KOTA KINABALU: Former foreign minister Anifah Aman revealed that none of the federal ministers from Sabah in the previous government were willing to fight for the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
Prior to the 2013 election, he said he had discussed the MA63 and other Sabah rights which he thought should be fought for with other ministers from the state.
“Unfortunately, not even one minister wanted to join me. When I was appointed the foreign minister, I got to spend more time with the then prime minister Najib Razak.
“I used those opportunities to tell him about our rights under MA63. I then brought the issue up again with other Sabah federal ministers but still, none of them wanted to join me,” he said after attending an event in Kimanis.
Sabah federal ministers at the time included the current Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal who was a federal minister between 2004 and 2015.
Out of frustration, the Kimanis MP said he went back to Sabah and the first person he contacted at the time was Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) president Jeffrey Kitingan as he was the only person in Sabah who never wavered in his struggle for Sabah’s rights.
He managed to convince Jeffrey and together, they and several others, including prominent lawyers from Sabah, decided to come together to push the MA63 agenda, something which they are still doing now.
He said he knew that some people questioned why he did not push for MA63 sooner if he was truly sincere about it.
“When I became a parliamentarian in 1999, I knew that one of the issues I needed to address was Sabah’s rights. But, honestly, at the time I did not have the courage to speak up because I did not get the support from my fellow parliamentarians.
“I was afraid I will end up like Jeffrey Kitingan who was incarcerated for 31 months under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
“The situation has changed now though. If someone wants to put me in jail for this, then so be it,” he said.
Meanwhile, commenting on the formation of three committees to look into Sabah and Sarawak’s rights under the MA63 as announced by de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong, Anifah said he found it inefficient for the current federal government to come up with committees again now.
Firstly, he said in a steering committee where the chairman is someone like Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he feared that none of the members would dare to speak up against Mahathir.
Instead, Anifah said the new steering committee should be chaired by two representatives from both Sabah and Sarawak as the issue concerns them the most.
“But the point is, the previous federal government also had a committee to look into the same matter which was chaired by myself and former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri of Sarawak.
“During that time, we held several discussions with prominent lawyers and relevant officials as well as ministers from Sabah and Sarawak.
“We have completed all our work and handed over our report. The memorandum was already completed before Parliament was dissolved,” he said.
Therefore, Anifah proposed that the current federal government refer to the previous committee’s report and start from there.
After all, he said the report was not done by him but by former attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail and the state AG from Sabah and Sarawak.
“However, it depends on the new government. We want to see if they are sincere in implementing MA63 or is this just another act to appease the people for a while,” Anifah said.