Sarawakians in Federal Cabinet urged to remember Borneo agenda

Peter John Jaban

KUCHING, March 10: A Solidariti Anak Sarawak (SAS) activist is urging all Sarawakian ministers in the Federal Cabinet to remember the Borneo agenda and to continue to uphold the racial and religious harmony which characterises Sarawak in their new roles.

Pro-autonomy advocate Peter John Jaban noted that the Borneo states were celebrating a new federal cabinet line-up which saw Sarawak in particular enjoying better representation than at any time in the history of the nation, at a time when the new Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had put the implementation of the spirit of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) at the forefront of his speech and created new Cabinet posts to oversee this.

“Naturally, this can only be seen as a positive first step for Sarawak and testimony to Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s negotiating power.

“However, we want to caution all the new ministers to remember the Borneo agenda and not compromise it for the sake of their positions in the federal Parliament, as many Sarawak MPs have done in the past,” he asserted in a statement today.

Peter observed that it was indeed a very clever cabinet, designed to cement new loyalties and reward old ones.

“Up to 30 per cent of all the elected MPs, rising to 60 per cent of the number of MPs required to form a majority of the House, have been rewarded with a Cabinet post and a ministerial salary.

“Equally, these will now be bound by conventions of collective Cabinet responsibility under which they will be expected to toe the government line.”

He added that whether a very green Member of Parliament (MP) like Willie Mongin (Puncak Borneo), with only two years of experience in government, has the courage to stand up for his constituents back in Sarawak remained to be seen.

“After all, in two years’ time, all these new Sarawak Cabinet ministers will be seeking re-election from the Sarawak electorate and they would do well to remember that.”

Peter emphasised that the drive to return the rights of the Borneo states under MA63 has never seen such an important opportunity.

“Abang Johari has stated that GPS (Gabungan Parti Sarawak) is in a partnership with PN (Perikatan Nasional) and not a member of the coalition. All GPS MPs should bear this in mind.

“Certain legislation, like the Budget, must be passed and this can presumably only be achieved with the support of the Borneo block. The clock is ticking until the next election and the MPs from the Borneo states must use their influence wisely,” he added.

The creation of a new Cabinet post to oversee implementation of MA63, he noted, was also a potential opportunity but he questioned the appointment of certain cabinet members who have family connections to administrations involved in the deals and discussions surrounding the signing over of oil royalties in the 1970s.

“They should think hard about the right way to preserve their family legacy for the future,” he opined.

Peter commended Muhyiddin for putting a clean face on this Cabinet and to appease certain quarters.

“He has cleverly avoided the most divisive characters and appealed to Sarawak collectively as a regional entity and we are grateful for that.

“But, in a state where our racial and religious harmonies are highly prized, this new Cabinet does raise serious concerns for our fellow Sarawakian Chinese and Sarawakian Indians whose contribution to the state over the past nearly 200 years are hugely appreciated and yet so roundly ignored in this new government.

“We in Sarawak rise and fall together, regardless of race and religion. So, this Cabinet, despite its disproportionate representation of Bumiputra ministers, must show that it is a cabinet for all Malaysians,” he pointed out.

With PAS given the Cabinet post of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Law, he opined that Sarawak awaits with bated breath the next salvo in the Hudud Law agenda.

“Then our Sarawak MPs must truly stand up for our multi-cultural state and our cultural individualities. Only then will Sarawak’s autonomy be fully realised and deeply worthwhile,” he added. — DayakDaily