A Memorandum on the Fate of Sabah in the Federation of Malaysia
At the House of Commons,
Westminster Parliament, London,
On March 9, 2010
Good afternoon all Honourable Members of the House, ladies and gentlemen.
First of all, I would like to record our most sincere gratitude having been given this honour of presenting this memorandum before this esteemed House. Today, marks a moment of honour for the people of Sabah, the former North Borneo, for having been accorded this rare opportunity to present a Memorandum a matter of grave significance, a matter which affect our fate as the people of the Federation of Malaysia. We see this as a historical event, a moment granted by God’s grace, in which we can communicate under this honourable roof, to reminisce a milestone of history half a century ago which was followed by sad events that in too many instances happened with numerous misgivings.
For decades now, we the people of Sabah, have been haunted by ghosts of history dating back to August 31, 1963, the day we gained independence from Great Britain. Malaysia was conceptualised and constituted with the best of promises, endearing in us hopes and dreams for a greater future. It is with sadness that I stand here to witness that what had transpired since September 16, 1963 had been a series of events that had led us to the present situation in which we can justly proclaim to be a situation of shattered hopes and broken dreams!
We therefore stand before this House, in good faith, to seek redress and to appeal for an inclusive dialogue, which we hope will lead to a clearer and brighter tomorrow to all parties concerned. I seek the indulgence of this House to hear our side of the story and adjudge the events of the past with a clear conscience and a sympathetic eye, and to lend us a hand in seeking a just and righteous solution to our problem.
I would like to present three pertinent issues, which may or may not have direct concern of the present British government. Firstly, we need to take a critical review of the rationales and instruments for the formation of Malaysia. There is the nagging question of justice in the drafting of the critical Malaysia Agreement, the efficiency and integrity off the Cobbold Commission, the reliability of the promises of the Twenty Points, the Inter governmental Committee Report and the Malaysian Act, historical documents which must be familiar to the knowledge of the Honourable Lawmakers in this House. Secondly, is the perennial issue of security which now affect the sovereignty of Sabah within Malaysia. And thirdly is the case of the spiraling deterioration in the economic wellbeing of the people of Sabah.
Sabah’s Expectations of Malaysia vs Reality and the Malaysian Agreement
The facts of history is that Sabah, a former British colony, achieved its independence on August 31st, 1963. On September 16, 1963, it merged with Malaya, Singapore and Sarawak to form the Federation of Malaysia on terms agreed by all parties. The concept of merger and equal partnership was introduced by Tunku Abdul Rahman to allay fears in Sabah and Sarawak of the possibility of Malaya recolonizing them upon the departure of the British masters.
The terms of this Federation are contained in various documents such as the Twenty Points, the IGC report and of course the Malaysia Agreement, which on paper protected the interests of Sabah and Sarawak within this new Federation so that they do not lose their autonomy in certain areas of governance which gave meanings and substances to their independence.
Without doubt, this was the expressed hope of the founding fathers, principally Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia; Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister of Singapore, Donald Stephens and Mustapha Harun of Sabah, Stephen Kalong Ningkan of Sarawak, etc. Independent speeches were delivered by various leaders including Razak, Tun Mustapha, Donald Stephens and Sir William Goode to during the historic celebration of Sabah’s nationhood. I present several quotes from them below:
“Today, is a historic day for Sabah. It marks the beginning of self-government and independence and the end of colonialism.” ~ Sir William Goode, outgoing Governor of North Borneo (Sabah Times, Jesselton, August 1, 1963)
The Tunku naturally uttered several historic statements on the matter:
“The granting of self-government too would enable Sabah to stand on its own feet as equal with Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore.” (Sabah Times, Jesselton, August 30th, 1963)
“The important aspects of the Malaysia Ideal, as I see it, is that it will enable the Borneo territories to transform their present colonial status to ‘self government’ for themselves and absolute independence in Malaysia simultaneously…”
“The days of imperialism are gone and it is not the intention of Malaya to perpetuate or revive them. When the Borneo territories become part of Malaysia, they will cease to be a colony of Malaya, they will be partners of equal status, no more or less than the *other States.” (Strait Times, October 2nd 1962)
*The “other States” refer to the other States entities of Malaya, Singapore and Sarawak.
Today, more than forty six years after independence, the people of Sabah are asking what happened to these rosy pronouncements and assurances. In fact the Sabahans have always been seriously clarification as to why Sabah is now functioning as if it is only a colony of Kuala Lumpur. Many still remember the warnings given by former Indonesian president Sukarno, who said that Malaysia will not change colonialism but will only shift its headquarters from London to Kuala Lumpur. Has Sukarno’s prophecy come true today?
