MANY people in Sarawak are curious about the outcome of the meetings on the Malaysia Agreement 1963. Several high-powered committees – the latest being the Cabinet Special Committee – have been formed by the government to look into the grievances of Sarawakians and Sabahans, and to work on solving those problems, for the good of the federation in the long run.
As citizens of Malaysia, they have every right to be told about the solutions as well as about the sticky problems, if any. This is because the decisions or findings of the committees will impact their lives and indeed their future in the federation. They want to know about that future. Now.
And now we’re told that the federal government will not release the report … for the moment. This has caused much anxiety among the people who have been waiting for ideas or concrete proposal on how to handle alleged breaches of certain terms and conditions of the Malaya/North Borneo/Sarawak since Singapore left the Federation in 1965. Solutions to the problems, constitutional or otherwise, must be made known to the people so that they will appreciate the difficulty and constraints faced by the government and perhaps they may be able to help solve some of them. Do not underrate the ability of ordinary people to produce ideas in addition to those of the legislators.
From statements made by a number of politicians in the state this past week, I can clearly discern their concern over the prospect of not knowing fully about the findings of the various committees. Do not underestimate the ability of ordinary citizens to provide inputs to the deliberations on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the other documents relating to the formation of Malaysia. Many of them have studied the documents but have not been able to provide inputs for inclusion in the report of any of the committees because discussions were done behind closed doors all the time.
The government must have good reasons why the report cannot be released to the public just yet. Even if there are sensitive issues in the report, the people have a right to know about the rest of the report. Hopefully, it will be made public, and not too far off, though. Otherwise, it will become stale; the issues becoming academic.
What is the reason the report cannot be released ‘for now’, even to the other honourable Members of Parliament and the members of the state assemblies of Sabah and Sarawak? If the other MPs have no access to the report, doesn’t this imply that the ordinary citizens are not entitled to know about the report at all? A grossly wrong assumption!
People cannot help being curious and suspicious if the report is kept under lock and key, intended only for the eyes of the members of the committee. By the time the historians get hold of a copy of the report it will be 100 years too late to rectify breaches, if any, of the Malaysia Agreement itself and to fulfil promises, assurances or undertakings on safeguards for Sarawak and Sabah.
All this is to avoid endless speculations, not excluding rumours. The government must address the concerns of those people who want to know why and how the provisions of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the safeguards contained in the related documents have been dishonoured and by whom. More importantly, they want to know about ways and means by which the grievances should be handled and solved. They want to see what can be done and what cannot be done; they want to know whether or not the Malaysia Agreement itself is valid or not. A number of people have said it is not valid. What say the Committee on MA63?
There is great virtue in being transparent. Otherwise, people will talk about the contents of the report without having read them. They may be talking at cross purposes. If the report is only accessible to the committee members and those politicians manning the Ministry for Sarawak and Sabah Affairs, what good will it do to Sarawakians and Sabahans if they, as important stakeholders, are kept in the dark? This situation would be better avoided to save the government’s good name. In reality there is nothing for the government to gain except unnecessary suspicion that something is being swept under the carpet. Is it not the job of the authorities to prevent the spread of rumours?
It is imperative for the members of the committees to clear all doubts about accusations of alleged abuse of power by the federal government or its leaders, past and present.
We had hoped that the committees would be able to clear up the confusion over interpretation of the Federal Constitution in respect of the membership (composition) of the federation and to put things right once we know where we have gone wrong.
Putting things right is necessary once it is fully understood by all Malaysians that Sarawak and Sabah have been short-changed in terms of development funds from the federal government despite the fact that they have contributed a lot of money to the federal coffers. The solution is to close that gap. If there are disparities, narrow them. All that the Sarabans (Sabahans and Sarawakians) want is a fair piece of the pie. In the process to achieve all these the ordinary citizens as stakeholders must be made partners in the scheme of things, not mere bystanders.
Let’s see what the report says about all these, if and when it is released to the public. What is there in it for every one?
Comments can reach the writer via [email protected]