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ASEAN Should Take Cognizance of Sabahans' Plight

Kota Kinabalu: “In the modern era of democratic nations, good governance and human rights, the ASEAN grouping should move with the times.   It should not just be confined to trade, economy and common market as it appears to be moving towards but to do more similar to the European Union” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, STAR Sabah Chief cum State Assemblyman for Bingkor, commenting on the sidelines of the forthcoming ASEAN Foreign Ministers Retreat to be held in Kota Kinabalu on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ideally, no doubt, no nation should interfere in the internal affairs of another nation but in the modern era no nation should stand idle and watch from afar the mis-treatment of fellow humankind in another country.

in the early 1990s the United Nation and the world adopted a no-action policy and ended up watching the Rwanda massacres in East Africa where millions were killed in sectarian violence.

Then came the 2000s and the intervention by USA, UK and the West in certain Arab countries that ended atrocities of the ruling regimes.   Lately, the assistance of numerous countries to stop the Islamic State killings in Kobane, Syria and elsewhere in Iraq.

And of course, the United Nations-led intervention in Timor and Southern Sudan that prevented bloodshed and resulted in Timor Leste and South Sudan being created as new nations and accepted into the United Nations and the international fraternity.

In the case of the 10 ASEAN nations comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, they should not turn a blind eye to the situation and simmering issues in Sabah and Sarawak.

It is not unprecedented, as Malaysia had helped in the case of the Rohingyas in Burma, as well as accused of assistance in the Muslim insurgencies in Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines.  In fact, Malaysia brokered the Bangsa Moro Peace Framework between the Philippines government and the Moro faction in the Southern Philippines.

In 1963, due to the design of the British and Malayan governments, Sabah and Sarawak were dragged into the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.    

A brief glance of the historical facts will show that on the 9th day of July, 1963, the Governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Federation of Malaya (Malaya), Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (now Sabah) executed and sealed the Malaysia Agreement agreeing to the formation of a new nation, the Federation of Malaysia.  The Malaysia Agreement was registered with the United Nations as Document 10760.

In the run-up to the Malaysia Agreement, various committees were involved including the Cobbold Commission, the Malaysia Solidarity Consultative Committee as well as the Inter-Governmental Committee and their various reports.  There is also the 18 and 20-Points Memorandum submitted by Sarawak and Sabah as the basis for Sarawak and Sabah to agree to the merger to form Malaysia.

The Federation of Malaysia was to be a federation, a new nation comprising a family of nations and not to be a unitary state.   Malaya achieved its independence on 31 August 1957 while Singapore gained her independence in 1959.  Sarawak gained its independence on 22 July 1963 and Sabah was granted independence on 31 August 1963.

What was to be a merger and partnership with special rights and constitutional safeguards for Sabah and Sarawak in a new federation, it has turned into “internal colonies” of Malaya re-named as Malaysia.

The situation got worse when Singapore left in 1965 and things have gotten worse still with the coming of Umno into Sabah politics in the early 1990s which resulted in an illegal population transfer of muslims from neighbouring Philippines and Indonesia and as far as Pakistan and India.  

As a result, the political franchise of the indigenous natives in Sabah are usurped by these foreigners who were given dubious identity cards and MyKads by the Malaysian government and given instantaneous rights as Malays with bumiputra privileges to the detriment of the indigenous natives.

No ethnic group not even Malays can claim a better right and birth rights to their motherland in Sabah than the indigenous natives in Sabah which comprise some 32 ethnic groups of multi-religious beliefs.

The once-majority indigenous natives and original inhabitants have been reduced to be the minority and marginalized.  

From the 2nd richest in the 1970s it is now the poorest state in Malaysia with the majority of the poor being the indigenous natives and original inhabitants.  Its rich resources including petroleum and gas and its revenues are almost 95%-100% taken by the federal government to fund the lopsided development in Malaya.

For the past 51 years, the BASIS of the Malaysia Agreement has not been complied with but eroded by the federal government through its SHEER DOMINANCE and advisors to the Chief Ministers of Sabah who have become compliant or beholden to Putrajaya/Kuala Lumpur.

The rights and autonomy of Sabah have slowly but surely eroded and whittled down by the Federal government of the Federation of Malaysia which to us in Sabah is nothing more than the government of Malaya masquerading as the government of the Federation of Malaysia.  From a once proud nation equal to the Federation of Malaya, it is now down-graded to being the 12th state equivalent to the other 11 states in the Federation of Malaya.

The federal government has now even threatened to amend the colonial-era Sedition Act to make it seditious and a criminal act for anyone to voice the rights of Sabah and Sarawak in the federation.  This is the extent of the dictatorial regime of the federal government to stifle the voices, grievances and legitimate claims of Sabahans and Sarawakians instead of it being a federal government of equal partners as envisaged in 1963.

As the Honourable  Foreign Ministers of the ASEAN nations will be in Kota Kinabalu and Sabah for the next few days for their Retreat, it is an opportunity for them to look into the plight of the Sabah nation and politely ask their hosts about it.  As the Malaysian Foreign Minister is from Sabah, perhaps, a private session will throw better light of the Sabah issues and problems from the Sabah perspective without being cornered to speak from the Malayan perspective.   Their diplomatic questions could end up as assistance to the indigenous natives and original inhabitants of Sabah and see to the review of the Malaysia Agreement or a referendum for self-determination under the auspices and supervision of the United Nations and ASEAN.

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