Malay Rulers must be consulted before we can call Sabah and Sarawak regions, says Anwar

KUCHING: Any change in the designation of Sabah and Sarawak from states to regions must first be referred to the Malay Rulers, says Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

However, the Prime Minister said whatever terminology was used would not affect the status of Sabah and Sarawak as separate and equal entities with Peninsular Malaysia.

He said it was clearly stated in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and Federal Constitution that the Federation of Malaysia comprised the states of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak.

"As this involves amending the Constitution, the views of the Malay Rulers are important before we bring it up for consideration by the Cabinet.

"Although the term has not been changed, the status is clear because MA63 was agreed between the Federation of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak as three separate entities," he told a press conference after chairing the MA63 implementation action council meeting here on Friday (Jan 20).

Anwar said it was clear in terms of implementation that the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak were three entities.

"Whether we call them states or regions, it doesn't change the government's stand that Sabah is one entity, Sarawak is one entity and the peninsula is one entity.

"But the amendment of these terms should be referred to the Malay Rulers," he said, adding that the process of consultation should be respected.

He also said he had not brought up the matter with the Malay Rulers but had an initial discussion with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

"What's important is that it doesn't change the status of Sabah and Sarawak. The term does not affect our recognition of Sabah and Sarawak as entities," he reiterated.

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamid said in his policy speech at the Umno general assembly that Sabah and Sarawak were now accorded the status of regions instead of states within Malaysia.

In response, Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg said this was just a proposal and had not been gazetted.

He also said Sarawak should have been recognised as a region since Malaysia's formation in 1963.

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