Putrajaya says Constitution governs relations between states after Johor makes demand

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

PUTRAJAYA, June 12 — The Anwar administration today responded to calls by some factions to review Johor’s relations with the federal government, asserting that any demand made by state governments cannot supersede the Constitution.

In a statement issued on behalf of the federal government, Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil stressed that Malaysia was founded on the spirit of federalism that was agreed upon by all states, including Johor.

"The Cabinet takes note of the statements made by several parties regarding federal relations with the state governments," Fahmi said at the weekly post-Cabinet meeting press conference here.

"Malaysia was formed on the principle of federalism that is the core foundation of the Federal Constitution. The nation's development and progress is based on the collective strength of the federal and states.

"Therefore the Federal Constitution should be the basis in safeguarding state interests, and in determining relations between the federal government and the states," he added.

The statement came amid some grumbling over what a few leaders in Johor perceived to be unfair relations between the state and Putrajaya.

Yesterday, Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi issued a public statement calling for 30 per cent of the state’s tax collection to be retained, a surprised move that observers said could test relations with the central government.

The Cabinet-endorsed statement did not explicitly refer to Johor, but was highly likely alluded to the statement made by the state's vocal monarch, Johor Regent Tunku Ismail Ibrahim, who openly said Johor should not be seen as "apart" of Malaysia.

In a stinging remark made at a public forum, he claimed Johor has been turned into a "beggar state" that gets little of the tax it contributes yearly. He claimed Johor contributed up to RM48 billion in tax but received less than one per cent of it yearly.

Tunku Ismail also suggested that Johor should be more "an equal partner" to the federal government.

Official data indicates that Johor, Malaysia's southernmost state that borders Singapore, contributed much less than that. Revenue generated by the state are mostly from sales taxes, petroleum royalties, land premiums and investment incomes.

In 2023, Sarawak, Sabah, Selangor, Terengganu and Johor collectively contributed RM22.3 billion to the total state-generated revenue.