KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysia Project envisaged by the former premier Tunku Abdul Rahman and Borneo leaders, Donald Stephens and Temenggong Jugah 47 years ago is a failure, according to a wide spectrum of the intelligentsia.
In a series of papers submitted at a one-day forum on the 'Formation of Malaysia Revisited and The Way Forward', presenters concluded that what had been conceived by the trio and what eventually transpired in the intervening years was similar to a pendulum swing.
All the five papers presented and deliberated at Saturday’s landmark forum to discuss the birth of the Federation of Malaysia and the effects on Sabah and Sarawak 40 years after noted how state rights had taken a backseat to political convenience.
Kanul Gindol, secretary-general of CigMa, said the forum managed to achieve an intellectual discussion of the pros and cons of the formation of Malaysia.
"It was lively (discussion) and managed to attract people from all walks of life including past and present public figures like Ayub Aman, an elder brother of Sabah Chief Minister, Amirkahar Tun Mustapha, PKR leaders like Christina Liew and Baru Bian, retired civil servants, academicians, lawyers, teachers, politicians, students and laymen," he said.
Kitingan, the younger brother of Sabah deputy Chief Minister Joseph Pairin Kitingan, in his paper highlighted facts and 'secrets', notably how the federal powers had subdued the state through many manoeuvres since 1963, and how Sabah leaders were duped into believing in whatever Peninsular Malaysian leaders pledged and promised them.
Using figures, he demonstrated how the Kadazandusuns, who were once the majority and dominant in North Borneo/Sabah were being disenfranchised.
He spoke about the emergence of a new group called Melayu in Sabah which today stands at more than 300,000 but was only 18,000 in 1970's.
Split Sabah into five state
The Harvard graduate also cited how Malayan subsequent leaders managed to tilt the equation of power to the peninsula ever since the inception of the federation in 1963.
"In 1963, we had a 50-50 equation in Parliament representation vis-a-vis the 11-states in Malaya and the group of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore.
"When Singapore left or was kicked-out of the federation in 1965, their 15 seats should have been distributed to Sabah and Sarawak but what happen was Malaya took seven seats and the remaining eight were distributed to the Borneo states.
"Then in 1972/73, 73 new Parliament constituencies were created, and all of them were in Malaya. From here on, Sabah and Sarawak lost its power to block any passing of laws in Parliament, so peninsular leaders can do whatever they want to the federation," he said.
Kitingan, a PKR vice president, in his paper proposed that Sabah be split into five states and Sarawak into seven and that Parliament representation in the Borneo states should be balanced with that in the peninsular.
He noted that the Cobbold Commission Report had forewarned that: "If the idea of Malaysia was a 'take over' of Sabah and Sarawak and the submersion of the individualities of Sabah/Sarawak, Malaysia would not be acceptable or successful."
Scepticism of sincerity
Veteran Malaysian leader and founding father of the Sarawak National Party or SNAP, James Wong, whose paper was presented by lawyer and the Sarawak PKR Head Baru Bian, said that selling the idea of Malaysia had not been easy.
He revealed the prevailing scepticism of sincerity during the period and these were typified by Temenggong Jugah when he said in Iban: "Anang Malaysia sebaka tebu, manis di pohon, tawal diujung" which literally means 'Malaysia should not be like the sugar cane, sweet at the head and getting less and less sweet towards the end'.
It was a conjecture that proved true as Sabah and Sarawak now sit at the bottom list of many progress indices in Malaysia, he said.
Wong pointed out that initially in the 1950s there was already an effort to federate North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei but North Borneo leaders then were reluctant because Sarawak had communist threats unlike North Borneo.
In the soon to follow Cobbold Commission Report, the merger concept of the Federation of Malaysia detailed that the central government would be strong and provide security but local aspirations and needs would also have to be recognised and safeguarded.
The report clearly states that: "It is a necessary condition that, from the outset, Malaysia should be regarded by all concerned, as an association of partners, combined in the common interest to create a new nation but retaining their own individualities," Wong pointed out.
Karim Ghani, who was instrumental in bringing in Umno to Sabah, in his paper reminded that Sabahans can no longer count on taking control of their state without the aid of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who reside there.
Shouts of tipu
However the discussion became more heated when Ayub Aman, the elder brother of Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman claimed that all Malaysians were treated equally in response to John Brian of the Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU) who complained of marginalisation in opportunities.
The ageing former Culture, Youth and Sports Minister during Berjaya party era was visibly shocked and appeared to be in a daze after his remarks were met with boos and shouts of "tipu" and "no same treatment to Kadazandusuns and Dayaks".
Ayub also blamed complaints of rampant corruption in Sabah politics as the outcome of a corrupt rakyat.
SLA's S Venugopal also presented a paper detailing breaches in the political equation and merger partnership.
The one-day forum was jointly organised by two KK-based NGOs - the Borneo Heritage Foundation (BHF) and CigMa or Common Interest Group Malaysia.