KOTA KINABALU: An indigenous people’s group in Sabah has called on de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong to include its representatives as well as civil society organisations in the committees to review and implement the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).

Himpunan Asasi Rakyat Untuk Sabah (Harus) chairman Andrew Atama Ambrose said it is important for the indigenous people of both Sabah and Sarawak to participate in the committees as MA63 has a direct impact on their culture and rights.

“We are concerned because not all those selected to sit in the proposed committees know about the plight faced by indigenous people.

“Besides, Harus is of the opinion that it is better to set up three additional committees, one each for Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya, to discuss MA63 locally.”

He told FMT that these committees should involve all stakeholders, including civil society organisations and activists who have been fighting for MA63.

He said these people would be able to present their opinions and make proposals on how the steering, working and technical committees could move forward in implementing the agreement.

For Sabah, he said, the more crucial issues which needed to be prioritised were the breaches which MA63 activist Zainnal Ajamain said had reached 50.

“This is a serious allegation because a breach, even one, could jeopardise the whole agreement, what more 50. We need to correct these before we can move on.”

Atama, who is the coordinator of the Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation Asia, added that MA63 was intended to safeguard the rights of the people, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.

But for more than 50 years, he said, their rights had been trampled on and their interests neglected, resulting in them lagging badly behind peninsular states in terms of modernisation.

He told FMT this is why it is better to have separate committees for Sabah and Sarawak, apart from a working committee, as lumping the issues of both states under a single committee would be too overwhelming.

On Oct 10, Liew announced the federal Cabinet’s decision to set up three special committees to look into MA63.

The steering committee will consist of top leaders representing Sabah, Sarawak, and Malaya; the technical committee will include all MPs from Sabah and Sarawak, and the working committee will sort out the terms of reference for the consideration of the other two committees.

Liew said the working committee would comprise of various representatives from Sabah and Sarawak, including government heads of departments for staffing and administrative work.

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