Give more autonomy to Sarawak, Sabah, say experts

PUTRAJAYA should cede all powers except those relating to defence and foreign affairs, to Sabah and Sarawak, experts say.

Giving the two East Malaysian states more autonomy will lead to a fairer distribution of wealth there, they said in an online forum, FMT reported.

Economics professor Rajah Rasiah and political analyst Bridget Welsh pointed out that economic inequity and poverty were still major issues affecting Sabah and Sarawak, despite being oil-rich states.

Other panelists, including former ex-Pandungan assemblyman Dominique Ng and author Zainnal Ajamain, also highlighted the poor economic advancement in the two states when compared with the peninsula, even after 58 years of being part of Malaysia.

Commenting on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), the panelists said there have been no updates from the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration on the implementation of its 21 points, or whether the restoration of Sabah and Sarawak’s rights would be tabled again in Parliament.

They added that the report on the 21 points was now placed under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), to the disappointment of the people.

Moving forward, the panelists urged the federal government to review the imbalance of economic and political power in Sabah and Sarawak, as without both states, Malaysia would cease to exist.

The online forum, chaired by former CEO of the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) Sabah Johan Ariffin Samad, was organised by Malaysia First, a group that promotes the need for a third force in Malaysia.