KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19, 2016:

Sabah rights activist Zainnal Ajamain has asserted that the state needs to be treated more like a peer and granted the rights it is owed under the Federal Constitution and Malaysia Agreement or risk a movement to seek international arbitration.

He said for years now, the state had been denied the necessary infrastructure and development without having received its fair share of rights it deserved, such as royalties from petroleum as well as losing out on its state budget.

He noted that in the Inter-Government Committee report, which spelled out the rights accorded to the East Malaysian states at the formation of the Federation, special grants were provided for the states of Sabah and Sarawak, and these were transferred to the Federal Constitution as well.

He says this would mean that Sabah should get an annual grant equal to two-fifths (40%) of the net revenue from Sabah.

“If we were to calculate from this, income tax revenue alone is RM140 billion a year. 10% comes from Sabah so that’s RM14 billion. If we take 40%, that’s RM6.5 billion.

“Our state budget is only RM4 billion,” he said, adding that with the right amount, the state did not have to “beg” for money.

Zainnal was speaking at a talk organised this afternoon on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 at the Royal Lake Club here. It was organised by Tawfik Ismail, former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman’s eldest son.

He further lamented that the money the state was receiving was also controlled by the federal government.

He wanted this to stop to enable the state to share its wealth with the rest of the country fairly.

“It’s not a question of we not wanting to share. We can work on the same formula as the 40%.”

He explained that the country was developed well in the mid-1980s when it was ruled by “first generation” leaders who resorted to funds received from oil drilled in Sabah and Sarawak.

“That’s where you got the funds from. From there, you built infrastructure. Industries came in. By the mid- 1980s, you had the resources and people could work in the industries. Shah Alam, Penang all bloomed.

“So the first generation built this country, but the second generation that came started doing big things like the Twin Towers, Sepang, Port Klang. They built big things and exhausted the state resources.”

While he explained that he was not against it, such development should not have gone to the extent that all resources were poured into them.

He cited the example of Klang Valley, which he said would “fail” because of its success as the heavy concentration there would just increase prices and burden the people.

Instead, the federal government was advised to put some focus on Sabah.

“If only you (leaders) are not too greedy. You built the RM15 billion North-South Expressway, but you could not even buy the state government five ships so that you could reduce the cost of transferring goods from Port Klang to Kota Kinabalu (KK).

“You could have done that, but you don’t want to because if KK starts to develop economically, the economic power will shift. You are only left with political power. The elites want both.”

At the end of the day, Zainnal said the sharing of wealth here could be negotiated, but if it was not done, it could lead to dispute and eventually to arbitration.

“That will create international problems. Why let it go to that level when we can sit down and talk?”

He added that resentment was growing in East Malaysia and a change was needed in treating the two states as the peninsula’s peers.

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