by CHAN FOONG HIN, MP for Kota Kinabalu
I read Dr. Maximus Ongkili’s press statement dated 14 April 2021 with lots of question marks in my mind. What does his announcement that Prime Minister had agreed to the handover of the administration of Ligitan and Sipadan Islands to the Sabah government mean actually?
What went through my mind was, hasn’t the cabinet under Tun Mahathir already agreed to this earlier during Pakatan Harapan’s rule? mind. Is Ongkili trying to say that Muhyiddin did not agree to the return of Sipadan and Ligitan Islands back when he was part of the PH cabinet? Or was he absent during the cabinet meeting?
I can proudly say that I am involved, partially, with the decision making process by PH that decided to return the administration of Ligitan and Sipadan Island – I was a member of the MA63 Technical Committee from late 2018 till just before the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government, attending meetings after meetings to iron out the details together with former Law Minister the late Liew Vui Keong, Tommy Thomas former Federal Attorney General, and also Hajjah Zaleha Rose Pandin, former State Attorney General who is now a Judicial Commissioner of the High Court.
I vividly remember that the issue on the administration of Sipadan and Ligitan Islands was described as a ‘low hanging fruit’ and was one of the first that got resolved and agreed upon (to return administration to Sabah) within the first few meetings, amongst all other issues (a total of 21 of them identified) as it was the least thorny of them. While issuance of diving licence was a lucrative industry generating millions each year, it made no sense for it to continue under the MKN and so it was let go.
In late 2019, the then Deputy Minister of Law Hanipa Maidin said in the Dewan Negara that 17 issues had been resolved, i.e. an agreement reached, and amongst the 17 was the administration of Sipadan and Ligitan Islands. No dispute has been raised back then regarding the same. Even after the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government, I had managed to put in a question in Parliament’s special chambers on 28 July 2020 and Deputy Minister Hanifah Hajar Taib informed me that _’Kerajaan melalui Bahagian Hal Ehwal Sabah dan Sarawak Jabatan Perdana Menteri (BHESS JPM) sedang memantau perkembangan pelaksanaan 17 perkara yang telah diputuskan oleh JKKKMA63 daripada semasa ke semasa.’ The word used is ‘telah diputuskan’_. Surely she wasn’t misleading the house when she said so.
Furthermore on 23 November 2020, Ongkili himself admitted in the floors of the Dewan Raykat (I was present) and said during his winding-up speech for Budget 2021 that _’17 of Sabah’s 21 demands had been met in the previous PH special committee’_. Is the administration of Sipadan and Ligitan not part of the 17? Why is there a need for Muhyiddin to assent a second time as if there wasn’t one previously? Why hide the contribution and role of Pakatan Harapan and Warisan in the achievement? Why is Ongkili misleading Sabahans now and claiming for credit which PN is absolutely not entitled to? Indeed PN is not entitled to claim credit, unless they can explain what is the difference between what PH did and what PN did. I see no difference.
Muhyiddin was part of the PH cabinet and he should be aware of the decision made back then. For Ongkili to now say that it was ”mere commitment to resolve 17 issues” is utterly misleading and a blatant attempt for PN to hold Sabahans to ransom for the 17 items already agreed upon, of which the administration of Sipadan and Ligitan is one of them. Yes indeed perhaps the relevant statute or by-laws were not in place yet when the PH government collapsed, but for Muhyiddin to now say that ‘he agrees’ and yet not putting in the relevant laws in place is plain dishonesty and misleading Sabahans for the purposes of fishing their votes and not resolving the 4 remaining issues which even PH failed to come to an agreement.
I hereby challenge Ongkili and Muhyiddin to instead focus on the 4 remaining issues and get it resolved once and for all since both GPS and GRS are PN friendly. Stop backtracking and attempting to relook or renegotiate the 17 issues which were resolved in favour of Sabah and Sarawak during PH’s time with the attempt in using them as ammunition against the the people by threatening to not enforce or delay the enforcement of these 17 items.