Remembering The Man Who Walked The Talk
TODAY marks one year after the passing of the state’s fifth chief minister Pehin Sri Datuk Patinggi Adenan Satem.
As chief minister, he brought a new style of leadership to the state � both fresh and intriguing not only to Sarawakians, but also to the people across the country.
Still, his greatest achievement was his firm commitment in fighting for greater autonomy from Putrajaya. He made this promise in the last state election in 2016, regarding the state’s rights under Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), which have been eroded over the years, resulting in Sarawak being downgraded as among the 13 states after the amendment to the Federal Constitution in 1976.
As the state’s chief executive, he was bold and consistent with his policy on seeking greater autonomy from Putrajaya, which he delivered in his winding-up speech at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting on March 16, 2014 � just two weeks after his appointment � where he emphasised that sarawak’s relationship with the federal government must be ‘constitutionally correct’.
In order to achieve this, the Sarawak BN (Barisan Nasional) government at the DUN sitting on Dec 8, 2015, had sought and was given a mandate for the state government to safeguard the constitutional rights and protection of the State in the interest of all Sarawakians.
The mandate given covered the inspirations of the people of Sarawak from the days before the formation of Malaysia as stipulated in the Cobbold Commission Report, Inter-Governmental Committee Report (IGCR) and Malaysia Agreement 1963.
Pursuant to this, the government through its official has actively and carefully planned a structured course of action towards achieving the objective. This course of action involved three phases which are as follows: administrative empowerment, encroachment of the state’s rights, and oil and gas royalty, Adenan had said.
MA63: Adenan’s feat
On Jan 21, 2016, Adenan announced 13 provisions of administrative empowerment to be delegated to the state government, which were agreed upon during his meeting with the Prime Minister. These provisions are:
Sarawak Legal Officers are to be authorised by the Public Prosecutor under the Criminal Procedure Code to conduct prosecution for offences under the State Ordinances from the stage a person is charged in the lower court until the appeal stage;
the delegation of power to the state officers to represent the Public Service Commission (SPA) and the Education Service Commission in the appointment of officers to the federal civil service, including teaching and medical services;
the ratio of Sarawak-born teachers serving in Sarawak to be increased to 90 per cent of the total number of teachers in Sarawak by 2018;
the traffic warden power for Sarawak local authorities to be given to the Miri City Council (MCC), apart from Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) and Kuching South City Council (MBKS);
Sarawak government to be consulted before an application for a deep sea fishing permit is forwarded to the Deep Sea Permit Evaluation Committee for consideration;
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Economy is the representative of the state government in the Deep Sea Permit Evaluation Committee;
Sarawak government to be consulted in the drafting of federal legislation, which has bearing or impact to the Sarawak government, where provided by law;
the planning of federal development projects in Sarawak will be based on the priorities and strategic thrusts of the state’s five-year development plan. Implementation of the projects will be referred by the federal ministries to the state government such as in determining the location of schools, hospitals and other development projects. This initiative is now being implemented;
The Higher Education Ministry will take necessary measures to increase the number of student enrolment from amongst Sarawakians into medical degree programmes at public universities. Sarawakians would be given a greater opportunity to enter foundation studies programmes in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas). In this respect, Unimas has been empowered to manage the intake of medical students to allocate the quota of 80 per cent for Sarawak-born students;
it is agreed that relevant areas that can be delegated will be identified for delegation of power of the Director-General under Section 49 of Environmental Quality Act 1974 to the state officers or departments. Both the state and federal governments have agreed on the matters to be delegated and are now in an advanced stage of such empowerment;
development of housing projects in Sarawak is to be implemented through a joint committee meeting to ensure that state agencies are fully involved in the planning, implementation and monitoring aspects of these projects in Sarawak;
the development of sports in Sarawak is jointly managed with the state government;
Sarawak government will carry out all functions under the Social Welfare Department. All posts will be transferred to state civil service. The federal government will contribute 50 per cent of the total costs incurred as decided by the National Finance Council.
These 13 provisions have been progressively fulfilled by the federal government and the state government would continue to seek more empowerment to the state, which can bring better benefits including areas related to tourism and education.
Adenan had also pushed for the second phase of negotiation that involved the priorities subject matter relating to:
(a) Financial review under Article 112D of the Federal Constitution;
(b) Import duty and excise duty on petroleum products, and,
(c) Federal financial obligation for expenditure in concurrent list;
Oil exploration, mining and gas
(a) minerals, oil and oilfields, and,
(b) distribution of gas.
Oil exploration, mining and gas � Land and revenue from land stamp duties chargeable on instruments prescribed by land code for transfer, charge and sublease.
Adenan had stressed that these issues were at an advanced stage of negotiation by the state and federal officers in the technical committee specifically set up for this.
Negotiations are on-going with the relevant parties. The third phase, according to him, would be focused on oil and gas royalty, which is still on-going.
Sarawak opts for diplomacy
Adenan had said under the amended Article 1(2), it is perceived as not in the spirit behind IGCR and MA63, which was clearly reflected in the original wordings of that Article. The Article, before its amendments, clearly provided that the Federation of Malaysia consisted of the states of the federation of Malaya; the states of Sabah and Sarawak; and Singapore.
He reiterated that the prime minister had announced that he was willing to discuss with Sarawak and Sabah on matters related to the misinterpretations and misunderstandings of MA63.
The state government is not making a U-turn on this matter because we believe that the federal and state bn governments, being in the family, can resolve this issue amicably between the parties concerned.
Diplomacy is better than confrontation. This consultation approach is manifested through the prime minister’s regular visits to Sarawak and his approval of many projects during his visits, Adenan had stressed.
English as Sarawak’s second official language
Adenan had also chartered the inclusion of English as one of the state’s official languages beside Bahasa Malaysia.
He pointed out that Sarawak should have the right to use English as one of its official languages without any restriction by the federal government as there had never been any condition that stated otherwise.
In reiterating his stance, Adenan stressed that when the Federation of Malaysia was formed in1963, one of the conditions for Sarawak and Sabah was that English would be used as an official language besides Bahasa Malaysia.
However, Sabah gave up that right in 1971 when it signed an ordinance to use only Bahasa Malaysia in official correspondences.
We never signed such an agreement after the formation of Malaysia. English can be used as our official language alongside Bahasa Malaysia in Sarawak. There is also nothing wrong in using more than one official language, he said in his speech at the closing of Forum Belia Tegas 2015 in Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK).
He explained that his decision to use English as one of Sarawak’s official languages was to improve the level of English proficiency among Sarawakians in meeting the demands in the job market.
Adenan also said the nation made a mistake by overlooking the importance of English and was paying the price for it now.
Because of that, we suffer as many of our younger generation have failed to find proper employment. Our unemployment rate has gone up as many youngsters nowadays do not have proficiency in the English language, he said, pointing out that that promoting the usage of English as an alternative official language would not jeopardise the status of Bahasa Malaysia as the nation’s official language.
Source: The Borneo Post