At 50–Quo Vadis ASEAN

October 20,2016

At 50–Quo Vadis ASEAN

by Tess Bacala

As the international backlash continues over Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, the lack of due process and the consequent deaths of “suspects” in his campaign, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN), along with its individual member states, has been characteristically silent.

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For instance, ASEAN’s leaders and ministers met at their summit in the Lao capital Vientiane last September and discussed a range of issues in the region and beyond. But neither the organization nor its members raised a whimper about rights concerns on the extrajudicial killings of supposed drug users and pushers since Duterte assumed office on June 30.  News reports put the figure of alleged users and pushers killed at more than 3,000 since Duterte took over.

ASEAN’s silence on this issue was not particularly a surprise, but it was the latest example of how it is not the organization’s habit to tell off a member state about its domestic issues.

More typically, it was an outside state like the United States, though not a disinterested country, that brought up the issue of human rights at the September 6-8 summit, where Duterte made his debut on the regional stage.

To human rights advocates across the region, the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits, held back to back this year, should have been an apt occasion to discuss a subject that is otherwise anathema to the Southeast Asian organization, especially given its theme, ’ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together’, which defines the vision of the ASEAN Community for the next decade.

At the ASEAN-US summit in Vientiane, President Barack Obama called to mind a “common vision” for the region — “(a)n open, dynamic and economically competitive Asia-Pacific that respects human rights and upholds the law-based order.”

But this is far from how the situation is from the view of the sectors that have been at the receiving end of certain governments’ systemic suppression of dissent at home. This also comes at a time when the ASEAN Community has been formed with its three pillars — political security, socio-cultural, and economic – and where its peoples can enjoy “human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

ASEAN continues to steer clear of human rights issues in line with the principle of non-interference in its member states’ internal affairs. But as ASEAN turns 50 next year, critics say this adherence to non-intervention should not be absolute, especially now that economic integration is going full throttle after the launch of the ASEAN Community’s in December 2015.

Economic but not political openness

The organization has shown much more openness – and willingness to let go of sovereignty concerns – in the areas of economics and business rather than in political areas such as human rights.

“ASEAN has promoted a harmful contradiction. Member states have abandoned ASEAN principles of ‘non-interference’ and ‘state sovereignty’ in relation to capital and economic policy but doggedly retained them in relation to human rights,” says the alternative document titled ‘Vision 2025: ASEAN Women’s Blueprints for Alternative Regionalism’.

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Ryerson University (Canada)’s Dr. Sorpong Peou

Over recent decades, Southeast Asia has experienced three ‘miracles’: economic growth, the disappearance of mass atrocities, and efforts to promote regional peace and community building,” said Dr. Sorpong Peou, chairperson of the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University in Canada. “Large-scale killings or genocide such as those in Indonesia (1965–66), Cambodia (1975–1978 under the Khmer Rouge), and East Timor (1975–1999 under the Indonesian occupation) “have all disappeared from contemporary Southeast Asia.”

“But authoritarianism keeps threatening to return,” wrote the Cambodian-born scholar in a commentary published by the East Asia Forum in March. “Below the surface of official declarations lies an acceptance among most ASEAN leaders that democracy and human rights should not be pushed too fast and too far.”

Appreciation and interpretation of human rights are subject to national interest rather than international human rights standards,” said Jaymie Ann Reyes, program manager of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. The Working Group, a coalition of individuals and organizations that include civil society and academics, engages ASEAN on specific rights initiatives.

Rights? It depends

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Some human rights themes and focuses are more acceptable to ASEAN such as women’s rights, children’s rights, and rights of persons with disabilities,” Reyes added.

All 10 member states have ratified the UN Conventions on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Rights of the Child, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. “But there are more ‘sensitive’ issues that are not discussed for fear of violating the principle of ‘non-interference,’” she said.

One of these is refugee protection. The majority of ASEAN countries have not signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the 1954 Statelessness Convention.

A wide range of other rights concerns continues to exist today across the region of 620 million people.

In Indonesia, the vigorous implementation of the death penalty, the enactment of more discriminatory laws against women, and violent attacks against religious minorities are bedeviling the government, according to Human Rights Watch.

