KOTA KINABALU: A human rights advocate has called on politicians from the peninsula not to get involved in debates on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), particularly with regard to whether non-Muslims can be chief ministers in Sabah and Sarawak.
According to Daniel John Jambun, the peninsular states are governed by the 1948 Federation of Malaya Agreement and the 1957 Federation of Malaya Independence Act, whereas the East Malaysian states are governed by MA63, which is the basis for their being in federation with Malaya.
Jambun heads the UK-based Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (Bopim).
“MA63 is an international treaty and trust deed signed by five governments and lodged with the UN Secretary-General,” he said. “It cannot be amended by the Malaysian Parliament or ignored by the Federal Constitution.”
He asserted that the peninsular states were not consulted on MA63 and cited as evidence Kelantan’s suit against the Federal Government in 1963. “On 11 September 1963, just days before Malaysia was to come into being, the Kelantan Government sought a declaration that the Malaysia Agreement and Malaysia Act were null and void, or alternatively, that even if they were valid, they did not bind Kelantan,” he said.
Quoting historians on the subject, he said Kelantan argued that both the Malaysia Agreement and the Malaysia Act were not binding on Kelantan on the grounds that the Malaysia Act in effect abolished the Federation of Malaya. “This, according to the Kelantan Government, was contrary to the 1948 Federation of Malaya Agreement. The argument was that the proposed changes required the consent of each of the constituent states of the Federation of Malaya – including Kelantan – and this had not been obtained.
“The Kelantan Government lost in court because Sabah and Sarawak were not seeking to join the Federation of Malaya, i.e. the federation governed by the 1948 agreement.”
Jambun was commenting on PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang’s statement that chief ministers in Sabah and Sarawak must be Muslim.
“A chief minister is not a menteri besar,” he said. “Hadi is just ventilating his ignorance in public.
“Menteris besar in the sultanates may have to be Muslim as the laws presently stand, but not a chief minister elsewhere in the peninsula or in Sabah and Sarawak. Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, for example, is non-Muslim.”
According to Jambun, there’s no religion in Sabah and Sarawak as per MA63 and its annexes and in the constitutional documents on Malaysia.
“There’s nothing to prevent DAP from seizing power in Sarawak in 2021, as it plans, and installing a non-Muslim as Chief Minister,” he said. “In fact, there’s also nothing to prevent a Muslim from being the Chief Minister either. The present Sarawak Chief Minister is Muslim. His predecessor and the third chief minister were Muslims. Only the first two chief ministers in Sarawak, after 1963, were non-Muslims.”