Dayak-based NGOs warn of using ‘wilayah’ as political gimmick

(From left) Wellie, Elias, and Michael are seen in a combination of photos.

MIRI (April 15): A number of Dayak-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Sabah and Sarawak have called on the federal government not to turn the issue of ‘wilayah’ into a political gimmick to win the hearts of voters.

According to the joint statement, the use of the term ‘wilayah’ was expressed spontaneously by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin during his recent visit to Sarawak and not based on cabinet decisions nor based on the law-making process through Parliament.

“This means, this branding is not only meaningless but also illegal. Second, will this declaration make Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners with Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia)?”

“By law, the declaration of ‘equal partners’ which is not supported by amendments and constitutional powers is unlikely to be implemented. Therefore, it is important why Article 1 (2) of the Federal Constitution needs to be amended first,” the joint statement said.

According to the NGOs, what the people of Sabah and Sarawak are still waiting for is balanced development and economic progress so that they are on par with Peninsular Malaysia.

“In this regard, we urge that the ‘branding’ of Sabah and Sarawak as ‘wilayah’ can be clarified in line with the aspirations of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

“Secondly, the government needs to propose constitutional amendments on branding, legal implications, and allocation at the next parliamentary session, and thirdly, the Sabah and Sarawak state governments are allowed to coordinate their respective state administrative structures in accordance with this branding,” said the NGOs.

They also called for more commitment to developing Sabah and Sarawak.

The NGOs called for examination of the word ‘wilayah’ in the 1976 draft of the Federal Constitution and the proposal made by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in 2019.

“Does this imply that the states in Malaya can also be called ‘territories of the federation’ and have the same status as the ‘wilayah’ Sabah and ‘wilayah’ Sarawak?”

“The dissatisfaction of the people of Sabah and Sarawak with the federal government is that the development gap with Peninsular Malaysia is too big. This gap is due to the very unfair distribution of development allocations,” the statement said.

According to them, this dissatisfaction has a basis, namely first, Sabah and Sarawak were promised development through the Formation of Malaysia 1963.

However, after Sabah and Sarawak contributed to the development of the country, the federal allocation received was not equal with the contribution of the two states, said the statement.

The statement also pointed out that one of Malaysia’s founding fathers, the late Tun Jugah from Sarawak, had warned Malaysia should not end up as a sugarcane, sweet in the beginning, but less sweet in the end.

It was jointly issued by Dayak Think Tank Association Sarawak (DTTAS) founder Wellie Henry Majang; DTTAS president Elias Lipi Mat; Society for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of Sarawak (Scrips) secretary general Michael Jok; Dayak National Congress (DNC) president Paul Raja; Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (Bopim) representative Dabiel John Jimbun; Gindol Initiative for Civil Society Borneo representative Kanul Gindol; Pertubuhan Kebudayaan Rumpun Dayak Sabah (PKRDS) president Cleftus Mojingol; and Momogun National Congress (MNC) deputy president Dr Paul Porodong.

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