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The roots of poverty in Sabah, Sarawak in Malaysia exposed!

Daniel John JambunPAPER Without much further ado, I will delve immediately into the subject proper of my Paper in conjunction with the forthcoming National Budget 2014 which will be unveiled by the Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak who is also the Finance Minister. Please bear with me. I will keep my address as brief as possible so that we may all ponder on the essential points that I am trying to make and which must be taken into consideration by the Federal Government.
I have nine major aspects to put before you as Food for Thought in view of the forthcoming National Budget 2014 and you may want to deliberate on them and post your comments or ask me questions by email. Email:
As many people know, the World Bank confirmed in Dec 2010 in Kota Kinabalu that Sabah and Sarawak had achieved the dubious distinction of bring the poorest and second poorest states in Malaysia. This is a figure derived at by using the figures of the Economic Planning Units of the Sabah and Sarawak Governments and the Economic Planning Unit in Putrajaya.
Forty per cent of Malaysia’s poor, according to the World Bank, are in Sabah. This means that almost half of the poor people in Malaysia are in Sabah.
The poverty figures should come as no surprise since both Sabah and Sarawak are actually colonies of Malaya. More on that shortly.
Just contrast the economic development of Sabah and Sarawak with the status of neighbouring Brunei which stayed out from the Malaysian Federation at the last minute in 1963 and Singapore which left after two years in 1965.
By the end of 2010, the Singapore economy at US$ 210 billion GDP was bigger than the entire Malaysian economy by US$ 5 billion. This is indeed a shameful state of affairs and one that calls for the leadership in Putrajaya to admit that they are an incompetent and corrupt lot and beyond any redemption.
It would no longer do for Putrajaya to continue in a state of denial. Most of the much smaller Malaysian economy vis-à-vis Singapore is concentrated in Malaya.
Did Sabah and Sarawak federate, willingly or unwilling, with Malaya and Singapore in 1963 to end up at the bottom of the dung heap along with the marginalized and disenfranchised elements of the Third Force in Malaya?
Patently, it’s clear that something went seriously wrong for Sabah and Sarawak in the Malaysian Federation somewhere between 1963 and 2013, the 50th year in Malaysia. Most of the damage to the interests of the two Malaysian Borneo states in fact took place in the early years of independence.
The population of Sabah and Sarawak may be much smaller than that of Malaysia but the fact remains that this is compensated by the larger territorial area of Malaysian Borneo comparatively, its huge economic resources including vast acres of fertile land and consequently much bigger economic potential.
This is not however reflected in the Malaysian Parliament where the number of seats allotted to Malaysian Borneo at presents stands at 57 including the one held by the Federal Territory of Labuan. Malaya meanwhile has 165 seats in Parliament i.e. more than two-thirds – 148 seats is two-thirds — and thereby depriving Sabah and Sarawak of veto power in legislation. It is clear that 19 of the seats held by Malaya in fact belong to Sabah and Sarawak. That would have left Malaya with 146 seats i.e. short of the two-thirds majority and thereby give Sabah, Sarawak veto power in Parliament, as envisaged by the 1963 Malaysia Agreement (MA63), on any amendment to the Federal Constitution. Veto power is part of the Basic Features Doctrine implied by MA63 in the Federal Constitution.
The rot set in when Singapore’s exit from Malaysia saw Peninsular Malaysia taking half the 15 seats held by the island in Parliament. This altered the previous balance in Parliament between Malaya on the one hand and, on the other hand, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak in the collective.
Malayan politicians like to make much of the issue that their much larger population must be reflected in the number of seats held in Parliament. If that’s the case, why is that Sabah with a much larger population of 3.2 million than Sarawak’s 2.5 million has to make do with 25 seats in Parliament compared with the latter’s 31 seats. If Sarawak’s much larger territory vis-à-vis Sabah’s and the latter’s much larger population vis-a-vis the former’s are both taken into consideration, both states should have the same number of seats in Parliament.

In any case, there’s no dispute between Sabah and Sarawak on the allocation of seats in Parliament. It’s immaterial whether Sabah or Sarawak, in comparison with each other, has a much larger number of parliamentary seats. The pertinent point is that Sabah and Sarawak, collectively, must have at least one seat more than one-third in Parliament.
The veto power of Sabah and Sarawak in the Malaysian Parliament must be restored.
Malayan politicians routinely also claim that rural seats must be given a certain weightage to compensate for their relative under-development vis-avis urban seats. This is supposed to account for rural seats having a smaller number of voters compared to those in the urban areas.
