by Joe Fernandez
ANALYSIS Malaysia Agreement or no Malaysia Agreement, Sarawak or Sabah/Labuan for that matter, cannot step outside the bounds with the Federal Government. Putrajaya belongs as much to the two Malaysian states in Borneo as to Peninsular Malaysia.
At a lower level, the Federal Government presides over the individual sultanates, states and territories in Peninsular Malaysia.
Five on-going issues, some simmering for long, have pitted the Sarawak state government in a head-long clash against the Federal Government. It’s anybody’s guess how Putrajaya will bring the recalcitrant Taib Mahmud regime to heel. Surely, the Joseph Pairin Kitingan administration (1985 – 1994) in Sabah is the mother of all precedents!
Now (drumroll) for the latest of the five issues viz. Native status, followed by immigration, heads of federal depts, NCR land and Taib’s long-promised retirement as Chief Minister.
In the latest move, the Sarawak National Registration Department’s (NRD) willful defiance of an 18 Nov 2009 policy circular, [ref: PM( R)11880/A/072/3 Jld 5] by the Chief Secretary to the Government is likely to inflame passions and further infuriate the Chinese and other non-Native communities in Sarawak against the state government.
Not that Taib cares anyway despite the drubbing he received in the urban and Chinese seats during last year’s state elections.
A Sarawakian non-Native married to a Bidayuh lady has come forward to scream in the local media, anonymously, that the Sarawak NRD does not recognise the Chief Secretary’s circular which rules that children born in Sabah and Sarawak of only one non-Native parent can henceforth be registered “by administration” as Natives. The only reason that this is happening is because recruitments for federal departments in Sarawak, unlike in Sabah, are done through the Sarawak Federal Public Services Commission.
The Sarawak NRD, according to Sarawakian, advised him to get confirmation from the Native Court and the Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak (MAIS) on his children’s Native status. To add insult to injury, The Sarawak NRD reiterated that it doesn’t recognise the Chief Secretary’s said circular as valid.
MAIS told him point-blank that it interprets Native strictly as a citizen of Malaysia of any race which is now considered to be indigenous to Sarawak as set out in the Schedule under section 3 of the Interpretation Ordinance (1958 Edition), Chapter 1 of the Laws of Sarawak “and any admixture of the above races with each other”.
Obviously, the Sarawak NRD is wrong in law to ignore the said administrative policy circular from the Chief Secretary to the Government. The said circular has never been successfully challenged in Court and therefore, until such time, stands valid in law.
“Law” is not just Adat, the Constitution and Acts/Enactments/Ordinances but also constitutional conventions, administrative policies and even includes what can be deemed as “politically correct”.
That’s how Momogun (non-Natives) in Sabah can apply for Pasok (Native) status provided they are citizens in the state living among the latter community and habitually speaking Native languages and practising Native culture, customs and traditions.
For example, the Queen of England can refuse to appoint a Prime Minister on the grounds that the unwritten constitution and related aspects makes no reference to a Prime Minister.
In reality, the Queen appoints the Prime Minister anyway by convention. Otherwise, she would be precipitating a constitutional crisis.
Likewise, the Sarawak NRD has no business ignoring the said circular by the Chief Secretary to the Government. Wither 1Sarawak, if not 1Malaysia!
Those unhappy with the said circular, and this by the way does not include the Sarawak NRD, should take up the matter in Court by way of a Judicial Review of the administrative policy.
So, the right thing for the Sarawak NRD to do under the circumstances would be to accept the applications from “Sarawakian” and leave it to others with locus standi to challenge the administrative ruling in Court.
Instead, the Sarawak NRD seems to have created its own mini-administrative ruling to oppose the circular.
The Federal Government is also irked by the state government, under Taib’s directive, routinely barring Malaysian citizens from Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah entering Sarawak.
The Special Provisions for East Malaysia, under the Immigration Act 1967, does not bestow the right to bar citizens from Sabah and Sarawak. The provision is only meant to safeguard local jobs from being taken by Peninsular Malaysians.
Likewise, Taib has been misusing the Immigration to deny long-term work permits to Peninsular Malaysians or Sabahans appointed as heads of Federal Departments in Sarawak. These appointees can only secure three-month work permits at a time instead of one for three years.
Will Prime Minister Mohd Najib Abdul Razak blink when push comes to shove on the difficult patches with the state government and, as it is being predicted by the locals, flee with his tail between the legs when Taib says, “boo!”
The talk in Kuching is that Taib has gone back on his public pledge, made during the state elections in Sarawak last year, to resign as Chief Minister not long after the results come in and certainly well before the 13th General Elections. Instead, Taib woke up the 90-year-old Governor and had himself sworn in as the Chief Minister in the dead of night instead of waiting until the next morning.
Taib, when pressed by Najib on the resignation issue, is reported to have retorted in a challenge: “Let’s see who will retire first, whether me or you!”
The Federal Government is also extremely unhappy that the Sarawak state government has virtually ignored several NCR land cases which went against it in Court. Putrajaya released several million ringgit to demarcate Native lands in Sarawak but Taib, being displeased with the funding, has been dragging his foot on the issue. In the lands reluctantly demarcated so far by the state government, only the area immediately surrounding a longhouse is being considered NCR land while communal land further away is being treated as state land.
Najib seems ever mindful that Taib, with at least 25 parliamentary seats behind him, can dictate to him at least for the moment given his stand-off in Peninsular Malaysia with the national opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat.
It goes without saying that had Taib been a non-Muslim, Najib would have gone after him hammer and tongs as what former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad did to Pairin.