Tunku Abdul Rahman kept assuring us that Sabah was now independent; that it was no longer a colony and that Sabah will have its” absolute independence” in Malaysia. What Tunku Abdul Rahman said was exactly what we expected Sabah to gain and benefit from being part of the Federation, i.e. being a fully autonomous state within the Federation. But contrary to that promise, the reality today is that Sabah has become the 12th state of Malaya. Federal government leaders, dominated by Malayans, today can arbitrarily change, at their whims and fancies, whatever they wish to suit their needs and convenience. They even ignored the Twenty Points and the Malaysia Agreement and made it sensitive to even talk about them.
The Problem of the Illegal and Legalised Immigrants in Sabah
About half of Sabah’s population of 3.25 million today are foreigners. Out of this number, 750,000 are undocumented or without travel documents or work passes. Dr Chong Eng Leong paper, “Human Rights and Citizenship: Its impact on Economics, Social and Cultural Rights,” presented at the SUHAKAM Roundtable Discussion on July 31, 2006 refers.
Of these, 60,000 are categorized as refugees and about 153,000 to 418,000 are those supposedly given work passes. In addition there are those with false documents but over and above these numbers are the 600,000 who have been given genuine Malaysian identity cards or MyKads by higher authority under “Projek IC Mahathir” (Dr. Chong Eng Leong, Ibid.)
The most serious and obvious injustices inflicted upon Sabah is the deployment of non-citizen to become voters, thereby depriving citizens of the right to democracy and self-determination. The main category of foreign voters comprise the 600,000 who have been given Mykads, under “Projek IC Mahathir.” This project was widely debated in the local papers in 2006. A witness to a trial on an election dispute confessed in court to possessing a dubious identity card, telling the magistrate that he obtained his IC through “Projek President Mahathir.” This evidence was never contested, and nor has there been any denial form the former Prime Minister.
Security and Sovereignty
Most of these foreigners come from a neighbouring country (the Philippines) which, incidently, has yet to drop its territorial claim over Sabah. By the sheer number of the illegals from the Philippines alone, with their settlements surrounding all the major cities and towns, this claim could be easily legitimized. Sabah is now a haven for escaping terrorists, rebels and kidnappers. JI or Jemaah islamiyah, a terror network, has been identified as having its presence in Sabah. So is Darul Islam Sabah. Hence, with the presence of armed foreigners on our soil, Sabah is no longer a secure state.
This begs the question: Where is the security that the founding fathers of Malaysia had promised us? With the explicit support of Great Britain, we had been hard-pressed to join in the formation of Malaysia, in the name of security from Indonesia’s Confrontation and Phillippines’ claim. But as it turned out, today Brunei, which opted out following a rebellion, and Singapore which was later expelled, are doing so much better. There is therefore no denying that Brunei had been far-sighted, and Singapore had been ironically blessed by its expulsion.
Over As the number of non-citizens are now rapidly outnumbering the local population in some areas (Dr Jeffery Kitingan, Justice for Sabah, Table 4.1), it is merely a matter of time for this foreign population to spread and overwhelm the whole of Sabah. SUHAKAM’s former Commissioner, Prof. Hamdan Adnan, once said that a foreigner reverse takeover is imminent if the trend continues unabated.
Sabah is a rich state endowed with much natural resources such as oil and gas, timber, fertile agricultural land and tourism potentials. With a population of just about three million, Sabah offers abundant promises for vibrant economic development and enviable prosperity. Unfortunately, Sabah today is the poorest state in Malaysia (according to the government’s Malaysia Plan Report). Most of Sabah’s timber has already been harvested without any heed to sustainable supply management, and over eighty percent of the agricultural land develop for oil palm belong to corporate giants owned by west Malaysian companies. Ironically, Sabah is Malaysia’s largest oil palm producer with 60% of the nation’s palm oil being produced in Sabah. Sabah is also one of three Malaysia’s oil producing states, producing more than 73,000 barrels of crude petroleum per day. Why then is Sabah poor and financially dependent on the federal government? The answer is simple: It is either that Sabah is not getting its fair share of its own wealth or is the victim of mismanagement, or both. UNDP (United Nation Development Program) put the State poverty rate at 24.3% of the population.
Sabah, once the richest state in Malaysia, is now the poorest. Most of the poor are Natives in the rural areas, including paddy farmers, fishermen and smallholders. The state government of Sabah has one of the highest budget deficit in the country amounting RM252.89 million (2006). With a population of 3.25 million, its per capita income currently stands at RM9,536 compared to RM18,040 for Malaysia. This show a huge disparity with Sabah’s per capita income way, way below the national standard. Where do our riches go to? To be exact: to the Federal Government. Sabah can never be rich as long as our State cake” is continuously divided into thirteen.
