STAR: “It’s a separation, not a secession”

Soo (second right) with other STAR leaders. From left, Patrick Teo (vice-president), High Lawrence Zehnder (deputy president), and Albert Voon (assistant treasurer).

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KUCHING, July 8: State Reform Party (STAR) holds the view that Sarawak may be “separated” from Federation of Malaysia and not “secede” from latter based on the Inter-Governmental Committee Report (IGC).

STAR president Lina Soo said the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) should invoke Annex A State List 10 of the Inter-Governmental Committee Report (IGC) to set up an Inquiry for State purpose.

According to her, the IGC which is a constitutional and legally binding document, is the precursor to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) which provides the constitutional framework and safeguards for Sarawak and Sabah in the formation of Malaysia.

“An Inquiry is a systematic investigation on a matter of public interest, and DUN is empowered to commission an Inquiry to ascertain the feelings of the Sarawak people whether or not they are contented, or unhappy with the current state of federalism,” said Soo in a statement today.

Soo believed that “secession” has been the wrong word to use because it implies the creation of a State by the use or threat of force without the consent of the sovereign power, or the creation of a new state upon territory formerly forming part of, or being a colonial entity of an existing nation.

“Neither definition of secession can apply to Sarawak,” said Soo.

She asserted that Sarawak was an independent sovereign nation for 100 years from 1841-1941, recognized by Britain and the United States before it was invaded by Japan in WWII, and then annexed by Britain as Crown colony in 1946.

It was only in 1963 that the British surrendered the sovereignty of Sarawak over to Malaya renamed Malaysia, when it added the new territories of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak to the existing states of the Federation of Malaya.

“You cannot secede when Sarawak was never a part of Malaya historically, culturally and politically, as Malaya is not the motherland of Sarawak,” Soo pointed out.

She said in 1941, on the anniversary of the 100th year of the Brookes, the third Rajah Vyner Brooke granted Sarawak a Constitution which incorporated the “Nine Cardinal Principles” for devolution of powers from the Rajah to Sarawakians for an eventual self-rule.

The eighth Principle reads as follows: “That the goal of self-government shall always be kept in mind, that the people of Sarawak shall be entrusted in due course with the governance of themselves, and that continuous efforts shall be made to hasten the reaching of this goal by educating them in the obligations, responsibilities and privileges of citizenship, Soo added.

“Separatism from a Federation which is a voluntary union of political entities with reserved powers is different from secession from a unitary State,” said Soo.

Soo further pointed out that C.W. Dawson, a member of the Commonwealth Council, had reiterated that any State voluntarily entering a federation had an intrinsic right to secede at will in a letter published in an old edition of the Times newspaper.

The news paper cutting which featured Dawson’s view in the Times.
A British de-classified document on Dawson’s view on secession.

“Furthermore, in the context of the Federal Constitution, Sarawak is by default left out of the Federation in Article 160 where the definition of ‘the Federation’ is the Federation established under the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957.

“Sarawak was not a signatory to the 1957 Malaya Agreement, nor ever sign any agreement with the individual states of Malaya. So to say that Sarawak wants secession is totally misleading as that will invite negative connotation and misinterpretation with seditious tendency to be capitalised by irresponsible people for their own political agenda.”

Soo was responding to Lanang MP Alice Lau who had in Parliament asked what action the federal government could take against those calling for Sarawak secession.

On a point of academic interest, Soo said Singapore had already set the precedent in 1965 upon its departure from Malaysia.

“Despite Singapore’s failure to consult Sarawak as required under a multi-lateral international agreement, and since MA63 contains no provision for denunciation or withdrawal, Singapore’s Separation Agreement is deemed valid under the severance principle and Article 56(1)(a) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties by implying the right of withdrawal of the parties to the Agreement.

“However the severance of Singapore from the Federation does not destroy MA63 nor dissolve the Federation.

“Consent is an important democratic principle where it has to be the will of the majority to decide their political, cultural and economic future in the established legal doctrine of Self-determination,” said Soo.

Soo proposed to DUN to raise a motion to conduct an Inquiry for State purpose to discover the sentiments of the Sarawak people to ascertain if after almost 60 years of federalism, “they have feelings of being dominated, subjugated and exploited within the Federation”.

“If the DUN and government in power now will not do it, then the people of Sarawak must vote in a DUN in PRN12 (12th Sarawak Election), who can carry the political will and peoples’ voice to deliver a better Sarawak in the interest of future generations,” said Soo. — DayakDaily