SARAWAK recently celebrated its first official Sarawak Day celebration on July 22, 2016, commemorating the day it attained self-government from the British in 1963. It marks the 53rd anniversary of Sarawak self-government from the United Kingdom. Two months later, Sarawak together with Sabah, Singapore and the Malayan states agreed to establish the new, sovereign country of Malaysia.
There was a state-wide celebration in conjunction with the landmark event in Kuching, Sibu, Miri and other districts in Sarawak which has been declared as a State public holiday. The main event was held at Kuching Waterfront. The highlight of the celebration was the re-enactments of Sarawak’s history, starting from the rule of the Sultanate of Brunei in 1599 to 1842 and the Rajah Brooke administrative period from 1842 to 1941.
During the opening speech by Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Adenan Satem said his goal is to retake all the autonomy that Sarawak should have been granted according to the 1963 18-Point Agreement. He however also made it clear that his government is in now way seeking independence for Sarawak, but rather the recognition of Sarawak and Sabah as mainland Malaya’s equal partners within the Malaysian federation.
The State and the Federal government have both recognized that over the years, the rights of Sarawak under the Malaysia Agreement (MA63), Malaysia Act, IGC Report and CC Report were put aside and forgotten. Furthermore, Sabah and Sarawak’s status as a ‘equal partner’ of the Federation of Malaysia was reduced to a mere state when the Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution was amended in 1976, the same status as 11 peninsular states in Malaya.
In the same year, the Petroleum Development Act (1974) was also amended, granting Petronas ownership and exclusive rights and powers over Malaysia’s hydrocarbon resources and comes under direct purview of the Prime Minister. This further deprived Sarawak of the revenue generated from oil and gas found in its territory.
During the 1970s – 1980s, both the Federal and the State administrative cabinet members were to blame for the steady erosion of Sarawak’s rights. Little or no objections were voiced over the apparent ‘ignorance’ of the leaders to what was happening to Sabah and Sarawak. In addition, the passing of the Territorial Sea Act and the Continental Shelf Act further reduced Sarawak’s boundary and already limited power.
Now, under Adenan’s leadership, he has taken all the necessary measures to reclaim all that was lost and forgotten 53 years ago. He has gone above and beyond that which is expected of him as the Chief Minister of Sarawak after little more than two years at the helm as Chief Minister.
With over 53 successful administrative initiatives, winning the State Election for Barisan Nasional by a landslide, and securing the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak agreement on the devolution of powers to Sarawak, Sarawak Day is truly the first step towards reclaiming all those rights that Sarawakians have lost over the years.
So, to the opposition and Sarawak pro-sovereignty movement groups, you cannot ask for a better captain to steer Sarawak towards a brighter future. Calls for secession and playing on the sentiments of ‘anti-Malaya’ and anti-Federalism will only ruin Sarawak, breeding hatred and disunity for all Malaysians. Let the past be a stark reminder for all and honour those who have fallen or is still tirelessly fighting for Sarawak rights. Let’s work together in unity to reclaim the forgotten rights for the sake of our children and Sarawak’s future generations.
Maryam M. Richardson is an independent political analyst and Malaysian Access reader. Article written is strictly her personal view. Malaysian Access does not necessarily endorse the opinions given by any third party content provider.