Political scientist downplays Tok Mat's proposal for a new Malaysia Agreement

·3-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUCHING, July 23 — A political scientist today said he will not take seriously a proposal by Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan for a new Malaysia Agreement to replace the one inked in 1963, even if the politicians of Sabah and Sarawak reacted positively to it.

Professor Dr James Chin, the director of the Asia Institute, University of Tasmania, said he can guarantee that there is no appetite “at all among the Malayan political establishment to come up with a new agreement.”

“It is not something on their radar and it is not something in their radar for many years to come,” he said at a 722 Sarawak Independence Day summit via zoom.

The summit was jointly organised by civil societies Sarawak People’s Congress and Dayak Interests Group.

Chin said Mohamad or commonly known as Tok Mat backed down with the proposal due to the criticisms from politicians in Sabah and Sarawak.

He suggested the proposal was merely an off-the-cuff remark by Mohamad when he opened the Sabah BN convention in Penampang, Sabah, on July 2.

He said many politicians in Sabah and Sarawak challenged the proposal, adding that the only prominent political figure who supported it was Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, but the rest have all rejected it.

“I think my take of the situation is slightly different. I think the whole thing is more or less irrelevant. The reason is I spent many years interviewing officials on the Malayan side. Basically before 2008, not a single one of them mentioned MA63.

“It is not on their political radar, and even today if you speak to the majority of them, of course, they talk of MA63. But many of them do not have the specific details of the MA63,” Chin, who is from Sarawak, said.

He said their understanding of the MA63 is very simple, which is basically that Sarawak and Sabah are unhappy and it is more of a symbolic thing.

He said for the Malayan political establishment, Peninsular Malaysia, this issue is more about symbolism, like amending Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution.

“That is the sort of thing they are looking at, rather than the substantive issue of MA63. My take is that on the Malayan side there is very little understanding of the sentiments of Sarawak and Sabah post-MA63.

“For them, their attitude is that once you join Malaysia, you have to play by the rule of the game. But what they don’t realise is that when they talk about playing the rule of the game, they are talking about the rule of the game of the Malayan political establishment.

“That doesn’t take into account the sentiments or the practices of Sarawak and Sabah, That is their attitude,” Chin said.

Speaking at the Sarawak Day celebration in Sibu last night, Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg said the suggestion for MA63 to be changed should not have been made at all, more so when some of the existing rights and privileges of Sarawak have either been eroded or yet to be honoured after 59 years.

He said MA63 is a sacred agreement that cannot be changed or diluted in any way and in whatever form.

“What our Sarawak leaders had included then as provisions in the agreement as part of Malaysia were what they considered as necessary to protect the rights and interests of Sarawak and its people during their time, during our time and after our time,” the premier said.

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