KOTA KINABALU: A human rights advocate from Sabah, who flogged the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) in international forums for many years, has conceded that the Sarawak Government has “stolen the thunder” from Sabah activists on the way forward in Borneo. “At one time, only activists in Sabah were taking up MA63 in local and international forums,” recalled Daniel John Jambun in a telephone call. “The Sarawak Government then took up the cause when a few activists in Sarawak joined us.”
The Sabah activists, he acknowledged, in fact took their cue from ex-political detainee and Bingkor Assemblyman Jeffrey Kitingan who had been waging a lonely battle on MA63 since 1985. “He argued that there had been non-compliance on the part of the Malaysian Government.”
Jambun, who heads the UK-based Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (Bopim), was expressing his happiness that Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem handed over two Memorandums on MA63 to Prime Minister Najib Razak on Monday. “Let’s hope the Sarawak Government makes public the two Memorandums.”
Jambun, who at one time wrote to Queen Elizabeth II on MA63 besides representing Jeffrey at the House of Commons and speaking elsewhere on the issue, said that he can only hazard a guess on what the Memorandums contain. “Obviously, they would include the Motion on MA63 passed unanimously by the Sarawak Assembly.”
Briefly, continued Jambun, the Motion is about ensuring legitimacy in the relationship between the Malaysian and Sarawak Governments and with Sabah.
The Federal Government has its place in Malaysia under MA63, pointed out Jambun, but so do the Sabah and Sarawak Governments. “The arrangement between Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak can only be governed by MA63 and the related constitutional documents on the 1963 Arrangement.”
The relationship between the Federal Government and the states in Malaya, in contrast, is governed by the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1948, reinforced by the Federation of Malaya Independence Act 1957. “Article 160 of the Federal Constitution defines the Federation,” reminded Jambun.
In 1976, lamented Jambun, the Federal Constitution was amended to read that Sabah and Sarawak were henceforth the 12th and 13th states in the Malayan Federation, now the Malaysian Federation. “Before 1976, Article 1 read that Sabah and Sarawak were Equal Partners of Malaya in the two-tier Federation.”
At the first tier, there was the Federation of the States of Malaya. At the higher and second tier, there was the Federation of Equal Partnership of Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya.
Jambun went on to take an intelligent guess that one of the two Memorandums submitted by Adenan to Najib would point out that the 1963 Arrangement called for an Equal Partnership of Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya. Hence, the 1976 Amendment was not in compliance with MA63, an International Treaty signed by five governments – the UK, Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya – and lodged with the UN Secretary General as a Trust Deed although perhaps not registered as one.
Another point to consider but perhaps not in the two Memorandums, said Jambun, was that Singapore objected to Sabah and Sarawak remaining in the Federation with Malaya after it ended its merger with the peninsula in 1965 and exited the Federation with Sabah and Sarawak as well. The bottomline, stressed Jambun, is that the two Memorandums besides revisiting MA63, hopefully took up the trusteeship status of the Federal Government vis-a-vis Sabah and Sarawak.