PUTRAJAYA: The government has a duty to fulfil the terms of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) as it is a legal document that must be treated with sanctity and respect, say legal experts and analysts.
They described it as a good start the government’s announcement yesterday that it was serious in implementing MA63 by first offering Sabah and Sarawak a “low-hanging fruit”.
These could be quickly implemented before moving on to the more complex matters in the agreement, they added.
Constitutional expert Emeritus Prof Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi of Universiti Malaya said every government that rules Malaysia was bound by the agreement.
He described MA63 as the political and moral foundation upon which the legal provisions of the 1963 constitutional changes rested.
“For this reason, MA63 should be regarded with special sanctity. Note, however, that after 1963 some constitutional amendments passed by Parliament diluted some of the native rights of Sabah and Sarawak.
“Surprisingly, Sabah and Sarawak legislators lent their support to these amendments which therefore bind us all. In addition to some amendments to the Federal Constitution, many economic, budgetary, religious, linguistic and immigration policies have affected Sabah and Sarawak badly.
“We need to restore Sabah and Sarawak’s special, asymmetrical position. The ultimate solution is through the politics of negotiation.
“But there is nothing to prevent Sabah and Sarawak from seeking judicial review in the superior courts,” said Prof Shad Saleem.
Universiti Institut Teknologi Mara Sabah political economist Dr Firdausi Suffian said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has decided on the part of the agreement that he can fulfil as he is also the Finance Minister.
“What Anwar is trying to do is offer the low-hanging fruit to the two states, such as the gas regulatory powers.
“In allowing the two states to make the decisions on projects below RM50mil, it has to do with decentralisation of power to the state government. These were election promises,” he added.
On the special annual allocation under 112(D) of the MA63, Firdausi said there was much ambiguity on how to do so and what formula to use.
“As to the 40% revenue that MA63 stated should be given to the states, there must be a formula. Let’s start somewhere, perhaps with 5%.
“If there is political will and there is data, the bureaucrats can come up with a formula. This actually involves institutional constraints, but the demand must already be put on the table.
“The process must begin somewhere,” he said, adding that MA63 had been largely unfulfilled due to the centralised characteristic of the Federal Government.
Economist and former Bank Negara deputy governor Tan Sri Lin See Yan said ensuring Sabah and Sarawak enjoyed their rights was key to developing both states.
“The key to success there would be to use science and technology, to which we readily have access. Our future lies in agricultural food technology. We have well-educated young people. We should take advantage of it,” he said.
Advising Anwar to “think big and open up”, he called for schemes such as land for the landless, Felda-style, which he said should also be “colour-blind”.
“We must go in a big way into food and fruit production, such as in Chile, Argentina and Taiwan,” Lin said, adding that Sabah and Sarawak would not be left behind in development if this was done.