The DAP parliamentary leader called for all MPs from Sabah and Sarawak to give their unanimous support when he proposes such an RCI in the next Parliamentary sitting.
“The people of Sarawak and Sabah were promised progress and development, at least to the level achieved by the Peninsula states,” Lim said in a speech in Kuching, Sarawak during Pakatan Rakyat’s Malaysia Day celebrations today.
“Have these promises to Sabah and Sarawak been fulfilled in the past five decades? The answer must be a loud no.”
“Where has all the wealth of Sabah and Sarawak gone to in the past five decades?” he asked.
Using official statistics from the 2009 National Household Income Survey Report and from the Economic Planning Unit, Lim pointed out that the two east Malaysian states had the highest rate of overall poverty and rural poverty.
Sabah’s overall poverty is the nation’s highest at 19.7 per cent, while Sarawak is third at 5.3 per cent.
The nation’s rural poverty rate is again headed by Sabah at 32.8 per cent, with Sarawak placing second at 8.4 per cent.
The poverty income line in Sabah is the highest at RM1,048, with Sarawak being the second highest at RM912. Peninsula Malaysia’s line stands at RM763.
“Let there be a national debate and soul-searching as to how two of the richest states in Malaysia, namely Sarawak and Sabah, have been reduced in five decades to be among the poorest and the most inequitable states in the federation...,” said Lim.
Lim said that his visits to the interior of the two states had shown that “there are deep-seated frustrations and dissatisfactions that the two promises of constitutional safeguards and development progress...had not been realised.”
“I think there is no more meaningful manner for Sarawak and Sabah to mark their 50 years of Malaysian nationhood than to conduct a comprehensive review of the successes and failures in all aspects of development in these two states in the past five decades with feedback from the people Sabah and Sarawak as well as to review the constitutional safeguards as contained in the 18 Points for Sarawak and 20 Points for Sabah.”
Lim said that both states face the problems of corruption, unresolved native land issues, lack of basic infrastructure and breach of constitutional safeguards.
He also pointed to Sabah’s long-standing illegal immigrant issue, saying that the prime minister had “taken more than six months” before finally announcing the terms of reference and panel for an RCI to probe the matter.
“More than a month has passed since Najib’s announcement, but there are no signs that the RCI has started work or its members have been presented with their Instruments of Appointment — which is pertinent as the six months given to the RCI to complete its report is to take effect from their official appointments,” Lim said.
The prime minister has given the RCI six months to finish the probe, and PR leaders have questioned if the probe would be completed before the 13th general elections.
The federal opposition have claimed that citizenships were given out by the Sabah BN government in exchange for votes, and insist that the RCI will clean the electoral roll.
“This raises the serious question whether the RCI (on illegal immigrants) would be another meaningless public relations exercise...” Lim said.
Federal seats in east Malaysia’s Sabah and Sarawak are expected to be BN’s focal point come the general election as both states, including the federal territory of Labuan, contribute a significant 57 seats, or 25 per cent of the 222 parliamentary seats available.
In Election 2008, BN lost its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority largely due to significant losses in the peninsula. The opposition won 82 seats to BN’s 140.
BN’s saving grace was in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan where the coalition trounced the opposition in a near-clean sweep, winning 55 parliamentary seats to the opposition’s two.
However, with the recent defections, BN now holds 53 parliamentary seats in east Malaysia, while the opposition’s score is now four.