On the 49th Malaysia Day on Sunday, Catholic Bishop Datuk Cornelius Piong in his message questioned if a 49-year-old agreement symbolised by the Keningau Batu Sumpah to uphold religious freedom and other native rights and customs had been kept.
Piong said that 49 years ago leaders from the federation of Malaya promised the people of Sabah they would progress together and have their basic human rights protected, as part of a campaign to convince them to join forces and form Malaysia, with partner states Sarawak and Singapore.
The three key pledges Piong highlighted were guarantees that Sabahans would have freedom of religion, their native land would be safeguarded by the state government and the federal government would respect and protect Sabah local customs.
“Are these promises still being respected and honoured?” Piong asked in his Malaysia Day message.
He said: “The agreement was carved on an oath stone (Batu Sumpah Peringatan) which is still visible read and remembered.”
I first visited the Keningau district council’s administration centre in March 2010 together with DAP MPs Hiew King Cheu (Kota Kinabalu), Teo Nie Ching (Serdang), Lim Lip Eng (Segambut) and Jimmy Wong (Sabah State Assemblyman for Sri Tanjong) where the Oath Stone still stands, and engraved on the Oath Stone are the words:
“BATU SUMPAH MENGIKUT PERLEMBAGAAN
1.Ugama Bebas dalam Sabah
2.Tanah Tanah dalam Sabah di kuasai oleh Kerajaan Sabah
3.Adat istiadat anak rayat Sabah dihormatkan dan dipelihara oleh Kerajaan.
Sebalik pula rayat2 Sabah di dalam interior bersumpah taat setia kepada Kerajaan Malaysia.”
After my March 2010 visit to the Keningau Batu Sumpah, I had asked: “These were the terms of the oath of loyalty of the Sabahans from the interior five decades ago in exchange for the formation of Malaysia. Have these solemn pledges laid out in the Keningau Batu Sumpah been honoured by both sides?”
Two weeks ago, as part of the DAP Sabah state-wide “Janji Ditepati” Public Hearings, I returned to Keningau and together with the MP for Tuaran, Datuk Seri Wilfred Bumburing, revisited the historic Keningau Oath Stone and I came away more convinced of the legitimacy and relevance of the proposal I had made in Parliament after my first visit to the Keningau Oath Stone in March 2010 – that there should be a Royal Commission of Inquiry to assess whether the dreams and aspirations of Sabahans and Sarawakians in forming Malaysia had been fulfilled or betrayed in the past five decades.
I had said in 2010 that such a RCI would be the most meaningful way of preparing for the 50th anniversary of Malaysia Day on 16th September 2013, and although there is less than a year left to the 50th Malaysia Day anniversary celebrations next September, the reasons for such a RCI remains valid, sound and pertinent.
I will repeat my call for a RCI to assess whether the dreams and aspirations of Sabahans and Sarawakians in forming Malaysia had been fulfilled or betrayed in the past five decades when Parliament reconvenes next week, and I will highlight the Keningau Oath Stone as the centrepiece of my argument for the establishment of such a RCI so that all MPs, not just from Sabah, but from Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia learn of this historic Oath Stone of Keningau.
An assessment of the development of the terms and conditions of the three key pledges of the Keningau Oath Stone and the Sabah 20-Points Agreement would be a major contribution to making the 50th Malaysia Day anniversary a really meaningful occasion.
In his speech just now, former Tuaran MP Datuk Monggoh Orow spoke of the plight of Sabahan particularly those who are landless.
This is a clear violation of the “Land” pledge in the Keningau Oath Stone, which is scandalous, outrageous and even downright criminal, for such marginalisation, poverty and socio-economic backwardness should not take place in the second largest state in Malaysia after Sarawak.
Let me respond to Monggoh Orow to pledge that a Pakatan Rakyat government will immediately implement a policy of “Land for the Landless” for genuine Sabahans who want to work the land, and we will eradicate the present abuses of power where huge chunks of land are grabbed by those those in power or for their cronies.
This is a specific instance where the Three Fundamental Pledges of the Keningau Oath Stone have not been complied with, and it is appropriate, timely and most pertinent that the hopes and aspirations of Sabahans as encapsulated in the Keningau Oath Stone is brought to the attention of the highest political chamber in the land – Parliament.
(Speech at the Angkatan Perubahan Sabah (APS) roadshow ceramah in Kampong Topokon, Tamparuli on Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 9 pm)