Restoring equal status to Sabah, Sarawak my first priority, says Ongkili

Sabah and Sarawak affairs minister Maximus Ongkili (seated, centre) speaking to reporters in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: Newly appointed Sabah and Sarawak Affairs Minister Maximus Ongkili has brushed aside criticism that his portfolio is just another complaints bureau instead of a ministry able to bring change.

Speaking to reporters at Kota Kinabalu International Airport here today, Ongkili said he was determined to deliver what was due to both states under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

“My ministry was created to solve problems. We will take the bull by the horns and we can make Malaysia stronger.

“I wouldn’t have taken this job if it’s only about receiving complaints.

“Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin wants to resolve problems through practical solutions.

“He said he was committed to being a prime minister to all Malaysians and told me to take control of matters,” he said.

Ongkili said his priority will first be to restore equal status to Sabah and Sarawak.

“We want to amend Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution, giving back Sabah and Sarawak its original status within Malaysia. We hope to achieve this within six months.”

The Kota Marudu MP had just arrived after attending the first of the Perikatan Nasional Cabinet meetings in the nation’s capital.

Ongkili said the proposed amendment by the previous Pakatan Harapan government failed last April as MA63 was not mentioned at all in the amendment, adding it only mentioned the Malaya Agreement 1957 in Article 160 (2).

“I want to address the definition of Malaysia under Article 1(2) of the Constitution where we want to include the ‘Malaysia Agreement 1963’ to clearly define the makeup of the federation.

“However, the government then did not include it.”

Ongkili said he had spoken to the prime minister on this and he openly said he was in support of it and to look into it the soonest.

The Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president also said he was focused on addressing outstanding grouses and unhappiness of Malaysians in Sabah and Sarawak.

“My job is to strengthen the federation by addressing these grouses. Over the years, there have been threats and barriers in strengthening the federation,” Ongkili said.

He said at the top of his agenda are issues pertaining to petroleum payments and infrastructure development in the state.

“Matters regarding rights, petroleum royalty and development issues on why the two states are lagging behind in economy and infrastructure are to be addressed over the next 30 months.

“We have had enough of studies. We want solutions now.

“I don’t want my ministry to be akin to a public complaints bureau. We want to solve matters constitutionally and legally,” he said.

Another priority, Ongkili said, would be the outstanding payment of the 40% net revenue to Sabah since the 1970s, which will in total bring billions of ringgit back to the state.

Meanwhile, he said new Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin had also assured him he was keen on resolving Sabah’s illegal immigrant problem openly and as quickly as possible.