Setting up MA63 panels a waste of time, says activist

Bernama pic

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah rights activist Zainnal Ajamain has poured scorn on Putrajaya’s decision to appoint three committees to study ways of complying with the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

Speaking to FMT, he said the effort would be a “big waste of time” because the decision makers had yet to settle the question of whether the Borneo states would be dealing with Malaysia or Malaya.

“The steering committee must first declare whether its members represent Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak or Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

Zainnal Ajamain.

He was reacting to de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong’s announcement of the line-up of the steering committee. The composition of the other two panels – the working and technical committees – will be announced by the steering committee at a later date.

The steering committee is chaired by the prime minister. Its members are the Sabah and Sarawak chief ministers; the federal, Sabah and Sarawak attorney-generals; the chief secretary to the government; the chief judge of Sabah and Sarawak; a law professor; and eight federal ministers, two of whom hail from Sabah and one from Sarawak.

“When I saw the list,” Zainnal said, “my immediate concern was whether the prime minister represents Malaya or Malaysia.”

If the committee were to declare itself as representing Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, then its set-up would be at odds with MA63 since Sabah and Sarawak did not sign the agreement with Malaysia, he said.

If it were to speak of “Malaya” instead of “Malaysia”, he added, it would be declaring that the Federation of Malaya had been masquerading as Malaysia for more than 50 years.

Article 8 of MA63 specifies that any action to implement the agreement must be taken by the governments of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak.

Zainnal said the committee would not be able to amend MA63 without the involvement of the settlor, which is the British government, since MA63 is an international treaty registered with the United Nations.

He also questioned whether the Sabah and Sarawak chief ministers were in the committee as peers of the prime minister or as his subordinates. If they were there as subordinates, he said, there was a fear that they would support every position taken by the chairman.

Referring to the federal ministers in the committee who are East Malaysians, he said they no longer represented Sabah and Sarawak because they had accepted federal positions.

Consequently, he added, the committee would end up being just another vehicle used by the federal government to avoid giving the people of Sabah and Sarawak their rights, including financial dues.

“What about the billions that constitutionally and rightfully belong to Sabah and Sarawak that the federal government blatantly took using federal and parliamentary power with impunity?

“Pushed to a corner, the steering committee will probably say, ‘The government has no money now. Please ask the previous government.’”

He proposed the establishment of a panel to oversee the steering committee, saying it should be composed of representatives of the governments of Britain, Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak.

“If they fail to do this, then the people of Sabah and Sarawak have no choice but to go to London,” he said.