The current discussion on the proposed "equal partner" constitutional amendment is as hazy as Dato Anifah Aman's sarcasm in Parliament last Wednesday.
He said government could be looking at a flying car made out of bamboo to address the problem of inadequate and damaged existing roads and other infrastructure in rural Sabah.
Better still, the fuel should be sustainable palm oil-based bio-diesel. It will be an ideal three, four birds with one stone solution to a problem.
The very trademark and backbone of Tun Dr Mahathir's economic development model as PM#4. Tolled road, and national car fueled by subsidised oil from Petronas and massaged as private initiative through privatisation.
Anifah's one line sarcasm became a headliner that caught the attention more than the message of his speech and subtle diplomatic critic of the proposed amendment.
The proposal is intended to reinstate a clause amended out of the constitution in 1976 and supposed to be a step in the right direction to synchronise with the spirit and expectations of the Malaysian Agreement 1963.
A Sarawakian analyst, Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi viewed the amendment positively without prejudice as it enable Sabah and Sarawak to negotiate directly with the Prime Minister on strategic matter that involve their interest.
To Sabahan and Sarawakians, they are fanatic of their rights as prescribed in MA63 and included in the 1963 amendment of the Constitution of the Federation of Malaya.
So it is pointless to have their rights acknowledged and reinstated, but the accompanying interest or more precisely, the 53 year promised money and basic needs still elude them.
Save for Anifah's coverage of oil palm, which affects hundred of thousands of Sabahan and Sarawakians and the message that diplomacy is "doing business with friends", that is the essence of his speech:
Sabah and Sarawak need the 10% oil royalty and in the case of Sabah, it comes together with the 40% of tax revenue collected from the state.
The idea of equal partner only appeal to lawyers' ego and achieving the amendment is their legal orgasm. However, it is a waste of time and makes no common (ringgit and) sen.
The discussion on MA63, state rights, and conspiracy to rob wealth of Sabah and Sarawak have been going on for decades.
By right, the current stage, where "orang Malaya" have begin to emphatise, it should now be down to numbers of how much is due to Sabah and Sarawak annually, how much is the outstanding from over 53 years, and how the mode of payment is to be made.
Complicating the complicated
As it is, the discussion on the amendment will likely reach a point of no return that the more relevant and pressing state financial need will be left to the wayside.
Keningau MP and Ssabah's STAR President, Datok Dr Jeffrey Kitingan not only agreed that Sabah and Sarawak no longer be known as “states” but as territories of equal status with Peninsular Malaysia. He also insisted the term Federation be redefined.
Sarawak Reform Party (also refered as STAR) President, Lina Soo claimed the term state in MA63 for the two Borneo states was meant as nation-state and wanted that status be accorded. Though Sarawak existence as nation-state was brief between the declaration of independence on July 22nd, 1963 and September 16th, 1963 declaration of Malaysia, it was the the transition for the formation of Malaysia.
Sarawak government is adopting a wait-and-see stance. It may relate to the political boundary and sea territory of the state as it will tie in with Sarawak's oil rights claim beyond 3 knotical mile off the shore.
Since they do not have any provision for 40% "tax rebate", the oil rights is crucial.
Chief Minister, Dato Abang Johari announced tax will be imposed on oil explored by Petronas. Sarawak and Petronas have a dispute and Petronas is bringing the state government to court.
Former Batu Lintang assemblyman of Sarawak, Voon Lee Shoon questioned the eligibility of VK Dato VK Liew as the "law" Minister or any Federal Minister to represent the interest of the non-existent Federation of Malaya in the negotiation.
It is hair splitting but he felt Federal Minister can still exercise control that can transgress the rights of the people of Sabah and Sarawak. In 2017, Voon claimed Sarawak contributed RM100 billon to the federal coffer but got only RM4 billion back.
If that principle is to be fair and equitable, then all contributing states may wish to claim a better deal for their contribution. It opens the possibility of a wider implementation of state-imposed tax in the future.
Former assemblymen for Padungan, Sarawak, Dominic Ng claimed the Petronas Development Act 1974 and Territorial Sea Act 2012 did not seek for the approval of the Sarawak state assembly. It should be considered as invalid.
He added there have been infringements on MA63, to quote a Sabahan researcher, 50 infringements, but there is no legal force. Without it, Malaysia could cease to exist.
While, Sabah Senator, Datuk Theodore Douglas Lind argued that the invalid status of the two acts means Federal government have to return back the oil wells and fields in Sabah water.
It will complicate the already complicated matter.
A columinist in The Star, Stephen Then agreed that Sarawak be granted equal partner but caution against playing up anti-Peninsular sentiment. There could be valid and justified reasons, though not legally consistent with MA63, for federal government's past actions. There are the other side of any views.
Former Dewan Rakyat speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia claimed there is no need to do a Constitutional amendment. He has been consistent with his stand since his days in BN Government.
Though he agreed on demand of state right under MA63, Emieritus Professor D. S. Ranjit Singh, in his letter to the Editor in The Star, differed in opinion on equal partner status and claimed there is no evidence to support.
"The concept of legal equality of states which carries with it the notion of sovereign equality is inconsistent with the concept of a highly centralised Federation."
Mahathir's ploy to buy time
Since the administration of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the federal government have been acknowledging the grouses of Sabah and Sarawak. More so, under Dato Najib, who allocated more funds than ever and appointed more Federal Ministers from Sabah and Sarawak.
It is not just today that Sabah and Sarawak not a stepchild anymore, As posed in Sabahan Phillip Golingai column wrote, will the amendment generate money to change the life of Sabahans and Sarawakians for the better?
Sabahan and Sarawakian have to see it more than the excitement of Sabah CM, Dato Shafie Apdal and Sarawak's Minister Dato Katim Bujang intention to drop the term "state" and hope it will benefit the state.
One should be wary with more money for the state falling in the hands of the person that squandered billions from the RM13 billion budget allocated for Sabah and Sarawak under KKLW. Shafie had never supported MA63 openly and is now infringing on federal and state law in scams to issue citizenship to illegal immigrants in Sabah.
For those that had forgotten, it was Mahathir who promised equal partner status to be reinstated at last year's Malaysia Day in Kota Kinabalu. He said it will be implemented as part of his review of MA63.
Does it mean all the detailing of MA63 implementation are sorted out?
Sabahan should have known better than to fall for the ploy of the man, who personally denied Sabah their rights shakled Sabah politics, and instrumental in Projek IC election scam.
Sabahan need not get confused with the entry of PPBM into Sabah. All they need to do is remember back his statement, "We will sink and swim with Berjaya" to only left them to bring PBS into BN coalition. Subsequently, PBS left BN on the eve of a general election and it gave ground for UMNO to enter Sabah. It is history repeating itself.
VK Liew, the "law" Minister from LDP, in which the political party of Dato' Yong Teck Lee was dead set focus on MA63, seemed like a poodle eating out of the hands of Mahathir.
The memory of a police report against him in 2013 for an Anwar-esque allegation and latest corruption accusation may worry him no more. But his nervousness would likely for being on the list of beneficiaries of Najib's alleged 1MDB money.
Mahathir is buying time before he establish his feet in Sabah and history will repeat its cycle. Only PBS President, Maximus Ongkili still has reservation and still have memory of PBS past.
The discussion and debate on the constitutional amendment will be endless and not come to any conclusion. Mahathir could use it as basis for more study needed and extend the negotiation process. It will either take forever or he will pass on.
He could even use the same excuse and blame Najib, 1MDB, Jho Loh and high debt as he did to negate on PH election promises.
Frankly, Mahathir is not too concern. He is more interested to survive till 2020 to open his buried capsule and ensure him and his children remain untouched while he is alive.
Mahathir's passion and understanding of development is only about building more pyramids and monuments to remember him by without having to put his name to the structure. His idea of development is to replicate the high-end facilities and lifestyle in developed country in Malaysia.
Well, that is the money Sabah and Sarawak alleged to have been stolen by federal government. Leopard could never change their spots.
Unlike Najib, and one only realise today, Mahathir is indifferent with the welfare, livelihood and economic well-being of the common folks. More so, the deplorable state of the poor and rural rakyat, especially the people in the kampong and interiors of Sabah and Sarawak.
And yet, Sabah and some Sarawak politicians are placing their hope on him.
Anifah may have played a role to get Mahathir's approval and go ahead to resolve MA63, but is Mahathir's heart into it? Will Mahathir bother to take the trouble to even visit and see for himself the neglected condition of the people in the interior of Sabah and Sarawak?
The exuberance of Sabah politicians to switch side to PPBM at a time Mahathir is only giving them hope is mind boggling. Joining PPBM does not ensure funding to sustain their political support at grassroot.
In one of his party visit to Sabah and Sarawak, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng showed reluctance to allocate more fund to Sabah and Sarawak. Without the money, equal partner is still not equal.
Are the ex-UMNO Sabah politicians intellectually challenged to not see Mahathir is only interested on the seats in Parliament that former Sabah UMNO can offer than the former leaders and 100,000 former members of Sabah UMNO joining them?
Mahathir would view them as carpetbaggers and political baggages. Even Anifah prefer to remain independent despite his seat in Parliament was moved to government backbencher side.
If it is some deceptive political ploy with the intention to achieve MA63, it is playing to Mahathir's hand to buy time till he is politically strong enough to refuse. An utter waste of time and effort!