KOTA KINABALU, June 12 — The exodus of Sarawak’s ruling parties from Barisan Nasional (BN) will open up the possibility of a Borneo bloc that can see the two east Malaysian states work together in pursuing their aspirations, said Sabah leaders from both sides of the political divide.
Parti Warisan Sabah deputy president Darell Leiking lauded the move by Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Abang Johari Openg to exit BN, and said he hoped there would be a new political configuration between the two states soon.
“It’s good news that they have finally left that old remnant of a cruel regime,” he said when contacted by Malay Mail.
“What I personally would like to see is the convergence of the two Borneo entities to form a strong bloc that can represent Borneo in co-administering the Federation of Malaysia together as envisioned by those who agreed to form the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.”
He said that the two states, which share similar aspirations, could start working together in the way that the Warisan-PKR-DAP-Upko government is doing in Sabah and give them a stronger footing in asserting their rights within the Malaysian federation.
Sabah, perhaps more so than Sarawak, has complained for decades that they have been sidelined in the country’s development, despite being used for its natural and land resources.
Its gripes also extend to its local native parties being dominated by their Umno counterparts under the BN federal government that gradually eroded their rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
“The ultimate goal is to ensure the MA63 will be fully implemented and that the way the Federation was intended to be,” he said, referring to the jurisdictions accorded to the two Bornean states in the agreement such as rights over natural resources, land, education, religious freedom and immigration, among others.
However, Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku president (STAR) Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan, whose party formed an alliance with BN to form the state government after the May 9 polls, agreed that a Borneo bloc was a good concept and they would also be courting the newly-formed Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).
“It’s a good plan. We can form a Borneo bloc now. It is much easier to talk to them as they no longer need to check with their Peninsular counterparts. We are now aligned.
“We are planning to go to Sarawak soon and meet with them as Gabungan Bersatu Sabah, after Hari Raya,” he said, adding that the entourage will have representatives from STAR, PBS and Umno.
Gabungan Bersatu Sabah is an alliance mooted by PBS that will give former BN parties, STAR and their allies a new vehicle or political party in the event they decide to leave BN.
The concept is still being explored but it is widely believed that it will not materialise without strong conviction from Sabah BN chairman Tan Sri Musa Aman who has been missing from the state since May 14.
“We want to work with them. I believe they will talk to us, despite the pending court decision on who is the legitimate chief minister in Sabah, and who has the right to form the government,” he said, referring to Musa’s court application to declare the current Warisan-led state government unconstitutional.
Parti Bersatu Sabah Deputy President Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili concurred with Kitingan, saying that the party was keen to pursue formal discussions with GPS to establish a strategic link with PBS and Gabungan Bersatu.
“PBS has already commenced communication with the Gabungan Sarawak leaders to establish a common front and platform in Parliament on these issues.
“We believe these political collaboration and strategic alliances will dawn a new era in East Malaysian politics and secure the political bargain and agreed conditions enshrined in Malaysia Agreement 1963,” said Ongkili.
Sabah Progressive Party president Datuk Yong Teck Lee said that the move to exit BN reinforces the inevitable trend of Sabah and Sarawak reasserting their rights in the Malaysian Federation.
“There is nothing that Malaya can do to stem this trend. This is good,” he said, pointing out that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had “allowed” Petronas to sue the Sarawak government to claim exclusive ownership of oil and gas.
“This is a hostile action against Sarawak. I don’t know what ‘being friendly’ means to Malaya,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sabah Umno assistant secretary Datuk Masidi Manjun also said he did not blame the Sarawak BN parties from exiting after the coalition suffered heavy losses during the recent GE14.
“In the current political scenario, their decision is not a surprise, but in fact, expected.
“With a state election in two years’ time and a PH central government, a continuous tie-up with BN may not be politically tenable for them. A political realignment is a sensible and practical option; perhaps the only option for them,” he said.
Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Abang Johari Openg earlier announced that the Sarawak BN consisting of Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) were leaving the BN coalition to cooperate and collaborate with the PH federal government.
The four state parties won 19 of 31 parliamentary seats in Sarawak under the BN banner the May 9 general election.