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‘Sabah got a raw deal joining Malaysia’

 | March 7, 2011

Sabahans are missing the pre-1963 Sabah when life was good, with 'no racial and religious divides, illegal immigrants, repressive laws'.

KOTA KINABALU: Pre-Malaysia Sabah was considerably better off in many respects than it is today, according to former Malaysia Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) vice-president Simon Sipaun.

“Life in Sabah before Malaysia was good, to say the least.

“Admittedly, there was no development as seen today but Sabah was not alone as Malaya was not much better,” Sipaun said at the United Borneo Front’s (UBF) inter-party dialogue and leadership exclusive seminar here on Saturday.

“There was no racial problem. Mixed marriages were very common. That’s why there are many ‘peranakans’ (babas and nyonyas) in Sabah.

“If Sabahans are now conscious of racial and religious divides, they learnt it from the peninsula.

“There were no illegal immigrants. There were no cases of Sabahans losing citizenship status while foreigners gained it without much difficulty.

“There were no repressive and draconian laws such as the Official Secrets Act (OSA), Internal Security Act (ISA), the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Sedition Act, the Police Act and the Proclamations of Emergency.

“There was no quarrelling over dead bodies.

“The composition of the civil service was multiracial. Meritocracy was appreciated, observed and practised. Corruption and ‘ketuanan Melayu’ were unheard of. The list continues.

“How not to miss pre-Malaysia Sabah?” he asked.

Sipaun, who was the chairman for the dialogue, also said that agreements and related legal rights of Sabah as well Sarawak within the federation of Malaysia were more often than not seen as the inconvenient truths and preferred to be forgotten than fulfilled.

An after-thought

Citing Sept 16 as an example, he said the fact that it took the federal government 46 years just to admit and officially recognise the date as the birth of Malaysia speaks volumes.

He added that the political union between Britain’s Borneo territories and Malaya was at best an artificial one as the two regions had very little in common.

“The inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak was an after-thought to counter balance the Chinese population of Singapore. As it happened, Singapore left the federation in 1965 and continued to progress by leaps and bounds.

“Brunei decided to withdraw from the negotiation at the eleventh hour and has survived well to this day. It remained a big fish in a small pond while Sabah and Sarawak have became small fish in big pond,” said Sipuan.

He pointed out that Sabah, which is rich in natural resources, and was once the second richest state in the country is now the poorest, while its so-called self-autonomy was only imaginary as Malaysia, although federal in form, was unitary in substance.

Sarawak, he said, was somewhat better off than Sabah as its people, in the absence of Umno in their state, still have a say in deciding who was going to be their chief minister.

“I believe that there are also more local Sarawakians holding senior and important positions in federal departments in the state. The illegal immigrant problem is also minimal,” he said.

However, he said that Sabah and Sarawak did have many things in common since forming Malaysia including, sadly, problems.


As such, it was in the best interest of both states to have close cooperation and to continuously pool their resources and exchange skills, knowledge and experience to maximise mutual benefits.

He added that there was a general consensus that Sabah and Sarawak deserved better treatment by the federal government in terms of, among others, more equitable distribution of opportunities and development projects.

He noted that the value for development projects for Sabah and Sarawak in the Budget 2011 only amounted to about RM9.55 billion, which was “peanuts” compared with the massive RM109.74 billion being spent in the peninsula.

“One project, namely the 100-storey building located in Kuala Lumpur has been allocated RM5 billion.

“Yet both Sabah and Sarawak are producers of oil and gas, which represent an important source of federal revenue.”

Sipuasn said the term “fixed deposit” used by Barisan Nasional (BN) in referring to Sabah was derogatory and insulting, as the federal government continued to give lop-sided treatment to the state.

He stressed that during the last general election, it was the voters of Sabah and Sarawak who saved the current government from losing power, so much so that Sabah has now been referred to as a “fixed deposit”.

“But in return for all these, Sabah and Sarawak appear to continue to be short-changed and getting a raw deal,” he said.


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