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Neighboring Malaysia recently passed the National Security Council Act (NSCA), which empowers the government to declare martial law in areas where there are perceived security threats. Singapore’s Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill, passed in Parliament just a month ahead of the Vientiane summit, is seen as yet another attempt to muzzle freedom of expression in the city-state.

The decades-old Internal Security Act, which allows arrests without warrant and indefinite detention without trial, remains firmly in place in Singapore. (A similar law in Malaysia was abolished in 2012. Yet four years later, the NSCA came into force.)

Thailand’s new constitution — approved in a referendum on August 7 — is seen to reinforce the military’s two-year hold on power.

“For the people in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, the democratic crisis has meant increasing crackdowns on journalists, human rights lawyers, opposition politicians, bloggers, activists and religious leaders. Political deterioration has also contributed to internal conflict in Southeast Asia,” said Yuyun Wahyuningrum, senior advisor on ASEAN and Human Rights at the Human Rights Working Group, a coalition of more than 50 groups advocating for human rights in Indonesia.

The Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), sees “a trend of shrinking civil society space” despite “ASEAN’s aim to be a people-centered and people-oriented community”.

In Cambodia, government critics have been jailed, and more oppressive laws passed. For instance, Kem Ley, leader of the advocacy group Khmer for Khmer, was gunned down in broad daylight in the capital Phnom Penh on July 10 this year.

Although Myanmar has ceased to be a pariah state, its democratic transition has been marked by concern over discrimination against Rohingya Muslims, who are stateless in the mainly Buddhist country.

Punishment under Hudud

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Critics have also dubbed as medieval Brunei’s announcement in October 2013 to impose a tough shariah penal code system, after its chairmanship of ASEAN that same year.

Yet ASEAN prides itself on having an “overarching human rights institution” such as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).

In fact, the ASEAN Chair’s statement in Vientiane commended the commission for “the progress of (its) work” and urged it to “promote the mainstreaming of human rights across all three pillars of the ASEAN Community”. But how such “progress” is measured and improves the rights landscape is not clear.

On the eve of the Vientiane summit, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights appealed to ASEAN leaders “to press the Lao government to cease the abuses that have consistently placed Laos at the bottom of rights and development indexes measuring rights, press freedom, democracy, religious freedom, and economic transparency.”

This referred to the unresolved disappearance of Lao activist Sombath Somphone, missing since December 2012. The Lao government had earlier said the issue had no place at the ASEAN meetings.

Looking back, ASEAN’s road to setting up a human rights commission – whose limitations its own commissioners concede – has been far from smooth. The commission’s creation was already a feat by itself.

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ASEAN launched in Bangkok in 1967

The regional grouping laid down the ASEAN Charter in 2008, which stipulated the creation of a human rights body. AICHR was created in 2009. In a process criticized by civil society for falling short of international standards, ASEAN drafted an ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in 2012.

From being taboo, human rights principles were slowly integrated into ASEAN documents, institutions, and language. ASEAN bodies and government representatives are slowly adopting and using human rights language,” said Reyes of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism.

But the AICHR’s limited mandate does not include receiving and investigating rights complaints. “It is high time it (AICHR) evolved from promotion to the protection of human rights,” said a statement by the Thai Civil Society Network on ASEAN and AICHR.

Today, “all ASEAN human rights instruments recognise universal human rights standards with caveats: the principle of non-interference and due regard to the different culture, history, and socioeconomic condition in each ASEAN member state,” Ranyta Yusran, research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Centre for International Law, said at a legal conference in Beijing in May.

Wahyuningrum of the Jakarta-based Human Rights Working Group said: “Human rights and democracy issues (in the region) are not going to simmer down. How is ASEAN going to keep up with these changes if it remains too bureaucratic and difficult to engage with?”

But she said there are encouraging signs. At a recent meeting she attended in Bangkok on legal aid and witness protection for victims of cross-border trafficking, participants acknowledged the political differences among the member states they were representing, but nevertheless focused on cooperation. The participants wanted to develop a cross-border witness protection standard operating procedure, which is a “good start,” she said.

