KOTA KINABALU — In his first address to Sabahans since becoming prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Putrajaya is committed to returning the two East Malaysian states to their rightful status as one of four equal partners in the federation.
He acknowledged that when Malaysia was formed 55 years ago yesterday, Sabah and Sarawak had joined forces with Malaya and Singapore as equal partners of the same status under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
“The following years saw Singapore leave shortly after, and Sabah and Sarawak saw their status slip from equal partner to one of the 13 states in Malaysia,” Dr Mahathir said during the Malaysia Day celebration at Padang Merdeka here yesterday.
“The Pakatan Harapan government under the new government has taken note of this and will return the rightful status to Sabah and Sarawak as part of its review of the MA63.”
The Federal Constitution was amended in 1976 to downgrade Sabah and Sarawak as the Malaysia’s 12th and 13th states.
Dr Mahathir said the two states need special attention because there are many poverty-stricken districts without basic necessities, and the government will not neglect its responsibility and find a way to develop the needed infrastructure.
“The review of MA63 will almost certainly give rise to the need to review some of our current practices,” he said.
“But our hope is that the review is done in the spirit of kinship, mutual respect and tolerance. Without it, our hopes to unite as one country and one nation will not last long. While the journey has not always been smooth, the important thing is we pick ourselves up and get back on track.”
Dr Mahathir also called for a complete mindset change among Malaysians, pointing out the past administration’s culture of corruption and bribery.
He proposed a revival of the Bersih, Cekap dan Amanah (Clean, Efficient and Trustworthy) slogan that was the hallmark of his previous administration in the 1980s.
“The belief that ‘cash is king’ is clearly not true. Let us reject this slogan and return to Bersih, Cekap dan Amanah,” he said.
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal expressed confidence in Dr Mahathir’s leadership.
“We are confident in Tun’s leadership and hope that under his administration, Malaysia will be on track towards success,” he said to cheers.
Shafie likened the economic and social harmony gap between the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak to the seas that divide East and West Malaysia.
“With the new federal government, let this Malaysia Day celebration be the starting point for us to renew the commitment we once mutually agreed on,” he said.
“We should review every issue that we may face together and stand as equals.”
Shafie said the state government is banking on diligent planning and good fiscal management to improve its financial situation.
Also present were Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sabah Datuk Seri Juhar Mahiruddin, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo and Dr Mahathir’s wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali.