KOTA KINABALU: The restoration of the autonomous rights it receives under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) should be the Sabah government's priority, says Opposition leader Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal.
He said the priority is for the state to restore its rights over revenue from taxation, tourism and deep-sea fishing as the state would be able to better manage its own needs without having to wait for Federal allocations.
He said the annual special grant from the Federal government to the state had not been updated since 1974.
"The amount allocated to Sabah is too small and insufficient, especially in the present times," he said on Wednesday (Sept 22) when debating the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin's speech at the opening of the second-term meeting of the state legislative assembly here that began on Tuesday (Sept 21).
Shafie noted that the return of 40% of net revenue earned from Sabah should be honoured as it was provided for under Schedule 10, Article 112 of the Federal Constitution.
"Arrears of the amount under special allocation to Sabah are about RM50bil," he told the state assembly which was meeting for the first time this year due to Covid-19 movement restrictions.
The former chief minister also said that income from Sabah's tourism sector hardly benefits the state coffers.
"Sabah is only given revenue from room accommodation tax. For example, in 2019, the revenue from the tourism sector in Sabah was RM1bil but Sabah was only given RM3mil.
"The formula must be updated in line with MA63, which requires the state to get back 40% of total revenue," he added.
Similarly, Shafie said the state should pursue with the Federal government to put deep-sea fishing licensing under the purview of the state government.
"Ships from other states and from abroad such as Vietnam enter Sabah waters to carry out fishing activities.
"Do they get a licence from the Federal government? In this case, Sabah has no power even though it occurs in Sabah waters," he added.
Shafie also highlighted the longstanding issue of higher and fairer oil royalties that should be pursued.
He also hoped the state government would look at restoring the Yang di-Pertua Negeri's power to appoint a judicial commissioner in Sabah.
"The governor has such powers on the advice of the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak," he said, adding that the appointment is currently made by the Judicial Appointments Committee in Putrajaya.
He said it is important for judicial commissioners to come from Sabah as there are many cases involving land issues that depend on state laws such as the Land Ordinance and not the National Land Code applicable in the Peninsula.