KUCHING, Jan 15 — Parti Bansa Dayak (PBDS) president Bobby William today said the change in status of Sarawak from a state in Malaysia to one of three regions of the federation has little meaning without full compliance of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
He said matters such as education, health and land transport should be returned to Sarawak to comply with MA63 while the federal government will continue to take charge of defence, foreign relations and security.
“Education, health and land transport used to be under the Sarawak government’s control until they were taken over by the federal government within 10 years after Malaysia was formed in 1963,” Bobby said when asked to respond to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamid’s statement made at the recent Umno general assembly.
He believed that education, health and land transport were surrendered to the federal government as Sarawak did not have the financial capacity to manage them then.
“But when these matters are returned to Sarawak later, it does not mean that the federal government will not provide allocation to us to run these departments,” he added, pointing out that Sarawak also contributes annually to the federal government’s coffers through the collection of taxes.
Bobby said the change in status is necessary to differentiate Sarawak and Sabah from states that formed Malaya, adding that the change in status means Sarawak and Sabah are equal partners to Malaya.
“Sarawak, because of its huge size, cannot be compared to a tiny state like Perlis or Kedah,” he said, adding that he does not believe that the founding fathers would have agreed to the formation of Malaysia if they had known that Sarawak and Sabah were not equal to Malaya.
Bobby said that he welcomed a statement made by Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg that he would bring up the status issue with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim when they meet in Kuching next week.
“I hope something positive will come out of the meeting of the two leaders,” he said.
Ahmad Zahid, while delivering his presidential speech at the Umno general assembly on January 13, had said Sabah and Sarawak had been accorded the status of region and were no longer regarded as states within Malaysia.
He said the relocation of the Indonesian capital to East Kalimantan made the Sabah and Sarawak regions more strategic to be developed as new growth areas.
He added the unity government had a considerable legal and moral obligation towards Sabah and Sarawak.
However, earlier today, Abang Johari had said the change in status from state to region for Sarawak and Sabah was only Ahmad Zahid’s proposal.