This is the third year Malaysia Day is celebrated as a national public holiday – as it has taken 47 years before Malaysia Day on September 16 was accorded proper recognition as a national public holiday by the Barisan Nasional federal government, starting from 2010.
This was thanks to two events: Firstly, the public pledge by Pakatan Rakyat that a PR government in Putrajaya would do what the Barisan Nasional had failed to do, i.e. declare September 16 as a national public holiday.
Secondly, the “political tsunami” of the March 8, 2008 general election which caused the belated realisation by the Prime Minister and the BN leaders in Sarawak and Sabah that the BN MPs in the two states occupy a strategic “kingmaker” role determining the survival of UMNO hegemony and Barisan Nasional federal government.
The BN suffered a severe thrashing in the 2008 general election, winning 140 seats against the Pakatan Rakyat’s 82. However, 54 of these BN parliamentary seats come from Sarawak and Sabah – Sarawak 30 and Sabah 24.
Without these 54 BN MPs from Sarawak and Sabah, BN would be reduced to 86 seats out of 222 MPs in Parliament, a reversal of the political demography in Parliament and evicting B N from Putrajaya into the Opposition ranks.
Although PR and the 2008 “political tsunami’ have combined to force UMNO/Barisan Nasional to concede in according Sept. 16 as a national holiday, this is a half-hearted gesture and not really meaningful as Malaysia Day is treated as a mere Sarawak and Sabah event instead of a national celebration by UMNO/Barisan Nasional – making a full mockery of Najib’s 1Malaysia slogan and policy.
Malaysia Day on Sept 16 is not celebrated by the Barisan Nasional government outside Sarawak and Sabah, whether at the national level or in any of the BN-run states. In contrast, Malaysia Day on Sept. 16 is celebrated by the PR Penang State Government today while in 2008, the PR Selangor State Goverment organised a 20,000-people Malaysia Day-eve countdown rally at the Kelana Jaya Stadium on Sept. 15, 2008.
Equally important and serious, the belated recognition of Malaysia Day as a national public holiday has not been followed by any transformation of the mentality of the Umno/BN federal government, and this is why it is still not ready and prepared to seriously and fully address the frustrations, grievances and alienations suffered by Sarawakians and Sabahans for three generations at not being given full and fair treatment as Malaysian citizens.
The official theme of this year’s 55th Merdeka Day/49th Malaysia Day celebrations is “Janji Ditepati”. Does this Barisan Nasional boast of “Janji Ditepati” bear scrutiny, especially for the people of Sarawak and Sabah 49 years after the formation of Malaysia?
If the Barisan Nasional is confident that it has a great record of “Janji Ditepati” in Sarawak and Sabah 49 years after the formation of Malaysia, the BN government would have fully exploited the opportunity to showcase its “Janji Ditepati” achievements and accepted my proposal for the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to assess whether the dreams and aspirations of Sarawakians and Sabahans in forming Malaysia had been fulfilled or betrayed in the past five decades.
I specifically made this proposal in Parliament during the debate on the Royal Address for two consecutive years in March 2010 and March 2011, but there was no support not only from the Barisan Nasional government but also zero support from the BN MPs from Sarawak and Sabah.
I had made the proposal for a RCI on five decades of Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysia as far back as 2010 because this will be a most meaningful way to prepare for the 50th anniversary of Malaysia Day in 2013, putting all the shortfalls and failures of the dual promises of constitutional safeguards and development progress in the two states in proper perspective and in the forefront of the national agenda.
Before Malaysia was formed in 1963, a Cobbold Commission conducted a fact-finding survey of the people of Sarawak and Sabah for their views as to whether the new nation should be established out of the federation of Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore with Malaya.
Numerous fact-finding tours were also organised at that time to send Sarawak and Sabah leaders to Malaya to see for themselves the benefits and developments Sarawak and Sarawak would enjoy if they agree to the establishment of Malaysia.
It was precisely on the dual promises of the constitutional safeguards for Sarawak (the 18 Points) and Sabah (the 20 Points) and the material and developmental rewards the two states would enjoy that the new Malaysian nation was formed in 1963.
Let there be a national debate and soul-searching as to how two of the richest states in Malaysia, namely Sarawak and Sabah, have been reduced in five decades to be among the poorest and the most inequitable states in the federation, as borne out by official statistics from the 2009 National Household Income Survey Report and from the EPU, viz:
1) Incidence of Poverty Overall
Sabah is the highest in the country at 19.7%
Sarawak is the third highest in the country at 5.3% (equal with Kedah). Perlis is 2nd at 6.0%.
2) Incidence of Rural Poverty
Sabah is the highest in the country at 32.8%
Sarawak is the 2nd highest at 8.4%
3) Gini Coefficient
Sabah is the highest at 0.453
Sarawak is the 2nd highest at 0.448
In fact, income inequality has increased in both states from 1999 to 2009:
Sabah, from 0.448 in 1999 to 0.453 in 2009
Sarawak, from 0.407 in 1999 to 0.448 in 2009
4) Poverty Line Income i.e. Monthly Income necessary to go above the poverty rate
Sabah is the highest at RM1048
Sarawak is the 2nd highest at RM912
Peninsular Malaysia is RM763
The people of Sarawak and Sabah were promised progress and development, at least to the level achieved by the Peninsular states.
