Less fear in Sarawak, Sabah now

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Sabah and Sarawak entered into the Malaysia Agreement on its own free will. It can leave the federation on its own free will.

By Amde Sidek
Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen’s statement in Dewan Negeri Sarawak that if a referendum was held today, 75% of Sarawakian would opt for separation is telling.

In Sabah and Sarawak, the words “autonomy”, “referendum” and “secede” were never publically used before. That it is now hotly debated is telling that times are changing and people are less afraid.

During my presentation at a seminar on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 in Kuching, organized by the Sarawak Sovereign Movement, I asked the question “what do we mean by autonomy?” and “how secession can be made and in the context of Malaysia?”

Those unfamiliar or left behind in the study of this subject may find it disconcerting, but only because ‘we’ the people in this region are so used to being coerced, frightened and threatened by the authority.

But in today’s scenario no country can intimidate its citizens forever.

In Malaysia, word “autonomy” was never used openly until Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) leaders raised it in November 2010, on the eve of Batu Sapi, Sandakan by-election. SAPP was alone in its suggestion.

The immediate reaction was wild allegations and accusations against SAPP. The party was accused of wanting to pull Sabah out of Malaysia.

It scared our voters like hell.

The kneejerk reaction worked, as always. BN retained Batu Sapi.

Now Sarawak talks about separation from the Federation of Malaysia. It’s another talk of “autonomy”.

Grave injustices

In the current political scenario in Malaysia there are three options available for Sabah and Sarawak.

Option one is to proceed with the current political system, nothing changes.

Option two is to demand for autonomy because that is our legal rights under Malaysia Agreement 1963.

It’s our way of saying “restore” the terms of the agreement and return our rights. This is what people are expecting from Putrajaya. Respect the agreement and return our rights.

The final option is seceding from Malaysia.

Recently the Federal Minister of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Abdul Rahman Dahlan said Sabah and Sarawak cannot secede from the federation.

Abdul Rahman is wrong. Article 2 in the Federal Constitution makes no mentioning about secession.

Sabah and Sarawak entered into the Malaysia Agreement on its own free will. It can leave the federation on its own free will.

It’s like joining an association. It is assumed that one can quit the association if uncomfortable with the goings on.

The International law experts have no problem in agreeing. There are two main UN bodies that are concerned with secession – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

These are referrals and the Somalia situation is classical example.

Other legal theorist like Allen Buchanan says, secession is allowed. He notes that “a state can secede for any reasons, only if there are grave injustices or both”.

In Sabah and Sarawak’s case, history has shown it suffered “grave injustices”.


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