40icon(The Star) – A Constitutional safeguard that guarantees Sabah 40% of net revenue earned by the Federal Government from the state became the centre of discussion at a forum on state rights.

The forum, featuring 12 panellists on “The Agreement to Formation of Malaysia 1963″ moderated by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) discussed at length issues faced by Sabah and the erosion of its rights.

Among the panellists were peninsular-based lawyers Edmund Bon and Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who said that many state rights were spelt out in the Constitution and it was up to Sabah to pursue it.

Bon said the right to get back 40% of net revenue received from Sabah by Government was written in the Constitution.

Another panellist, Sabah activist Zainal Ajamain, noted that it was an area worth pursuing as the Inter-Governmental Report (for the formation of Malaysia) had also agreed that the Federal Government would provide financial guarantees to the state, including topping-up any budget deficit.

“Since 1963 we have never invoked it,” Zainal said at the forum attended by some 1,000 UMS students, local NGOs and other parties.

Shafee said that for Sabahan to pursue their interests in the Federation, they should be “active, not sleeping partners”.

Others in the panel included former chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee, who spoke about unmet promises for Sabahans to take over federal civil service jobs, while State Reform Party (STAR) Sabah chairman Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said there was room for negotiation to keep Malaysia intact.

Anifah, who is a Sabahan, when wrapping up the forum said that it was important for leaders and people in the state to be united in efforts to seek state rights.

“This is a good start. We can study various issues raised and pursue it as it is the right of the state,” he said, adding that it was not a good idea to seek secession in view of the geo-political situation in the region. –Source

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