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Sabah leaders put in a fix over ‘Borneonisation’ suit

The Sabah government and the ruling BN members must support
the legal action, says UBF chairman Jeffrey Kitingan.
By Luke Rintod of FMT
KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition members have been put in a quandary by a legal suit filed recently by two Sabahans against the federal and state governments for their failure to adhere to the Malaysia Agreement.

The sticking point is that almost 50 years after Sabah agreed to join the Federation of Malaya together with Sarawak and Singapore, the “Borneonisation” of the federal civil service as spelt out in the agreement has still not taken place.

The plaintiffs, Bernard Fung Fon Chen and Mohd Nazib Maidan Dally, who filed the suit earlier this month, have gained widespread support in the state for their determination to challenge the government over the erosion of the state’s autonomy within Malaysia.

Lending his voice in support of the two is the chairman of Borneo Heritage Foundation (BHF) and the United Borneo Front (UBF) Jeffrey Kitingan.

Yesterday, Jeffrey reminded state leaders that they could not shy away from the fact that they will have to state their stand regarding the issue.

Borneonisation was one of the safeguards of the Borneo states then under British rule to prevent the re-colonisation by the Federation of Malaya.

It was agreed to by the people in the two colonies and the founding fathers of the federation when North Borneo, Sarawak, the then Federation of Malaya and Singapore (which was expelled in 1965) joined to form the new nation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.

“The Borneonisation of the federal civil service in Sabah and Sarawak was put forward to ensure the development of the federal civil service with home-grown talents who understand the local context of government administration,” Jeffrey said after more than a week of silence from various politicians over the suit.

Borneonisation is one of the state rights spelt enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement, and is also the first objective of the Borneo Agenda championed by UBF.

Compliance mechanism

Jeffrey said that under the Borneo Agenda, a compliance mechanism should be put in place to ensure compliance and fulfilment of the Malaysia Agreement as well as the safeguards contained in the Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee set out in Article VIII of the Malaysia Agreement.

Article VIII states: “The governments of the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo and Sarawak will take such legislative, executive or other action as may be required to implement the assurances, undertakings and recommendations contained in Chapter 3 of, and Annexes A and B to, the Report of the Inter-Governmental Committee signed on Feb 27, 1963, in so far as they are not implemented by express provision of the Constitution of Malaysia.”

Jeffrey said UBF also called for the restoration of Sabah and Sarawak as equal partners of the Federation of Malaysia as envisaged in the Malaysia Agreement.
“The Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak should be restored their rightful place in Malaysia and enjoy their fair share of progress and development in Malaysia to enable all Sabahans and Sarawakians to enjoy a better and more enriching quality of life,” he added.

His call to state leaders to make their stand over the suit puts them in difficult position.

If they champion the special autonomy of the state, they will be seen as biting the hand that feeds them and if they do not, Sabahans, who believe they have been given a raw deal, will know where their leaders stand.

Jeffrey believes the state BN leaders must fully support the Borneonisation suit and take action to instruct the state attorney-general to support it.

“The state government and the state BN leaders, especially Chief Minister (Musa Aman) and the Sabah federal ministers, should also use all their influence in Putrajaya to recognise and accept the Borneonisation suit and take steps to fully implement the Borneonisation of the federal civil service in Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

Prior to the recent appointment of two directors in the federal departments in the state, there were only two other Sabahans heading more than 70 federal agencies and departments in Sabah.

Jeffrey said that for full Borneonisation to take place with real meaning, not only must it take place in accordance with the letters of the law but it has also to be implemented fully in spirit as well.

“Borneonisation is not only about appointing a Sabahan or Sarawakian to head a post in Sabah and Sarawak. It is also about giving full authority to implement policies… and not to be puppets manipulated by Putrajaya.

“It would not be Borneonisation in its true sense if the director of a federal department in Sabah is headed by a Sabahan but everything, including even minor matters, needs to be approved by Putrajaya,” he said.

“The action taken by Fung and Nazib has shown that they love Sabah more and have stepped forward to safeguard the rights of all Sabahans.”

He urged all patriotic Sabahans and their Sarawak counterparts to fully support the Borneonisation suit.

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