KOTA KINABALU: Dr Mahathir Mohamad today promised to make Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners of the Malaysian federation that they joined 55 years ago.
He said the Pakatan Harapan government was in the process of reviewing the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 (MA63), adding that the federation had faced troubles soon after its formation in 1963.
“Two years after the formation of Malaysia, Singapore left the federation. The following years, the status of Sabah and Sarawak was changed from partners to states,” he told the national-level Malaysia Day celebration here tonight.
He said restoring Sabah and Sarawak’s status in line with MA63 would act as a ground to foster closer ties between the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak.
“Of course, development needs for Sabah and Sarawak development must be addressed as there are still backward areas with very poor infrastructure.
“The MA63 study will certainly raise the need for a reassessment of some of the practices that have been done before.
“Our hope is that any reassessment of these practices would be done in the spirit of friendship, mutual respect and high tolerance among us,” he said in his first speech in Sabah since returning as prime minister last May.
Mahathir assured Sabahans and Sarawakians that Putrajaya would not abandon them and will develop the infrastructure in the two states.
He said there was a bond between people in Sabah and Sarawak and those from the peninsula.
“I believe the people of Sabah and Sarawak feel happy and welcome in the peninsula because there is no restriction for them to go there.
“This I believe has succeeded in strengthening our ties as Malaysians. This built-in intimacy has helped Malaysia to survive in spite of the emergence of dissent among the leaders of the three provinces,” he said.
Mahathir in his speech also took potshots at the former government, saying the nation had been “damaged”.
“The consequences of the damage are huge and difficult to repair, we have no choice but to keep trying.
“Whether we want or not, we need to correct the damage because if we give up, our sovereignty will be lost. It would mean we have allowed those who betrayed our country to win,” he said.