New Malaysian govt must heed MA63 – DTTG

Wellie Henry Majang

MIRI: Dayak Think-Tank Group (DTTG) is calling the Pakatan Harapan government to heed the Malaysian Agreement 1963 (MA63) as it is the agreement signed by Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak over 50 years ago to form the Federation of Malaysia.

“Until a decade ago, most people in Malaysia, or Singapore for that matter, would not have heard of MA63.

“But it is a hot-button issue in Sarawak for all political parties because the majority of indigenous peoples in this state feels that they have received a bad deal from Kuala Lumpur.

“Many think that the promises in MA63 have been broken so many times by the federal government in the last half-century that the entire agreement is void,” said DTTG president and founder, Wellie Henry Majang

He said East Malaysians are especially annoyed that the country marks Malaysia’s Independence Day on Aug 31, when in historical fact, the Federation of Malaysia came into being only on Sept 16, 1963. Aug 31, 1957, is the date Malaya received its independence from Britain.

He pointed out that another source of unhappiness were references in Malaysian secondary school history textbooks that Sarawak (and Singapore) ‘joined’ Malaysia. Sarawakians insist that they established the federation as equal partners to Malaya. To them, Sarawak was one of three entities forming Malaysia, they are not merely one of the 13 Malaysian states.

“The historical grievances centred on the ’20 Points’ which is a set of 20 demands of the political leaders of Sarawak in return for agreeing to form the Malaysian Federation. These were essentially political guarantees for a very high degree of autonomy in a federal system.

“East Malaysians felt, then and now, that they would be ‘taken over’ by those in the peninsula if they did not retain a high degree of autonomy,” he pointed out.

He added that one of the biggest upsets was the take over of all the oil and gas resources found in the Borneo states by the Petroleum Development Act in 1974.

“Today, the bulk of oil and gas revenue from Borneo ends up in the federal coffers with only five per cent going back to Sarawak. State nationalists argue that earnings from oil and gas were ‘stolen’ from East Malaysia, resulting in the states being underdeveloped compared to those in the peninsula.

“About 40 per cent of Sarawak’s population is Christian. The main indigenous peoples in Sarawak – the Dayaks – are largely non-Muslims.

“Sarawak is a state in Malaysia where Muslims, Christians and pagans can be found within the same family, living peacefully together. As such, East Malaysians are uncomfortable with the importance accorded to race and religion in peninsular Malaysia politics, especially Umno’s Malay-first thrust,” he said adding that DTTG wants MA63 review and Sarawak’s autonomy fullly restored.

He said many also argued that MA63 is void since there is historical evidence that the British colonial officials had manipulated the leaders from Sarawak into accepting the Malaysia proposal.