Press Statement – From Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan
Kota Kinabalu “While PM Najib is lauded for his brave move, he should be clear in his promise to restore full autonomy for Sabah and Sarawak, otherwise it will lead to serious repercussions on the BN federal government and his leadership” said Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, on Najib having instructed the Chief Secretary to the federal government to start devolution of powers to Sarawak while in Kuching last weekend.
In order to make the idea more realistic, a Cabinet Paper should be prepared and approved by the Cabinet and later be presented to the respective State Legislative Assemblies for debate and endorsement. Otherwise, it will also be seen as another Najib’s broken promise and an election gimmick for the Sarawak State election which is scheduled to be held within 10 months as hinted by CM Adenan.
The devolution of powers, which may not necessarily be autonomy, and granting of full autonomy should not be seen as giving way to Sabah and Sarawak as full autonomy only means a restoration of the independence and rights of the Borneo States in Malaysia.
Full autonomy also brings with it multiple advantages which will enhance national integration and particularly substantially improve the national economy.
First and foremost, full autonomy will partly address the grievances and unhappiness of Sabahans and Sarawakians who feel colonized, marginalized and treated as step-children by Umno and Malaya.
It will elevate the status of equal partnership from being subservient and remove the issue of colonization or neo-colonization. In turn, it will diffuse the issue of secession.
Overall, federal-State relationship will improve and the independence of Sabah and Sarawak will be more meaningful. It will also bring a better sense of belonging to the Federation of Malaysia not resentment as at present.
With autonomous powers and the removal of bureaucracy, bottle-necks and other constraining factors added with local government and agencies having better knowledge of local environment and circumstances, the delivery system will be more effective. This will also quicken the pace of development.
It will also mean reduction of overlaps and reduction in costs. The savings, which will be substantial, can be better spent on additional development projects. Since Sabah and Sarawak are under-developed, the rate of contribution from additional development projects will substantially improve their State economies and enhance national economy.
If this autonomy and devolution was implemented in the 1980s, with the substantial enhancement of the national economy, Malaysia would have achieved Vision 2020 by now, with Sabah and Sarawak contributing major roles.
Devolution of powers can be implemented quickly with the abolishment and removal of many overlapping federal departments and agencies in Sabah and Sarawak, so much so that they are seen as a parallel government to the State governments, as well as transfer of functions to State agencies like immigration and national registration. The States can also play complementary roles in State security which will enhance national security.
For instance, there is no need for a federal JKR, RISDA, FELCRA, RISDA, Lembaga Padi Malaysia, Beras National, LKIM, when there are existing State agencies like Sabah JKR, Sabah Land Development Board, Lembaga Industri Getah Sabah, Lembaga Beras Sabah and Jabatan Laut Sabah. The list just goes on and on showing redundancy, overlapping and substantial costs expenditure. It also just makes State agencies’ roles diminished and waste resources.
There are ample highly qualified Sabahans and Sarawakians, many unemployed or under-employed, who are able and willing to takeover the roles of the federal departments and agencies. This will partly fulfil the criteria of Borneonisation stipulated in the 20-Points and IGC Report. It will also allow many Malayans serving in the federal service in Sabah and Sarawak to return back to their States in Malaya as many of them, as can be seen in social media postings, are said to be unwilling to serve or reluctantly serve in Sabah and Sarawak and have low morale, and prefer to work in their home States.
Devolution of other autonomous powers such as in education, health, State security and others can follow suit from the initial implementation.
Although, a possible downside is the re-deployment of existing federal staff, it can be easily offset by re-deployment in other areas. With the federal government and agencies being leaner and more compact, the additional resources could be re-deployed towards enterprise and economic enhancement. Examples can be seen in Switzerland, Singapore and South Korea which have minimal resources but rely heavily on human resources, and even Thailand where the government departments, agencies and universities have contributed to making their agriculture sector as a major foreign exchange earner.
The ball is now in Najib’s court and the feet of the Chief Secretary to the federal Government. Failure to implement full autonomy for Sabah and Sarawak will bring dire consequences to them and the federal government.
On the other hand, implementation of full autonomy for Sabah and Sarawak will be seen as another feather in the cap for Najib who has received much needed endorsement from Sabah and Sarawak, BN’s fixed deposit states, while being badly battered in Malaya with several major issues jeopardizing his position as PM. – Sabaha News
Datuk Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan
14 August 2015