KOTA KINABALU: Sabahans are seeking greater autonomy in managing their affairs as Malaysia prepares to mark the nation's 58th anniversary on Thursday (Sept 16).
With the state, like its neighbour Sarawak, still seen to lag far behind Peninsular Malaysia in terms of development, sociopolitical observers expect more pressure to be put on the local leaders to push for their rights with the Federal Government.
Though promises were made to restore some of the rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) that have eroded over the years, many Sabahans want to see tangible results.
Local political observer Tony Paridi Bagang said Sabahans want to see how much of MA63, the basis of the formation of the federation in 1963, has been implemented.
"There are many unresolved issues and the Federal Government should work it out beyond a political agenda, giving priority to the people of Sabah.
"Perhaps it is time to consider giving autonomy to some public matters such as education and health,'' said Bagang, a senior lecturer with Sabah UiTM here.
"Sabahans are eager to know the progress of the high-level special Federal-state committee on MA63," he said.
"Sabahans want to see good and effective governance of the country that brings greater benefits to the state. Malaysia Day is a time to reflect and honour the foundation of Malaysia as agreed upon by our forefathers," he added.
"People are looking forward to a faster pace of development and hoping for more decentralisation," he added.
On thorny discussions over oil rights and royalties as well territorial sea laws, Bagang said an objective look at the issues should be made soon.
"Perhaps the special committee should take another look at its approach. Invite opposition parties and representatives from civil society, and work closely with Sarawak to resolve these once and for all," he said.
On the political front, Parti Warisan Sabah deputy president Datuk Darell Leiking said a total of 21 issues were identified during the Pakatan Harapan Plus government's tenure of 2018-2020.
He said 17 were resolved and four main issues – petroleum oil royalty and cash payments, mineral oil and oilfields, the Territorial Seas Act 2012 (Act 750) and state rights over the continental shelf – needed to be resolved.
"The remaining four issues must be resolved for Malaysia Day to be meaningful," he said, adding that it would not be easy as it required the repeal of certain laws as well as amendments to the Constitution.
"This is the only way forward to realise the intent and spirit of the formation of the Federation of Malaysia through MA63," he said, adding that there has been little or no progress on this since the fall of the PH Plus government.