BN unreliable so treat Borneo bloc well, Anwar urged

Council of Professors fellow Jeniri Amir says the Sabah and Sarawak coalitions and parties could well be kingmakers in the next general election.

(FMT) – A political analyst has urged Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to deliver on pledges to honour the rights of Sabah and Sarawak promised during the formation of Malaysia 60 years ago.

Jeniri Amir said this was necessary as the Borneo bloc could be kingmakers in the next general election.

“Anwar can no longer rely on Barisan Nasional as their poor run in the polls might continue, so the Borneo bloc will be key (for) Pakatan Harapan in the next general election,” Jeniri told FMT.

The Council of Professors’ fellow said this was why it was important for Anwar to treat Sabah and Sarawak better than previous governments.

In the last general election, BN, which administered the country for over 60 years, only won 30 of the 222 parliamentary seats up for grabs. The coalition’s poor run of form continued in the six state polls on Aug 12 where it won only 19 of the 108 seats it contested.

“Whatever is enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) should be fulfilled and it is very important for Anwar to narrow socioeconomic gaps between East and West Malaysia,” Jeniri said.

He said the Borneo bloc, an informal grouping of the East Malaysian coalitions and parties backing Anwar, will likely continue to back the PH chairman as prime minister if he delivers on MA63.

Since coming to power last October, Anwar has increased the annual special grants for Sarawak and Sabah, and given both governments the authority to implement infrastructure projects valued at up to RM50 million in their respective states.

He has also returned regulatory power over Sabah’s gas supply to the state.

Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said Anwar would be making a “smart move” by devolving some existing federal powers to the Bornean states.

“If the Borneo states want control over education or public health, they will need to cover the costs themselves.

“The federal government can carve out allocations meant for Sabah and Sarawak under the national budget and give it to the two states to spend for their education or health needs.”

However, Oh said he did not believe Putrajaya was ready to fulfil Sabah and Sarawak’s demand to occupy one-third of the seats in parliament as stipulated under MA63.

He said this is because Malaya-centric politics still “rules the day”.

“However, Anwar should consider it as in principle it would strengthen his hand against the green wave, as the moderate East Malaysians would now have a larger share of parliamentary seats.

“But the process of attempting to do so would rile up the green wave,” he said, alluding to the term coined to illustrate the political rise of Perikatan Nasional.

Currently, Sabah and Sarawak collectively hold 56 seats in the Dewan Rakyat, a quarter of the 222 parliamentary seats.