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Friday, February 27, 2015

The possible partial-autonomy for Sabah and Sarawak

By SSK

No one would deny the fact that Sabah and Sarawak are Barisan Nasional’s ‘fixed deposits’. Politicians from both sides of the political divide have openly admitted this, even the Prime Minister himself. Sabah and Sarawak are the Kingmakers and without these two states we would see a hung parliament in Peninsula Malaysia and neither Barisan Nasional nor Pakatan Rakyat would be able to form the federal government.

This is not something odd because the UK saw the same thing in 2010 and would most likely see this happening again in May this year. In 2010, Lib Dem was the Kingmaker and this time around it may even be UKIP, unless they continue to blunder with their ‘white supremacy’ statements.

So Malaysia is not far behind the UK and if Barisan Nasional wants to avoid what happened in the UK to also happen in Malaysia it will have to take care of its ‘fixed deposits’, namely Sabah and Sarawak.

Sabah and Sarawak do not really want independence as what some people are propagating. We must admit that there were some benefits for Sabah and Sarawak to become part of Malaysia and if it had not been Malaysia it would have been some other regional power that annexes East Malaysia.

Nevertheless, what is of concern to Sabah and Sarawak is the federalisation of the state government and the loss of its autonomy in deciding some matters. We are not talking about independence as a nation-state. That is not even a subject that requires discussion. We are talking about independence in decision-making, or at least in some of the decision-making.

Currently, the federal government not only decides on the development expenditure but also controls how, what and when development is implemented. This causes delays, wastage and overlapping of functions between the state and federal agencies. Many times the state is left out entirely in the decision-making process.

Once the state approves the projects and the federal government approves the funding for these projects the federal government should transfer the funds to the state and allow the state to implement those projects the way it sees fit. The present system of the federal government practically running the states does not go down well with states that are supposed to enjoy a certain level of autonomy.

This would be a good first step for Barisan Nasional to prove to the Sabah and Sarawak voters that it respects their autonomy and honours the spirit of the Malaysian agreement and the 20/18 Point Memorandum.

Sarawak will be facing its state elections in about a year or so from now followed by Sabah probably two years later or maybe even earlier. Hence it is crucial that this matter be considered in the not too distant future.

Sabahans and Sarawakians must be made to feel they are partners in Malaysia and not servants of West Malaysian colonialists. Whether this is the correct perception or not is another matter but we must not deny that this is how many Sabahans and Sarawakians feel.

The bone of contention here is the manner in how these funds are managed and how much say the states have in how these funds are utilised. Hence this is a fair request from Sabah and Sarawak and can only strengthen Barisan Nasional in Sabah and Sarawak when Sabahans and Sarawakians are made to feel that they do have some say in their own destiny.

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