Sabah think tank wants time frame for return of revenue owed

Under the Federal Constitution, Sabah is entitled to receive 40% of the net revenue derived by the federal government in the state. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: A Sabah government-run think tank has urged Putrajaya to provide a realistic time frame to return money owed to the state, rubbishing its excuse that it does not have enough funds to do so.

“When the federal government had the money, it did not pay Sabah. This is akin to not honouring the Federal Constitution, the supreme law of the land,” Simon Sipaun, Institute for Development Studies Sabah chairman, said today.

“Now the federal government tells Sabah it does not have enough money and (is) therefore unable to return Sabah’s money. It should indicate some seriousness by providing some realistic time frame for the payment to be made.”

Sipaun, a former Sabah state secretary, said his comments were only in respect of the arrears owed to Sabah and the same argument would not hold water for the current revenue collection.

“It is therefore suggested that the 40% (of) Sabah’s shares should be retained at (the) source and diverted to Sabah.

“(This) will save the trouble and hassle of taking the whole 100% only to return the 40% at a later date,” he said at a Budget 2020 roundtable dialogue here today.

He said next year’s budget, slated to be tabled on Oct 11 when the Dewan Rakyat convenes, must provide allocations for the return of the 40% federal revenue collection to Sabah.

The Bipartisan Budget 2020 Roundtable Talks at Tunku Abdul Rahman University College in Setapak were organised by think tanks Bait Al Amanah and the Institute of Strategic Analysis and Policy Research.

Under the Federal Constitution, Sabah is entitled to receive 40% of the net revenue derived by the federal government in the state.

This was promised by the federal government to Sabah in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

In November, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said Putrajaya had wanted to give Sabah its 40% revenue but did not have enough funds to do so.

Sipaun, a civil rights activist, said Sabahans were not happy with the way they continued to be treated by Putrajaya.

“Sabahans want to see action, not talk and promises to honour and comply with MA63, especially the financial rights which have been incorporated in the Federal Constitution,” he said.

He cited the 2011 federal budget which saw Sabah receiving RM4.8 billion. “Malaya”, on the other hand, received RM110 billion, he said.

“Malaya was already much more developed by any standard. Sabah continues to be short-changed, poor and underdeveloped compared with Malaya.

“Yet Sabah is rich in natural resources, including oil and gas.

“I do not believe (that) this was what Sabah’s founding fathers expected some 56 years ago when a new country was formed on September 16, 1963. Otherwise, what is the point of being part of it?”

Sipaun said Sabah was only demanding its legitimate rights by asking the federal government to return to the state what belonged to Sabah, as was promised when then Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo (now Sabah) and Sarawak formed Malaysia. Singapore left Malaysia in 1965.