MA63: Sarawak Autonomy Begins with Power Devolution Blueprint

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Press Statement By Kelvin Yii:

The unanimous decision to pass the MA63 amendment is testament of DAP’s commitment to empower Sarawak and Sarawakians. I voted, along with other DAP MPs, for the MA63 amendment yesterday, setting aside political differences in the interest of Sarawak and its people.

Of course, this is only a first step for Sarawak to restore what is rightfully ours. Following this amendment, a comprehensive plan of action and timeline towards meaningful devolution of power must be drawn out.

While the Law Minister yesterday tried to justify that there are provisions within Article 80 of the Federal Constitution for “Distribution of Executive Powers”, but such distributions are purely executive, not legislative where we can decide our own policy directions in Sarawak. This also is dependent on the Federal Government’s discretion whether to give or not, and also have every power to take back.

That is not true autonomy.

With this, I reiterate my call for the GPS Federal Ministers and state leaders to commit to and formulate a Power Devolution Blueprint for Sarawak. This plan should outline key milestones within the next 5 to 10 years along with a periodic review of the progress made.

It should also outline the strategies that Sarawak will employ to develop human capital within the state to meet the unique challenges of today and tomorrow. How do we plan to build the capacity of Anak Sarawak and retain talent in the state so that we can develop it together should be covered thoroughly.

Towards that end, we can start with devolving the powers for health and education to Sarawak. Necessary steps should be taken to insert education and healthcare in the concurrent list as a responsibility to be shared among federal and state governments of Sarawak and Sabah.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the importance of an equal federal-state partnership, especially in health matters, to effectively manage outbreaks and protect the lives of Sarawakians. Not only that, health is also intricately linked to the state’s economy. Sarawak cannot sustain another prolonged lockdown that will cause suffering to traders and the rakyat who are already struggling to make a living. We must build enough capacity – in terms of testing, tracing, isolating and supporting potential patients – to be able to withstand another wave of outbreak.

In terms of education, it is the most potent vehicle for upward social mobility. On top of educational infrastructure, developing sufficient teaching manpower is essential. The syllabus being taught in schools and institutes of higher learning must incorporate inputs from local stakeholders to produce versatile talent geared towards the jobs we want to create. Such dynamic investments will bring a positive impact to the employability of youths as well as individuals, especially women, who aim to re-enter the workforce.

With greater autonomy comes the greater need to ensure transparency and accountability. With the passing of yesterday’s amendments and demand for more of our rights and rightful allocations to be returned to us, it is even more pertinent for us to have a robust and institutionalized check and balance system including a strong and credible opposition.

Institutional reforms that were proposed by us such as strengthening the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Sarawak State Legislative Assembly (DUN) and the establishment of a multi party DUN Select Committees will be essential for stronger checks and balances as well as ensuring government projects and programmes directly benefit the people of Sarawak.

These steps are the necessary building blocks to guarantee any eventual state government would commit to a proper implementation of power devolution and not use Sarawak autonomy as just another political campaign fodder at each election.

As shown from yesterday’s support for the amendment, DAP is more than willing to put Sarawak interest above anything else and remains committed to see what was agreed upon to be implemented. That is why it is pertinent to ensure we strengthen the opposition especially DAP to ensure the government is kept accountable and for us to monitor the progress of the return of our rights.

With your support, I will continue to champion these issues in the Sarawak DUN to chart our future and thrust Sarawak Forward.