Change is the only constant in life and in the Malaysia of 55-years old sweeping changes and transformations are expected to follow in future in line with global trends.
While the current defections by Barisan Nasional members to the opposition appear to be taking place as expected and anticipated in Sabah, and should follow suit in Sarawak and the peninsular of Malaysia, this is just a sample of what could possibly happen.
There is strong speculation, based on current and future political indications, that the three Malaysian states of Sabah, Sarawak and Penang may opt to go their own way similar to how Singapore pulled out of Malaysia in 1965.
Secession always on their minds
It must also be stated that secession has always been on the minds of the people of Sabah and Sarawak ever since day one when they joined the Federation of Malaya and Singapore on September 16, 1963 or what is known more popularly now as Malaysia Day.
Under the Malaysia Agreement signed between Great Britain and the Federation of Malaya, the British enacted an Act to relinquish control over Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah). This was an agreement signed in London on 9 July, 1963.
But the growing dissension and discord between Putrajaya and the East Malaysian states have become strained ever since the departure of Mahathir Mohammad and the end of his autocratic rule. Among key reasons for this development is that since the Mahathir days, Sabahans have become better educated and more politically savvy.
The wily Mahathir ensured that the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak were firmly under his grip as the vast and numerous resources in these states in terms of timber, minerals and oil and gas was a gold mine for Peninsular Malaysia to piggy-back.
However, things have begun to go awry. Sabah and Sarawak residents are showing growing signs of intolerance and are beginning to vent their anger at the “orang Semenanjung” (people from the peninsular) for grabbing opportunities of economic growth meant for them.
The woes of Sabahans
Besides this, Sabahans have had to put up with an influx of illegal immigrants from the Philippines who have landed on their shores and parked themselves to seize limited opportunities in the east of Malaysia.
Sabahans are outraged and are venting their anger at being squeezed and displaced from their own land by the Filipinos and they actually see the greedy west Malaysians as having become even more dangerous in their ambition.
While Sabahans have been quite wise in coming up with a 20-point Agreement before teaming up with the Federation of Malaya, of the 20-points, some of those points were incorporated in the Malaysia Bill and became part of the constitution of Malaysia. There were, unfortunately, some other points among the twenty that were not included.
While it must be confessed that these other points were incorporated, but only in varying degrees and forms, there were a number of others that were merely agreed upon verbally and these have since become the focus of much argument and debate in the state.
Sabahans believe that since all of their 20-point Agreement is not enshrined in the constitution, their rights and privileges have eroded over time, worse still many Sabahans are of the belief that West Malaysians have committed transgressions against them and have plundered the wealth of the state at will for themselves.
It was these grouses and strong resentment that led to calls and bred the idea of secession to take place in the land below the wind which was quickly snuffed by the sly and cunning intervention of Mahathir Mohammad who killed whatever hopes Sabahans had of pulling out of the Malaysia Agreement like Singapore.
The Sarawak factor
In the other east Malaysian state of Sarawak there was varied opposition initially to the formation of Malaysia and to be a signatory of the Malaysia Agreement.
The Cobbold Commission which was a commission of enquiry set up by the British government to assess and determine if the people of North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak, based on the decolonization exercises being undertaken, were agreeable and supported the proposal to create Malaysia, found varying findings.
In the ensuing studies and census undertaken, one-third of the population of North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak was in full favor of becoming a part of Malaysia.
Another one-third of the population wanted to have a terms and conditions reference before deciding if they opted for the Malaysia Agreement. They were of the view that there needed to be a careful study and discussion as this was a very long term measure and so they wanted to have much more information and consultation.
The final third of the population of North Borneo and Sarawak wanted to remain under British rule.
In the final analysis, Sarawak capitulated easily to the Malaysia Agreement but ended up asking for an 18-point Agreement to be complied by the signatories to the Agreement.
Since their entry into the Malaysia Agreement till now, Sarawak has been governed with a vice-like grip, authoritarian rule by a number of chief ministers who have toed the line to keep to the strict control and manipulation of BN from their Putrajaya stronghold.
However, Sarawakians, like Sabahans, are also beginning to feel the heat and this has caused a groundswell of support for the opposition parties led by the Pakatan Rakyat trio of PKR, PAS and DAP and the various Sarawak opposition political parties.
While Sarawak never openly stated it wanted to secede, these sentiments have always been latent, unlike in Sabah. There is now foment growing in greater measure in the Land of the Hornbill against the federal government that might want to cause the people there to rethink and review their position in the Malaysia Agreement.
On the island of Penang
Growing disenchantment by Penangites by what they perceive to be stumbling blocks being imposed on the freewill of the people of Penang and added with the sterling performance of chief minister, Lim Guan Eng, have covertly begin to generate ideas on the island of “doing a Singapore” and breaking away from Malaysia.
The Independence of Singapore Agreement 1965 was an agreement between the Government of Malaysia and the Government of Singapore that granted independence to Singapore with effect from 7 August 1965.
The agreement also provided for the granting of the state and federal territories of Malaysia, Singapore to be a new and independent and sovereign state to take effect upon independence which was done by the Singapore Act of 1966.
The reason at the back of Penangites of wishing to become a sovereign and independent state is the fact that Penang has developed and prospered dramatically under the leadership of Guan Eng who had pulled in a great deal of Foreign Direct Investment to boost the state’s economy.
If Penang is unable to “do another Singapore,” owing to the similarities of both island-states, they might want to consider and opt to become a Special Autonomous Region like Hong Kong where China has formulated a “one country-two system” rule.
The fact that Penang has a high number of Chinese among their population and the argument that they can go much further without being bogged down by the unnecessary baggage being imposed by Putrajaya is beginning to appear as a very promising prospect for them to consider breaking away from the mainland in the near future.
Much however will depend on the outcome of the upcoming 13th GE. If the Pakatan-led state government of Penang is able to secure a greater number of Chinese votes, the likelihood of Penangites actively demanding their rights and going their own way may be inevitable.