It is time to review the Malaysia Agreement signed 50 years ago so that the nation is able to move forward, according to two academics speaking in the context of both Sarawak and Sabah.

Dr Jeniri Amir, a senior lecturer in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) said that a number of points contained in the agreements in Sarawak were no longer relevant.

“We need to move forward and enter phase two (of nationhood). A portion out of the 18 points for Sarawak are no longer relevant and among the reasons is that time has passed or some of them have already been achieved," said Jeniri(bottom).

Celebrating the 'union' of Malaysia

The political analyst gave examples on the points in the agreement which talked about language, the constitution, position of state leaders and borneonisation which are no longer an issue in this day and age.

The Malaysia Agreement, which includes 20 points in Sabah and 18 in Sarawak respectively, were the conditions agreed upon in 1963 when Sabah, Sarawak and Tanah Melayu merged to form Malaysia.

The points contained within the agreements are often raised by critics who claim that the rights of Sabahans and Sarawakians, as enshrined under the agreements, have been ignored over the years.

“The one that often becomes an issue is on immigration where those from Peninsular require permission to enter Sabah and Sarawak and a permit to work here,” said Jeniri.

He said that the original intent of having this immigration cause is to protect the leaders of the states, which were seen to be behind. “But my question today is, even after 50 years, do we still need to defend that in the context of 1Malaysia?”

“It’s as if we are not confident with ourselves... that we cannot compete equally with those outside, this is the kind of thinking of people 50 years ago,” he said.

Jeniri also said that cases of politicians and NGO leaders being barred from entering the two states are also wrong as it goes against the original spirit of the clause. "Now it is being used for political agendas," he said.

Jeniri said that an aspiration for Sabah and Sarawakians are still touch on development where people still feel that the states are lagging behind when compared to Peninsular.

Political analyst from Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Dr Zaini Othman (bottom) said that such feelings of being marginalised can be addressed by reviewing the contents of the Malaysia Agreement.

"(This is) so that the question of bias in Sabah region can be fixed and the state can be absorbed into mainstream national development," said Zaini.

zaini othman

"I believe the federal and state governments have taken the initiative in this regard, but it will take time to ensure that these problems can be fully addressed," he added.

However, Zaini said that the government seems to have done more, citing examples where more political leaders from Sabah being appointed as cabinet ministers and in terms of education, more universities being established.

However, Zaini also admitted that the fulfilling all the points in the Sabah agreement is not an easy task and there were multiple aspects that needed to be looked at. - Teoh El Sen and Arfa Yunus.