KOTA KINABALU, Aug 11 ― Newly-appointed Sabah legislative assembly Speaker Datuk Syed Abas Syed Ali has banned the word “secession” from being uttered during sittings.

Syed Abas, who clocked in for work as Speaker for the first time yesterday, warned state lawmakers against discussing Sabah’s secession from Malaysia, saying he would not tolerate such talk in the assembly as he only wants to concentrate on matters beneficial to the state.

“I forbid its usage during the sitting, but it is out of my control outside,” he was quoted by The Borneo Post today as saying.

Syed Abas, who took over from Communications and Multimedia minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak as the 9th Sabah Speaker said he wanted the elected representatives to discuss issues that would bring development and help the people of Sabah.

Secession has been a hot topic in the state among politicians, the public and especially on social media since the Facebook group “Sabah Sarawak Keluar Malaysia” gained traction last year.

The group, led by UK-based activist Doris Jones, plays on local sentiments by raising issues on native land, oil royalty rights, racial and religious tension and erosion of rights among other things.

Secession is considered treason in Malaysia and a warrant of arrest has been issued for Jones.

However, some groups have argued that the voice of the group represents Sabah’s rural youth and will only get worse if these issues are not tackled.

Meanwhile, Syed Abas said that the assembly should concentrate on finding ways to develop a state as big as Sabah, which needs a lot of funds for road construction, water supply and other infrastructure.

“Some districts like Kiulu, is bigger than the state of Pahang in the peninsular… so these are the things that I hope our assemblymen will raise during the sitting. They need to think not about one tree but about all the trees in the forest.”

Syed Abas, who has been active in politics since the 1970s, said he was surprised at his appointment, having not been one of the speculated candidates.

“I was, initially, told that I would probably be offered an assistant ministerial post, so this new responsibility is indeed a real a surprise for me,” he said, adding that he was prepared to learn with the support of his two deputies, Datuk Johny Mositun and Datuk Johnson Tee.

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