Resolve important issues in MA63 first, says former Sabah CM

Yong Teck Lee says the Sabah government and Sabahan ministers in the federal Cabinet must be brave enough to take up the issues of revenues, autonomy and rights without delay.

KOTA KINABALU: Former Sabah chief minister Yong Teck Lee described the resolution of seven Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) issues as merely cosmetic and a disappointment to the people of the state.

The Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president said the important issues concerning MA63 need to be resolved first, including the 40% net tax revenues Sabah is entitled to, and the promised 20% in oil royalties.

He said other issues such as education, equal status and transfer of revenues or power to Sabah were also not addressed.

The Prime Minister’s Office said yesterday seven issues had received joint agreement as of July 23 while 14 issues required further discussion and were expected to be resolved before Aug 31.

It said the Special Cabinet Committee to Review the MA63 had directed the Special Task Force on MA63 (Taskforce MA63) to prepare a final report before Aug 31 to be tabled at the next meeting of the committee.

In a statement, the PMO said the decisions were reached at a committee meeting on July 23, attended by 23 committee members comprising federal Cabinet ministers, the Sarawak and Sabah chief ministers and senior officials from the federal and two state governments.

Yong said export duties on logs and forest products had already been placed under Sabah’s jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution.

“This is clearly stated in the Federal Constitution (State list in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution). As reported, this was reaffirmed on June 1, 2017.

“Similarly, agriculture and forestry matters have always been state matters. As for the proposed handing over of regulatory powers over gas distribution, there is no need for any due diligence.

“Due diligence should only be conducted on Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) before the handover to the Sabah government, not on regulatory powers,” he said.

On manpower, Yong pointed out that Sabah was already governed by the Sabah Labour Ordinance, which was why there was one foreign workers policy for Peninsular Malaysia and another for Sabah and Sarawak.

He said where health and federal projects were concerned, there was no transfer or delegation of powers to Sabah. “Instead, committees are formed that only duplicate existing lines of communications between the Sabah and the federal administrative departments.”

“Finally, the so-called return of Sipadan and Ligitan islands to the Sabah government is hollow. The islands have always belonged to and have been managed by Sabah.

“It was only because of Indonesia’s claim on the islands that some form of federal security arrangements were rightly put in place by the federal government.

“The International Court of Justice (World Court) had on Dec 17, 2002 awarded the two islands to Malaysia. After that (2002), the return of the two islands to Sabah was a foregone, consequential event. In fact, if there is an island to be returned to Sabah, then it is Labuan,” he said.

He urged the Sabah government and Sabahan ministers in the federal Cabinet to be brave enough to take up the issues of revenues, autonomy and rights under MA63 without any delay.