GS Sundang, the unsung hero of Borneo rights
Malaysia Agreement 1963 activist remembers a true patriot who fought for the rights of Sabah.
PETALING JAYA: The spat between Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz and his Sarawakian counterpart Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah in June over the controversial tourism tax has its roots in a struggle which began before Malaysia was formed.
The struggle began with a Dusun native named Gunsanad Samson Sundang, better known as GS Sundang.
A former deputy chief minister, Sundangâs name is often overshadowed in history books by the likes of fellow Sabahans Donald Stephens, later known as Fuad Stephens, the stateâs first chief minister, and the first governor, Mustapha Harun.
But Sundang, who received his early education in Tambunan and later at St Thomas in Kuching before receiving a scholarship to study at Exeter College in England, was also a key figure in the formation of Malaysia.
âMore importantly, Sundang was a true patriot who believed that Sabah should get no less than complete state rights if it were to form Malaysia,â said Zainnal Ajamain, a Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) activist and the author of the Queenâs Obligation.
Speaking to FMT, Zainnal said Sundang was totally against the so-called minimum rights promised in the 20-point agreement, insisting that Sabah must be guaranteed complete state rights, including power over finance, taxation, tariffs, trade and financial matters, and the right to borrow abroad.
âAn integral part of complete state rights which Sundang was fighting for were residual powers, which canât be overridden by parliament.
âA prime example of this is the tourism tax. If we look at the MA63, tourism which wasnât included in the Federal List in the Ninth Schedul e of the Federal Constitution, is by default a residual power which lies with Sabah and Sarawak.â
This, Zainnal said, was why the tourism tax was unconstitutional and went against the spirit and letter of the MA63.
âSundang knew that residual powers would be crucial to the internal affairs of Sabah.â
Sadly, said Zainnal, rather than giving Sabah complete state rights before the MA63 was signed, as Sundang had envisioned, the British put complete state rights as conditions to the MA63.
âPerhaps not many people know that whatever terms of agreement were incorporated into the Federal Constitution â" which include the MA63 and the recommendations of the Inter-Governmental Committee Report (IGC) â" must be implemented. It is mandatory.
âFailure to adhere to these terms means a breach of the terms, thus, breaching the Malaysia Agreement 1963.â
On top of his push for complete state rights, Zainnal said, Sundang made a very impor tant contribution to Sabahans through the âBatu Sumpahâ.
âAfter we formed Malaysia, Sundang constructed an oathstone in Keningau which was inscribed with three key rights guaranteed to Sabah and its people and the promise to Sabahans, in accordance with the Federal Constitution and MA63.â
The three key rights on the oathstone are, freedom of religion in Sabah, that land in Sabah be controlled by the Sabah government and that the customs and culture of Sabahans must be protected by the government.
In return for these, the people of Sabah would swear their loyalty to the government of Malaysia.
âGS Sundang wrote in simple Bahasa Melayu so that many can read, would understand and remember, as this is the simplest form of the Federal Constitution.â
Zainnal hoped that with greater awareness of the formation of Malaysia and the rights of Sabah and Sarawak, more young people would appreciate the contributions of GS Sundang and the iconic Batu Sumpah.
âSadly, looking at the way things are, it would appear that the federal government hasnât kept to itâs end of the bargain. I hope all leaders, especially those in Putrajaya, will not forget the promises they made to Sabah and Sarawak.â
A contentious issue for decades, MA63 has become one of the core issues in Sabah and Sarawak in recent times, especially after the late Sarawak chief minister Adenan Satem sought the return of the stateâs rights and powers enshrined in the MA63.
Sarawak recently sent a legal team to London to search for and scrutinise any references related to the stateâs rights under MA63. It has returned and given a report to the state government.
Recently, during a visit to Sabah, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang said the opposition would focus on promoting the pledges of the Batu Sumpah to woo voters in the 14th general election (GE14) in Sabah.
He said the three pledges inscribed on the stone must be upheld by the c urrent federal and state governments.
Now, a new debate: Is the tourism tax constitutional?
Jeffrey: Mâsia, Sabah, Sâwak should comply with MA63
Opposition to focus on Batu Sumpah pledges, says Kit Siang
Source: Google News