Activists hail Hindraf’s invite on British suit

    “We need to hold a closed door meeting and public forum on the invite and thrash out a way forward.”

    Joe Fernandez | March 27, 2015

    KOTA KINABALU: Human rights and Borneo rights activists in Sabah have welcomed Hindraf Makkal Sakthi inviting other communities with a “cause for action” to join the ad hoc apolitical NGO in its class action suit against the British Government. The thrust of the Hindraf suit is the Federal Constitution.

    “We haven’t obtained the details from Hindraf on its invite but in principle we agree. It appears to be one way forward,” said Daniel John Jambun, the President of the UK-based Borneo’s Plight in Malaysia Foundation (Bopim). “We can be a party to the Hindraf suit, launched on behalf of the Indians in the peninsula, against the British Government.”

    He hopes to reach out to other activists in Sabah and Sarawak in making the common cause with Hindraf. “We need to hold a closed door meeting and public forum on the invite and thrash out a way forward,” said Daniel. “There are so many schools of thought in Sabah and Sarawak on the rights issue.”

    For example, he said, Concerned Sarawakians – remnants of the banned Sarawak Association for People’s Aspirations (Sapa) – have initiated a hunger strike against amendments to the Sedition Act 1948 which target activists in Sabah and Sarawak.

    “Bingkor Assemblyman Jeffrey Kitingan wants the Federal Constitution to be amended to define Federation under Article 160 as that also referring to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).”

    That means, continued Daniel, restoring the status of Sabah and Sarawak as Equal Partners of the peninsula in the Federation. “Malaysia cannot be based solely on the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1948 and the Federation of Malaya Independence Act 1957.”

    Daniel said that “something has to give” after Sabah and Sarawak being in Federation with the peninsula for nearly 52 years. “It cannot be business as usual.”

    He disclosed that just like Hindraf, Bopim had conducted research in the United Kingdom on declassified colonial documents. “Our case against the British Government can be based on their own documents.”

    He conceded that Hindraf Chairman P. Waythamoorthy had a point when he stressed, in making the invite, that “the legality of the Malaysia Agreement 1963 has been suspect based on historical facts retrieved”.

    The thrust of the Borneo rights movement, added Daniel, is that in the absence of a compliance mechanism, the assurances, undertakings, recommendations and safeguards envisaged by Her Majesty’s Government in 1963 for the people of Malaysian Borneo have not been put in place by the Federal Government in Putrajaya (Malaya) even after more than 50 years of the Federation coming into being on 16 Sept, 1963.

    Her Majesty’s Government, as the originator of the Malaysia concept and responsible for the Malaysia Agreement 1963, stressed Daniel, should revisit the exact nature and actual circumstances surrounding the British departure from Sabah and Sarawak in the wake of the independence of these two countries on 31 Aug, 1963 and 22 July, 1963 respectively. “This would be in line with the UN Charter, the mandate of the UN Decolonization Committee, the UK’s responsibilities as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and Her Majesty’s stewardship of the Commonwealth,” said Daniel.

    “It would also be in view of the disturbing contents of declassified British colonial documents on the issue.”

    These documents make it clear that the British were convinced that Malaya would colonize Sabah and Sarawak after their departure, continued Daniel. “If so, these revelations and facts clearly demonstrate that Her Majesty’s Government abandoned Sabah and Sarawak, inadvertently or otherwise, to Malayan colonialism on/or before 16 Sept, 1963.”

    The issue of colonization arises in Borneo because Malaysia, in Bopim’s considered opinion, was not properly set up by the British Government in particular and the UN in general, said Daniel.

    In the case of Brunei, originally included in the Malaysia concept, he said it had the choice of not choosing to join in the formation of Malaysia. “Brunei was able to wait for its independence until 1984. It again rejected the Malaysia idea when the Malaysian government approached them on the matter after independence.”

    “The 50th year of Malaya in Sabah and Sarawak via Malaysia was a moment in history,” said Daniel. “We need to bring closure to the British role in this unfortunate period in history and will urge Her Majesty’s Government to consider the exact nature and actual circumstances surrounding the British departure from Sabah and Sarawak on/or before 16 Sept, 1963.”