Although AICHR has not adapted to “the changing context and structural challenges” of rights protection, Wahyuningrum credited it with initiating activities that have helped set “different platforms for subregional debate on human rights and clarified the ASEAN dimension on responses to human rights issues”.

For Reyes, there has also been “more robust engagement between and among non-governmental and civil society organizations,” though this faces challenges.

All eyes are now looking to 2017, when the Philippines takes its turn as ASEAN chair during the organization’s 50th year. The country has had a record of speaking up against rights abuses in ASEAN, but there are questions about how – and whether it can still do this credibly – given the furore over extrajudicial killings in the Duterte government’s crackdown on illegal drugs.

Tess Bacala wrote this as a fellow of the Reporting ASEAN project of Inter-Pres Service (IPS) Asia-Pacific (  This story was produced under the “Reporting Development in ASEAN” series of Inter-Press Service Asia-Pacific. 

Malaysia’s culture of tolerance is under threat

September 23, 2016

Religious freedom in Malaysia

Taking the rap

Malaysia’s culture of tolerance is under threat

Time for Sabah and Sarawak to say No–Joseph Kurup shows the Way

September 22, 2016

Time for Sabah and Sarawak to say No–Joseph Kurup shows the Way

by Zakiah Koya

Tan Sri Joseph Kurup (pic above) is not just anybody, he is a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and he has always been a between of yes-man and a silent man when he disagrees.

He has never said ‘No’ to the government policies, and he has always been diplomatic with his words when he disagrees, but there was never a ‘No’. He did say out once about removing race from all official forms, but that was said and never mentioned again.

However, he seems to be turning the table over now, when he has decided that enough is enough and that when his faith as a Christian is challenged by the very government he represents, he has to stand up and say ‘No!’. He has also decided that as he represents Sabahans who are of all religions living in harmony without any form of religious law dominating, he has to speak up for all of them.

And now, he is not only saying ‘No’, he is also threatening and this means business, for he is threatening that Sabah and Sarawak may just be tempted to go their separate ways from that of Peninsula Malaysia.

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It has all to do with the amendment to the Syariah Courts Act proposed by PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and supported by mainly UMNO MPs, including the Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Razak himself.

The Star reported that Kurup as the Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) had stated that Sabah and Sarawak may be tempted to go their separate ways if the amendment to the Syariah Courts Act are passed in Parliament. The law, he said, would have a divisive effect on the unity and understanding that was cultivated since the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

“If it (the Bill) is forced into Parliament and passed, I’m afraid it will trigger more feelings among the people of Sabah and Sarawak to go their separate ways. They (Federal Go­­vern­­ment) shouldn’t have the slightest thought of introducing this law,” he said yesterday.

This is no simple threat, for although PBRS is seen as a minority party in Sabah, its influence is strong as it comes from a bigger party Parti Bersatu Sabah. And Kurup would not have mentioned Sabah and Sarawak, had he not consulted his Sarawak counterparts in the cabinet. Perhaps he is the only one daring enough to say it and not afraid to lose his position.

The Syariah Courts Act amendment will ultimately permit the state legislatures to empower the Syariah Court to impose any form of hudud (islamic crime law) punishment other than the death penalty (for example, 100 lashes of whipping for an unmarried person guilty of adultery; or the amputation of hands for theft).

This is very much in line with the Kelantan state government wanting to implement hudud in the state, a main reason the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat broke up, after Hadi insisted and then cuddled up to UMNO to propose the Syariah Courts Act amendment Bill in parliament in the last session.

UMNO had openly come out in support, despite much opposition from MCA, and some grunts from the other non Muslim BN counterparts, but Kurup is the first one to say it out openly and talk about cessation, a much feared issue by BN.

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A Partnership of Political Convenience

Many Muslims too have openly spoken up against the Bill, for fear it is all a mere misuse of religion by overzealous PAS, in the name of exerting their political power.

Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, who has been waning in popularity depend very much on Sabah and Sarawak support and in recent years, he has increased East Malaysian cabinet members as well as poured in millions into Sabah and Sarawak development.

