Change from “states” to “territories. Real or cosmetic? ask Sabah leaders

Darell Leiking, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, Chan Foong Hin and Christina Liew – Pix from FMT

By John Isaac

SEVERAL Sabah politicians want to know if the purported change in the status of Sabah and Sarawak from “states” to “territories” is just cosmetic or whether it signifies real change

One of them, Warisan deputy president Darell Leiking, also said any change in the status of the two states must be brought to Parliament for debate.

Leiking, the Penampang MP, said changing the status without returning the rights of the states as enshrined under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) was pointless.

He said Sabah and Sarawak MPs, and even those from the peninsula, should be given the opportunity to have their say on the issue and eventually reach a consensus on the status and, most importantly, on what was owed to the states.

“Because this concerns changing the make-up of the federation – when we want to reshape, rename and recontextualise the federation – this must be brought to Parliament,” he told FMT.

“The name change is good, but (it’ll be) bad if (it’s) not brought up in Parliament for debate. What’s important are the contents of MA63, of which 17 (out of 21) issues were resolved during Pakatan Harapan’s reign.”

Leiking was commenting on a viral message over the status change of Sabah and Sarawak to “wilayah” (territories).

A government department in Labuan had posted information on its social media account over the purported change but the post was later taken down.

Earlier, on April 2, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had said Sabah and Sarawak had the same status as the peninsula, as a territory in the Federation of Malaysia.

It is understood that a number of government agencies have internally told their staff to use the term “territories” instead of “states” in their communications when referring to both Sabah and Sarawak from now.

Umno Supreme Council member Abdul Rahman Dahlan said Sabahans would only welcome the term change if it also reflected a change in the federal government’s policy towards Sabah.

“If not, it is only a cosmetic change and will not benefit the people,” he said on his Facebook account.

Sabah DAP secretary Chan Foong Hin said the PH government had tried to restore the status of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners in the federation through the Federal Constitution (Amendment) Bill in 2019 but it was defeated.

“What’s important is not the name but the substance (of MA63),” said the Kota Kinabalu MP.

Sabah PKR chief Christina Liew also asked if the two states were now equal partners to the peninsula as envisaged in MA63.

“The people have a right to know the implications or foreseeable repercussions of such a change,” said the Tawau MP.