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The root cause of poverty in Sabah, Sarawak exposed

By Daniel John Jambun

KOTA KINABALU: Without much further ado, I will delve immediately into

the subject proper of my talk today. Please bear with me. I will keep
my address as brief as possible so that we may all ponder on the
essential points that I am trying to make.
 I have eight major aspects to put before you today as Food for
Thought and you may want to deliberate on them later among yourselves
or ask me some questions at the end of my address.

As you all know, the World Bank confirmed late last year that Sabah

and Sarawak had achieved the dubious distinction of bring the poorest
and second poorest states in Malaysia. This is a figure derived at by
using the figures of the Economic Planning Units of the Sabah and
Sarawak Governments and the Economic Planning Unit in Putrajaya.

Forty per cent of Malaysia’s poor, according to the World Bank, are in

Sabah. This means that almost half of the poor people in Malaysia are
in Sabah.

The poverty figures should come as no surprise since both Sabah and

Sarawak are actually colonies of Peninsular Malaysia. More on that

Just contrast the economic development of Sabah and Sarawak with the

status of neighbouring Brunei which stayed out from the Malaysian
Federation at the last minute in 1963 and Singapore which left after
two years in 1965.

By the end of last year, the Singapore economy at US$ 210 billion GDP

was bigger than the entire Malaysian economy by US$ 5 billion. This is
indeed a shameful state of affairs and one that calls for the
leadership in Putrajaya to admit that they are an incompetent and
corrupt lot and beyond any redemption in this life or the next. They
should head for the nearest toilet bowl to collectively dip their
faces. It would no longer do for Putrajaya to continue in a state of
denial. Most of the much smaller Malaysian economy vis-à-vis Singapore
is concentrated in Peninsular Malaysia.

Did Sabah and Sarawak agree to federate together with Malaya and

Singapore in 1963 to end up at the bottom of the dung heap along with
the marginalized and disenfranchised elements of the Third Force in
Peninsular Malaysia?

Patently, it’s clear that something went seriously wrong for Sabah and

Sarawak in the Malaysian Federation somewhere between 1963 and 2011.
Most of the damage to the interests of the two Malaysian Borneo states
in fact took place in the early years of independence.

The populations of Sabah and Sarawak may be much smaller than that of

Peninsular Malaysia but the fact remains that this is compensated by
the larger territorial area of Malaysian Borneo comparatively, its
huge economic resources including vast acres of fertile land and
consequently much bigger economic potential.

This is not however reflected in the Malaysian Parliament where the

number of seats allotted to Malaysian Borneo at presents stands at 57
including the one held by the Federal Territory of Labuan. Peninsular
Malaysia meanwhile has 165 seats in Parliament i.e. more than
two-thirds – 148 seats -- and thereby depriving Sabah and Sarawak of
veto power in legislation. It is clear that 18 of the seats held by
Peninsular Malaysia in fact belongs to Sabah and Sarawak. That would
left Peninsular Malaysia with 147 seats i.e. one short of the
two-thirds majority.

The rot set in when Singapore’s exit from Malaysia saw Peninsular

Malaysia taking half the 15 seats held by the island in Parliament.
This altered the previous balance in Parliament between Peninsular
Malaysia on the one hand and, on the other hand, Singapore, Sabah and
Sarawak in the collective.

Peninsular Malaysian politicians like to make much of the issue that

their much larger population must be reflected in the number of seats
held in Parliament. If that’s the case, why is that Sabah with a much
larger population of 3.2 million than Sarawak’s 2.5 million has to
make do with 25 seats in Parliament compared with the latter’s 31
seats. If Sarawak’s much larger territory vis-à-vis Sabah’s and the
latter’s much larger population vis-avis the former’s are both taken
into consideration, both states should have the same number of seats
in Parliament.

In any case, there’s no dispute between Sabah and Sarawak on the

allocation of seats in Parliament. It’s immaterial whether Sabah or
Sarawak, in comparison with each other, has a much larger number of
parliamentary seats. The pertinent point is that Sabah and Sarawak,
collectively, must have at least one seat more than one-third in
Parliament. The veto power of Sabah and Sarawak in the Malaysian
Parliament must be restored.

Peninsular Malaysian politicians routinely also claim that rural seats

must be given a certain weightage to compensate for their relative
under-development vis-avis urban seats. This is supposed to account
for rural seats having a smaller number of voters compared to those in
the urban areas.