If Kurup does turn the table over on Najib, it would be a major dent in Najib’s support and then it may just start the domino effect in Sabah and Sarawak.

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It is a fact that Sabahans and Sarawakians greatly cherish and value their religious freedom and will not stand for any imposing by any one religion alone, never mind it is the official religion. Even Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem had said that many times and hinted it openly.

Kurup may have issued this threat politely, but it is something which must not be taken lightly by the government of the day, for Kurup speaks for many – Muslims and non-Muslims – and not for himself alone when it comes to the Syariah Courts Act Amendment Bill.

Anwar-Mahathir joint statement against NSC

September 20, 2016

Anwar-Mahathir joint statement against NSC

 by FMT Reporters

Opposition leader stresses the present, not past, is his main concern following daughter’s push for apology from Dr Mahathir Mohamad.


Jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and his former mentor-turned-nemesis Dr Mahathir Mohamad have issued a joint statement against the National Security Council (NSC) Act.

The statement, which was confirmed by Anwar himself, voices concern that the NSC is a threat to democracy in the country. “We notice that almost all institutions in the country, such as the police, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the Attorney-General and Bank Negara are fully under Prime Minister Najib Razak’s control.”

The two former UMNO leaders said that the NSC denies the right of slain officers or civilians to a post-mortem to determine their cause of death, adding this will lead to higher chances of wrongdoing.


“This act has cast aside the role and powers of the Yang DiPertuan Agong and the Council of Malay Rulers in the realm of public safety and freedom.”

Thus, Anwar and Mahathir said they were united with the people to fight the NSC, and to bring change and reform to protect the rights and freedoms of Malaysians and to bring progress to Malaysia once more.

Anwar told reporters when met at the High Court here today (September 19) that the joint statement is a good initiative. He also responded to questions regarding his daughter, Nurul Nuha Anwar, asking Mahathir to apologise for the latter’s transgressions against him in the past.

“The problem is that all of this happened so sudden. I had no opportunity to speak to my children.I  have explained it to my children. It is enough. We have suffered immensely.”

Last week, Nurul Nuha had urged Mahathir to own up for his accusations and other actions that led to her father’s arrest and conviction for sodomy and corruption in 1998.

Anwar said his concern now was the present, and that he was appreciative of Mahathir’s support against the NSC, adding that “reformasi” is still important. When asked whether he had forgiven Mahathir, Anwar responded by saying that he had forgiven a lot of people.

On September 5, Mahathir turned up at the Kuala Lumpur High Court to show his support for Anwar’s suit against the government over the NSC. It was the first time in 18 years that the two adversaries had met.

The Destiny of Malaysia

September 1, 2016

Spoken like a Malaysian: The Destiny of Malaysia

By Dharm Navaratnam

I am Malaysian. I cannot be anything else. After all, my paternal grandfather and grandmother were both born in the very early 1900’s in what would then have been the Federated Malay States…the destiny of Malaysia lies in our hands. The future of our beloved nation is our responsibility.–Dharm Navaratnam

I was born 10 years after Merdeka so I wasn’t privy to the feelings that my parents or the older generation would have felt when the country gained independence from the British. It must have been an amazing feeling to witness the birth of a new nation.

For those of my generation and after, we have always belonged to an independent nation, a nation called Malaysia. I am Malaysian. I cannot be anything else. After all, my paternal grandfather and grandmother were both born in the very early 1900’s in what would then have been the Federated Malay States.

Some stories have it that my great-grandfather was born in this land as well but I can’t verify that. At the very least, I am thus a third generation inhabitant of this country. My roots certainly go very deep in this land.

I have not only watched this nation grow but I have grown with it. I have seen how the country has evolved and how things have changed. Some for the better and some for the worse.

In terms of development, we seem to have made huge strides but at the same time the developments seem to be centred around the urban areas of the country. There are still many areas, especially in the East Coast and East Malaysia that are still far from developed.

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Petronas Twin Towers–A Mahathirian edifice–in the distant background. Poverty amidst urban affluence is not sustainable. The NEP should be about fostering Unity, achieving economic and social justice and building national resilience, not Malay kleptocracy. Why can’t we work toward a Vision of a United and harmonious nation. Of course, we can if we care enough for the future of our grandchildren. It then becomes a question of individual and collective wills.

