Sabah and Sarawak will prosper under the Pakatan Harapan federal and state governments, promised Malaysian finance minister Lim Guan Eng as the prime minister offered a boost to their constitutional status.
“Apart from political equality, the promises of social and economic rights made to Sabahans and Sarawakians will not be forgotten in a Pakatan Harapan federal and state government, and when the financial situation of the federal government improves,” Lim said, marking Malaysia Day.
Lim added that Malaysians on Borneo should be reassured by the government’s “vision of unity embracing all races and religions as well as every geographical region”.
Lim said the new coalition was working to restore the political position of Sabah and Sarawak within the federal constitution.
In 1976, the Malaysian constitution was amended to downgrade Sabah and Sarawak as the 12th and 13th states, instead of equal partners with Peninsula Malaysia within the federation.
The Chinese-Malaysian minister said the government would also reaffirm and reinforce Malaysia as a democratic country that respected the rule of law and restored integrity in leadership, social and economic justice while remaining tolerant of diversity.
“Only with political, social and economic justice for Sabah and Sarawak can we overcome the [Umno] opposition’s dangerous politics of national divisiveness, ethnic chauvinism, racist dominance, religious extremism and any independence movement that clouds reason with blind hatred,” Lim said.
In apparent attempt to boost the new government’s standing in Malaysia’s two states on Borneo, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad echoed Lim’s remarks in his address.
The status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners in Malaysia would be restored under the new federal government, Mahathir told a Malaysia Day event in Kota Kinabalu, the state capital of Sabah.
The 93-year-old said the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) was being reviewed and would restore Sabah and Sarawak to the status they had when Singapore was still part of the federation.
“During the formation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963, in the agreement that we call MA63, the four regions merged as equal partners. However, Malaysia has gone through a winding course since then and two years after its formation, Singapore exited. The years that followed also changed the status of Sabah and Sarawak from equal partners to states within Malaysia,” he said.
“The New Malaysia and the Pakatan government is aware of this and will restore the status of equal partners to Sabah and Sarawak,” Mahathir said.
He added that part of granting the states on Borneo equal status would involve investing in infrastructure.
“The development needs of Sabah and Sarawak need to be given attention as there are still districts that are backwards and with poor infrastructure.
“The Pakatan federal government will surely not forget its duties to Sabah and Sarawak and will find a way to develop the infrastructure according to the people’s needs and demands,” the world’s oldest elected leader added.
Sarawak’s development has not always been a burning issue for the central government. Picture credit: Wikimedia