If that’s the case, why is this formula not being applied in Sabah and

Sarawak, which are largely rural, along the lines in Peninsular

The gross under-representation of Sabah and Sarawak in the Malaysian

Parliament, and the deprival of their veto power in the process, has a
direct co-relation to the grinding poverty levels in Malaysian

It is recommended that no new Parliamentary seats be allocated to

Peninsular Malaysia in future increases. If a moratorium is placed on
their current 165 seats – to be taken as two-thirds minus one in a new
equation – some semblance of balance can be restored in the Malaysian

Sabah and Sarawak’s collective 57 seats, including Labuan one, must be

increased to one plus 82 i.e. 83 seats. If the present 57 seats are
deducted from the new proposed total, this gives us additional and new
seats totaling 26 which can be shared equally between Sabah and

This will be reflected in the Malaysian Parliament as follows: Sabah

26 + 13 for 39 seats; Sarawak 31 + 13 for 43 seats; and Peninsular
Malaysia 164 seats.

The composition of seats in the Malaysian Parliament must be

considered together with the question of revenue sharing between the
federal and state governments in general and in particular with the
so-called autonomous status of Sabah and Sarawak.

At present, the federal government takes all revenue from Sabah and

Sarawak, leaving little for the states and leaving them with very
little, if at all, revenue-raising powers. In return, very little of
the federal revenue from Sabah and Sarawak comes back to the two
states. This is the second major reason for the grinding poverty in
Malaysia Borneo apart from unfair representation in the Parliament
i.e. the first major reason.

The third major reason for our poverty is the fact that the federal

government through Petronas leaves only 5 per cent of the oil and gas
revenue in Sabah and Sarawak. Contrast this with the 70 per cent that
the provinces are allowed to keep in neighbouring Indonesia. The
central government in Jakarta takes only 30 per cent.

The fourth major reason for poverty is the fact that there’s very

little oil and gas infrastructure in Sabah and Sarawak. No attempts
have been made to diversify the oil and gas sector through downstream
activities and as well facilitate backward-and-forward integration.

The fifth major reason is that Borneonisation of the federal service

in Sabah and Sarawak have been non-starters and where implemented,
non-Muslim natives and the Chinese and others have been deliberately
left out in line with the vile racist master race policy of ketuanan
Melayu (Malay supremacy and dominance).

The sixth major reason for the grinding poverty levels in Sabah and

Sarawak has been the refusal of the federal government and their
stooge governments in Sabah and Sarawak to respect the Adat.

Among others, this has seen the wholesale confiscation – with the

active connivance of the police and Land Office -- of native customary
rights (NCR) land and their alienation to the respective state
government (by way of extension of forest reserves and the like), to
state agencies, GLCs, federal agencies and private companies run by
cronies of the ruling party. The phenomenon has been well-documented
in numerous cases in court and in thousands of complaints lodged with
the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) and at the respective
Land Offices themselves in Sabah and Sarawak.

This is a deliberate and systematic attempt to reduce the native

communities of Sabah and Sarawak to the same status of the Orang Asli
in Peninsular Malaysia and the Indian underclass displaced and
dispossessed by the fragmentation of the estates and or their
conversion for the purposes of urban development.

Stranded in urban shanty-towns with no personal documents, little

marketable skills, often only a rudimentary education in Tamil, poor
command of English and Bahasa Malaysia and without any social safety
network, suicide is the only option for the Indian underclass given
the reality of no upward social mobility. These are the people
represented by Hindraf Makkal Sakthi. These are the people taking to
the streets ever so often these days and engaged in running battles
with the police and authorities as they walk the path of urban
guerrilla warfare and terrorism.

Likewise, the future of the natives companies in Sabah and Sarawak

will indeed be very bleak without the social safety network afforded
by NCR land. Therein lies the seeds of a bloody revolution in Borneo
especially when our people start committing suicide, like the Indian
underclass in Peninsular Malaysia, to opt out of a hopeless situation.

The native communities in Sabah and Sarawak are being pushed in the

same direction as the Indian underclass in Peninsular Malaysia which
is a whole lot worse than that of the Orang Asli who still have a
little land with them. But for the Orang Asli, how much more time do
they still have before they too start committing suicide on the scale
of the Indian underclass. Poverty, as Mahatma Gandhi once observed, is
the worst form of violence against a people.