If that’s the case, why is this formula not being applied in Sabah and Sarawak, which are largely rural, along the same lines as in Malaya?
The gross under-representation of Sabah and Sarawak in the Malaysian Parliament, and the deprival of their veto power in the process, has a direct co-relation to the grinding poverty levels in Malaysian Parliament.
It is recommended that no new Parliamentary seats be allocated to Malaya in future increases. If a moratorium is placed on their current 165 seats – to be taken as two-thirds minus one in a new equation or 34 per cent – some semblance of balance can be restored in the Malaysian Parliament.
Sabah and Sarawak’s collective 57 seats, including Labuan one, must be increased to 85 seats or 34 per cent for a Parliament of 250 seats. If the present 57 seats are deducted from the new proposed total, this gives us additional and new seats totaling 28 which can be shared equally between Sabah and Sarawak.
This will be reflected in the Malaysian Parliament as follows: Sabah 26 + 14 for 40 seats; Sarawak 31 + 14 for 45 seats; and Malaya still 165 seats. Grand Total: 250 seats in Parliament.
The composition of seats in the Malaysian Parliament must be considered together with the question of revenue sharing between the federal and state governments in general and in particular with the autonomous status of Sabah and Sarawak.
At present, the federal government takes all revenue from Sabah and Sarawak, leaving little for the states and leaving them with very little, if at all, revenue-raising powers. In return, very little of the federal revenue from Sabah and Sarawak comes back to the two states. This is the second major reason for the grinding poverty in Malaysia Borneo apart from unfair representation in the Parliament i.e. the first major reason.
The third major reason for our poverty is the fact that the federal government through Petronas gives only 5 per cent of the oil and gas revenue from the inner waters to Sabah and Sarawak and none from the water outers. Contrast this with the 70 per cent that the provinces are allowed to keep in neighbouring Indonesia. The central government in Jakarta takes only 30 per cent.
The fourth major reason for poverty is the fact that there’s very little oil and gas infrastructure in Sabah and Sarawak. No attempts have been made to diversify the oil and gas sector through downstream activities and as well facilitate backward-and-forward integration.
The fifth major reason is that Borneonisation of the federal service in Sabah and Sarawak have been a non-starter and where implemented, non-Muslim natives and the Chinese and others have been deliberately left out in line with the vile racist master race policy of ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy and dominance).
The sixth major reason for the grinding poverty levels in Sabah and Sarawak has been the refusal of the federal government and their stooge governments in Sabah and Sarawak to respect the Adat.
Among others, this has seen the wholesale confiscation – with the active connivance of the police and Land Office — of native customary rights (NCR) land and their alienation to the respective state government (by way of extension of forest reserves and the like), to state agencies, Government linked corporations (GLCs), federal agencies and private companies run by cronies of the ruling party. The phenomenon has been well-documented in numerous cases in court and in thousands of complaints lodged with the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) and at the respective Land Offices in Sabah and Sarawak.
This is a deliberate and systematic attempt to reduce the native communities of Sabah and Sarawak to the same pathetic situation of the Orang Asli in Malaya and the Indian underclass in Malaya displaced and dispossessed by the fragmentation of the estates and or their conversion for the purposes of urban development.
Stranded in urban shanty-towns with no personal documents, little marketable skills, often only a rudimentary education in Tamil, poor command of English and Bahasa Malaysia and without any social safety network, suicide is the only option for the Indian underclass given the reality of no upward social mobility. These are the people represented by Hindraf Makkal Sakthi, the NGO. These are the people taking to the streets ever so often these days and engaged in running battles with the police and authorities as they walk the path of urban guerrilla warfare and terrorism.
Likewise, the future of the natives companies in Sabah and Sarawak will indeed be very bleak without the social safety network afforded by NCR land. Therein lies the seeds of a bloody revolution in Borneo especially when our people start committing suicide, like the
Indian underclass in Peninsular Malaysia, to opt out of a hopeless situation.
The native communities in Sabah and Sarawak are being pushed in the same direction as the Indian underclass in Malaya which is a whole lot worse than that of the Orang Asli who still has a little land with them. But for the Orang Asli, how much more time do they still have before they too start committing suicide on the scale of the Indian underclass. Poverty, as Mahatma Gandhi once observed, is the worst form of violence against a people.
The seventh major reason for the grinding poverty in Borneo is the fact that Sabah and Sarawak are being treated as two of the states in Malaysia. This certainly should not be the case if one reads the Malaysia Agreement carefully, the 20/18 Points and other relevant documents including declassified ones available in the United Kingdom.
