by the people of Sarawak if the negotiations do not show much progress or benefit for Sarawak,” he cautioned.

Voon added that what needed to be examined as a preliminary issue is whether MA63 is a valid international Treaty (MA63 Treaty)?

“If void or if there are fundamental breaches of the terms leading to MA63 being void, both the federal government and the state governments of Sabah and Sarawak should declare that MA63 is void accordingly before re-negotiating fresh terms and conditions.

“If found to be void, the state government should take the political decision to break away from Malaysia before renegotiating new terms and conditions if Sarawak’s Cabinet decides to do so. Of course, this must be with the mandate of the people of Sarawak to re-join Malaysia,” he said. — DayakDaily