Monday, 8 April 2013


WRONG TRACK..... According to a former Sabah CM, the federal government is on the wrong track in dealing with the Lahad Datu incursion.


KOTA KINABALU: History has a way of punishing those who ignore it and recent events in Sabah may prove this true as the country prepares for the 13th general election.

The vote, according to former chief minister Yong Teck Lee, will not only determine the next government but also the future of the Borneo state that has gradually lost its autonomous powers after agreeing to join in the formation of Malaysia 50 years ago.

Anything less than total political autonomy will doom the state but granting that freedom will not put an end to the Philippines’ claim to the state, the way Yong sees it.

Speaking at a large political gathering here over the weekend, the Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) leader said any incoming federal government must respect the political autonomy of Sabah as promised in the Malaysia Agreement, which is the basis for the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

Any attempt to depart from the letter and spirit of the formation of Malaysia would only fortify and intensify the Sulu and Philippine’s claim on Sabah, he warned in reference to the recent audacious invasion of a village in Lahad Datu on the east coast of the state by a group of over 200 armed Filipinos.

The part of Malaysia Agreement that Sabah politicians such as Yong are eager to enforce is the one that deals with the special rights granted to the state known as the “20 Points”.

“The gist of all the undertakings by the British government and the Malayan government at that time is that Sabah will be autonomous… a sovereign state within Malaysia,” Yong said, adding that the failure to adhere to this has a bearing on the current crisis.

“The basis of Malaysia is the Malaysia Agreement which also grants autonomy for Sabah and Sarawak. They [the Philippines and the Sulu Sultanate] claim that Sabah is not part of Malaysia [based on the Malaysia Agreement].

“This has now been highlighted and if Malaysia is to try to depart from the letter and spirit of the formation of Malaysia, then the Sulu claim will come in,” he said.

“Between the Sulu claim that Sabah is no longer part of Malaysia and autonomy for Sabah, I think the choice for the federal government is very obvious,” he said.

‘Wrong track’

Anything other than that, he said, would strengthen the claim by the Philippines and the Sulu Sultanate as it would be a departure from the Malaysia Agreement and the spirit of the formation of Malaysia.

Yong also rejected the claim by the federal government that Sabah’s coast was impossible to protect 50 years after guaranteeing Sabah’s security as a pre-condition to the formation of Malaysia with Sabah.

“You cannot claim that our maritime area is too wide to guard when you are also extracting oil and gas from our maritime area,” he said.

“Politically and psychologically, the Philippines is keeping the issue alive by telling the Filipinos that that there is this place called Sabah/North Borneo that they have a claim to,” he said.

Yong said the repercussions of the Lahad Datu incident will be felt for a long time and will take the government a long time to deal with it.

“It’s not the end… it was only the ICU [intensive care unit] treatment. Now we have to go for rehabilitation and recovery, and that will take 20 years,” he said, adding that the violence had created a dangerous social situation.

Even now, he said, the federal government was on the wrong track in dealing with the situation.

“It looks like they [federal government] are building a fortress for Sabah to prevent intruders but the perspective from the Philippines side is very different… they consider it homecoming when we consider it as an intrusion. This has not been addressed in anyway by the federal government.

“I think they are missing that point,” said Yong, blaming the response on the failure by top politicians and civil servants in Kuala Lumpur to understand the mindset and the psyche of Sabahans as well as immigrants from the Philippines.

“This is partly the failure of the Sabah government for not putting the federal government on the right track,” he said.

Adding to the tension is the land grabs by government-linked companies like Felda, which have pushed those already on the fringes of society into ever smaller areas.

Knee-jerk reaction

Yong noted that there was little support for the government among the villagers in and around Kampung Tanduo during the intrusion because Felda had moved into areas occupied by the villagers.

“Felda has been very crude and at times, even rough with villagers.

“Felda even dug a huge drain almost like the Palestine settlement type, to bar villagers from entering certain areas which it now claimed and that has made the people very angry.

“When the dust has settled, the anger among the local people will become more apparent,” he said.

Yong also likened the new security precautions and related infrastructure in the east coast of the state to a knee-jerk reaction after an event.

“It’s like putting up iron grills or posting part-time security guards in your house when the neighbourhood is already infested… you think that your security guards and iron grills can look after you?” he asked.

The problem, Yong said, stems from economic issues which he said should be dealt with at a regional level by reviving the now idle BIMP-EAGA (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asia Growth Area) project.

“That’s very important for regional economic prosperity, especially in the Southern Philippines, so that it would create a situation whereby most of the illegal immigrants will voluntarily return to their country of origin, just like what happened in China where a majority of the Chinese migrants in Hong Kong returned to Shenzheng,” he said.

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