Diversity is our strength. Ethnicity is our road to perdition. We  must never forget this, if we are to avoid being manipulated by our irresponsible politicians in UMNO and our political opposition.–Din Merican

We have the tallest Twin Towers in the world, huge shopping malls, large airports and we even host Formula 1 races. At the same time however, we have fellow Malaysians living in rundown houses, some with no access to clean water, barely making ends meet and worried where their next meal is coming from.

This is the reality of the situation. There is somehow a wide imbalance in the socio-economic structure of our country.

As far as education goes, there never seems to be anyone satisfied with our education system. So much so, we have so many different types of schools. The list includes national schools, vernacular schools, religious schools, technical schools and residential schools. Then you have schools that get more funding depending on whether they are classified as high-performance schools or cluster schools of excellence. Throw in private schools and international schools and you have an even more complicated system. What about home schooling then?

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National Unity: A Farce

In terms of unity there seems to be two schools of thought. Many of the general public feel that we are united. However, if you read the newspapers there seems to be someone or the other spewing racial vitriol almost every week, if not every day.

Why is there so much emphasis on race when we are all one people? Why are we so fearful of our fellow Malaysians just because they look different?

Surely we have spent enough time together to understand and accept each other. We are, after all, supposed to be Malaysian.So, enough of playing this race card. Kind of makes a mockery of the National Day theme Sehati Sejiwa.

Olympic medals

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They are Malaysians (without Race)

In sports, where we were once a superpower in Asian football and world hockey, we seem to struggle greatly in those sports now.

Fortunately we still seem to perform at badminton and have made inroads in diving and cycling. From the days where we only dreamt of taking part in the Olympics, we now are able to count how many medals we have won, notwithstanding the elusive gold medal that has yet to be achieved.

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Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, Bapak Malaysia

While many of us complain about the state of the country and how much better it could be, I am inspired by the words of Tunku Abdul Rahman (above) in his Merdeka Speech at Stadium Merdeka 59 years ago.

“But while we think of the past, we look forward in faith and hope to the future; from henceforth we are masters of our destiny, and the welfare of this beloved land is our own responsibility. Let no one think we have reached the end of the road. Independence is indeed a milestone, but it is only the threshold to high endeavour – the creation of a new and sovereign state. At this solemn moment therefore I call upon you all to dedicate yourselves to the service of the new Malaya. To work and strive with hand and brain to create a new nation, inspired by the ideals of justice and liberty – a beacon of light in a disturbed and distracted world.”

There are many things that we can find fault with but at the same time there is plenty to be thankful for. Let’s not forget that. So complain about the country all you want but don’t just complain. Do something, however small it may be. Make a difference.

Ultimately it is not the government that decides the future of this country. In truth, the destiny of Malaysia lies in our hands. The future of our beloved nation is our responsibility.

Good News: A More Assertive Sarawak after 50+ Years in Malaysia

August 17, 2016

Good News: A More Assertive Sarawak after 50+ Years in Malaysia

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Sarawak’s Popular Chief Minister–Standing Up for State Rights

The latest East Malaysia/Putrajaya controversy stemming from the Sarawak government’s announcement of a moratorium on all new applications for work permits from Petronas personnel from outside Sarawak intending to work in the state has several important dimensions.

On the surface it appears a straightforward dispute. The imposition of the work permit freeze has been justified by the finding of the state’s think-tank group Suarah Petroleum Group (SPG) that the national oil company has hired hundreds of new staff from the peninsular at the expense of Sarawakians. In response Petronas has taken a conciliatory stance and maintained that it expects the majority of the workforce required to meet the new manpower demand from its Sarawak operations to constitute Sarawakians “as per existing recruitment practices”. But is this all there is to the spat or is much more at stake?

What’s At Stake–State Economy

First and foremost are the political ramifications arising from this exercise of state rights under the Malaysia Agreement negotiated to bring Sabah and Sarawak into Malaysia in 1963. During the last state election Chief Minister Adenan Satem rode on the bandwagon of greater state autonomy to secure a massive victory. He is now making good his electoral promises to the state’s voters.

