Sabah and S’wak nationalists mulling a Hindraf


( – Nationalist groups in Sabah and Sarawak may take a leaf out of Hindraf’s book in their fight to make the two states equal partners to Peninsular Malaysia.

Hindraf had in 2007 organised a massive rally in Kuala Lumpur to highlight the plight of marginalised Indian Malaysians, and now the Sabah and Sarawak groups are seriously considering doing something similar to highlight their grievances.

At a forum on the 1963 Malaysia Agreement yesterday, the groups hailed a proposal from the floor for them to march to Putrajaya to express their dissatisfation with the federal government.

The groups are also looking into the possibility of filing a suit against the British government to seek a declaration that the 1963 agreement is null and void.

Seasoned Sabah politician Jeffery Kitingan said the forum held in Kuala Lumpur was aimed at semmto send a message to the federal government to open up and respond to their views.

“Don’t leave it hanging there, you have to deal with it. We are not just here to express our frustrations and suggestions,” Kitingan told reporters after the forum.

Kitingan, who is the president of the Borneo Heritage Foundation(BHF), responded warmly to the suggestion by a member of the audience to hold a march to Putrajaya, saying “there is nothing wrong with it.”

About 50 people who had stayed on until the end of the four-hour forum were also supportive of the “march to Putrajaya” idea and they are hoping to call upon about 300,000 Sabahans and Sarawakians who are working in peninsular Malaysia to join the march.

Hindraf chairman P. Waytha Moorthy too spoke in support of the idea, pointing to the presence of the large number of Sabahans and Sarawakians in the peninsula.

To recap, Hindraf held a rally in Kuala Lumpur in 2007 to send a memorandum to the British High Commission to voice the grievances of the Indian Malaysians against the British government for bringing the community to Malaya but allegedly failing to ensure that their interest was safeguarded under the Constitution.

The rally was said to be one of the reasons for BN losing its two-thirds majority in the watershed 2008 general election.

Subsequently, Hindraf brought a civil suit againts the British government in 2012.

Sharing Hindraf’s experience at the forum Waytha Moorthy said the Sabah and Sarawak nationalists had four options in furthering their struggles.

1) Take their fight to the international level by lobbying bodies such as the United Nations, British Parliament, European Union Parliament, and the United States Congress.

2) Carry out local campaigns in both Sabah and Sarawak as well as the peninsula to grab the attention of the federal government,

3) Lobby Sabah and Sarawak state assembly members to initiate a motion to rescind the Malaysia Agreement at the two assemblies, and

4) Initiate civil action against the British government to seek a declaration in the British courts that the 1963 agreement is unlawful.

“I am in active discussion with the (forum) organisers – Sarawak Association for People’s Aspiration (SAPA) and BHF – for both Sabah and Sarawak to make similar suit,” said Waytha Moorthy.

SAPA president Lina Soo said they are looking at filing a class action civil suit against the British government in five years’ time, as they need to do look through the archives in London to search for relevant documents to support their case.

Also, they need to raise money to pay for the legal costs.

“The cost is about 30,000 to 40,000 pounds,” she told

Soo said that the plaintiffs would include various communities and non-governmental organisations in Sabah and Sarawak.

When asked by political analyst Dr Wong Chin Huat from Penang Institute as to whether any country had been able to obtain independence through civil suits, Soo replied that even though there was no such precedent it is worth trying.

Soo, who presented a paper on the legality of the the Malaysia Agreement, argued that the document was invalid as Sabah and Sarawak were not sovereign entities in 1963 but were instead British colonies.

She argued that the agreement was an international treaty but it was not in compliance with the rules of international law and the UN Decolonisation Declaration 1960.

She submitted that the Malaysia Agreement was signed by the British on behalf of Sabah and Sarawak, who were then British colonies.

Also, Soo said the agreement was pushed through after the Sabahans and Sarawakians objected in a large scale.  She pointed out that  the Cobbold Commission which was formed to obtain feedback only met with 4,000 people, whereas more than 12,000 people signed against the formation of the federation.

Further, she said, draconian laws such as Internal Security Act and Restricted Residence Act were used to deter people from opposing the agreement.

She added that the British colonial government had coerced the people to accept the agreement by initiating a Brunei Uprising and used it as an excuse to crush the anti-Malaysia movement.

She said these would be among the points they would raise when arguing their case in the court later.