KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — The previous Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government had taken steps for the devolution or transfer of more powers to Sabah and Sarawak, MPs from the latter state asserted.
The Sarawak federal lawmakers who defended BN’s efforts are from Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), which was still in the now-defunct Sarawak chapter of BN up to a few months ago.
PBB’s Batang Sadong MP Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri noted that the federal government’s Sunday announcement of plans to restore Sabah and Sarawak’s status as equal partners was a good opportunity for Sarawakians to unite to demand for a return of such rights.
“And it has to be shared that under BN rule, when I was the co-chair in the DOP Committee, discussions were ongoing and there were administrative matters that were already implemented under the state government with the consent of the federal government,” she told Malay Mail.
Nancy, a former federal minister, had previously together with Sabah’s Datuk Seri Anifah Aman chaired the federal-level steering committee on devolution of powers (DOP) to Sabah and Sarawak.
“Let it not be said that we did not voice out under BN. We in Sarawak had already dealt well with the federal government,” she said.
She added that the Sarawak state government — in its role of supporting and working together with Putrajaya — should continue to voice out for Sarawak’s rights when it has an opportunity to do so.
Sarawak’s PBB was formerly part of the BN coalition, but has since left to form the new state-level coalition of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) after BN suffered its worst-ever electoral defeat and lost federal power to Pakatan Harapan (PH).
PBB’s Petra Jaya MP Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof thanked the prime minister for promising to restore Sabah and Sarawak’s status, expressing the hope that the pledge would be fulfilled as the Sarawak state government had been pursuing such a move.
He noted that the Sarawak state government — since the late Sarawak chief minister Tengku Adnan Satem and his successor Datuk Abang Johari Openg — has been “very vocal” in campaigning for the rights and devolution of powers to Sarawak as enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
He said the process for more powers in 13 administrative areas to be shifted from Putrajaya to the Sarawak state government had been initiated, but noted this was disrupted by a change in government.
“The previous government had formed a Cabinet committee to discuss and implement the payment of financial allocations and revenue as enshrined in the Federal Constitution and devolution of powers to Sabah and Sarawak.
“For Sarawak, the former prime minister had agreed for 13 jurisdictions to be devolved to Sarawak.
“However, as a result of the change in federal government after the 14th general election, the payment of the financial allocations and revenue and devolution of powers could not be implemented anymore,” Fadillah, also a former federal minister, told Malay Mail.
Fadillah also noted the Sarawak state government’s sending of representatives to London previously to study the Malaysia Agreement 1963 showed how earnest it was in this matter.
Fadillah said GPS will support any law changes if they are truly beneficial to Sarawak and its residents.
In its election manifesto, PH had promised to gradually decentralise its fiscal administrative system to eventually spend up to 50 per cent of tax revenue collected from Sabah and Sarawak on their development needs.
It also promised to restore Sabah and Sarawak’s powers to develop their own policies on trade, investment, recruitment of foreign workers, cabotage, open sky policies and public transport.
PH had among other things pledged to let Sabah and Sarawak regain control over strategic government-owned firms such as water and electricity supply companies.
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