By Political Analyst Mohd Ustar Abdul Ghani
KOTA KINABALU: The recent call by the Finance Minister, Tengku Zafrul Bin Abdul Aziz suggesting the special grant of 40% for Sabah is now incapacitated pursuant to a review (the only review) made in 1969 subsequently published and gazetted on the 17th September 1970 is contentious and rash.
The Gazette followed an agreement between the Federal Government and the Sabah state government to substitute the 40% with an agreed quantum of $20m, $21.5m, $23.1m, $24.8m and $26.7m for the year 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1973 respectively.
The qualification of a review is spelt out in Art. 112D (1) of the Constitution and under the same provision alteration, abolition or making of another grant instead of the said Part IV of the Tenth Schedule and Clause (2) of Art. 112C are allowed, res ipsa loquitur the Gazette.
Upon scrutinising Art. 112 (C), Art. 112 (D), Part IV of the Tenth Schedule and other related provisions I have concluded that:
“The Federal Government is obliged to accord Sabah a special grant in the amount of two-fifths or the equivalent of 40% the net revenue derived by the Federation, to be reviewed five years intervally and this grant can be varied, altered, abolished or be replaced by another grant on both the Federal Government and the Sabah State Government agreeing to any such contemplation”.
There were no subsequent reviews done after 1973 where there should have been at least another 10 reviews owed and pending to date. The absence of these reviews seemed to negate the existence of the special grant since 1974 following the provision of Art. 112D (3) of the Constitution giving effect to the result of the review. Probably Zafrul relied on Clause 3 of Art. 112D to support his contentions. The Article provides:
“but any order under clause (1) giving effect to the result of the review shall continue in force after the end of that period, except in so far as it is superseded by a further order under that clause”.
It remained clear that the the last amount agreed was $26.7m and going by the Art. 112D (3) that would be the amount Sabah would be getting annually in the absence of further reviews.
I paused momentarily to understand the underlying spirit and the intention of Parliament when inserting these provisions to the Constitution in 1963. It has been 53 years since the first review was done in 1969. Need we remind the Federal Government of its moral obligations never mind its constitutional obligations or are we equally guilty for not pressing for another review thus “Digilantibus non dormientibus aequitas subvenit” (Equity assists the vigilant and not those who sleep on their rights)
By contending the 40% special grant is now invalid due to what had transpired is simply not good enough to discharge the constitutional obligation that go with sovereignty. The Federal government have not fully discharged its obligation under Art. 112C (1)(a) and Art. 112D (1). They remained as guilty for neglecting their constitutional obligation and they could not rely on their treachery to deny us of what is rightfully ours. They should be reminded that “if they wish to come to equity, they must come with clean hands”.
The Federal Government promised to re evaluate Sabah’s predicament and set up a Joint Consultative Committee to seriously appraised the 40% special grant. Its first meeting on the 6th January 2020 proposed a Joint Technical Committee to be set up and amazingly in that meeting the Federal Government would make a counter offer to Sabah’s proposal.
On the 16th February 2022, Datuk Maximus Ongkili was reportedly saying Sabah will get a near five fold increase in annual grants under MA63. Does that mean he is now ready to forego the idea of the enunciated special grant.
Whatever excuses given by the Federal Government, Sabah should pursue the 40% special grant rigorously. Towards the end of 2021, the President of Parti Cinta Sabah Datuk Seri Anifah Aman and a group of concerned Sabah citizens forwarded a memorandum to that effect to the Prime Minister.
Banging table does not take the genie out of the lamp. If we need to fight it in Court, so be it. There are a lot of ambiguities and misinterpretations that needs interpretation. Sabahan’s, have been fighting hard for the special grant to be realised and remind politicians to do the same. If you feel cheated, don’t raise fingers, raise your conscience.