Putrajaya unlikely to give full autonomy to Sabah, Sarawak, says analyst

KUCHING: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is unlikely to grant full autonomy to Sabah and Sarawak, says an analyst citing the latter’s previous policies of having a strong federal government.

Arnold Puyok, of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, says the prime minister believes in a stronger federal government for national integration.

“He believes in a strong federal identity.

“When it comes to nation building, Mahathir believes that centralisation is vital to keep the territories together and the government strong,” Puyok told FMT.

“As such, how much of autonomy is he willing to give away to Sabah and Sarawak?”

Arnold Puyok of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.

However, Puyok said the Cabinet’s decision to “restore” equal status for Sabah and Sarawak signals Mahathir’s willingness to allow discussion on the issue.

Puyok said the equal partnership status has never been properly defined, not in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) or in the Federal Constitution.

“How do you define equal partnership? Are you saying we are going to have three different nation-like regions as a loose federation? Or, eventually, are we going to be a confederation?

“It was never presented like this before,” he said.

Speaking to FMT, he said Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution has been long cited as the reason for problems faced by Sabah and Sarawak.

“The question is when the amendment was made, did we lose our special position in the Federal Constitution?”

In fact, there is no need to review MA63, but the government can improve implementation of whatever is due to the states, he said.

“MA63 is there. It’s just a matter of implementing it effectively.

“This includes addressing issues concerning overlapping jurisdictions between the state government and federal agencies in Sabah and Sarawak, as well as the devolution of powers from the federal government to both states.”

He said Sarawak is more specific in its demands and is doing progressively well compared with Sabah.