Malaysiakini : The more realistic position is to see inter-governmental relations as
one of 1+2+11, ie, one federal government, two regional governments
(Sabah and Sarawak), and 11 state governments (Malaya).
second-tiered governments of regions and states are the divisions (in
Sabah and Sarawak), municipalities, and district councils (in Malaya)
that should be elected.
But more importantly, consigning the
federal government as the representatives of the 11 states, Sabah and
Sarawak should work closely with the 11 states who are also victims of
over-centralisation to demand decentralisation.
Sabah and Sarawak
should not fear that if 11 states get more power than they do now, Sabah
and Sarawak would be downgraded to be on par with them. The history of
Malaysia’s formation has made it clear that Sabah and Sarawak would
enjoy special status and more rights than the Malayan states, a reality
that those states would not challenge.
A 2+11 team-up between East
and West Malaysia can therefore be a win-win scenario: the 11 states
get more rights than they do now, and the two regions get more rights
than both now and compared to the Malayan states.
What the 2+11
team-up can demand to include concurrent powers in policy domains like
education and health, sharing of tax revenues and an elected and
enhanced senate with veto power given to Sabah and Sarawak.
Article 1(2) of the Federal Constitution signifies equal partnership of Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak.
the beginning of the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the governance of
at least 10 departments in Sabah and Sarawak are autonomous, namely:
agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, fishery, water, public works,
labour, electricity, wildlife, local government.
In the peninsula, these 10 departments are being governed at the
federal level. There is a need to coordinate the planning, organising,
and budgeting of these 10 departments at the Malaysian level.
renegotiation of Malaysia’s federalism would need an Inter-Governmental
Committee 2.0 (IGC 2.0) with the federal government, two regional
governments and 11 state governments working together to enhance
Malaysia’s political transformation and economic resilience.
I have personally advocated for IGC 2.0 in forums organised by Wisdom Foundation since early 2021.
Harapan must take a bold lead in offering Malaysia a new federal deal,
which would require a lot of communication and trust-building. BN and PN
would bend over to woo the East Malaysian parties but they are trapped
in the Malayan-centric mindset, resulting in perfunctory promises which
do not build political support for decentralisation in Malaya.
make credible and viable offers, Harapan must first form a federal-state
council within its own, with the parliamentary opposition leader, the
chief ministers of Selangor, Penang, and Negeri Sembilan, as well as
other key Harapan leaders of Sabah, Sarawak, and Malaya to study and
discuss how the interests of the federal government, regions and states
can be rationalised and balanced.
I am happy to offer myself to play an executive role in the formation of this important consultative body.
a start, Harapan should campaign to end the “suppression” of Borneo
voters due to the denial of absentee voting rights. Currently, 300,000
Sabahans and 200,000 Sarawakians live in the peninsula, mostly because
they don’t have enough job or education opportunities in their home
states. To ask them to take leave and fork out some RM1,000 to go home
to vote is utterly unfair.
Due to this and other factors, we see
much lower turnout in Sarawak and Sabah than other parts of Malaysia.
When the last three general elections registered national turnouts at 76
percent (2008), 85 percent (2013) and 82 percent (2018), Sarawak
registered only 65 percent, 76 percent, and 73 percent for its
parliamentary elections for the same period. This is lower by 9-11
percentage points while Sabah recorded only 69 percent, 80 percent, and
77 percent in the same polls, lower by 5-7 percentage points.
the Sarawak elections that were held at different times than the general
elections, the turnout rates were terrifyingly lower: 62 percent (2001,
2006), 70 percent (2011), 68 percent (2016) and 61 percent (2021).
must demand through the MOU steering committee for the government led
by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to guarantee that absentee voting
would be made available in the capital of every region and state for
voters to cast their vote for their home constituency.
Harapan must show Malaysians that it is the most Malaysian-minded national coalition for them to entrust their votes in GE15.