Arnold Puyok of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak says a stronger voice from Sabah and Sarawak is necessary to exert their autonomy.
PETALING JAYA: The formation of a “Borneo bloc” between Sabah and Sarawak is necessary as an effective tool to pursue their interests under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), political analysts said.
Arnold Puyok of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) said Sabah and Sarawak lawmakers had a better chance of achieving more power under MA63, especially on natural resources ownership, if they form a bloc.
“A stronger voice from Borneo is better for Sabah and Sarawak to exert their autonomy based on MA63,” Puyok told FMT.
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Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said apart from helping to restore MA63 rights, the bloc could aid in assuring the country’s political stability.
“In today’s reality, the political landscape will be even more fragmented without blocs, with many more combinations and permutations for alliances,” he told FMT.
“With blocs, where parties are supposed to act in concert, this political turmoil and chaos could be reduced.”
Oh also said if the bloc could spur coordination between both territories in politics as well as socioeconomic development, it could become “a strong force that could not be ignored by others”.
The analysts were responding to former Sabah chief minister Salleh Said Keruak, who called for political commentators not to peddle disunity among Malaysians by invoking concepts that point toward segregation such as a Borneo bloc.
“As a Sabahan, I am not at all pleased with this kind of talk. It suggests that we are only motivated to enhance our political power at the federal level,” the Usukan assemblyman told FMT.
Salleh also urged political commentators and the media to stop branding MPs and politicians from Sabah and Sarawak as “kingmakers”, and to refrain from associating them with any plot to prop up or topple any government.
However, Lee Kuok Tiung of Universiti Malaysia Sabah said the bloc could indeed make both Sabah and Sarawak kingmakers with the power to make crucial political decisions, such as determining who will become the prime minister “in any situation”.
He said both territories would need to be strong and united.
GRS needs to be on par with GPS
Puyok also said all eyes are on GPS and GRS and whether they could form a political alliance, which would advance the fight for MA63 rights, given they are both consolidating their regional power.
While the two coalitions appear to be on the same wavelength in demanding decentralisation, GPS has not yet committed to a Borneo bloc plan because it thinks Sabah politics is too unpredictable and their political elites are less cohesive than those of Sarawak, Puyok said.
“Unlike GPS, GRS has not demonstrated sufficient courage and skill in pursuing MA63, through legal or political means,” he said, citing Sarawak’s 2019 move to sue Petronas for petroleum royalties under the State Sales Tax Ordinance 1998.
He also cited GPS’s pursuit of executive powers to manage areas of strategic importance, such as healthcare, education, tourism and finance, by leveraging on its influence as one of the biggest blocs in the federation.
“(Therefore), the Borneo bloc will remain a pipe dream unless GRS can convince its counterpart, GPS, that it has the capacity to exert regional authority more effectively,” he said.