I visit Sabah fairly often as Prime Minister. Tomorrow, I will be leaving once again to the Land Beneath the Wind and I am reminded of a recent working visit that I paid to the state. As part of that trip, I visited the Balai Wayoh in Bingkor which my father too once visited in 1963. It was there that the crucial agreement was secured between him and OKK Sedomon, the senior Dusun leader to bring North Borneo into Malaysia as Sabah. My father respected OKK Sedomon greatly, at times he referred to him as “Bapak”. Indeed this was a decision which played an important role in making Malaysia the second largest economy in ASEAN.
The incorporation of North Borneo into the Federation of Malaysia did not come about without careful deliberation. The Cobbold Commission was first set up to determine whether the people would favour the union. A 20-point agreement was also drawn up by North Borneo with terms for its incorporation. These included requirements on various issues such as state religion, official language and immigration into North Borneo. Of particular importance was the complete redrafting of the Constitution of Malaysia to reflect North Borneo’s entrance as Sabah and preventing any amendments or withdrawals of constitutional safeguards granted to the state, except if so desired by the people of the state.
Sabah has contributed much to Malaysia’s growth in the last 49 years. Tourism to the state provided almost RM5 billion to the country last year, with over 2.8 million tourist arrivals – a 13.6% rise from 2010. The country at large owes much to their contribution, and the Government has in turn prioritised its welfare through the Government Transformation Programme.
Under the Government’s persistent efforts within the Rural Infrastructure NKRA roads in East Malaysia already make up 54% of national road length – making education, jobs and trade much more accessible for millions of locals. We are also working towards increasing electricity supply to ensure that it is consistent. On top of that, Federal Government has facilitated the expansion of MASwings from a community service airline to a regional airline for Sarawak and Sabah. This will help to improve the accessibility and connectivity of Sabah and the rest of East Malaysia. The rural poor also received thousands of new or restored houses, all provided with these basic amenities to improve the quality of lives of many families. In total, the Rural Basic Infrastructure NKRA has already benefitted 27 out of 32 ethnic groups in Sabah, with RM 3 billion spent on helping improve living standards in the state.
When the sun rises over Malaysia, it shines first on Sabah. Just as my father was committed to bringing North Borneo into the fold for mutual benefit, I am committed to repaying the goodwill that my eastern brothers have shown the country. Sabah will continue to be a top priority in Malaysia’s development and I hope that Sabahans will continue supporting me in this goal.