Have these promises to Sabah and Sarawak been fulfilled in the past five decades? The answers must be a loud No.
Where have all the wealth of Sabah and Sarawak gone to in the past five decades?
After nearly five decades, many in the Sarawak and Sabah interior even lack the most basic infrastructures to be found in the rest of Malaysia like regular electricity supply, uninterrupted piped water and good roads and bridges as well as the most basic of health and educational facilities.
After nearly five decades in Malaysia, there are at least four “massive” in Sarawak and Sabah – massive corruption, massive cronyism, massive landlessness and massive poverty.
My various visits into the Sarawak and Sabah interior have reinforced my conviction that a Royal Commission of Inquiry on five decades of Malaysian federation is vital and paramount as there are deep-seated frustrations and dissatisfactions that the two promises of constitutional safeguards and development progress for Sarawak and Sabah had not been realised.
I think there is no more meaningful manner for Sarawak and Sabah to mark their 50 years of Malaysian nationhood than to conduct a comprehensive review of the successes and failures in all aspects of development in these two states in the past five decades with feedback from the people Sabah and Sarawak as well as to review the constitutional safeguards as contained in the 18 Points for Sarawak and 20 Points for Sabah.
After 49 years in Malaysia, Sarawak is afflicted with the curse of CLIB – corruption, Land (NCR) injustices, Infrastructure (backwardness) and Borneanisation (breach) while Sabah is afflicted by the additional curse of CLIBI (illegal immigrants).
Although Fighting Corruption is one of the priority six National Key Result Areas (NKRA) of Najib’s Government Transformation Programme (GTP), Malaysia’s corruption has gone from bad to worse in the past three years as tracked by Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perception Index.
In Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah are two of the top states where corruption is most rampant and intractable.
2. Land (NCR) injustices
The second major issue in Sarawak and Sabah five decades after the formation of Malaysia is the plight of the Dayaks of Sarawak and the Kadazan Dusun Muruts (KDMs) over Native Customary Rights (NCR) land.
As the Kuching High Court judge, Justice Linto Albert said in his judgment in the landmark “Pantu” NCR case:, “These are cries for justice because one cannot simply throw one’s hands in the air and say that is how life is”!
3. Infrastructure (backwardness)
Both Sarawak and Sabah are states with rich natural resources, whether oil, gas, or timber, but the wealth of the state have been hijacked by BN leaders and their cronies instead of being ploughed back to ensure that the people in two states enjoy the most basic of infrastructure resources – instead of the scandalous situation in many places in the two states, where there are water pipes without water, electric poles without power supply or hospitals without doctors.
4. Borneanisation (breach)
Barisan Nasional’s failure to honour the “Borneanisation” undertaking contained in the 20/18-Point Agreements was recently highlighted by the proposal by Tun Zaki Azmi, chairman of the Special Review Commission on Civil Service Transformation, to lower the requirements for Dayaks and ethnic minority groups to enter the civil service so as to address the imbalance of racial composition within the civil service.
Zaki’s proposal had been lambasted by Dayaks leaders on both sides of the political divide as an insult and mockery of the Dayak community, as they contended there are enough qualified people from Dayaks and the minority groups but the problem is the absence of meritocracy not only for recruitment but also promotion in the civil service.
Zaki must be thanked for highlighting the failure of the Barisan Nasional government to implement Borneanisation in Sarawak as promised in the 18-Point Agreement in the past five decades, resulting in the sense of grievance, marginalisation and discrimination by the Dayak and ethnic minority groups with regard to the civil service.
5. Illegal Immigrants
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has taken six months to announce the members and terms of reference of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into illegal immigrants (RCIII) in Sabah.
More than a month have passed since Najib’s announcement, but there are no signs that the RCIII has started work or its members have been presented with their Instrumrents of Appointment – which is pertinent as the six months given to the RCIII to complete its report is to take effect from their official appointments.
This raises the serious question whether the RCIII would be another meaningless Public Relations exercise like the RCI on Police Reform, the RCI on VK Lingam video clip and the RCI on Teoh Beng Hock case.
The theme of the 49th Malaysia Day is “Janji Ditepati” but it is clear that as far as Sarawak and Sabah are concerned, the promises for the establishment of Malaysia 49 years ago had not been fulfilled not only in these four major issues for Sarawak and five for Sabah, but in many other areas as well.
Although time is tight, it is still not too late to set up a RCI to assess whether the dreams and aspirations of Sarawakians and Sabahans in forming Malaysia had been fulfilled or betrayed in the past five decades to make next year’s 50th Malaysia Day truly historic and meaningful – a RCI whose work would not be dependent on the outcome of the imminent 13th General Elections.
I will make such a proposal for the third time in the forthcoming Parliament beginning next week. Will all Sarawak and Sabah MPs, whether BN or PR, give it unanimous support?
(Speech at the Pakatan Rakyat Malaysia Day national celebrations at Chonglin Park, Kuching on Sunday, 16th September 2012 at 4pm launching the Pakatan Rakyat Kuching Declaration) .