Sabah’s right: Jeffrey disputes historian’s view

By Michael Kaung, FMT

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian history professor DS Ranjit has come under fire in Sabah for declaring that the people of the state no longer have the fundamental right to self-determination as their legislators had surrendered that power a long time ago.

The Universiti Malaya historian, whose talk entitled “Sabah prospects and retrospect: The aftermath of colonial rule” here on Thursday, put forward the argument that the British colony which had joined Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya to form Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963, would never be able to legally withdraw from the union.

The state’s autonomy champion, maverick politician Jeffrey Kitingan, promptly disputed this fact, saying the argument put forward by Ranjit was guesswork and unsound.

Jeffrey, the chairman of United Borneo Front (UBF), was imprisoned without trial under the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA) in 1991 for allegedly having secessionist views during the rule of Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) from 1986 to 1994.

“The major issue, with regard to Sabah’s right to secession, is the fact that the Malaysia Agreement is now viewed by the general opinion to be invalid from the moment Singapore left the federation,” he said.

“This is due to the fact that by normal understanding of law, if a signatory to an agreement withdraws from the agreement, the agreement automatically becomes invalid and no longer in effect.”

Sabah, Sarawak not consulted

Jeffrey reminded Ranjit that when Kuala Lumpur decided on the expulsion of Singapore, it did so unilaterally without consulting Sabah and Sarawak though they were equal partners in the formation of Malaysia.

“While this is another case of a condescending attitude of KL towards the Borneo states, it was also a contravention of the mutual agreement and mutual consultation as established during the signing of the Malaysia Agreement,” he said.

“As to the excuse that Sabah has no right to secede because the State Legislative Assembly passed a resolution that Sabah would not secede, we must remember that the same house could have made the opposite decision.

“The resolution can even be reversed today if enough members of the house agree to do it.”

Replying to Ranjit’s question that “…if the original agreement was null and void after Singapore’s expulsion, then why did the state assembly pass this law?”  Jeffrey said that the assembly must have made a resolution not to secede because of pressure from Kuala Lumpur, and there was fear that the agreement was actually null and void.

“If the agreement was still in effect and valid, why the need to pass a law to validate the agreement?” he asked.