It’s up to the kingmaker to uphold Sarawak’s rights

PRIME Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s recent visit to Sarawak had all but established what many people already know: that Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) is kingmaker in the next general election.

If anything, Sarawak Chief Minister and GPS chairman Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s declaration of support for the Muhyiddin Government to continue steering the country was a boost of sorts, and this has greatly increased Muhyiddin’s chances of staying in power after the 15th general election (GE15).

GPS was previously detrimental to the formation of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) federal government in 2020. In fact, it was the coalition’s lion share of 18 out of 31 Sarawak parliamentary seats that had provided Muhyiddin with critical support when he came to power.

But GPS has been clear about one thing from the start: it supports PN not because it backs the stance of UMNO and PAS, who are major component parties, but because it needs to strengthen its bargaining power and place Sarawakian concerns on a better foothold.

In other words, the Sarawak ruling coalition wants to use its kingmaker status to demand what is due to the state, and that is for the federal government to acknowledge Sarawak’s rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), and also the state’s rights over its natural resources, among others.

Well, it seems that Abang Johari is getting what he wants after all, if the Special Council on Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) is any indication.

The council has recently approved the formation of three committees that will be dealing with various matters that are important to Sabah and Sarawak.

They include issues on the constitution and equal status; security and illegal immigrants; and socio-economic matters, including the implementation of the 12th Malaysia Plan.

But then again, Abang Johari must not rejoice too soon. History has proven time and again that Malaysian politicians have a bad habit of saying anything to get what they want, and how is this time any different?

MA63 and the calls for constitutional amendments aren’t anything new. In fact, these have been an issue for as long as the Barisan Nasional (BN) government had been in power, and they had failed to restore what is rightful to Sarawak then.

Similarly, when PN came into power in March 2020, the prime minister announced that these issues would be discussed immediately.

Minister of Sabah and Sarawak Affairs Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili had even mentioned that the PN Government would settle the constitutional amendments within six months of taking power in March last year but has failed to do so, until more recently when discussions of the next general election start gaining momentum, that is.

But still, there are hopes that GPS would be able to do what no political party has done before, and that is to finally restore the state’s rights under the MA63 and the Federal Constitution.

In this case, maybe all that Sarawak needs is for the kingmaker to dictate the terms – for real, this time. – April 7, 2021

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