Cabinet on Wednesday should place Keningau Batu Sumpah and its three commitments on religious freedom, land and adat istiadat of Orang Asal on the agenda of the new Special Committee on MA63

The solar power system for Tamu Sangadau in Kepayan is evidence of the DAP and Warisan Plus’ commitment to help the ordinary people in the country.

It was yesterday revealed that according to the Statistics Department, Sabah has the highest poverty rate in the country last year at 19.5 per cent when the national poverty rate was only 5.6%, and that about 40 per cent of the indigenous people in the State are poor or below the Poverty Line Income (PGK).

Tongod, Pitas and Kota Marudu are among the poorest districts in the country with poverty at about 50 per cent.

Sabah is followed by Kelantan which occupies the second spot with a poverty rate of 12.4 per cent, followed by Sarawak with a 9 per cent poverty rate.

The question is why Sabah, which is one of the states endowed with the richest natural resources like oil, gas, timber and fertile soil, should end up as the poorest state in the country 57 years after the formation of Malaysia?

If there is no corruption and abuses of power, and good governance is the order of the day in the last six decades, Sabah’s rich resources should be reflected in the poverty rate, and as Sabah is one of the richest states in the country, the poverty rate in Sabah should be below 5.6% which is the national poverty rate.

Instead, Sabah’s poverty rate is 19.5% with 40 per cent of the indigenous people in Sabah below the poverty line.

On Wednesday, when Malaysia celebrated Malaysia Day on September 16, the Prime Minister conspicuously absented him from the commemorative event at Keningau Batu Sumpah or he would have made history as the first Prime Minister to pay obeisance to the validity and legitimacy of Keningau Batu Sumpah.

Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin was instead in Sibu for another Malaysia Day event where he announced the formation of a Special Committee on Malaysia Agreement 1963 to discuss outstanding issues pertaining to MA63.

But for the first time in the history of Malaysia on the formation of important committees, the full membership composition was not announced – indicating that the announcement was more a P.R exercise, and that the Prime Minister himself was not serious about it.

Will the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday decide on the full membership of this Special Committee to demonstrate the Cabinet’s seriousness of purpose on this issue?

Furthermore, Muhyiddin’s absence from the commemorative event at Keningau Batu Sumpah on Malaysia Day although billboards were erected at prominent places to announce the participation of the Prime Minister at the Keningau Batu Sumpah event raises questions about the seriousness of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government to uphold the three Batu Sumpah pledges of “Ugama Bebas Dalam Sabah”, “Tanah Tanah dalam Sabah di kuasai oleh Kerajaan Sabah” and “Adat Istiadat anak rayat Sabah dihormatkan dan dipelihara oleh Kerajaan”.

Will the Cabinet on Wednesday take the important decision to place the Keningau Batu Sumpah on the agenda of the Special Committee on MA63?

Is the Deputy Minister in the PN government, Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, prepared to give an undertaking that this will be done by the Cabinet on Wednesday.

As Jeffrey received a memorandum to the Prime Minister on the Keningau Batu Sumpah by the KDM native chiefs at the commemorative event, this memorandum on Keningau Batu Sumpah should be discussed at the Cabinet on Wednesday, and Jeffrey should ensure that the Cabinet would place the Keningau Batu Sumpah as one of the agendas of the Special Committee on MA63.

For close to half a century, except for one or two Sabah politicians, the Keningau Batu Sumpah had been completely forgotten whether by national or Sabah leaders, until I visited Keningau in March 2010 together with two DAP MPs, Teo Nie Ching and Lim Lip Eng and the then lone Sabah State Assemblyman Jimmy Wong.

Until then, I had never heard of the Keningau Batu Sumpah because no one ever raised it not even in Parliament by Sabah BN Members of Parliament.

The Keningau Batu Sumpah inscribed the historic guarantees given to Sabahans in the interior for Sabah’s joining in forming Malaysia in 1963 – about freedom of religion, that land will forever be a state matter and customary rights will forever be respected and safeguarded by the government.

After my March 2010 visit to the Keningau Batu Sumpah, it was clear that the solemn pledges laid out in the trinity of rights to Sabahans from the interior in exchange for the formation of Malaysia had not been honoured and fulfilled.

As a result, I became the first Member of Parliament to raise the Keningau Batu Sumpah issue in Parliament, and since then, DAP MPs from Sabah, particualy Jimmy Wong and the late Stephen Wong had consistently raised the issue in Parliament.

We also launched a Batu Sumpah Awareness campaign, and Czech writer Milan Kundera’s famous quote “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting” was most apt to use during the Batu Sumpah Awareness Campaign.

I hope that on Wednesday, an important chapter in upholding the Keningau Batu Sumpah would be achieved with the Cabinet placing the Keningau Batu Sumpah as one of the agendas of the Special Committee on MA63.

Will Muhyiddin and Jeffrey Kitingan ensure that this will be done on Wednesday and that an announcement on it be made after the Cabinet meeting?

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri