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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Why Sarawak’s MA63 mission to London is crucial

Malaysia Agreement 1963 activist hits out at Amanah's Salahuddin Ayub for suggesting the state government's move to send a legal team to London could invite foreign intervention.

A Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) activist says Amanah leader Salahuddin Ayub is “clueless” for saying the Sarawak government’s move to send a legal team to London on the MA63 could invite foreign intervention.

Zainnal Ajamain, who authored the book “The Queen’s Obligation”, about the MA63, said it was unfortunate that opposition leaders in peninsular Malaysia weren’t “informed” about the agreement which saw the formation of Malaysia.

“MA63 was signed by five parties, the United Kingdom, Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore. Clearly Salahuddin doesn’t know this.

“So how can it be foreign intervention when the UK is a signatory? It’s not as if the Sarawak government is urging China or the United States of America to help Sarawak obtain its rights.”

Recently, Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg announced that a legal team, led by state assistant minister for law, federal-state relations and project monitoring, Sharifah Hasidah Sayeed Aman Ghazali would go to London to search for and scrutinise any references related to the state’s rights under MA63.

Commenting on the issue, Salahuddin, the former Kubang Kerian MP, voiced concern that the move could invite foreign intervention and harm relations between Sarawak and Putrajaya.

Zainnal said that Sarawak was justified in going to London to study the documents pertaining to MA63 as such documents weren’t available in Malaysia.

“What we have in Malaysia are three of the five original copies of the MA63, with the other two being in the UK and Singapore. But there are over 200,000 documents, letters, minutes of meetings and telegrams relating to the formation of Malaysia.”

Zainnal, who has been studying the MA63 for over 15 years, said there were many documents – written in the lead up to MA63 – which were declassified only as recently as 1999, and which were now kept at the British National Archives in Kew, London.

“The only way to see these documents is to go there. So Sarawak’s mission to London is justified. Within these documents are crucial bits of information which provide context to the MA63 and references to the rights of Sabah and Sarawak.”

He added that the Sabah government should also follow suit and send a legal team to London.

Zainnal said he expected the Sarawak government to come up with a paper on MA63 after the legal team returned from the UK.

“The final goal has to be recommendations from the Sarawak government on the rights belonging to the state and this has to be consistent with the efforts of former Sarawak chief minister Adenan Satem.”

He said Adenan, who passed away in January, had set the tone for the state to pursue its rights under MA63 and had even identified issues which infringed on the rights of the Borneo states under MA63, chiefly the Territorial Sea Act 2012 (TSA).

In Sabah and Sarawak, the TSA has been criticised as being unconstitutional for limiting the jurisdictions of both states to three nautical miles from the low water line, which in turn limits the two states from having total control over natural resources beyond that point.

“So the Sarawak government’s recommendations cannot be less than this. It has to make clear recommendations on what rights need to be returned to the state and correct any injustices,” said Zainnal.

In his short time in office, Adenan had pushed Putrajaya to return rights belonging to the state through a series of negotiations.

His push to reclaim the state’s rights won the hearts of many Sarawakians and he also received praise from opposition members for it.

On the “injustices,” Zainnal said this included the “demotion” of Sabah and Sarawak as equal members of the federation to states through a constitutional amendment in Parliament in 1976.

He explained that the amendment to article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution saw the Borneo states being included as “states” in the list of Federation of States of Malaysia, effectively “downgrading” them.

But Zainnal argued that Parliament did not have the power to do this without the approval of the Sabah and Sarawak governments which are signatories to MA63.

Zainnal also said that last year, Adenan had disclosed that the second phase of negotiations on the devolution of powers to Sarawak involved laws that impinged on state rights under the constitution.

“In other words, the second phase of the negotiations is the reconciliation between the Federal Constitution and MA63, which means the TSA would fall under the second phase.”

In December, it was reported that the second phase of the devolution of powers was in progress.

“After the mission to London, these are among the issues which Sarawak has to call on Putrajaya to change. These are things they really have to push for because it will be very clear as to what the rights of Sabah and Sarawak are.”

By Robin Augustin

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