Two states regain some autonomy

Historic decision: The formal surrender of the Sipadan and Ligitan islands entails the handing over of full administrative control to Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: There has finally been a breakthrough on two long-standing issues in Sabah and Sarawak, thanks to the formation of the Special Council on Malaysia Agreement 1963, says Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) said the council has agreed to hand over the administration of Sipadan and Ligitan islands to the Sabah government, while Sarawak would have full control of its gas distribution.

He said the breakthrough was certainly good news for the Perikatan Nasional government as it heads towards the next general election.

This came on the back of a working visit by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to both states recently.

Ongkili said the decisions were made during a two-hour meeting on Tuesday, which was also attended by Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor and Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg.

“During the meeting, two historic decisions were made, one being the formal surrender of Sipadan and Ligitan islands to Sabah, which means full authority and control over the administration of both islands, ” he said yesterday.

He said Muhyiddin, who chairs the council, decided that Sabah has sovereign rights to the two islands, which would be put under the supervision of Sabah Parks and placed under protection of the Protected Areas and Protected Places Act.

“However, this is with the exception of security control, which will still be under the purview of the Federal Government.

“The Sabah and Sarawak affairs division and the National Security Council will be arranging for the full handover, ” he said.

Ongkili, who heads the secretariat of the special council, said the handover to Sarawak over the control and management of gas distribution under the Distribution of Gas Ordinance would begin June 1.

He said the two issues were resolved within four months of the council holding its first meeting last December.

He said the council has met many milestones and achieved tangible outcomes, both in policy and laws, especially in terms of aspirations and goals of fulfilling the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) terms since its formation under the Perikatan government a year ago.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin, who heads the security working committee under the special council, as well as Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed and Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan, in charge of the socio-economy and equal partner working committees, presented their findings during the meetings.

“Under the equal partner working committee, two papers were tabled: one on the proposed constitutional amendments under Articles 1 (2) and 160 (2) of the Federal Constitution, which deal with the definition of the Federation, ” Ongkili said.

He said the legal team, chaired by Attorney General Tan Sri Idrus Harun and Sabah and Sarawak Attorneys General, would conduct a series of meetings to iron out outstanding issues.

The second report involved judiciary issues in the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak whereby a committee has been set up to sit with the Attorneys General of Sabah and Sarawak.

In his report, Hamzah touched on the outcome of meetings on illegal immigrants, the Palau community and national registration issues on laws being infringed in both states.

Mustapa presented poverty data for Sabah and Sarawak and a detailed report on infrastructure, especially on water, roads, digital and health, as well as requirements and proposed solutions.

The committee will also be setting up a database and monitoring centre for the 12th Malaysia Plan for Sabah and Sarawak in the Economic Planning Unit.

Ongkili said a joint consultative review committee was also set up to look into special grants, including the 40% reimbursable provision for Sabah as stipulated under Article 112 (D) of the Federal Constitution.

He said during the Pakatan Harapan administration, it claimed that 17 of the 21 issues raised had been addressed.

“These were mere commitments to resolve the 17 issues but policies, laws and regulations had yet to be amended or tabled in the state assemblies or Parliament.

“Through the special council, the government is now making these amendments, ” he said.

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