Sarawak  for Sarawakians

Although the decision to freeze the issuance of work permits was announced by the state’s Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Unggah Embas, it bears all the finger prints of Adenan. On  July 28, speaking to party members, Adenan warned that his (and by extension, the state’s) patience was running out at the slow progress of the talks over the devolution of federal power to the state. According to reports covering the dinner event, he told party members “We are not happy. I can tell you we are not happy, with the present arrangement… I told the Prime Minister himself, I do not want, in the coming General Election, to be seen defending the Federal Government if they do not concede, if they do not give us concessions on our requests.”

He also warned that should the devolution talks not succeed, he could not guarantee a BN victory as the Opposition would take it up. “So there must be results before the coming General Election to show the people that we mean business, et cetera, et cetra,”

It is evident that a bigger battle is being waged behind the scenes over the longstanding oil revenue issue with Sarawak pushing for a 20% royalty, a four fold increase from the present 5% it has been receiving. If Putrajaya concedes to this, it will severely impact Petronas revenue and contribution to the federal budget.

No attempt has yet been made by Bank Negara, the Ministry of Finance or any other economic agency to calculate the impact of any change in the royalty rate on federal revenues so sensitive and contentious is the topic. What is clear is that even a smaller royalty increase for Sarawak – say 15% instead of 20% – will invariably result in demands for increases in royalty payments by the other three oil and gas producing states, Sabah, Kelantan and Trengganu.

Currently, the federal government receives revenues from Petronas through royalties and taxes as the government, and dividends as Petronas shareholder. Between 2008 and 2011, Petronas contributed an average of 35%-40% of federal government revenue annually. By comparison, in 2011, individual income tax only amounted to 10% or RM20bil while corporate income tax amounted to RM47bil or 24% of government revenue (which would be smaller if the Petronas share is not included).

Despite the sharp decline in petroleum prices during the last two years, Petronas remains the number one cash cow for Putrajaya for now and in the foreseeable future. Should Petronas oil and gas royalty payment to state governments be recaliberated, it will adversely – and perhaps drastically – affect the financial underpinnings of the federal government.

And if that happens, it could be a catalyst to change in economics and politics in ways which cannot be easily deciphered at present. One sure thing though – Putrajaya and our political masters will have to find new forms of fiscal skullduggery if they are to maintain their inefficient, profligate and corrupt lifestyle.

The jettisoning of a federally determined – some say, imposed – royalty rate in favour of a more fairly negotiated one between center and state appears to be the first target that advocates of state rights and autonomy from East Malaysia are focusing on. However, a much larger agenda of change is being pursued, and this is not simply by the hawks of state rights.

Here again Putrajaya needs to pay special heed to what Sarawak’s Chief Minister is saying. During the same dinner event, he pointed to a joint resolution, passed unanimously in the state assembly in 2014, seeking for the state’s powers to revert back to the 1963 agreement. Adenan maintained that the resolution was supported by a “groundswell of feeling among all Sarawakians of all colours” for the devolution of Federal power. “And that we are not a state within Malaysia, and that we are party to the formation of Malaysia. There is a strong feeling, and one of the reasons we won is that we are seen by the people of Sarawak as championing this cause. And now they want to see the results.”

In the 18 Points and 20 Points Agreements, the list of subject areas to safeguard the autonomy and the special interest of the people of Sabah and Sarawak seeks to protect, among others, the region’s rights on religion, language, education, administration, economy, culture and the special position of indigenous races.

Notable in the two agreements is also the statement that “There should be no right to secede from the Federation.”

On this point, Adenan was careful to point out that he did not support any move to secede. According to him, “We will not secede from Malaysia. No. We will not. We will pursue only the matters which are within the Constitution which have been neglected either by negligence or ignorance, with all due respect to some of our predecessors”.

Putrajaya should be relieved and thankful that the spectre of a Brexit breakup for Malaysia does not appear to be a possibility as the two states fight to regain the rights which they have been unfairly deprived of during the past 50 odd years of being in the Federation.