The four-year long American Civil War between the United States and the Confederated States from April 1861 to May 1865 saw about a million dead and wounded from both sides and the involvement of more than three million combatants.
Many think that the war erupted over the issue of slavery. Actually the war erupted because the southern states seceded from the United States and formed their own Confederated States. Hence the war was actually about secession rather than about slavery although slavery, or the banning of it, was one of the reasons for the grouses of the south.
The war in Ireland that started in 1922 was about the same thing. They wanted an independent Irish Republic free from Great Britain. It took a long time and the loss of so many lives before they got it.
And the same is going to happen if Sabah (and/or Sarawak) declares itself a Republic and independent from Malaysia. Isn’t the example of what are still happening in Southern Thailand and the Muslim part of the Philippines proof enough that a separatist movement, especially one that escalates to an armed conflict, eventually has to get settled on the battlefield?
We should be looking at how to improve national unity against the backdrop of the race and religion politics that appears to be plaguing Peninsula Malaysia. While we in East Malaysia are concerned about the danger of race and religion politics spilling over to Sabah and Sarawak, we need to also be very careful about an even bigger danger, the triggering of a separatist movement.
The issue of the right of secession should not be the focus of settling our grievances. We should try to settle it through negotiations. From the statement by the Opposition Leader, Anwar Ibrahim, it is clear that even Pakatan Rakyat will not support secession. Hence changing the government, as some are suggesting we should do, will not achieve this.
Once we agree that the focus should be on national unity, then the issue of race and religion politics plus the issue of respecting and honouring the 18/20-Point Memorandums can both be addressed in one swoop.
The national leaders know that these are matters that seriously need addressing, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, and they will certainly be open to seeking an amicable solution to maintain the peace in East Malaysia.
As the third Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn, a military man, once said: better we jaw-jaw than we war-war -- meaning talking is better than fighting.