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1976 Was A Horrible Year For Sabah

Kota Kinabalu:     “Whichever angle or perspective you look at, 1976 was “annus horribilis” or horrible year for Sabah.  It was just not a horrible year for Sabah in 1976 alone but it continued until the present day and Sabahans are still suffering from its effects” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, STAR Sabah Chief, commenting on on-going spat between the 2 Tan Sris, Pairin and Harris Salleh, on the loss of Sabah rights.

In the formation of Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak were provided constitutional safeguards in 1963 to safeguard the special position of the Borneo States which was the basis they agreed to form Malaysia.

As part of these safeguards, there was to be a review of these safeguards as well as provisions in the Federal Constitution and the promises, assurances and undertakings not expressly provided in the Federal Constitution as agreed in  Article 8 of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).  This was to be done 10 years after the formation.

On 29 December 1975, it was reported in the Hansard of DUN Sabah that State and Federal Cabinet Review Committees were formed to review the provisions of the IGC Report and the Federal Constitution with the last Federal Cabinet Review Committee having met on 04 December 1975.

There was no further report from 1976 and the Review of the IGC Report and the Federal Constitution appeared to have terminated and remained so until today.

“We can all see the consequences of the non-review today and I have personally presented two (2) Motions to the Sabah Legislative Assembly for a Review but it was turned down for frivolous reasons” added Dr. Jeffrey.

After winning the general elections in April 1976, the Sabah government headed by Tun Fuad was dealt a history-changing event on 06 June 1976 when the tragic plane crash killed him and several of his Cabinet members.   

Worse was to follow and Sabahans are still reeling today from the 1976 events.

While the State was still in mourning, the replacement Chief Minister, Tan Sri Harris, signed on 14 June 1976 the Oil Agreement agreeing to receive 5% cash payment for the Sabah oil and gas resources vested by Tun Abdul Razak on 27 March 1975 to Petronas.   Ironically, the Oil Agreement was witnessed by Tan Sri Pairin.

It was further agreed that Sabah government would waive the imposition of any royalties on the oil and gas extracted from Sabah which would otherwise be payable by Petronas under Section 24 of the Sabah Land Ordinance.

Tun Mustapha had declined to sign the Oil Agreement in 1975 and was accused of trying to take Sabah out of Malaysia and was hounded in the State Assembly and subsequently forced to step down as Chief Minister in October 1975 to be replaced by Said Keruak as Acting Chief Minister.   Usno and the Alliance then lost the 1976 elections to Berjaya.

It was also reported that Tun Fuad also refused to sign the Oil Agreement scheduled for signing on that tragic day when returning to Kota Kinabalu after refusing to sign in Labuan.

The official version of events that Tun Fuad wanted to sign the Oil Agreement the following day in Kota Kinabalu defies logic.   There is no cogent reason for Tun Fuad to request such a deferment to the following day when they were all assembled in Labuan including Tengku Razaleigh from Kuala Lumpur and Tun Rahman Yakob from Sarawak, for signing that day in Labuan.

Whatever the excuse given, Tun Fuad did not sign the Oil Agreement.

While all this charade and historic events were taking place, a more sinister and evil plot was being hatched between the leaders in Kuala Lumpur and in Sabah and eventually took place 2 months later in August 1976.

On 13 July 1976, the Federal Parliament amended Article 1(1) of the Federal Constitution and down-grading Sabah and Sarawak to be the 12th and 13th States equal to the 11 States in Malaya.   Effectively, Sabah and Sarawak became States under Malaya.   The amendment later passed the Senate and received the Royal Assent and became law effective 26 August 1976.

Back in Sabah, the then Chief Minister from Berjaya initiated the amendment to the Constitution of Sabah down-grading the Governor from TYT Yang DiPertua Negara to TYT Yang DiPertua Negeri.   The amendment was passed by the Sabah Assembly and became law with effect from 26 August 1976.

Were these 2 events effective 26 August 1976 pure coincidence or much more behind the scenes?

It was not necessary for the Sabah Assembly to down-grade the status of the TYT Yang DiPertua Negara of Sabah even if the federal government were to proceed with amendment of the Federal Constitution downgrading Sabah to be effectively the 12th State of Malaya.

It is not rocket science to understand why Sabah is the poorest State in Malaysia.   On 15 December 1976, it was reported in the State Assembly Hansard that RM20 million was received by the Berjaya-led government for the oil cash payment for 1976 which was not provided for by the Usno-led Alliance government when the 1976 State Budget was tabled in December 1975.

Of course, it was not provided by the Usno-led government as they did not sign the Oil Agreement in 1975.  If Harris had not signed the Oil Agreement in 1976, Sabah would have received RM50 million alone from 12.5% royalties collectible from the international oil companies in 1976 which had signed with the Sabah Government and had to re-sign new agreements with Petronas in 1976.

“What was to reason to give up 12.5% royalties already in hand and sign with Petronas and receive 5% only?”

The RM20 million received meant that for the 95%, Petronas and the federal government would have received RM380 million in 1976.    It is not a wonder that the Sabah government, which then had 2 new aeroplanes, were able to lend millions to the federal government in 1974 to start Malaysia Airlines when it split Malaysia Singapore Airways with Singapore Airlines.

Fast forward to 2015 and the Chief Minister of Sabah has projected that Sabah will receive RM1,146,889,000 for its 5% oil royalty or cash payment in 2015.  This means Petronas and the federal government will receive a whopping RM21.791 billion from Sabah’s oil and gas.  

It is a wonder why Malaya would want to keep Sabah inside Malaysia and make it seditious for anyone calling for secession?     As can be seen, Sabahans are still staggering and suffering from the effects of the horrible horrible year in 1976 and it is understandable why unhappy Sabahans want their rights to be restored and why some want out of the Federation.

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