A free and independent Sarawak

By Maclean Patrick, Free Malaysia Today

In the 18-Point Agreement with the Federation of Malaya, Sarawak has been given self-governing authority.

This document forms the cornerstone of Sarawak’s entry into the Federation of Malaysia and should be the measure by which the state evaluates any new policy formulated by the federal government.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) government has all along stated that Sarawak could not survive without a BN government. This is the slogan being chanted by BN representatives with the state election around the corner.

This idea is erroneous since Sarawak existed as a self-governing mini-nation long before the idea of the Federation of Malaysia was mooted.

It was not until June 21, 1962 – the day the Cobbold Report was completed and submitted to the prime ministers of Britain and Malaya – that a recommendation was was made and approved to form a federated Malaysia.

The reason why this recommendation was accepted is a mystery since the Cobbold Commission found that only 33% were in full support of a merger with Malaya. The other two-thirds were divided among themselves: some wanted full independence first before any merger, some wanted safeguards put in place first while others were totally against the whole notion of a merger.

Needless to say, on Sept 26, 1962, Sarawak did agree to be part of the federation but only if the 18-point agreement was in place to safeguard its interest.

The rest is history and Sarawak became part of Malaysia.

Mind-boggling ignorance

Yet, it boggles the mind to see the ignorance of the BN government towards this agreement. Suffice to say, the agreement was broken not by Sarawak but by the federation on many fronts.

The impounding of the bibles (which were eventually released) at Klang Port and Kuching Port, goes against Point One of the agreement: “While there was no objection to Islam being the national religion of Malaysia, there should be no state religion in Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah), and the provisions relating to Islam in the present Constitution of Malaya should not apply to Borneo.”

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz used the pending court case against the use of the term “Allah” by The Herald as the reason for impounding the bibles. But he made a mistake.

The Federal Court case should have no bearing on the importing of the bibles by Sarawak since it is practising its right to freedom of religion. Moreover, the holy books are meant for distribution in the state.

How Nazri can link a court case to the issue of impounded bibles is incredible. But it begs the main question: why impound the holy books in the first place?

Can Sarawak secede from the federation to form an independent nation? Unfortunately not, if you read Point Seven of the agreement: “There should be no right to secede from the federation.”

Yet in looking at the heart of the whole agreement, one can surmise that Sarawak can act independently of the federal government.

On the issue of the federal government’s allocation for the state, one wonders why Point 11 of the agreement is not followed: “Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah) should retain control of its own finance, development and tariff, and should have the right to work up its own taxation and to raise loans on its own credit.”

Fundamental right

Instead of the federation allocating money to Sarawak, the state should be the one giving pocket money to the federation. Thus, the BN government should not use the development-funding-blackmail route to woo voters every time a general election comes around. Sarawak can claim the right to be financially independent and it is provided for in the 18-Point Agreement.

This fundamental right to self-govern and to act independently of the federation has been diluted or ignored by the BN government and kept hidden from the public eye.