Sept 16, 2015 should be a red-letter Malaysia Day marking first important steps by Putrajaya to restore genuine autonomy to Sabah and Sarawak which should not be spoilt or overshadowed by “Kebangkitan Maruah Melayu” rally in KL

On the 52nd Malaysia Day on Sept. 16 next Wednesday, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should not just be in Kota Kinabalu for a Public Relations gimmick to join the Sabah and Sarawak Chief Ministers at Padang Merdeka to sign the commemorative Malaysia Day document to re-enact the formation of Malaysia 52 years ago.

More is expected of the Prime Minister to do something more substantive, as giving import and significance to the occasion, especially in the meeting of the Prime Minister with the Chief Ministers and Sabah and Sarawak such as to mark Putrajaya’s first important steps to restore genuine autonomy to Sabah and Sarawak.

Najib has committed himself to grant more autonomy to Sabah and Sarawak, and the 52nd Malaysia Day on Sept. 16, in his sixth year as Malaysian Prime Minister, should be the historic occasion to see the start of the process of Putrajaya honouring such a commitment.

There are at least four things Najib could do on Sept. 16 to begin the “first step in the journey of thousand miles” to grant meaningful autonomy to Sabah and Sarawak, viz:

  1. Announce Putrajaya’s agreement to grant autonomy in education to Sabah and Sarawak with effect from 1.1.2016.
  2. Two-day debate in Parliament before his 2016 Budget presentation on Friday, Oct. 23 on the granting of greater autonomy to Sabah and Sarawak, with the promise that some of the proposals by MPs in the two-day debate will be incorporated into the 2016 Budget proposals.
  3. Setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to assess whether the dreams and aspirations of Sabahans and Sarawakians in forming Malaysia had been fulfilled in the past 52 years and the measures to be taken to fulfil these dreams and aspirations.
  4. Acknowledgement and recognition by Putrajaya of the historic Keningau Batu Sumpah as the heritage of all Sabahans and a reminder of the historic guarantees given to the people in the interior of Sabah about the trinity of their rights in the establishment of Malaysia in 1963 on religion, land and native customs.

The three commitments engraved on the Keningau Batu Sumpah were: “Ugama Bebas Dalam Sabah”, “Tanah Tanah dalam Sabah di kuasai oleh Kerajaan” and “Adat Istidiadat anak rayat Sabah dihormatkan dan dipelihara oleh Kerajaan”.

We must always remember Czech writer Milan Kundera’s famous quote: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”, which is the raisons d’etre for the Batu Sumpah Movement in Sabah with its triple objective to restore the history, memory and rights of the people of Sabah.

The red-letter day on Sept. 16 for the people of Sabah and Sarawak should not be spoilt or overshadowed by the Red-Shirts “Kebangkitan Maruah Melayu” rally in Kuala Lumpur, which will be utter disrespect for Malaysia Day for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region.

It will be doubly deplorable as the Red-Shirts rally is anti-democracy in opposing the democratic demands of Bersih 4 for good governance and clean, fair elections as well as being blatantly racist, as seen from the racially-charged pre-publicity campaign for the “Kebangkitan Maruah Melayu” rally, inciting and provoking racial hatred, tension and conflict.

There are great differences between Bersih 4 rally and the proposed Red-Shirts “Kebangkitan Maruah Melayu” rally.

Firstly, all Malaysians regardless of race, religion, region, age, gender or politics converged into Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu in support of good governance and clean elections which had nothing to do with any race issue.

But the Red-Shirts “Kebangkitan Maruah Melayu” rally appeals only to Malays – but not all Malays as it is specifically targeted at Malays who support Najib.

Secondly, there was no worry whatsoever from any quarter whether the Bersih 4 overnight rally could result in a racial conflict, as the only concern was whether the Police would fire tear gas and water cannons against the peaceful participants.

All the talk distorting Bersih 4 into a racial affair, such as alleging that it was a Chinese show-of-force against Malay political power, were concocted by UMNO propagandists and strategists from their air-conditioned offices after the holding of Bersih 4 rally.

But it is completely different with the “Kebangkitan Maruah Melayu” rally, which sparked fears of racial conflict from the very beginning of its racially-charged publicity campaign!

Najib is doing Malaysians, in particular the people of Sabah and Sarawak, a great disservice in endorsing the greenlight given by the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi for the “Kebangkitan Maruah Melayu” rally in Kuala Lumpur on Sept. 16.

Najib is a minority Prime Minister of Malaysia today because of the support of 33 Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament in Sabah and Sarawak, as without the Sabah and Sarawak MPs, he will only have 101 parliamentary seats, or 11 seats short of a simple majority to form the government in Putrajaya.

If these 33 Barisan Nasional MPs in Sabah and Sarawak are given an opportunity and dare to reflect the views of their constituents, they would say a categorical and unequivocal “No” to the holding of a “Kebangkitan Maruah Melayu” rally in KL next Wednesday, as it will not only be racist and undermine the very basis of a plural Malaysian nation but detrimental to the legitimate aspirations of Sabah and Sarawak to have an equal place under the Malaysian sun.

In fact, I dare to say that even the majority of the UMNO, MCA, MIC and Gerakan MPs will not support the Red-Shirts rally if they dare to speak according to conscience as well as to reflect the views of their constituents.

Najib must prove that he is Prime Minister for all Malaysians and not just Prime Minister for an UMNO faction in the country.

Even more important, he must not allow the Red-Shirts “Kebangkitan Maruah Melayu” rally to spoil or overshadow the 52nd Malaysia Day!

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah