Shafie right to say Sabah and Sarawak are one territory, says activist

KOTA KINABALU: A local activist has come to the defence of Chief Minister Shafie Apdal after the Warisan president was criticised by a Sarawak minister over the interpretation of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

Sabah rights activist and MA63 champion Zainnal Ajamain said Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister James Jemut Masing was incorrect in saying that Sarawak and Sabah were two separate regions in the Federation of Malaysia.

“Actually, the MA63 clearly states that both the Bornean states are a territory under Annex A Part II Section 1(3). I think in this case, there was a misconception on the part of Masing about the word ‘territories’.

“I would blame this on the weakness of the Malay language (interpretation) and Masing’s understanding of the English term used in the Annex,” he told FMT.

On Sunday, Masing criticised Shafie for proposing that Sarawak and Sabah be regarded as just one region in the Federation of Malaysia.

Masing said if Sabah and Sarawak were to combine into one entity, then the MA63 would need to be revised, Parliament must agree and the two State Legislative Assemblies must endorse it.

Shafie had said he had discussed the matter with Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad during a recent MA63 meeting and felt confident the federal government would approve the proposal to treat Sabah and Sarawak as one territory.

Zainnal Ajamain

Zainnal said instead of blaming Shafie, Masing should re-read the letters of the agreement and study them before making statements.

“I applaud Sarawak for their passion in pursuing MA63 but I hope some of them will also study the agreement first before speaking about it,” he said.

In any case, Zainnal said, even though MA63 combined Sabah and Sarawak as one territory, any effort to implement this must be done prudently.

He pointed out that Sabah and Sarawak’s combined gross domestic product contributions were much higher than most of the states in peninsular Malaysia.

“This realisation may increase the people’s resentment when they realise they are given crumbs when it comes to annual budget allocations. So, perhaps it is wise for Putrajaya to treat Sabah and Sarawak as two territories after all,” he said.