Don’t use “wilayah” issue to win votes, say Dayak NGOs

Use of the term ‘wilayah’ or region for Sarawak depends on the outcome of the current negotiation on MA63 – Image from AskLegal

By S. Harrish

THE Federal government should not turn the issue of ‘wilayah’ into a political gimmick to win the hearts of voters. 

A number of Dayak-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Sabah and Sarawak made the call, saying the term “wilayah” was not based on cabinet decisions nor based on the law-making process through Parliament. 

In a joint statement, they said the term ‘wilayah’ was expressed spontaneously by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin during his recent visit to Sarawak. 

“This means, this branding is not only meaningless but also illegal. Secondly, will this declaration make Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners with Malaya? 

“By law, the declaration of ‘equal partners’ which is not supported by amendments and constitutional powers is unlikely to be implemented.  

“Therefore, it is important why Article 1 (2) of the Federal Constitution needs to be amended first,” the joint statement said. 

The Borneo Post said that according to the NGOs, what the people of Sabah and Sarawak are still waiting for is balanced development and economic progress so that they are on par with Peninsular Malaysia. 

“In this regard, we urge that the ‘branding’ of Sabah and Sarawak as ‘wilayah’ can be clarified in line with the aspirations of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63). 

“Secondly, the government needs to propose constitutional amendments on branding, legal implications, and allocation at the next parliamentary session, and thirdly, the Sabah and Sarawak state governments are allowed to coordinate their respective state administrative structures in accordance with this branding,” said the NGOs. 

They called for examination of the word ‘wilayah’ in the 1976 draft of the Federal Constitution and the proposal made by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in 2019. 

They also called for more commitment to developing Sabah and Sarawak.  

“The dissatisfaction of the people of Sabah and Sarawak with the federal government is that the development gap with Peninsular Malaysia is too big. This gap is due to the very unfair distribution of development allocations,” the statement said. 

According to them, this dissatisfaction has a basis because Sabah and Sarawak were promised development when Malaysia was formed. 

However, after Sabah and Sarawak contributed to the development of the country, the federal allocation received was not equal with the contribution of the two states, said the statement. 

The statement was jointly issued by Dayak Think Tank Association Sarawak (DTTAS) founder Wellie Henry Majang; DTTAS president Elias Lipi Mat; Society for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of Sarawak (Scrips) secretary general Michael Jok; Dayak National Congress (DNC) president Paul Raja; Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (Bopim) representative Dabiel John Jimbun; Gindol Initiative for Civil Society Borneo representative Kanul GindolPertubuhan Kebudayaan Rumpun Dayak Sabah (PKRDS) president Cleftus Mojingol; and Momogun National Congress (MNC) deputy president Dr Paul Porodong.