Sabah and Sarawak were brought together by the British with Singapore and Malaya in 1963 to form the Federation of Malaysia as equal partners. This means that Malaysia is a two-tier federation i.e. a federation of states in Malaya which are part of a greater federation of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore.
Hence, the federal government of Malaysia should be shared equally between Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak i.e. leaving out Singapore which has since quit the federation.
The departure of Singapore from Malaysia begs the question of whether the original federation in 1963 still exists or whether Sabah and Sarawak have been quietly incorporated as two of the states in the 1957 Federation of Malaya (now masquerading as Malaysia). This appears to be the case and must be considered seriously by our legal fraternity, the governments of Sabah, Sarawak, the federal government, the government of the United Kingdom and the United Nations.
Moving forward, it must be clear by now that after nearly 50 years of Malaysia, it cannot continue to be business as usual in Sabah and Sarawak.
Already, the federal government has been in non-compliance with the Malaysia Agreement.
Non-compliance raises the question of whether a compliance mechanism must be set up or whether both Sabah and Sarawak should appeal to the international community and the United Nations to facilitate the departure of the two states from the Malaysian Federation. Singapore has been a precedent.
It’s unlikely that the Umno federal Government, obsessed with ketuanan Melayu, will ever consider any compliance mechanism for the Malaysia Agreement or give justice, belated as it may be, to Sabah and Sarawak. This must be borne in mind by those who are currently flogging the Borneo Agenda with the hope that the federal government will come to its senses. It may be a case of too little, too late.
The departure of the British colonialists in 1963 in fact saw the handover of our two nations to new colonialists in Malaya i.e. those who believe in the vile and racist master race policy of ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy and dominance).
The ketuanan Melayu policy in Sabah and Sarawak is kept going by local proxies of the ruling elite in Putrajaya and their stooges and rogue elements. These lackeys of Putrajaya are traitors who have participated in the colonial divide-and-rule policy of keeping the Chinese and majority non-Muslim natives out of the political mainstream and from the leverages of power.
To add insult to injury, they have willingly participated in the marginalization and disenfranchisement of their fellow countrymen through the placement of illegal immigrants on the local electoral rolls and the grant of MyKads through the backdoor by Putrajaya. What happened to the security promised us by Federation in 1963? This is the eighth major reason for the grinding poverty levels in Sabah and Sarawak.
Even more than the Chinese and non-Muslim natives communities, it’s now the local Muslim native communities that are feeling the brunt of marginalization and disenfranchisement. They see their already small stake under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution being shared with the instant natives created from among the illegal immigrants.
In Sabah, local proxies of Putrajaya have now been dispensed with and Umno itself has struck roots to take half the seats in the state assembly and half the Sabah parliamentary seats. To mask their true intention, they invited MCA, MIC, Gerakan and the PPP from Malaya along for company and recently came up with the so-called 1Malaysia policy. This further ensures the continued enslavement of Sabah.
In Sarawak, Umno is poised to enter the state the manner that they have done in Sabah. This is to ensure that the majority Dayak community will never be able to rule their own state.
On the final score, there is no Bumiputera in the Constitution or law, only the Orang Asal in Malaya (Orang Asli), Sabah (Dusunic and Murutic Groupings) and Sarawak (Dayak including the Sarawak Malay who are Dayak converts to Islam).
Malay — Bugis, Javanese, Minang, Aceh, other Muslims — in Malaya are not Orang Asal.
The ninth major reason, but certainly not the last, for the grinding poverty levels in Sabah and Sarawak is that first Malaysian prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman created the political term Bumiputera to include the Malay in the same category as the Orang Asal by the backdoor and thereby facilitate the ruling elite running up the National Debt Burden to plunder the National Treasury to feather their own nests (to live it up and/or accumulate capital) under the guise of Bumiputeraism and bringing so-called development to the people.
It’s time for the international community and the United Nations to enter the picture and rescue Sabah and Sarawak from the gross violations of human rights taking place and restore our sovereignty and territorial integrity and guarantee our security. There’s no longer any hope for us in Sabah and Sarawak. Something must be done, and done quickly, before the situation further degenerates into an even greater vicious cycle of poverty, ignorance, disease and violence.

Daniel John Jambun is a Political activist and formerly the Political Secretary to the Minister of Tourism and Environmental Development during the Party Bersatu Sabah (PBS) Government.

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