THERE are unsettling voices from Sabah and Sarawak calling for the cessation of these two states from Malaysia. These callings did not emerge from the common people but from politicians and leaders with vested interests. They cite the lack of development and neglect by the Federal Government as reasons for such unhappiness.
I have personally been acquainted with these two states since the early-1970s, conducting dance and drama courses for the then Culture, Youth and Sports Ministry in Sabah and Social Development Ministry in Sarawak.
At that time, the two state capitals, Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) and Kuching, were towns with agricultural and fishing preoccupations.
Since then, with federal financial and human resource aid, these two states have undergone tremendous development. Both Kota Kinabalu and Kuching have assumed city status with spectacular administrative buildings, shopping malls, condominiums, palatial homes and housing estates sprouting like mushrooms.
The Federal Government has helped promote Sabah and Sarawak as tourist destinations.
The outlying areas, too, have seen development, especially in the building of schools and small enterprises. The people are better educated with colleges, polytechnics, Mara colleges, a private university like Curtin and public universities — Universiti Malaysia Sabah and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak now produce graduates to fill the needs of the public and the private sectors.
These educational institutions were established under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Education and were initially staffed by Malaysians from the peninsula. All these institutions have reduced the illiteracy rate in Sabah and Sarawak.
The current Federal Tourism and Culture Ministry and its former designations have promoted Sabah and Sarawak as tourist destinations. The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Mount Kinabalu National Park, Poring Hot Springs and of course, the world famous diving site, Sipadan Island, off Semporna, in the Sulu Sea as well as Ligitan and Mabul, among others, all in Sabah, are now world renowned tourist destinations.
Together with Sabah, the same ministry has promoted Sarawak eco destinations such as the Mulu caves complex, Bako National Park and its longhouses with all the tribal splendour.
Various types and classes of hotels have sprung up to cater to the influx of tourists and other types of visitors.
The Federal Government has been instrumental in the development of the huge Bakun hydro dam for the generation of electricity in Sarawak.
With federal help, Sabah exports a hosts of agricultural, industrial and marine products. And all these enterprises, mostly through federal initiatives, have created jobs for the local population and increased the per capita income and the quality of life of the people.
Further, the Federal Government is committed to ensure the security of both Sabah and Sarawak and to thwart any belligerent encroachment into Malaysian territory.
To say that Sabah and Sarawak have been neglected is to deny the sincere efforts of the Federal Government in pouring huge amounts of money into infrastructure and human development.
It is the responsibility of the state leaders to ensure that developmental funds are disbursed accordingly for projects that benefit the people. They must work in tandem with the federal agencies to ensure that these targets are met.
Putrajaya should never be faulted, for it has been sincere in creating a prosperous nation that spans both sides of the South China Sea. But, Putrajaya cannot work alone; it must get the cooperation and involvement of the state leaders.
Thus, the reasons for calling for cessation are not tenable, for Sabah and Sarawak have benefited tremendously by being part of Malaysia.
In fact, we need each other to prosper, and the Federal Government that represents all the states will see to the realisation of this prosperity. Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin, University Sains Malaysia, Penang NST Letters 15 September 2014