KOTA KINABALU, April 7 ― The federal government’s obligations towards Sabah and Sarawak are not limited to maintaining diplomatic ties and security, but also to ensure the Bornean States are financially capable of running their respective regions.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Jeffrey Kitingan said in a statement yesterday that several clauses in the Federal Constitution detail the federal government’s monetary obligations towards Sabah and Sarawak.
In particular, Kitingan said it is the federal government’s obligation to pay the special grant in the amount of 40 per cent of the net revenue derived by the federation from Sabah.
The federal government is currently only paying Sabah a total of RM26.7 million.
“This is only one. Other financial arrangements agreed upon and adopted into the amended Federal Constitution under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) include road grant, capitation grant, and import and export duty.
“If the federal government met its monetary obligations to Sabah and Sarawak, I am sure the Bornean States will be able to solve half of our financial problems and carry out more development projects,” he said after attending the MA63 Socio-economy working committee meeting here yesterday.
Kitingan who is also the Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (STAR) President stated that in addition to what the Sarawak government has repeatedly stated, the Bornean States are much too broad to be considered just another state within the federation.
Both regions overshadow the more developed Malaya in terms of size.
“As such, I have proposed that the committee produce a white paper on the constitutional rights of Sabah and Sarawak before the next committee meeting.
“The committee should focus on solving this main issue, namely reclaiming and restoring our constitutional rights, rather than talking about how many telecommunication towers we should have,” he said.
On the State level, Kitingan said he would convene a meeting of the State-level MA63 committee to coordinate themselves and list all of their concerns including MA63 breaches and how these can be addressed and put right one by one.
He pointed out that on the other hand, in terms of economy, Sabah and Sarawak are dealing with the same problem.
“Our geography poses a challenge and as we are eager to digitise our economy, this proves to be a problem not easily resolved,” he said.
Therefore, he said Sabah is keen to work with Sarawak as the GRS government is also looking to establish its own Sabah Digital Economy Authority.
“I have said this before, we are well behind the conventional manufacturing industry. The development of our infrastructure is prohibitively expensive. Our attention should now be drawn to the future and the digital economy is that future.
“This time, I don’t want to see Sabah left behind again and receive only crumbs. We must obtain all our financial rights as agreed upon in the MA63 and as provided for in the Federal Constitution,” he concluded. BP