Oil and gas belong to the state but in 1976 the federal government made the state surrender this state resource to a central government agency, PETRONAS. It is said that that the “Double Six” Tragedy (airplane crash at Sembulan which killed senior Sabah cabinet members, including the then Chief Minister Tun Fuad Stephens, the former Donald Stephens) was the result of the refusal by Stephens to sign away Sabah’s oil right in Labuan then. Soon after Tun Fuad’s funeral, Harris Salleh signed the agreement. In return the state gets only 5% of the oil revenue. Why? Why do we get only 5% of the revenue from oil, when in the first place, it is a state resource? Who gets the other 95%? How much revenue earnings have been generated from Sabah’s oil and gas, including their by-products?
Felda and Felcra
Land given out to Felda and Felcra by the State Government for the purpose of development assistance to the landless local was never implemented. According to the former Chief Minister, Harris Salleh, 300,000 hectares have been given to Felda/Felcra for this purpose. We know of no one Sabahan having benefited, although perhaps there may be a few. So who are the rest of the beneficiaries? Who is reaping the oil palm harvest from our land? Obviously, justice must be served. And these lands must revert back to the State Government and their utilisation reviewed as part of our economic revival and poverty eradication programmes.
The enormous political implications of the non-citizens currently holding citizens’ identity cards are mind boggling. It is frightening to contemplate the ramifications of the fact that they can vote, as they have been recruited and mobilised by certain political leaders in the BN (the Barisan Nasional or National Front) ruling coalition. In fact most of these “voters for hire” have been recruited as members of UMNO (the United Malay National Organisation), the backbone of the BN.
Even a fellow BN member had openly admitted that illegals could be in BN parties. Chin Su Ling, Youth Chief of the Liberal Democratic Party, a component of the BN said there is a possibility that many illegal immigrants have become members of various BN component Sabah. (Borneo Post, Tuesday, September 19th, 2006). These foreigners may just be “voters for hire” at present but once they can organize themselves, they could be in a position to control Sabah UMNO and elect their own representatives into the State Assembly and Parliament. Once this is achieved they could take over the government and change the rules of the game in their favour. This is not impossible.
How did Sabah’s population grow so fast? Are we more fertile than Sarawak or the peninsular? NO! The high growth in Sabah’s population is explained by the high arrivals of foreigners, many of whom were later exploited to become voters through the “Project IC.” Worse, these foreigners who obtained MyKads through the backdoor also claim to be Bumiputeras (sons of the soil). They are in fact The New Bumiputeras! These new “natives” are now the same number as the natives!
Source of Socio-economic Problems
This large foreign population in Sabah also presents a heavy drain on the economy and social services fund. One estimate puts this cost to the State between RM271 million to RM811 million a year. They also take away from the local quota for education in schools and institutions of higher learning. They use a lot of medical facilities and health care services and encroach onto natives lands, producing squatter colonies. They also rely on low cost housing schemes provided by the government. They are also involved in drugs. According to the police, 90% of drugs are from the Philippines. They steal water and electricity through illegal connections and pollute the environment. Employment wise, many illegals are now running taxis, mini buses as drivers.
“The illegal immigrants are the mother of all problems in Sabah” ~ Dato’ Bakri Zinin, high-ranking Police Officer, Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur
The root cause of Sabah’s dilemma is the fact that the Inter-Governmental Committee Report had failed to ensure Malaysian Government compliance with the Malaysia Agreement on a continuous basis. Various ‘modification’ and ‘adjustments’ had been surreptitiously inserted into the national governance mechanism which had trapped us into subservience and compliance and in the process eroding much of our rights and privileges.
The IGC must be revived and the United Kingdom, along with Singapore, Sarawak, Sabah and Malaya (the Federal Government), must play an active role as sympathetic and just former master to institute effective and enduring rectifications. This is the least that we can ask for. This is also the way forward. The United Kingdom is the first stop in our mission to revive the IGC. Efforts are also being made at this material time in Kuala Lumpur by Dr Jeffrey Gapari Kitingan, the chairman of the Common Interest Group Malaysia (Cigma) to seek the same redress and review of the terms of independence And formation of the Federation of Malaysia. Likewise we are mobilising a similar mission to Singapore prior to seeking a dialogue with the Sabah and Sarawak State Governments on the same issue.
With respect and reverence we lay our hopes and desires before this honourable House for a redirection of the negative trends that beset us in Borneo, in the full confidence that a vehicle to the future can be chartered for justice and truth, to pick up the pieces of the shattered hopes and broken dreams.