The seventh major reason for the grinding poverty in Borneo is the

fact that Sabah and Sarawak are being treated as two of the states in
Malaysia. This certainly should not be the case if one reads the
Malaysia Agreement carefully, the 20/8 Points and other relevant
documents including declassified ones available in the United Kingdom.

Sabah and Sarawak came together with Singapore and Malaya in 1963 to

form the Federation of Malaysia as equal partners. This means that
Malaysia is a two-tier federation i.e. a federation of states in
Peninsular Malaysia which are part of a greater federation of Malaya,
Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore.

Hence, the federal government of Malaysia should be shared equally

between Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak i.e. leaving out
Singapore which has since quit the federation.

The departure of Singapore from Malaysia begs the question of whether

the original federation in 1963 still exists or whether Sabah and
Sarawak have been quietly incorporated as two of the states in the
1957 Federation of Malaya (now masquerading as Malaysia). This appears
to be the case and must be considered seriously by our legal
fraternity, the governments of Sabah, Sarawak, the federal government,
the government of the United Kingdom and the United Nations.

Moving forward, it must be clear by now that after nearly 50 years of

Malaysia, it cannot continue to be business as usual in Sabah and

Already, the federal government has been in non-compliance with the

Malaysia Agreement.

Non-compliance raises the question of whether a compliance mechanism

must be set up or whether both Sabah and Sarawak should appeal to the
international community and the United Nations to facilitate the
departure of the two states from the Malaysian Federation. Singapore
has been a precedent.

It’s unlikely that the Umno federal Government, obsessed with ketuanan

Melayu, will ever consider any compliance mechanism for the Malaysia
Agreement or give justice, belated as it may be, to Sabah and Sarawak.
This must be borne in mind by those who are currently flogging the
so-called Borneo Agenda with the hope that federal government will
come to its senses. It’s a case of too little, too late.

The departure of the British colonialists in 1963 in fact saw the

handover of our two states to new colonialists in Peninsular Malaysia
i.e. those who believe in the vile and racist master race policy of
ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy and dominance).

The ketuanan Melayu policy in Sabah and Sarawak is kept going by local

proxies of the ruling elite in Putrajaya. These stooges of Putrajaya
are traitors who have participated in the colonial divide-and-rule
policy of keeping the Chinese and majority non-Muslim natives out of
the political mainstream and from the leverages of power.

To add insult to injury, they have willingly participated in the

marginalization and disenfranchisement of their fellow countrymen
through the placement of illegal immigrants on the local electoral
rolls and the grant of MyKads through the backdoor by Putrajaya. What
happened to the security promised us by Federation in 1963? This is
the eighth major reason, but certainly not the last, for the grinding
poverty levels in Sabah and Sarawak.

Even more than the Chinese and non-Muslim natives communities, it’s

now the local Muslim native communities that are feeling the brunt of
marginalization and disenfranchisement. They see their already small
stake under Article 153 of the Federal Constitution being shared with
the instant natives created from among the illegal immigrants.

In Sabah, local proxies of Putrajaya have now been dispensed with and

Umno itself has struck roots to take half the seats in the state
assembly and half the Sabah parliamentary seats. To mask their true
intention, they invited MCA, MIC, Gerakan and the PPP along for
company and recently came up with the so-called 1Malaysia policy. This
further ensures the continued enslavement of Sabah.

In Sarawak, Umno is poised to enter the state the manner that they

have done in Sabah. This is to ensure that the majority Dayak
community will never be able to rule their own state.

It’s time for the international community and the United Nations to

enter the picture and rescue Sabah and Sarawak from the gross
violations of human rights taking place and restore our sovereignty
and territorial integrity and guarantee our security. There’s no
longer any hope for us in Sabah and Sarawak. Something must be done,
and done quickly, before the situation further degenerates into an
even greater vicious cycle of poverty, ignorance, disease and


  1. PLEASE....dont waste any more time...just report this unfairness to UNITED NATIONS!!!!!....SABAH n SARAWAK is being used...SABAH n SARAWAk is better without MALAYSIA...we should build our own country by the name NORTH BORNEO FEDERATION! 16 years old...even i know...what is best for SABAH n SARAWAk..:(

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